by Kate Heyhoe
Some gifts cast a green sheen, others fit a practical profile, and some gifts, like chocolates, are just too good to pass up. This column adds to November's Gift Picks '08 . For more ideas: The Global Gourmet Store and the New Green Shopper teem with tasty treats, great tools and green gifts. Cookbook Profiles and I Love Desserts feature sample recipes from the year's best books (and past holiday picks offer more good ideas). I also have a holiday vacation suggestion that combines a good time with the real gift of giving.
Happy holidays, part two!
Unleash your inner artist onto gingerbread houses, cookies, cupcakes and more. Squeeze, squirt and drizzle with the Cookie & Cupcake Decorating Set from Kuhn Rikon. The set features everything needed for professional-looking lettering and designs, including 2 Tall Decorating Bottles, 3 Short Squeeze Decorating Bottles, 5 Stainless-Steel Decorating Tips, 5 Lid Caps and 1 Frosting Spatula. What to do with this art-box of inspiration? Use the two short bottles for delicate rosettes or intricate scrollwork. Fill the tall bottles and drizzle melted chocolate or raspberry sauce, or dab several small dots around the plate rim and drag the tip through for a snappy professional design. The five interchangeable decorating tips let you create dozens of different effects, from thick to thin. Use the Frosting Spatula on cupcakes and cookies before decorating with the bottles and tips, then fill the squeeze bottles with different colored icings and get fancy. It's a great way to get the entire family—from kids to grampa—active in the kitchen. The Kuhn Rikon Cookie & Cupcake Decorating Set retails for a suggested price of $20, at specialty and online retailers including factorydirect2you.com.
The Jura-Capresso ENA 5 may just rock your world. As we go to digital press with this review, I'm still testing all the options, but I can personally attest to the first month's performance: Impressive! It comes from a brand (Capresso) I've used and trusted for years.
With the ENA 5, I feel like I'm back in Italy and Switzerland, enjoying espresso, cappuccino, or American coffee, with a perfect layer of crema every time. Unlike other espresso makers, this machine grinds the beans, tamps them, and brews them (in about 5 seconds) using one button and no mess. And it froths and steams, too. Seriously: Fill the grinder with beans every now and then, and the water tank with water as needed, and press a button for 1 or 2 cups (want more cups? Press the button again and they'll be done faster than you can stir sugar). You can change the settings to make regular coffee, stronger or weaker brews, coarser or finer grinds, and larger or smaller cups, and the steamer/frother nozzle works with the flick of a dial.
This is the uber-machine for serious coffee lovers. Sure, it's a bit pricey, but it can actually be less expensive than Starbucks, with superior quality and speedier results. Get past the $1200 sticker shock and think about what you already spend on coffee, and what you're getting with this baby.
I did the math: Let's say you and your companion place the same order every day for a year at Starbucks, in this case an Espresso Macchiato at $1.45 and a Cappuccino at $2.55 (both Tall, which really means "small"). Even before sales tax, you're spending more than the cost of this machine (including your own beans, milk, and power). Or, if you only buy coffee on weekdays, and spend about $5 a day on your joe Jones, you'd be spending about as much. But if you brew with the ENA 5 (which produces, in my opinion, better quality results), then congratulations: This machine will pay for itself in a year. Considering it comes with a two year warranty and will likely last much longer, and it brews coffee faster than placing an order at Starbucks, this is a worthwhile investment. It's also slim and takes up no more space than my previous coffee maker and separate grinder.
It's an award-winning green machine, too. Because of its efficient operation, energy-saving features and zero-watt shut-off mode, the ENA 5 ranked No. 1 for energy savings in both an independent Swiss and a German consumer test, earning the 2008 award for most energy efficient automatic coffee machine. (It saved 40 percent more energy than other brands.) An independent jury of scientists, politicians and consumer groups praised the Zero Energy Switch, which allows the ENA 5 to consume no stand-by energy whatsoever, as well as its Energy Saving Mode that reduces energy consumption significantly when the machine is on.
Admittedly, I'm still exploring all the bonus options, and we like to measure performance over time. So check back in a few months for an update, when I've had a chance get up close and personal with all the extra bells and whistles (like steaming, frothing, making tea, creative customizing, and long-term cleaning). But if you're in the market for a big ticket gift, one you can appreciate and savor every day, I feel confident this baby delivers. After all, even in tough times like these, it's worth being good to yourself, especially first thing in the morning. (Note: the Jura Ena 3 and 4 come with fewer features but the same energy-saving modes, for $900 and $1000 respectively. Find out more at www.capresso.com)
Buy an ENA 5 Coffee Center
Here's a novel idea: to keep food from sticking to your knife use a nonstick knife. The new Nonstick Forged Knife Noir collection by Kuhn Rikon gives high-quality cutlery an edge over other knives by adding the convenience of a nonstick surface. Each of the forged German steel knives features a snazzy protective sheath (which can also clip to a toolbar), and comes in these styles and suggested retail prices: Chef's Knife ($75), Santoku Knife ($60), Utility Knife ($45), Tomato Knife ($35) and Paring Knife ($30). The Nonstick Forged Knife Noir collection is available at specialty and online retailers.
What to get the person who has everything? Bali Spice Essentials: exotically spiced Indonesian palm sugars, hand harvested in Bali from sustainable farms. Heritage Palm Sugars are produced from the nectar of the island's coconut palms, where skilled farmers tap the palm's flower spikes, releasing the tree's treasured juice. The nectar is then kettle-boiled over an open-hearth fire until it thickens into a golden sugar, with an almost haunting aroma of smoke and caramel. (Palm sugar also has a low glycemic index of 35, compared to refined sugar at 65, and delivers more nutrients, including potassium and magnesium, than either cane or brown sugar.) The spice experts at William Bounds start with this sugar, then create four varieties of Heritage Palm Sugar: with Ginger Root, with Korintje Cinnamon, with Turmeric Root, and with Alor Vanilla. Sprinkle the ginger, cinnamon and vanilla blends into coffee, tea and baked goods. Toss the turmeric sugar into curries, rice, chicken and fish dishes. All add kick to your favorite dry rub or holiday spiced nuts. The Bali Spice Essentials collection of Heritage Palm Sugars, available at specialty and online retailers, comes in 2.2-ounce tubes ($4.99 msrp), or 8.5 ounce containers ($14.99 msrp).
Trust me—John Kelly's newest indulgence is as good as it sounds: Truffle Fudge Bites with Exotic Sea Salt, in two varieties: Dark Chocolate with French Sel Gris Sea Salt, and Semi-Sweet Chocolate and Caramel with Hawaiian Alae Sea Salt. These chunky little bricks are actually ultra-big bites; each is enough for 2 mouthfuls, or 4 discreet treats (my husband and I cut them in half to share). Encased in thick, dark walls of chocolate are fluffy, truffle fudge centers, so rich and intense they satisfy for the whole day. The caramel variety is my favorite, but it's a tough call; both flavors are divine. The sea salt sets off the extreme cacao, and the handmade gems are packed in a handsome gift box. Like all quality confections, these aren't cheap, but we think they're worth every cent. Dear Santa: I want more! (JohnKellyChocolates.com for where to buy).
Julia Baker chocolates aren't as big or as rich, but they're impressively splashy. They look like little paintings, and feature colorful patterns imprinted on chocolate-covered bites with ganache centers of passion fruit, Irish Creme, Coconut and other exotic flavors. They come in compact boxes with windows to see the gems within. For a bigger wow factor, larger assortments are packed into hat-box and cuff-box size containers (but these have a little too much packaging for my green sensibilities). (JuliaBakerConfections.com for where to buy.)
Here's a nifty stocking stuffer: VE2 caffeinated gum. You don't have to be a geek to appreciate it. It's given me an extra boost when driving, shopping, outdoors, or at times when a liquid shot of caffeine just wasn't handy or available. It's sugar-free, and two pieces are equal to a cup of coffee or an 8-ounce energy drink. Developed by an emergency room doctor.
Buy VE2 Energy Gum
For cooks and books that are a bit out of the ordinary, consider these unique tomes...
Here's my final holiday gift suggestion. Want to do your fellow countrymen good this winter while having a great time? Visit New Orleans.
Since 1994 we've hosted some of the most popular holiday recipes on the web. Here's a sampling:
Copyright © 2008, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created December 2008
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Food 52 Genius
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Heritage Southern Recipes
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Oxford Companion to Wine
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