Last-Minute Christmas Gifts


23 Dec Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

It’s almost noon on the day before Christmas Eve and I’m not finished my shopping. Not by a long shot. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess  I’m not the only one who needs the born-of-fear adrenaline to face the holiday crowds. Or maybe you’re too disorganized busy to get it done during calm, shopper-sparce early November — like some people I know and resent.

So, for those who need some last-minute gift ideas for the cooks in your life, here are my suggestions. You can purchase them from the tranquility of your home, glass of spiked eggnog in one hand and a computer mouse in the other.

logo-on-black   Rouxbe Online Cooking School

Yes, I’m an affiliate, but I’m also a client. Even after three years, I still use this resource often to brush up on my skills or find the answer to a question. Thanks to Rouxbe, I make my own stock, sharpen my own knives and carve poultry without embarrassing myself. The site is iPad and iPhone enabled so you can learn without being glued to your computer.

Until midnight December 25, 2011, they’re offering $100 off a membership or up to $20 off individual lessons. Here’s sample of previous Rouxbe lessons I’ve featured, or click here to see the Rouxbe holiday offer.

Eat Your Books

I am kicking myself, just kicking myself for not buying the lifetime membership when I had a chance. I now pay $25 a year (or $2.50/month) to use this site and it’s worth every penny. What’s Eat Your Books? Only the best way to search the cookbooks you have on your self. Sure, you have to invest a bit of time entering the titles in your collection, but once that easy task is done you won’t spend any more time flipping through dozens of cookbooks (or magazines, or blogs). Whenever you run out of meal ideas or don’t know what to do with that 10-pound bag of kumquats from your CSA, just head to the database and see what recipes in your collection fit the bill. For the cost of a single paperback cookbook, you’ll be using your collection more and saving hours of time.

iPhone, iPad, iThingy Apps

Handy, portable, open all hours. I love apps. Of course I’m biased, but I recommend two created by my highly knowledgeable writer friends.


Price: $1.99

This comprehensive dictionary of herbs and spices from around the word was compiled by my friend Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice. Each entry contains an informative description, colourful slideshow, links to recipes and YouTube instructional videos, as well as links on where you can buy the spice in question. To find a spice, scroll through the 100+ entries listed alphabetically or play roulette with the slideshow of stunning photos and see where you land. Even though I write about food for a living, I discovered a few new spices within minutes.

Be sure to check the app’s comment section periodically. Not only are people posting really good questions, I’ve learned that asafetida isn’t always gluten-free. This section is likely to grow as the app gains users.

Wifi needed? Not for the spice information or slideshows. Recipe links and YouTube videos require an internet connection.
Who will it appeal to?
Adventuresome home cooks and recipe developers.
Worth buying for: The buying link for hard-to-find spices.

Asian101Asian Ingredients 101
Price: $0.99

This niffy little app examines nearly 100 common and not-so-common spices, sauces and essential ingredients used in Asian cuisine. The app’s creator, Pat Tanumihardja, is the author of The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens and provides users with just the right mix of context, instruction and inspiration.

Like iSpice, the app is published by Sutro Media, so the two have similar layouts. There’s the familiar alphabetical listing of ingredients as well as a slide show, but given the wider range of the entries, you can also sort by category such as condiments, fruits, noodles, vegetables and grocery store sections. Regardless of how you select the ingredient, you’ll find out how it’s used as well as get buying and storing tips.

Wifi needed? No. Just download and use.
Who will it appeal to? Anyone who wants to cook more Asian or Asian-inspired meals.
Worth buying for: The scope of information.

Hopefully between these ideas you’ll find something in your price range that brings joy and good food to those you love. Got any other ideas? Leave them in the comments section. I’m now off to finish my non-foodie shopping.

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No Comments
  • Robin Smart
    Posted at 15:01h, 23 December Reply

    Hey, now I know where you were – out shopping – when I needed to consult the font of all food knowledge, to find out how much juice you get from a lemon without actually squeezing one. It’s more fun talking to you than google. I hope you got me the cranberry coloured hoodie I’ve been eyeing.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:53h, 04 January Reply

      You can’t get juice from a lemon without squeezing it :-)

      By now you know I didn’t get you the hoodie. And I wasn’t around to answer your citrus question. Turns out I’m not very useful after all. I’ll try to do better in the future.

  • Judith Rutty Godfrey
    Posted at 15:13h, 17 January Reply

    Wanted to let you know that I gave daughter Kathleen the Eat Your Books membership for Christmas and signed myself on for the free trial. I love it! Decided to buy a full membership when I found out they had all of the old Time Life cooking books…and those are old, but great! Thanks for the tip Charmian.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:07h, 18 January Reply

      I love Eat Your Books. So glad you like it too. I really, really wish I’d gone for the lifetime membership when they offered it. However, with the time it saves me, it’s worth every penny.

      Enjoy getting reacquainted with your Time Life cookbooks!

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