Dear Milk Streeter,
With young kids around the house, we always loved finding great stocking stuffers. These are the fun, small gifts that make Christmas so special. But, as the kids grew older, the stockings became secondary to the bigger gifts which, looking back, was a mistake. Christmas is about giving, about taking time with family, but Christmas morning should also be about fun—about finding something special in your stocking, something that you might not buy for yourself.
So, I offer my list of stocking stuffers for anyone who loves to cook. Most of these items are available from our own store but a few are not. We offer expedited shipping so that items can arrive in time for the holidays.
#13. NO. 8 STAINLESS STEEL POCKET KNIFE ($19)
Our Food Editor, Matt Card, has a thing for folding knives. He brings them everywhere in case he has to do a bit of impromptu cooking. This knife has a beech wood handle and stainless steel blade, which quickly locks into place for safe use and into a closed position for safe transport in your pocket.
#12. MESH SPIDER STRAINER ($12.50)
When Andrea Nguyen, author of The Pho Cookbook, visited Milk Street recently, she used this mesh spider/strainer to cook a small portion of noodles in a pot that she also was using to cook vegetables. This was new to us and we immediately fell in love with this inexpensive kitchen tool for cooking small portions of pasta, blanching vegetables, and even deep frying. Made from stainless steel, it has a wooden handle and two hooks for hanging on the side of a large saucepan or stockpot.
#11. JARWARE FRUIT INFUSION LID ($6.81)
This lid allows you to turn any regular mouth mason jar into an infusion water bottle. Unlike most infusion bottles that have a small chamber for fruit this lid has a basket that acts as a colander keeping the fruit in the jar while you drink the flavored water. It’s made of BPA-free recycled material and is dishwasher safe.
#10. MYMOUNÉ POMEGRANATE MOLASSES ($15.95)
Twenty years ago when John Willoughby, the former executive editor of Gourmet magazine, sang the praises of pomegranate molasses, I, of course, made fun of him for suggesting yet another hard to find ingredient. As usual, I was wrong and he was right. I now use this simple ingredient every week, adding it to soups, stews, salad dressings—just about anything that could use a hit of sweet and sour. I discovered this brand through a restaurant in Cambridge called Moona. The bottle will last a long time, and it is so much better than the sweeter, less balanced supermarket products.
#9. ZOKU SLUSH AND SHAKE MAKER ($22.95)
Makes slushes and shakes in just a few minutes. Great for a cool snack on hot summer days—you simply pour the liquid in the inner frozen core and scrape down the sides about every minute—and in 7 minutes you have slush. It works well with blended fruits and juices and even alcoholic beverages. The best part is that unlike slushes you would buy at the store that start to melt immediately, the Zoku Slush and Shake Maker continues to freeze the slush as you eat it!
#8. ORIGINAL BAKER’S BLEND VANILLA ($32.50)
The VAIN "Original Baker's Blend" vanilla is well rounded with a warm, slightly floral, marshmallowy flavor. We like the depth - not as bold as other brands, but we found the flavor complex and warm. This vanilla will not hit you over the head with a boozy vanilla burst - it offers a more subtle, richer depth of flavor.
#7. ZA'ATAR ($14.95)
My favorite spice blend from the Middle East; it goes on everything. Made with sumac, wild oregano and sesame, this is a great spice blend for salads, fish and grilled meat. As a chef in Boston, Ana Sortun, often says about this amazing spice blend, “It’s the Za’atar stupid!”
#6. COFFEE SUGAR ($14.95)
In the Middle East, green cardamom is ground into coffee, which gave us the idea of creating a coffee sugar blend than includes coffee, sugar and cardamom. You can use it in your coffee but also with desserts; we even like it as an undercurrent flavor with beef dishes.
#5. THERMOPOP DIGITAL INSTANT READ THERMOMETER ($29)
The ThermoPen from Thermoworks has been my go-to instant read thermometer for years but it is expensive at $99. This cheaper model, the ThermoPop, is just $29. It has a large display and registers temperature quickly. And it fits nicely in a stocking.
#4. CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL SIGNATURE TIMER ($39)
This timer is small and lightweight, but not so small that it’s hard to use. A double window allows users to track two separate events simultaneously without having to toggle back and forth. Once a timer sounds, the clock continues counting up so you know how much time has elapsed, and once you stop a timer, hitting the Start/Stop button a second time will bring up the time originally set. Finally, if you zero out a timer and hit Start/Stop, the timer will count up to serve as a stopwatch. The timer includes a lanyard for looping around your neck and a clip on the back for attaching to an apron or shirt.
#3. RUMI SPICE SAFFRON FROM AFGHANISTAN ($34.95)
I recently interviewed Kimberly Jung, who, after completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan, founded Rumi Spice, a company that grows, collects, and exports saffron, giving hundreds of local women good-paying jobs. It turns out that a good deal of saffron sold around the world is either old or made from died corn silk. Rumi Spice sells the real thing. Here at Milk Street, we support Kimberly and the notion of helping the women of Afghanistan earn their own money directly for the first time in their lives. The International Taste & Quality Institute has rated Afghan saffron Number One three years running.
#2. MILK STREET SIGNATURE 5-SPICE COLLECTION ($59.95)
Milk Street is all about new flavors, and we often call for spices that some folks may not have in their pantries. Here are five of the most common spices we call for: sumac, coriander seed, Sichuan peppercorns, cumin seed and smoked paprika. We provide seeds for the cumin and coriander since we often cook with whole seeds, and pre-ground spices tend to lose flavor over time. These are high-quality spices: The sumac is from Turkey and is unadulterated with colorings or salt. The paprika is smoked in the traditional manner in Spain. You will pay a bit more, but good spices make all the difference.
#1. JACOBSEN SALT CO. MINI SEA SALT TINS ($6)
As I’ve said many times, salt is salt. But if you use a lot, why not use the best? I like that this top-notch, hand-harvested sea salt comes from the Oregon coast—and its briny flavor leaves no aftertaste. And I admit, I also like the packaging! A two-pound box is a reasonable $12, and a two-pack of the slide-tins (they are .42 ounces each) is just $6, good for traveling or for a stocking stuffer or small birthday gift.