My Top Ten Kitchen Gift Ideas

by on December 10, 2010
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Christmas Basket with Pumpkin Bread

When time allows, a basket filled with homemade baked goods makes a great gift.

Lately I can’t check my email or login to Facebook without being bombarded with titles like “Gifts That Make Ladies Go Gaga” or “Give Like Santa, Save Like Scrooge” (two actual emails now in my trash folder).  So when I had the idea of writing about my favorite kitchen tools, I nearly vetoed it, figuring that I didn’t want to contribute to the mind-clutter that’s already out there.  But just to check, I asked my Facebook followers what they thought, and the response was overwhelmingly positive: out of about 80 responses, there was only one “not interested at all.”  So with apologies to that one reader, here are a few of the appliances, gadgets, and kitchen paraphernalia that I wouldn’t want to do without.

First let me say that this is not a “sexy” list.  There’s nothing frou-frou here, nothing that screams “Luxury Christmas Gift,” so if you’re buying a gift for someone who would be offended by being given a vacuum cleaner, you might want to consult that “Gaga” list I mentioned above. (Note: As vacuum cleaners go, that’s a great one.) These are items I have owned for a while and use regularly, some of them every day, so I know they’re dependable and sturdy. 

Also, you’ll notice that for almost all of them I refer you to Amazon because that’s where I do most of my shopping.  (I know, I’m evil for not buying local!)  But just to be completely up-front, I have an affiliate relationship with Amazon, so if you buy one of these items through my Amazon link, I get a commission; if you have a problem with that, please feel free to skip the link, go to Amazon on your own, and do a search for the product.  That way, no one gets a commission and Amazon gets to keep all of your money.  I don’t have any affiliation with the manufactures themselves, and none of these products were provided to me–I bought them all myself.

Stocking Stuffers (Gifts Under $20)

MicroplaneWhat it is: Microplane Fine Grater

How I use it: There are several different sizes and styles of these graters, from fine to coarse, but I find that this one does everything I need it to from zesting lemons to grating nutmeg, which is what I use it for most, as seen here.  Ground nutmeg is a pale comparison to freshly ground, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your baked goods.

What it costs: Currently $14.65 at Amazon.


StrainerWhat it is: Oxo Stainless Steel Strainer, Double Rod

How I use it: Often people ask me what I use to wash quinoa.  This is it.  The tight mesh keeps all of the tiny quinoa seeds inside while the water drains away.  I like and use quinoa so often that this strainer is worth its cost just for that, but I also use it when making Greek-style soy cheese or draining pureed pumpkin.

What it costs: $16.99 for the 6-inch size

Gifts Between $20 and $50

Escali Kitchen ScaleWhat it is: Escali Primo Digital Multifunctional Scale

How I use it: If you’re a dieter, a baker, or a recipe writer, you need a good kitchen scale.  Since I am often all three, I make good use of this scale, especially for the recipe-writing. Cooking by weight is so much more accurate that using volume measurements (like cups) or subjective measurements like “2 small apples.”  My idea of small may not be yours, so I like to measure those apples so that I can tell you exactly how much to use.  Baked goods in particular require precise measurements, so if you’re following many recipes, you need a good kitchen scale.  This one changes from grams to ounces in the push of a button and allows me to place a dish on top of it and have it reset to zero (“tare”) so that I am weighing just the ingredient, not the dish.  There are a lot of brands out there, but I have chosen this one twice: I rebought it after I melted the first one by accidentally turning on a stove burner under it. I liked it so much that I didn’t want to take a chance on another brand.

What it costs: starts at $25.17 for stainless steel and available in different colors for slightly more.


Unicorn Keytop Peppermill

What it is: Unicorn Brand Keytop Peppermill – 6-Inch

How I use it: I’ve gone through a lot of peppermills.  I’ve bought wooden ones, steel ones, plexiglass and plastic ones, and no matter how sturdy they appear, they’ve disappointed me every time.  Either they’re hard to turn or the coarseness of the grind is hard (or impossible) to adjust, or they just plain fall apart.  Then I saw a comparison of peppermills on the Cooks Illustrated website and started coveting a Unicorn peppermill.  The mill CI reviewed was the Magnum, a larger sized peppermill than this, but I liked the keytop design, so following some Amazon reviews, I bought this one instead and haven’t regretted it at all.  My family and I use it every day, and it cranks out ground pepper quickly and easily. Update: Amazon is currently sold out. If you need a peppermill, check out this similar Unicorn Magnum.

What it costs: $27.00 currently at Amazon


Spices from The Spice HouseWhat it is: Spices from The Spice House

How I use it: I’ve come to rely on The Spice House to provide me with lots of the spices that I love that aren’t available locally: herbs like Mexican oregano, spices like smoked paprika, and blends like Maharajah curry.  Even when I know I can find a spice locally, I’m more likely to buy it from The Spice House because I know it will be fresher.  Make yourself out a list of the spices you covet most, and ask Santa to have The Spice House make you a custom gift box.

What it costs: It depends upon the spices, but most pre-packaged boxes cost around $24 for 4 spices.

Higher-Priced Gifts ( $50-$200)

Electric KettleWhat it is: Breville SK500XL Ikon Cordless 1.7 Liter Stainless Steel Electric Kettle

How I use it: My family and I use this electric kettle several times a day.  It’s perfect for the tea lover on your holiday list, but beyond that, it makes heating water for anything quicker.  I use it to start a pot of boiling water for pasta because it heats much more quickly than my stove does.  It shuts off automatically when the water boils, so there’s no danger of boiling dry.  The kettle lifts off the base (which plugs into the wall), meaning there are no cords to worry about as you pour.

What it costs: currently $79.85 at Amazon


Berndes SkilletWhat it is: Berndes SignoCast Classic 13-Inch Skillet

How I use it: I recommend the entire line of Berndes SignoCast non-stick cookware.  I’ve been slowly replacing my warped and scratched Calphlon with Berndes ever since I used it at the McDougall Celebrity Chef weekend.  I currently have this skillet, a 8-inch skillet, and a 13-Inch, 6-Quart Saute Pan, which is the pot I use most often.  It’s completely non-stick, guaranteed not to warp (which was the biggest problem I had with my other cookware), and doesn’t scratch or chip off.  They’re heavy pans, so if you’re buying for an older person, I recommend sticking to the smaller ones. My one problem with the 6-quart saute pan is that it has a second handle which is not insulated and gets very hot.  I learned to keep a potholder nearby after being burned a couple of times.

What it costs: The 13-inch skillet is currently $101.99 and the saute pan is $114.37, but prices seem to change often.


Fagor 3-in-1What it is: Fagor 670040230 Stainless-Steel 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker

How I use it: I never thought anything would replace my Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker, but this is my new favorite pressure cooker and appliance.  It’s billed as a 3-in-1 pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker, but I use it strictly for its pressure cooker function.  (I never think ahead far enough to use the slow cooker, and it doesn’t have a pre-set setting for cooking brown rice.) Unlike a regular pressure cooker, this electric Fagor is completely silent; you won’t even know it’s turned on.  More importantly, you don’t have to watch over it and worry because its thermostat keeps it at pressure and an automatic shut-off turns it off at the time you specify.  So that means you can leave the kitchen while your meal is cooking without worry. I use it for beans, soups, and stews–anywhere I once used my regular pressure cooker.

What it costs: Buy it fast and it’s $99.95 at Amazon.  (I paid $20 more.)

Very Expensive Gifts (Over $200)

Breville Toaster OvenWhat it is: Breville BOV800XL The Smart Oven 1800-Watt Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ

How I use it: I hesitated to include this toaster oven because of its price, but the truth is that it’s my most-used small appliance.  I live in a kitchen that’s in dire need of updating.  The double ovens were installed in the mid-70′s, and neither one works right; one is missing its top element, the other is missing its bottom element, and neither keeps the correct temperature.  So I bought this large toaster oven to do all my baking in.  It will hold a 9×13-inch pan (if you use one like this without handles) and comes with a 13-inch pizza pan. I do almost all my baking in this oven, everything from the recent Apple-Cranberry Strudel Pie to Celebration Pot Pie with Pumpkin Biscuit Crust. It controls temperature accurately and even has a convection fan for even browning.  I love it.

What it costs: currently $249.95 at Amazon. I haven’t found it for any lower than that from a dealer I trust.


So there you have my list of most-used items.  I hope it’ll help you find a gift for the cook in your life–or, better yet, for yourself.

Susan

This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I purchased myself. When you buy something through them, I receive a commission that helps support this site. Thanks for your purchase!

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 janet December 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I love the list. Very practical, the way I like my gifts. :)
I am tempted by the 3-in-1 cooker as I currently have none of the functions it boats!

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2 janei December 10, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Berndes SignoCast Classic 13-Inch Skillet
this is what I am buying myself.. also a smalle rone if availabe.. my caphalon egg pan is almost toast..
than ks for the idea
janei

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3 Maggie December 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Yay for countertop ovens! I live in a very old house that was chopped up into apartments sometime in the late ’50′s, and the stove in my kitchen was installed before the walls were. So, when my oven died, my landlord couldn’t figure out how the heck to get the stove out, so he bought me an oven very similar to the one you recommended, and I use the original oven for storage. I love that oven so much that I don’t want to move, because I can’t take it with me! I also love the fact that it uses so much less energy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen in the summertime (drawback — it doesn’t heat up the kitchen in the wintertime).

Great list! Thanks for the ideas!

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4 Rob December 10, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I love the white platter but I learned an even cheaper and nicer alternative. Go to Home Depot (or a similar store) and buy a large marble tile. I have one in white and one in black. It’s especially beautiful for serving appetizers, or slices of fruit depending on the color you have the dark white choice. Each tile cost me about $4

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5 Stef December 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I can vouch for the Escali scale; I’ve had mine for over a year now, and use it every day, for every meal. I’ve also been considering buying an electric kettle; so your recommendation is very timely. Thanks!

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6 Laloofah December 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm

I’m glad you posted your kitchen gift ideas list too. But then, I love browsing in kitchen shops, and this was a bit like that, only better (’cause I could do it in my jammies!) :-)

We love electric tea kettles (we’re on our third one), but it’s a cheapo, no-frills West Bend whose days are numbered, so I’m glad to get a recommendation from you on your Breville.

Love my Berndes cookware (I have just two pieces so far, use them constantly), which I was introduced to at “Camp McDougall.” And though I don’t use my little kitchen scale nearly as often as you do (mine’s a Polder, but nearly identical), when I need it I don’t know what I’d do without it. I even used it this week to weigh a small package I needed to ship! :-)

You’ve sold me on grating my own nutmeg, which I’ve never done before. I have a grater/zester but mine is the really long, skinny type that looks like you could conduct an orchestra with it while zesting lemons. :-) I wonder if it would work for nutmeg as well as yours does? I must give it a whirl!

Thanks for The Spice House tip too, and all the others! I hope you get everything on your wish list this year! Happy holidays!

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7 Jain December 11, 2010 at 7:03 am

Great list, Susan!

I have one burning question: Does the electric kettle pour cleanly? I HATE my current tea kettle as it dribbles everywhere each time I pour water for a cup of tea. I’ve been afraid to try another since there’s no way to know until you get it home. If this one pours nicely, I’ll order it right away (and through your link)!

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8 SusanV December 11, 2010 at 8:32 am

Hi Jain–I’ve never had it dribble at all. Even my daughter, who is notoriously clumsy, uses it without spilling. (I’m just going to have to hope she never reads the comments on my blog!)

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9 Jain December 11, 2010 at 11:38 am

Great! Thank you!

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10 Fiona December 11, 2010 at 4:51 pm

This was a great idea for a post! Thanks!

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11 Amalfi Girl December 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Oooh, spice house, yum… That’s all well and good for me, I’d like all of those as gifts! I’m wondering, though, if there are any kitchen-y things that would be a good Christmas present for a ten year old? I’m thinking it may be too early yet to give her kitchen stuff, but maybe not? She is very creative… Any suggestions? Thanks!

XO,

Amalfi
http://eatrunhavefun.blogspot.com/

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12 SusanV December 12, 2010 at 12:45 am

I gave my daughter a cute monogrammed apron when she was 10, so I don’t think that’s too young if she’s interested in cooking.

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13 Elana December 11, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Fabulous list! So many fun things on it. Thanks for sharing :-)

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14 mikala December 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm

You might like to try the brown rice using the pressure cooker function of your Fagor. I always do my brown rice in my single function pressure cooker. I like it soft and slightly moist, not kinda crunch like rice cooker… It always comes out great!

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15 meansoybean December 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm

ooh man, i’ve had my eye on the multi-cooker for a few weeks now. makes me wish i could find it in canada.

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16 Milinda December 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

What a fabulous list. I’ve added a couple to my Amazon wish list–if only my family would use it!

Question about the Pressure cooker combo. The product description says that it can be programmed for a delayed start time. Can it be programmed for that delay when using it as a slow cooker? There are so many veggie slow cooker recipes that need to be cooked for 8, 6 or 4 hours and I’m away from home for about 10 hours each day. I would dearly love to come home from work to a hot meal rather than doing all my cooking on the weekend.

As for the appropriate age to start cooking–the sooner the better. When I was in elementary school–4th grade I think–one of the “sections” was a short home ec type thing. We had to help take over the home duties for a week, including cooking a full meal and having our folks report back. I’d already been helping out in the kitchen for years so it wasn’t a big deal for me. My brother had my nieces helping out at about 3. It seemed to be important to them to help and a 3 year old can tear up lettuce with the best of us, not to mention taste-testing. (Obviously, they were not allowed to touch knives until they were old enough to reach the counter on their own.)

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17 Lynn December 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for the list. I already have most everything on it! Wanted to mention that the electric pressure cooker looks identical to the Cuisinart I purchased from Costco for $68.00 (on the West Coast – might be higher elsewhere). Love it and use it many times thoughout the week One trick with cooking brown rice in it so that is not overly sticky (unless you like it that way) is to boil the water first, then add the rice.

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18 Lindsay@Another Almost Vegan Blog December 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I love your list! I am going to do this on my journal.

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19 Kelly December 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I love making gift baskets! And thanks for the cooking items list– reminds me I need to start thinking about gifts…
http://www.poorgirlsvegandiet.com/

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20 Alessandra December 13, 2010 at 12:57 am

I love kitchen gadgets, but as I think I have everything I need, I would go for the basket of home-made goodies :-)

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21 meredith murphy December 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

OMG! I want that multi cooker. That is awesome. What a great list :)

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22 moonwatcher December 15, 2010 at 11:10 am

Hi Susan–

What a great and informative post! I loved that the microplane fine grater was at the top of the list. I laughed because I had just gotten myself one for Christmas the day before! What a wonderful device. :)

xo

moonwatcher

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23 Steff December 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Just fyi– you can cook brown rice in a rice cooker meant for white. Just make sure you add the correct amount of water for whichever variety of brown rice you buy and it turns out great.

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24 emiglia December 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Excellent list. I love my microplane grater too!

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25 Carrie (Love Healthy Living) December 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Great gift list! I had no idea a multi-cooker even existed. How awesome would one of those be? Also, I have to add a Vita-Mix to your “expensive” list…I couldn’t live without mine!

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26 Sharon December 18, 2010 at 9:17 am

Thanks so much for the info on the electric Fagor pressure cooker. I have been putting off buying a new one for too long. This will be my third one in all the years I’ve been cooking. I use a pressure cooker for so many things. It makes the best soup ever.

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27 Andrea Schuetz December 18, 2010 at 11:51 am

Hi! I wanted to shoot you a quick note – I was at Marshalls yesterday and to my surprise I found two Berndes pans on sale; I bought the 11″ Stir Fry pan for $14.99 (whoa!) and an 11″ Frypan for $10.99 (whoa whoa!).

Thought I’d give you all the heads up, just incase your Marshall’s carries it (Marshall’s is an overstock discount store, everything is new but department stores often order more stock than they need, so they sell it to Marshalls/Ross/TJ Max/Tuesday Morning at a fraction of the price so they don’t lose all of the money it took to stock their store).

They only had those two types of pans, but I’m so glad I read this blog so I knew what I was looking at! :)

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28 SusanV December 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Thanks, Andrea! I’ve seen one line of Berndes at Tuesday morning, but it’s not the same type as the Signocast ones I like (it’s made for induction stoves and seems lighter and thinner than Signocast). Besides that, the items they had were the same price as Amazon’s. So I didn’t mention it since I wasn’t sure about the quality. I’ll have to run by Marshall’s and see what I find.

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29 janet December 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

It is a shame that now that Amazon.com is selling the 3-in-1 for $80, I find out it doesn’t ship it to Canada.. :(

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30 SusanV December 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Janet, I just took a look, and that’s not the exact model I have, if that makes you feel any better. It looks like Amazon sold out of its stock and CHEF’S Catalog is offering that one through Amazon, but not to Canada. I’m so sorry! I’ve heard that the Cuisinart electric pressure cooker is very good, if you’re interested in it only for the PC function.

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31 mona December 19, 2010 at 1:10 am

Thanks for this list, my sister had asked for a pressure cooker for christmas but based on your list we got her the one you recommended, I am sure she will like it, thanks!

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32 Cassie December 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Thanks for posting this! I have the same kitchen scale and would be totally lost without it!

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33 Sarah December 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I’m so glad to hear that you also cook with a toaster oven! My ancient oven broke a year ago and I’ve been cooking in a toaster oven ever since, because replacing the oven means we have to address the issue of what to do with the rest of the 70′s kitchen that badly needs updating. I’ve been embarrassed to admit I’ve been cooking with a toaster oven for so long but now I feel better that even my hero fatfree vegan blogger does the same! It’s amazing how much you can do with a toaster oven: nut loaf, vegan shepherds pie, fruit cake, very small batches of cookies. Today my kids made cupcakes for the first time in a year, after I bought some cupcake pans that fit in the toaster oven. Now they won’t bug me so much to solve the kitchen issue and buy a new oven.

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34 maryam December 26, 2010 at 4:26 am

Susan, I got my dad the electric kettle and he really loves it… its very easy to pour and a huge improvement over the one he had that leaked. Thanks for the recommendations.

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35 Linda December 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

Hello Susan!
I love your website and really appreciate all the printer friendly recipes, I have a large collection of them. I’m hoping you will have a book out soon though, my collection is a little messy!
I have been looking at the pressure cooker that you mentioned and I’m very interested in buying it. I just wondered if it’s easy to use most pressure cooker recipe books (minus the fat and meat) with this cooker. Does it come with a useful cookbook? I cook for my husband and I and make many bean dishes and soups so I hope that this cooker will be a help. I haven’t used a pressure cooker for years so I am not sure about these things.
Thank you in advance and Happy New Year to you and yours!
Linda

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36 SusanV December 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Linda, i didnt find the manual that comes with it very useful–not many vegetarian recipes or cooking times for beans and other veg foods. But you can use the recipes from any good pressure cooking book with it just fine. I really recommend Lorna Sass’s Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. The recipes are great and she provides cooking charts for beans, veggies, and grains that help you figure out how to create your own dishes.

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37 Christina S December 27, 2010 at 7:35 am

Susan, I bought the electric kettle for my husband for Christmas and it’s our favorite new appliance -thanks for the recommendation! I use your recipes daily and love your style. My husband became a fat free vegan 1 1/2 years ago due to health reasons…and thankfully came across your blog shortly thereafter. My two girls and I followed suit as vegetarians, to make the cooking easier on me! He’s 100% healthier, and we’re all eating differently and better than we ever imagined. Thanks for making the transition less intimidating…and for keeping us all healthy in Connecticut!

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38 Amber @ Fitritious Dish December 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

All awesome ideas that I’d rather have for myself :D…and give the Pumpkin Spice Bread to friends! I love, love that recipe of yours, one of my favorites!

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39 Paula December 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Is the Spice House better than Penzy’s? I have bought my spices from them and love them.

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40 SusanV December 29, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I’ve used both, but there are several spices I can’t get at Penzey’s, so I just use the Spice House now.

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41 Caitlin January 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi Susan

Thank you so much for all the great work you do on this blog – I love your recipes! I was wondering…do you own a Vitamix blender? Would you recommend buying one? They are very pricey here in the UK (about $700) so I want to make sure it’s not just another piece of kit that will end up in the cupboard!

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42 SusanV January 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Caitlin, I do have a Vitamix and think it’s a great machine. I don’t use mine as often as some people do because I’m not a regular smoothie drinker, so I always tell people to think how often they use their regular blender and that’s probably how often you’ll use a Vitamix (unless you get addicted to smoothies!) It does make soups and smoothies silky smooth like nothing else I’ve ever used, so again, I think it’s a powerful tool, if you need it.

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43 Caitlin January 7, 2011 at 6:14 am

Thanks Susan :-) I am a big smoothie and soup fan so I might start saving the pennies for it now!

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44 Tanisha Mills January 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Thanks Susan :-) I am a big smoothie and soup fan so I might start saving the pennies for it now!

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45 athena January 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I agree with you on a lot of these… especially the kitchen scale. I never realized how unexact I was being in my baking until I started baking by weight.

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46 Get Skinny, Go Vegan. March 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

Love the Hot Tea Kettle idea. I wonder if it uses a lot less energy??
And the “pressure cooker” Rice Cooker?? Hmm….Didn’t know they made such things. Of course I have both taking up my precious little counterspace.
Good picks!

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47 Sue Walker March 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Can you suggesst a soy yogurt maker? I was overwhelmed when I looked for one. If you’re not permitted to give me a specific model number, can you tell me what makes a simple, useful maker? Thanks, Sue

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48 SusanV March 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Sue, most yogurt makers will be fine because they work on a very simple principle: keep the milk just warm enough for the cultures to grow. You can see the yogurt maker I use here: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2007/01/making-soy-yogurt.html (but now that I look at it, that model is no longer available. I suggest checking Amazon reviews to find an affordable one.)

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49 Christopher Kandrat March 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Great addition to any kitchen. Awesome list, its awesome!

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50 Katie December 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Do you have a food processor suggestion?

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51 Susan Voisin December 12, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I have a Cuisinart that’s lasted over 10 years, but I’ve heard very good things about Kitchen Aid and would probably get one of them if mine ever dies.

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52 Jane Wyatt June 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

Just want to mention that the Breville smart oven can be purchased with a
20% off coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond for around $200. I also ordered
my Berndes Signocast pan from there. If you order directly from the store
with a 20% off coupon, they will usually wave the shipping also. I’ve learned
to check with them for almost everything because the price usually beats
Amazon!

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53 Mark Brennan December 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hello,
I love your site and have a question. Do you use your Fagor 3 in 1 cooker for brown rice? If so, how does it do? Is there a timer setting for brown rice?
Thanks so much!
Mark

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54 Susan Voisin December 13, 2013 at 9:05 pm

There’s a setting for white rice, and the manual says to run it twice for brown rice, and I did it once with good results. But I prefer to use my rice cooker for rice, so I only used it that once.

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