At this point in the season, the big gifts have already been decided. And if you're on your game, they're boxed, wrapped, and under the tree. But this week is all about the little bits: the practical things, the accessories, and the stocking stuffers. If you or someone on your list is a maker, DIYer, woodworker, tinkerer, or just a general creative type who likes to build and fix things, here's our list of quality stocking stuffers that are just as good as whatever's in that huge box with the bow on it.
Thanksgiving has two of my favorite English words in it, so it's not surprising it's among my favorite holidays of the year. It's infinitely adaptable, both in terms of what you eat, and what you do during the holiday. Plus, it's a long weekend off during a period of the year when most of us sorely need it (a break from the cold, grey skies of early winter). This is the holiday for people who wish they could hibernate. For people who want to sit in their house all day, surrounded by good friends, family, and food. Who are thankful for what they have, and want to share it with others who might not be so lucky.
So I'm excited to share a heaping helping of my favorite tips for making the Thanksgiving holiday smooth and stress-free.
You know those little pumpkins you practically trip over in the supermarket this time of year? It turns out: they're good for more than just Instagram props. With, like, no work, they make a really tasty pumpkin butter you’ll want to have in the fridge all year long. I’m talking about pumpkin butter with the magical spice flavor of pumpkin pie, but simple, less sweet and much more, well, pumpkin-y.
Your kitchen stove is a recent development in human cultural evolution. For millenia, all cooking was live fire cooking. From traveling groups building beds of coals in the wilderness, to stone and earth homes centered around the hearth, the use of wood as fuel for food represented what it meant to be human for tens of thousands of years.
These days, cooking over an open flame makes a meal an event. Live fire cooking is portable, sure, but more importantly, it adds flavor and ambience your electric oven can never achieve. Whether grilling over glowing hardwood or slow roasting in a cast iron pan, cooking with real fire makes the meal the point of the evening.
The phrase "greater than the sum of its parts" is trite and overused, but sometimes, there's simply no better way to describe why something so straightforward becomes unforeseen level of amazing: The Beatles, a perfectly made PB&J, or the memories formed of an epic vacation with someone you love.
To that classic canon, allow me to submit a new nomination, something so simple yet je ne sais quoi-y that it's a wonder we haven't been doing this for decades already.
Lately, I've been on a quest to find better breakfast foods. Without getting into much personal, and overbearing, health details, most breakfast foods just aren't all that great for you. Whether it's a pile of dried wheat or a sugary toaster pastry, grabbing something good on the go can be so dang hard! Well, no more! Kolache to the rescue!
There are those basic, essential tools that everyone needs to cook awesome food at home. ManMade thinks there are a solid fifteen, and we've shared them here - The Essential Kitchen: The 15 Tools Every Man Needs to Cook Like a Pro
But then, there are those less obvious tools... The ones that make cooking a real pleasure, and allow you to turn out restaurant-quality food with the charm of homemade.
A few weeks ago, we had a couple of friends over for dinner, and the husband joined me in the kitchen as I was finishing up some carrots I'd blackened and blistered then finished in the oven.
"Oh, you like your cast iron skillet?" he asked.
"Like it?" I replied. "I have three of them, and I use 'em as much as possible."
He was a little surprised at my response, and me by his. He'd said he and his wife had registered for both a large skillet and a dutch oven for their wedding, and received both. But once they got them home and unboxed, they could really figure out how to season them, how to clean them, or how to care for them. This, of course, broke my heart a bit, and I vowed that if he brought them over sometime, I'd help him get them ready to go, and show him what they could do.
So, whether you're just getting started in the wonderful, flavorful world of cast iron, or you'd like to move beyond special occassion meals and use these as your daily cookware, there's just a few things you should know, and keep around, for smooth, non-stick, generation-lasting success.
If you haven't depressed the trigger on a blowtorch and heard the momentary hiss of the gas releasing, followed by the low whoosh of the flame catching, well, my friend, I recommend you try it. There must be some caveman-brain connection with fire that takes place, or maybe it's the six-year-old in me. But either way, the first time I grabbed a blow torch and clicked it on, I was hooked.
Fortunately, it's also a ridiculous useful tool to have around the shop! It's one of those tools that you don't know you need until the occasion presents itself, but trust me, once you own one, you'll have plenty of occasions to use it. Here are just a few of the ways a blowtorch can make itself useful:
There is nothing like a long day of hiking or horseback riding to get you in the mood for some good, hearty eating. And so the American West's roving cattlemen and cross-country venturers created a long tradition of fantastic, simple meals meant to fill you up on the trail. So bust out that cast iron skillet and prepare yourself for some authentic cowboy eating.
Right now, you can find more tutorials on how to use vinegar to clean your toilet than you can find to use vinegar with a delicious dinner. This is a travesty for such an amazing and delicious liquid! Unlike most condiments, vinegar is one that you can make yourself and will taste better than anything you can buy in a store. I guarantee it! Here is a simple tutorial on turning leftover wine into homemade vinegar.
Here's the thing about beef: it's expensive. And it should be; it's a part of a huge, expensive-to-raise animal. So, when you've invested in a high-quality piece of meat, especially a nice thick one, you don't want to screw it up. This recipe is the only way I cook it, partially because it's so darned easy, but mostly because it's the best steak I've ever tasted. Here's how to do it.
We believe in investing in long-lasting, high-quality kitchen gear; things worth saving up for, that you know will stand up to daily use. Opting for a legit forged steel chef's knife, say... one that can be sharpened and honed over and over and will last you the rest of your life, and then some.
But, investment pieces are just that: investments. Those things cost money, and they're well worth it. But thankfully, you can fill in the gaps with a selection of totally affordable and super useful kitchen tools, many of which cost less than a lunch at a local bistro. So with that in mind, here's our list of inexpensive, high-quality, and crazy versatile culinary tools with which you should be stocking your kitchen, all of which come in at less than twenty-five bucks.
The burger is usually thought of as summer fare — the progeny of some spatula-wielding self-appointed grill master. But true burger fans know that the very best are not cooked over grill grates, but on screaming hot solid surfaces, where the rendering fat and juices stay near the patty, creating not only a crispy exterior, but the deep, caramelized, confit-like richness that defines the flavor of a great burger.
Which means, of course, that burgers are actually year-round food, and armed with a heavy cast iron skillet or griddle, a great way to spend an dark, cold evening stuck inside. If we're gonna have January, than let us always have burgers.
You know the basics. The onions and carrots. The potatoes, rice and noodles. The salt and pepper. The goods that can help accompany fresh proteins and vegetables into a proper meal. But today, we're talking those "secret ingredients" — those back-of-the-lazy susan bottles and powders that improve anything they come in contact with, and take food from being simply filling to truly satisfying. Keep them on hand, understand and respect their powers, and you can use them to blow any dish out of the water.
I love s'mores. I hate getting sticky.* Which I mention only to point out how much I truly love s'mores since they nearly always get your hands/face/everything sticky. It's the perfect smoky and sweet desert to finish off any night's worth of camping and hiking or simply sitting around the campfire with friends. But here's a suggestion that takes the s'mores game to a whole new level...
Everyone loves pizza and brick oven pizza is about as good as it gets. The whole point of the brick oven is to bake pizzas between 800 and 1000 degrees giving you that crispy layer of thin char over an airy breaded crust. Much better than the paltry results you can get with a conventional oven that only runs about half that heat.
I LOVE my cast-iron skillet. I was in skillet envy for quite awhile watching other guys flaunt theirs at home and on camping trips before I finally pulled the trigger and got my own. I'm fairly certain I've got the hang of skillet maintenance, but having just come back from a wonderful camping trip in Big Sur, I realized there are some key tips everyone ought to keep in mind with this essential cooking tool...
There are the traditional burgers - the griddle-cooked patties and toasted buns and standard fare toppings described in Jimmy Buffet songs. And then there are the pub burgers, the thicker brother, covered in everything from coleslaw and pulled pork to onion rings , cranberry sauce, and duck confit.
Have you been cooking with cast iron lately? A skillet is definitely worth the investment with it's durable versatility. Take a look at these 7 ways you can make a meal with yours.