2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Gift Guide

Featuring hand crafted soy candles, Himalayan salt mortar, linens, ceramics, and great reads

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Hello everyone and happy holidays! If you are still looking for gift ideas (it could be a gift for you too), I’ve compiled a short list of a few things that have caught my fancy this year. I love gifts that are useful, yet special. Be it gadget or book, the best gift is something to cherish.

First up are these practical and elegant soy-based candles from The Thoughtful Gardner, a new project from Simply Recipes’ very own head of technology, Jesse Gardner and his wife Jessica.

Jesse and Jessica pour their candles by hand at their farm house in upstate New York. Each candle is made with organic soy wax and will burn for about 55 hours! (I like the Dandelion Wine scented one.)

Salt Mortar Pestle

This Himalayan Salt Mortar and Pestle glows with a luminescent beauty, making it a joy to look at as well as to use. A mortar and pestle really comes in handy in the kitchen, especially when you need to grind whole spices. This set is carved from solid pink Himalayan salt and will add a hint of salt to anything you prepare in it.

Linen Dish Towels

There is nothing like the feel of soft linen, don’t you agree? These 100% natural linen towels from my friend Dani at The Adventure Bite can be used as hand towels or dish towels. Or, if you are into food photography, beautiful props with which to show off your dishes.

Le Souk Ceramics and Moscow Mule Mug

Check out the collection of Le Souk ceramics, hand made in Tunisia, and this hand-crafted copper Moscow mule mug from Artisan Connect. We have a set of Le Souk (the pattern pictured) and love the vibrance it brings to a table setting. The drink of the season? A special holiday Moscow mule with ginger beer, cranberry juice, gin and rosemary.

A couple more notables. Many of my friends are recommending the Instant Pot, an all-in-one slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker. I just received mine and haven’t had time to take it for a test drive yet, but my friend Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo raves about hers, as does Kelli Foster at The Kitchn.

Finally, to round off this section, my most used kitchen gadget is my Thermapen thermometer. They just came out with a spankin’ new model, the Thermapen MK4, which has an intelligent backlit display, and the readout rotates depending on the thermapen’s postion so you don’t have to try to read it upside down.



My current bedtime reading is Stories from the Kitchen, an anthology by Diana Secker Tesdell. It’s a collection of short stories about food from some of the best writers of all time—Dickens, MK Fisher, Nor Ephron, Chekhov, Virginia Wolf and many others. You can open a page to anywhere and read a complete story in about 15 minutes (all the time I have before nodding off). It’s a perfect gift for a lover of literature.

Back in the early days of food blogging, there was this guy blogging about street food from Vietnam. His name? Graham Holliday, and his blog, Noodle Pie. Graham and I have never met, but we have corresponded for years, including a letter written on paper and sent snail mail, from Graham in Senegal, telling me about his book, Eating Vietnam.

What a great read! It’s not a cookbook, it’s more of an adventure story, based on Graham’s quest to find the best street food in Vietnam. Vivid, fun, and at times bittersweet as Graham documents a culture that is quickly being overtaken by soulless big company commercial food.


There are so many great cookbooks out this year! Near and Far by Heidi Swanson, The Food Lab by Kenji Lopez-Alt, Food52 Genius Recipes from the team at Food52.com, and Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Hachisu are among the best.

One cookbook that I would love to draw your attention to is the self-published 8×8 Cookbook by my friend and fellow food blogger Kathy Strahs. The premise is simple—what are easy to make, good whole food scratch cooking recipes that you can make in an 8×8-inch baking dish? From bacon, spinach and gruyere crustless quiche to zucchini, corn, and green chile tamale pie to apple almond cake, this book is filled with great recipes for the home cook.

That’s it for now! Please let us know in the comments what you are planning to give or hoping to get this Christmas holiday season.



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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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  1. Katerina

    Hi Elise,
    When do you use the thermapen? For checking meats only or in othe cases as well?
    Many thanks

  2. Denise

    I’m going to check out 8×8! Thank you!

  3. Jennifer

    I look forward to the book info and am so glad that you did it again this year. It helps to narrow down my choices from the millions of cookbook and food books that are out there.

  4. Lisa Stone

    Elise, I love this list of inspirations—thank you! Especially Jesse’s candles and the literary tour of kitchens. Since you asked I will add one thing that Thanksgiving proved to me I can’t proceed without: An electric knife sharpener. If anyone here has a suggestion for brand, I’m all ears! But after your gorgeous turkey recipe turned out the perfect bird, Elise, I ended up sawing at it with what felt like butter knives. Never again.

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  5. Amanda North

    I’ve been wanting a slow cooker/rice cooker for a long time, but had no idea which to buy. Your helpful advice has pushed me over the brink and I look forward to using my new pot!

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide