Last-minute kitchen gifts

I was happy to read that people are still out there shopping for gifts. It means I’m not the only one late with everything this Christmas. Hoping my cards will arrive by New Year’s Eve. Also hoping my neighbours are home tomorrow since I finally got around to making cookies today, between skating and wasting two hours watching the movie Elf on TV.

shortbread 2012My 2012 shortbread are delicious, lucky giftees! Foodie friend Julia recommended the recipe on the back of the Canada Corn Starch box, which really is foolproof. She gave me a half pound of the new Stirling Churn 84 unsalted butter to make them with. I agree – the extra 4% fat (regular Canadian butter is 80% fat) makes butter cookies extra rich and creamy-tasting.  Can’t wait to try it in a pie crust next week.

Instead of cutting the shortbread dough into shapes, which usually end up warped on their way to the baking sheet – that’s a sheep? – I rolled them into balls and stamped them with the holly stamp I bought in Mahone Bay, N.S. years ago. I doubt if anyone will recognize the design (learned too late you’re supposed to flour the stamp between cookies!), but the raised look is definitely more interesting than plain flat cookies.Cookie Messenger

If you can’t be bothered making cookies, I know two women at The Cookie Messenger in Woodbridge who are up to their elbows in cookie dough and icing full-time and loving it. Their hand-decorated sugar cookie bouquets make a great gift for any occasion. As a bonus, they taste as good as they look. Check out this summery bouquet.454 REN3

Even if you don’t need steak knives, you should check out Legnoart from Italy. Most days, it’s a curious white sculpture with six pointy legs that sits in my dining room. When there’s steak on the menu, however, I move it to the table and let guests lift out their own steak knife. Genius! The blade is a little skinny, but it’s sharp and does the trick. In TO, look for this $120 set in artsy places like the AGO gift shop and Bergo in the Distillery District.

Another favourite thing is Sophie Conran’s white tableware for Portmeiron. This incredibly inexpensive collectiSophie Conran oven to table on is made of high-quality porcelain. All the pieces are a little off-kilter, which gives them an artisanal look. Perhaps it’s a trick Sophie learned from her English designer dad, Terence. They all go from oven to table and look great. I use my shallow round roasting dish for everything from roasted vegetables to apple crisp. The newest pieces include a large turkey platter and a mini cake stand. One day, I dream of turfing my chipped dishes and replacing them with Sophie’s place settings.

If you need a stocking stuffer, or hostess gift or any-time gift, really, the Microplane grater is a true kitchen woMicroplane graterrkhorse. I recently replaced my original rasp with this green-handled upgrade. It’s more finicky to clean, but easier to hold and way more fun to use. Grate hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano into a blizzard of cheesy snow in seconds. Zest oranges and lemons in a flash. Great for nutmeg, too. Last night I used it to grate frozen ginger root  into butternut squash soup.

I could go on, but Christmas Eve arrives in about 20 minutes so I should get this out of here. It’s already embarrassingly late.

I wish you all a star-bright, love-warm Christmas and a happy and healthy 2013.

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