The kitchen is the busiest room in the house for people like me who cook and bake during the holiday season. So anything that helps to ease my kitchen chores is a welcome addition to my basket of gadgets.
The following gadgets might make great stocking stuffers for a few of your favorite cooks and bakers.
• Spaghetti Measure by Joseph Joseph, $7, at JC Penney or JosephJoseph.com. Slide the gauge to the amount of pasta you want to make (one to four servings), pop the pasta in through the opening and you have the exact amount you need.
• Salad Shears Lettuce Chopper by Chef'n, $10, at JC Penney or www.chefn.com. I love salad but I don't love cutting the lettuce. This gadget makes it easy. I tear the lettuce apart, place it in a bowl (or you can use a cutting board) and the shears do the rest.
• Automatic Lever Corkscrew by Trudeau, $69.99, ShopTredeau.com. This would make a terrific gift for wine lovers. In three easy steps the cork is removed, which gives you more time to enjoy the wine.
• Have you ever thought of hosting a Christmas cookie contest? The "Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box" by Gina Hyams (Andrews McMeel, 2012, $14.99) comes with everything you need to get started -- score cards, prize ribbons, place cards, judge badges and a handbook with suggestions, hints and recipes for planning your party. The recipe below, Minty Chocolate Rounds, is one from the handbook.
MINTY CHOCOLATE ROUNDS
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Approximately 3 tablespoons red sanding sugar (sugar used for decorating baked goods)
- Approximately 3 tablespoons white nonpareils
Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy; add egg, peppermint extract, and vanilla extract and blend well.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine until the cookie dough is well blended.
Roll the cookie dough into a log, 11 to 12 inches long (it should be about 2 inches thick) flattening the ends. Roll the log in a combination of red sanding sugar and white nonpareils. Wrap the cookie dough log in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.
When ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
With a sharp knife, cut the dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices for cakier cookies (for crisp cookies, slice the log in 1/8-inch-thick slices). Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies). The cookies are done when they are fully dull on top and the edges look dry and very slightly browned.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cakier or 6 dozen crispy cookies.
-- Valerie Peterson of New York City in "Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box" by Gina Hyams (Andrews McMeel, 2012, $14.99)
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