Still whittling away at your Christmas shopping list and have a few hard to shop for people stumping you? You can’t go wrong with edible Christmas gifts, so I’m back this week with part two of thefreshkitchen’s holiday gift guide, a list of tasty stuff that most people would happily find stuffed in their stocking this year.
Ask anyone who has spent time at my house what sticks out to them about my kitchen, and the answer would probably include something about the 70+ small mason jars full of spices that greet you when you walk in. Why? Because spices equal flavor, and flavor equals love. Share the love, folks.
Grains of paradise may very well be missing from even your most spice-literate friend’s collection. If so, rectify that for them this Christmas. This is one of my favorite spices- they’re like floral little peppercorns with citrus notes and a hint of coriander. I love using them in dishes that usually showcase black peppercorns (think steak au poivre or pasta carbonara) for a twist, and they are surprisingly versatile in desserts, too.
Anardana, or dried pomegranate seeds, is an ingredient often used in Indian, Iranian, and Pakistani food. The dried seeds can either be used whole as a topping for pastries, other desserts, and even hummus, or they can be ground and used in chutney, spice rubs, stews, braises, and anywhere else a tart, sour touch is desired. Anardana stands out from other similar sour ingredients in that it can be added at the beginning of cooking and cooked for a long time, giving the flavors time to develop.
One of the best ways to make baked goods taste 100 times better is to use real vanilla beans. Many people balk at the idea of using them because they are ridiculously expensive in stores; fortunately, someone invented bulk buying, which makes the per-bean price a lot more palatable. I absolutely love Mexican vanilla beans, and you can get them here for a little over a dollar per bean.
Nothing says “I care” like copious amounts of cured meat. If you have a Paleo friend or just know someone who really loves pork, here are a few suggestions for you:
Guanciale, made from pork cheek, lends a silky texture and more nuanced flavor to chowders and pasta sauces that can’t be beat. The folks in Iowa at La Quercia (“KWER-cha,” in case you were wondering) have pretty much nailed the art of cured pork, once thought to be something only Europeans could master. Hear me now, friends: If you like clam chowder, pasta carbonara, or pasta amatriciana, or even if you have no idea what any of those things are but think you’d like to eat them the way that they were meant to be, BUY THIS. You cannot make these and other dishes taste the same with pancetta, bacon, or other substitutes, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong.
If charcuterie is more your style, La Quercia makes a deeply flavorful coppa that you’ll love. If pork can taste slightly moody, this does; it’s seasoned with pimenton and cocoa, giving it a slightly smoky complexity that I love and think would be a solid addition to your next charcuterie plate.
If you’re not sure what to give the meat lovers close to your heart, it’s a fairly safe bet that they’ll like something in D’artagnan’s Gourmet Food Lover’s Gift Basket. This formidable basket includes applewood smoked bacon, saucisson sec, dry sausage, chorizo, andouille, various kinds of pate, and more. While I’m not usually a fan of pre-made edible gift baskets, D’artagnan usually puts out a great product (I love their duck and duck fat), so this is an exception to the rule.
Or, you know, yourself.
When I was teaching in-home cooking classes, one of the things that surprised people most was how much of a difference using good chocolate can make in your everyday baking; unfortunately, good chocolate can put a dent in your grocery budget if you bake regularly. Callebaut, my baking chocolate of choice, usually runs about $10/lb at my local grocer, but you can get it on Amazon for almost half that price. I keep their dark chocolate on hand, as it’s what I bake with most often, but they have milk chocolate and white chocolate available, too. If you know someone who bakes often, consider gifting them a massive block of this stuff. They may thank you with a batch of the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever had.
If you’re less interested in baking with chocolate and more keen on eating it straight from the box, the dark chocolate set from Vosges is for you. This Chicago-based chocolatier specializes in unique flavor combinations and does it well, and I’ve yet to have a piece of chocolate from them that I didn’t love.
Ever had stone-ground chocolate? If not, buy two of these so you have one to keep for yourself. It’s a totally different beast than the smooth, creamy chocolate we are used to, but in a very good way. If I’m eating chocolate out of hand, I prefer this, hands down, to any other kind of chocolate, and I love using it in savory cooking applications.
For Your AIP Friend
I have to include this here, because I’m positive that if you can find an edible gift that this person can actually use and enjoy, they will love you for life.
One of the more difficult aspects of the first few months of AIP for me was the lack of crunchy snacks available to me. Plantain flour is a game changer here, because you can make crackers that fall within the AIP guidelines and still actually taste good, and they stay crunchy longer than crackers made with blended whole plantains do. It may sound insignificant, and you might feel weird wrapping flour in pretty paper and calling it a gift, but to a person who has spent weeks or months craving a snack, it’s an incredibly thoughtful gift.
Another good buy for your AIP friends is a good grass-fed gelatin. Gelatin is an extremely important part of the AIP diet, and though I like to get mine through bone broth and connective tissue-rich meat, it’s nice to have options. A popular use is making jello with it, but I’d occasionally use it to make gummy candies.
No worries- these aren’t actually nuts. They’re small, wrinkly tubers that can be ground up for flour, eaten as snacks, or soaked in water to make creamy tigernut milk (like almond milk, without the nuts). It’s a useful, versatile addition to the somewhat limited ingredient list available to AIPers.
I hope this helps you as you’re making your way threw your list. Next week, I’ll be back with the last installment of thefreshkitchen’s holiday gift guide!
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