It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year! This is my favorite time of year for basically every activity: cooking, decorating, shopping, and so much more. I love seeing Christmas decorations everywhere and hearing my favorite songs on the radio. Plus holiday food is just so delicious and festive, it’s hard not to be happy in kitchen! Now, I know this Christmas is going to be a lot different for everyone but I hope you’re able to hang on to some traditions to keep spirits up. For me, those traditions are decorating with my family’s antique ornaments and cooking our traditional recipes. Another tradition I love? Giving presents!
A lot of people ask me, as a foodie, what kind of presents I would want for Christmas. So I put together this guide to help you shop for the foodie in your life or for you to share with your relatives to help them figure out what to get you. I’ve broken the guide down by five sections: aspiring pastry chef, insta-foodie, starter chefs, cheese plate enthusiasts, and bookworms. Feel free to mix and match and I hope you find your perfect gifts!
For the Aspiring Pastry Chef
Maybe you’ve been watching Emily in Paris too much or maybe you’ve really enjoyed my #MacaronMondays and want to try them for yourself (don’t forget to use my guide here!) but if you’re shopping for an aspiring pastry chef there are some great basics they’ll need.
- Silpat mats: These are a lifesaver for me! I use them for more than baking, almost everything I cook in the over goes on top of a Silpat mat. You can also get these with circles printed on them to help guide your macaron making. Now, there are cheaper alternatives you can find on Amazon but I’ve had my Silpat mats for over a decade and they’re still in good shape so they are worth the investment.
- Silpat baking sheets: As you can tell I’m a big fan of the Silpat brand. Well, they recently debuted the perfect baking sheet. It won’t warp, fits all their mats, AND has an awesome perforated bottom for even heating. As a result of the bottom, you can also flip the tray over and use it as a cooling rack. For those with limited space, that double duty feature comes in handy.
- Kitchenaid professional series stand mixer: This is the mixer my mom and I have sworn by for YEARS. In fact it was the first Christmas present she gave me after I graduated college and got my first apartment. These mixers are powerful and big so they can handle large batches of buttercream, longer periods of whipping meringue, and even kneading bread. This is another investment piece for your kitchen but it’s oh so worth it.
- Piping tips set: Unless you’re suddenly going to become a professional cake decorator, you don’t need a huge set of tips, just a a few of the classics will do the trick. The set I linked from Amazon has the added bonus of including reusable plastic pastry bags (another item I highly recommend) and is under $10.
- Kitchen scale: If you did read my Macaron guide then you know I recommend every budding pastry chef buys a kitchen scale. In addition to being incredibly useful, they have the added benefit of being pretty inexpensive. The one I linked from Amazon is under $15 and has all the features you need in a scale.
For the Insta-Foodie
In my house the camera eats first…with a few small exceptions (Lion Cub’s Cookies I’m looking at you). So my photography equipment and mini studio is just a big a part of my kitchen as my cookware. Now, as a visual communications minor, I’ve invested significantly in my camera kit but you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get great results. In fact, with a few accessories and some studio equipment, you can get phenomenal results with your phone! Here are some gifts ideas for the aspiring photobug.
- Moment Phone Case and Lenses: Like I said, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on a DSLR to get great images. You can get awesome shots just with an iPhone. But if you’re looking for a good middle ground, then you should consider Moment lenses. These compact but powerful lenses attach right to the stylish Moment phone cases, allowing you to elevate your photography without lugging around a ton of equipment. I like to take my lenses with my on walks or quick food trips when I’m only bringing a small purse or even just slipping them into my jacket pocket. I highly recommend the tele and wide lenses and you can even get them on sale for Black Friday and Cyber Monday!
- Moment Photo App: Moment also has their own photo editing app which is free to download and use. It gives you far more control over your picture taking then the built in camera and lets you force choose which lens (my iPhone has three) you’re actually capturing the photo from. Since this is “free” it’s not exactly a gift BUT if you choose to give someone a Moment lens and case then you should let them know about this app too.
- Photography backdrops: Compact photo boards make amazing backdrops for your meals that are more affordable than redecorating your kitchen and can be easily stored in between photoshoots. There are tons of options out there but I love Bubb Market since they are a small, Ohio-based company and the quality of their boards are top notch with lots of patterns to choose from.
- Lightroom Photo Editing App: A lot of people ask me how I edit my photos and the answer is and always will be Lightroom. Typically I do it via the mobile app on my phone or iPad so I can edit on the go, but when I have a lot of photos to go through, I do so on my laptop. I linked the app via the Apple App store as that’s where I pay for my subscription. It’s a great deal for $9.99 a month you get the computer and phone apps and 2 TBs of storage. You can’t get that deal on the Adobe website. You do still need an Adobe account though so make sure you sign up for one!
- Photography Presets: Photography presets are a great way to create a consistent appearance on your feed and take the stress out of editing for beginners. I really like Do You Travel presets for their huge variety of options and high quality. Plus you can get them for mobile or desktop versions of Lightroom, pretty much giving you the option for one click editing!
- How to Photography Food: This is a brand new book from food stylist and photographer Beata Lubas. Beata has a gorgeous Instagram and, in this book, provides actionable tips and insight into how you can apply her process to make yourself a better photographer. Her tone is so friendly and welcoming that this book is a delight to read even just for fun!
For the Starter Chefs
When it comes to cooking, everyone has to start somewhere both in skill and equipment. But the best part about cooking is that you don’t need the latest and greatest tools to still become an incredible chef. A few basics will help though, so here are my suggestions for the perfect starter chef holiday gifts.
- KitchenAid cordless hand mixer: I love that KitchenAid released a cordless version of their hand mixer because not every kitchen has an abundance of outlets so this ensures you can mix wherever is most convenient for you – not your charging cord. This is actually at the top of my Christmas list this year!
- A really good set of pots and pans: When it comes to your culinary skills think of cookware as the foundation of a house. You want that foundation to be really good quality, otherwise what you build on top of it will crumble…and when we’re talking food, I actually mean crumble. This is the pots and pan set I have and use everyday and I love it, but you’ll notice it’s from Costco. I know not everyone has a Costco membership but I still wanted to link these because the specifications will tell you exactly what to look for when it comes to size and nonstick properties.
- A good set of knives: This really should go without saying but, if you’re going to cook, you need good knives. Whether you’re doing something simple like chopping vegetables or maybe even something more complicated like deboning a chicken. Investing in a nice set will last you years and years, and a knife block looks great on a kitchen counter! I linked the set I’ve had for about a year and love because of the quality but also the affordable price.
- InstaPot with crockpot lid: I am definitely part of the InstaPot gang – this thing is AWESOME. I’ve legit cooked a full chicken in it then crisped it up in the oven and it was incredible. But what I love most about the InstaPot is the ability to also use it as a crockpot. All you need is this handy dandy lid. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have unlimited space in my kitchen so any appliance I can get more than one use out of is a winner in my book. I have the 6-quart which is an ideal size to cook for 2-4 and still have some leftovers. If you have a big family, I’d move up to the 8-quart.
- The Joy of Cooking: You may have seen this massive volume on your mom’s bookshelf growing up, I know I did. In fact, this is the number one book my mom recommends for beginning and experienced cooks alike because it has EVERYTHING. So I’m sharing my mom’s recommendation with you all and suggesting you pick up this book. Use it, study it, and give yourself a leg up in the kitchen.
For the Cheese Plate Enthusiast
Who doesn’t love a cheeseboard? Clearly no one as these decorative trays have jumped in popularity in just the past couple years alone. Everything I check instagram there seems to be more and more elaborate options. So what do you need to get started? My top picks for the budding cheese board connoisseur are below!
- Large cheese tray: One of the things many Insta-worthy cheeseboards have in common, is a large circular wooden tray that’s big enough to fit everything from crackers to jam to meats and, of course, cheeses. But these trays can get REALLY expensive. Which is why I was so excited to find this large food-grade tray from Target for only $40. It’s beautiful in person and, when you’re not using it for cheese boards, you can leave it out on a table or counter as a decorative touch.
- Tiny bowls: These little bowls are something a lot of people overlook until they’re actually putting together a board. Sure, you can serve jams in their jar but it’s unlikely you’ll use the whole thing and you could end up having to throw away the jar that now has bits of cheese and other items stuck in it by the end of the night. Instead, you could portion out the jams into these bowls and save the larger jar for another day. These also work great for nuts and spreads like pate.
- Cheese knife set: Obviously a way to spread your cheese, dips, ect. is pretty important so a cheese knife set is crucial to a successful board. Now, if you buy a board like I suggested above, there’s no need to buy a tray and knife set. Instead, you can purchase a six piece set like the one I linked (most traditional tray sets only come with three or four). I like this set because it has you covered on all your knife needs for a larger board, it’s affordable, and the handles match the board I linked above.
- Trader Joe’s holiday honey kit: For those TJ fans out there, you know that they go all out for the holidays, creating gift sets and limited edition treats for a very limited time. I scooped up one of these honey kits as soon as I saw it for a few reasons: 1. I love honey 2. I think it would be fun to try and taste the subtle differences between the different kinds 3. Honey is a great accompaniment for soft cheese on any cheese board. Oh and, those little jars them come in are reusable glass…just think of the crafting opportunities!
- Cheese box subscription: Do you ever feel overwhelmed in the cheese section of your grocery store? Torn between choosing something exotic or sticking to your tried and true top three cheeses. I completely understand and even I have trouble deciding what cheeses will go with which. A cheese box subscription can definitely take out the guesswork and I like The Tasting Board because it learns from your personal preferences and cheese scores to customize each box to you!
For the Bookworm
I know I’ve named a few books already throughout this post but, as a bookworm myself, I know you can never have enough. Plus, so many of these books make great coffee table decorations or additions to your bookshelf. These are all books I have in my collection or are at the very top of my wish list!
- The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science: This is pretty much the ultimate food coffee table book. It’s huge and beautiful and filled with fascinating insights on the intersection of food and science. This is not something you just sit down and read in full, but rather enjoy and digest over time…just like a nice meal! Plus learning the science behind your food will help you evolve into a better chef!
- Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide: I own probably six wine books and this is by far my absolute favorite. The descriptions of each wine including flavor profiles and pairings are laid out in an easy-to-read, factual way and the books even includes tons of charts and graphs for those who are more visual learners. If you want to learn about wine, definitely start with this book.
- The Vegetable Butcher: I’ll fully admit, I could be including far more vegetables in my diet. But sometimes I’m just not inspired by the plants I have at my disposable, it’s probably the weakest part of my culinary game. Well…this book is a game changer. By approaching vegetables as the “meat” or focal point of every dish, it turns your perspective on its head and gives you the creative freedom to explore new ways to showcase vegetables in your cooking.
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: This is my go-to bread book and the one I consult when I’m devising and testing my own recipes. In fact, this is the book where I found my go-to pizza crust that I often post about on Instagram!
- Macarons: I tried my first true French macaron in London, at one of Pierre Herme’s shops in Belgravia. It was pure magic, and he is my inspiration whenever I start cracking egg whites for one of my macaron creations. I bought this book at Pierre’s shop that day and, while I don’t really use it for the recipes since I devised my own, I keep it out on my coffee table so I can be inspired by the beautiful images and his creative flavor profiles.