(A Few of) My Favorite Things

I know, everyone’s interested in Oprah’s favorite things. She does have great taste, and is very generous with her gift-giving. Sadly, I a) don’t have my own show, and 2) am not able to give away all this stuff, but I do have a few favorite things too – some I already have in my kitchen, others I’m hoping Santa will bring me. Some are made by big companies, others by individuals, friends, and neighbors. So if you’re looking to get a head start on holiday shopping, pull up a cup of coffee and let’s flip through some of our favorite food-centric things – add your own finds at the bottom!

(PS – this isn’t me, it’s my friend Pam. She makes one of my favorite things – hip aprons that wrap around you and don’t dig into your neck!)

Candy Apple Aprons

This is my friend and neighbor, Pam. Our kids go to kindergarten together and she lives a few blocks from me. She makes custom aprons in the basement of her 97-year old house, and as the mother of two young girls, knows the value of fashionable full-body protection.

These are not froufy gathered half-skirt aprons that might save your lower abdomen from floury messes (or can be called into action if you’re ever inclined to dress up as a French maid), nor barbecue-style aprons that sling around and dig into your neck; form meets function here with a unique over-the-head design that wraps around in an H-form and ties in the back with a thick fabric bow. Like Edith Bunker used to wear, only not frumpy.

Take a spin around Pam’s online apron archives and fabric gallery to come up with your own custom creation. Custom adult aprons are $32 (light cotton) or $35 (heavy cotton) including two pockets or one central pocket (if you like, one pocket may be switched for a flower detail).

Kids’ aprons are $28, and matching mother-daughter (or Grandma-granddaughter) sets range from $60-$70. Box ruffles will cost $10; a flower detail $5, and it’s free to get your name embroidered on the apron tie or pocket (up to 10 letters). Pam ships anywhere in Canada or the US. To order, visit www.candyappleaprons.com

Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper

Ditch your microwave popcorn! Phineas Whirley’s hand-crank popping machine utilizes a stainless steel stirring system that coats and cooks kernels evenly while preventing them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Wood on the handle keeps it cool and hinged lids allow steam and moisture to escape, ensuring a crisp, light, flavourful pop. Use canola or olive oil, and if you like, add a garlic clove or other seasonings to the pot – you can’t get that creative with a hot air popper.

$27.50 at Lee Valley

Preserves from Sunchowder’s Emporia

Awhile ago I arrived home after a particularly harrowing day to find a box on my step filled with teeny jars of jam. They came from Sunchowder’s Emporia, all the way down in Florida. The jars are adorable. They pair fresh fruits and vegetables with captivating flavors like boiled cider syrup from a 100 year old Vermont press, Hawaiian crystallized ginger, the finest quality vinegars and spirits, island Madagascar vanilla beans, local honey sourced from Geneva Florida, and Callebaut and Valrhona bittersweet chocolates. They’re delicious and pretty, with hand-written labels and hip paper caps. Great when you want to send something homemade but don’t want to make it yourself.

For more information, visit their website.

Staub Cocottes (especially when they’re shaped like pigs)

The Le Creuset line from France is by far the most well-known in the realm of enamel-coated cast iron cookware, but Staub cast iron, also hand-made in France, should be in as high demand – many cooks and chefs believe it’s superior to L.C. Their French/Dutch ovens, saucepans and casseroles are subtly, earthily colourful, with inferno-proof brass handles and an indestructible black matte enamel interior that browns and reduces better than smooth enamel-coated pots. The more you use it, the better it gets – with use cooking oils penetrate the pores of the matte enamel interior and create a natural, smooth nonstick surface, just like real cast iron.

Check them out at Staub.com – and watch for the pig to arrive at Amazon.com

Ginza Stick

This brilliant tea infusion stick is what all tea balls aspire to be the square stainless steel shaft has laser-cut perforations (read: no sharp edges) around the bottom and a removable base that makes it easy to flush out, unlike a hard-to-clean tea ball. Perfect for brewing loose tea in pots or individual mugs.

$15; available (along with delicious premium loose teas) at Tnik.com

Melamine Bento Lunch Box

You gotta check these out – they make me wish I didn’t eat lunch at my desk. Ultra-hip for lunch at work, a picnic, or any occasion that requires the transportation of food. This 3-tier melamine stacking lunchbox for the new millennium comes 6.5″ square or round, 7.5″ tall, in a variety of vibrant or earthy color combinations and are dishwasher safe. And hey! Looks like they made the O List, too!

$34 (round) – $38 (square), available online at Plastica.com

Ice Cream Sandwich Ottoman

I know! You have to check this one out too. It’s an ice cream sandwich. It’s an ottoman. You can get them in different flavors/colors, even. And it won’t even drip all over your carpet. The only problem is – I’m not sure I’d want to put my feet on it. I wonder if they come in bed-sized?

$1050 at Jellio.com

Mugnaini Wood-fired Oven

If I woke up on Christmas morning to find a wood-fired oven in my backyard, I’d be pretty happy with Santa. Mugnaini ovens are pre-made or assembled here from components made with refractory clay quarried from local hills and produced in Tuscany, Italy, since 1945. Wood-fired ovens are ideal for cooking more than just perfect pizzas roasted meat, veggies, artisan breads, eggs and even desserts can be done in a wood-fired oven, and you’ll feel just like Jamie Oliver out there cooking with it.

Check out their entire range of ovens at Mugnaini.com

Play & Freeze Ice Cream Maker

Because every Christmas tree should have at least one toy underneath it, (and preferably one that produces ice cream), this is a little like a hamster ball, but with cream and sugar rolling around inside turning into ice cream, instead of a rodent. Add ingredients to the interior ball, ice and salt to the exterior ball, kick it around for awhile, then take a break and enjoy some lovely homemade ice cream.

Price varies at Amazon.com

OK, these are just a few of my favorite things – what are some of yours?

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