Holiday Gift Guide

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I wasn’t going to do one of these this year. I was hoping that I could get away with not doing one if my partner-in-crime did one over at the our business website but he hasn’t done one yet and our interests do differ. Inevitably my lists are generally a combination of stuff I like, products I affiliate with (which are products I’d recommend regardless) and books my friends have written. This will be no different.

So, for those last minute gift seekers (Christmas eve is 5 days away and we’re half way through Chanukah), here’s my 2014 list:

For those who like good coffee


I’d been hearing about this little coffee maker for years but didn’t think that the Aeropress could be better than a French press. After my man’s espresso machine died for good we bought a Keurig machine, aka “waste packaging dispenser”, on sale. Yes, I felt like a bit of an asshole for creating so much waste, and I assuaged some of my guilt by ripping open used k-cups and dumping the grounds into the green bin, until I stopped doing that, and hung my head in shame every time I read a headline that someone had posted about why K-cup machines and such are bad. We bought the Aeropress for camping and after the summer it came upstairs to replace the Keurig. The Aeropress makes great coffee with minimal waste (a small round filter) and can be tossed in a drawer. On the bus the entire coffee kit (Aeropress, filters, scoop) lives in a big Ziplock bag in a drawer. Here’s what I said about our use of the Aeropress on the Pork Ninjas blog a few months ago:

This past weekend we used it with beans from Casa Acoreana Cafe on the corner of Nassau and Augusta in Kensington Market. They serve one of the best Americanos in the city – seriously, the one I had on Friday was sublime – and the beans from there made the Aeropress coffee better than ever.


Counting Sheep Coffee

Give the gift of a great night’s sleep.

Counting Sheep Coffee™ has been helping the sleep-challenged masses fall fast asleep for almost a year now, with the world’s first coffee designed to be consumed after dinner, with dessert or before going to bed. The coffee is a blend of Swiss Water® decaffeinated coffee and Valerian root, an all-natural, organic, plant-based sedative. I recently got some samples and will be reporting back in a blog post in the new year with some recipes created in my kitchen. I will say that Counting Sheep Coffee is worth a try. Learn more on Counting Sheep‘s website, where you can also view their Dragon’s Den pitch. Buy it from Amazon, Bed, Bath & Beyond or a number of stores including health food stores. Check the Counting Sheep website for where to buy.

For anyone who cooks… or not

Thermapen & other products by ThermoWorks

Every year since discovering it, I’ve put Thermapen on my list because I think everyone should own it. And if the BBQ Pork Ninja does a gift guide it will go on his list too. Why is it so good?

1. Super fast measuring time of under 3 seconds and it continues to take temperature every 3 seconds. This is useful when cooking meat or bread, which isn’t a consistent temp throughout.
2. Big display.
3. Simple operation. Open the probe to turn it on, close the probe to turn it off, and it will automatically turn off if you don’t close the probe in 10 minutes.
4. It will make you a better cook. Seriously. You won’t under or overcook again, as long as you’re paying attention to your food and checking it.
5. The colours!

A Thermapen is the only thermometer you need, regardless of what you use it for, unless you go with the Thermopop, below. You might not want to take your child’s temperature with the Thermapen (sharp probe) but you can take your own. I once heard Alton Brown refer to Thermapen “The best instant read thermometers on planet earth.” You have to believe Alton Brown.


Another thermometer option is the Thermopop, which is a cheaper ThermoWorks product. Every bit as accurate, it takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than the the Thermapen. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button. ThermoPop features big digits and a backlight. Molded-in seals and buttons make it splash-proof. Durable construction outlasts similarly priced pocket thermometers. Simple operation reduces user errors.  It comes in 9 colours.


The magnetic glow-in-the-dark silicone boot accessory is brilliant. It protects the Thermapen from drops and being magnetic, you can attach it to your stove, range hood, or outdoor cooker. We also own and like the Chef Alarm. I recently saw the TimeStick at Ontario Gas BBQ and marvelled at how small it is compared to how it looks in photos. With the thermometers and timers, ThermoWorks can make bad and mediocre cooks better.



Vitamix S30 Personal Blender

Vitamix recently came out with a smaller, personal blender. It’s pretty. At $462.99 it’s pricy but it comes with these features:

  • 20-ounce and 40-ounce containers, 5-year full warranty
  • Variable Speed Control and Pulse feature create a variety of textures, Powerful motor to crush ice and blend the toughest whole-food ingredients
  • Metal drive system that provides maximum durability and won’t wear like plastic
  • Safety interlocking system that turns the machine off automatically when the container is lifted or rocked from the base while blending
  • Top rack dishwasher-safe components, Personal Blending cookbook with recipes for every meal from the Vitamix kitchen, Tamper for use with the 40-ounce container to press thick and frozen mixtures into the blades

Add ingredients, flip to blend, grab & go.

And hey, you can split that purchase with a partner, sibling or friend. Yes, you do get what you pay for. Don’t believe me? Check out this recent post at Serious Eats which compared the regular Vitamix with Blendtec and Breville and read the comments. It talks a bit about why going with a more expensive machine is better.

Image: williams-sonoma

Image: williams-sonoma

Microplane zester/grater

You own one, right? Use it to grate lemon zest, parmesan cheese, chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, fresh turmeric root… basically all the “winter” spices. At under $20 it makes a good stocking stuffer.

Pressure Canner

After lots of research my man bought this Presto 23-Quart Pressure CannerAs cooker and canner he’s done chicken stock (aka “bone broth” in PaleoSpeak), turkey soup and chili, and as a canner he’s done chili sauce, preserved garlic, salsa, tomato sauce, homemade caesars (the alcoholic brunch beverage) and more. (Also read What Type of Pressure Canner to Buy? at Well Preserved.)

For your pet


I recently signed up for BarkBox because there was a Groupon. Get 10% off your first subscription.

When you sign up for BarkBox, every month you will receive a box in the mail with four or more carefully selected products and presents for your dog – anything from toys, bones and all-natural treats to hygiene products and innovative new gadgets. 10% of profits from each box will go to help doggies-in-need. Our first one was smaller than I expected but it was the size I ordered and came with treats, a moose that makes squeaks and giggles and a green bandana.


Our first Barkbox


For the reader

Kindle Paperwhite

I got one in the fall. While, I prefer something in colour, I like having a proper e-reader. Right now the Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ is on sale at amazon. Save $20.

As far as books go, here just are some that I’ve read this year and enjoyed – and no, they’re not just books written by my friends. In fact, none of them are:

…And books written by people I know, published in 2014:

Some of my gift guides from last year

(*Note: Not all the links within these posts will still work and not all products will still be available.)


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