With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, we move into December, hopefully, in the spirit of giving. But with Christmas, my birthday and our wedding anniversary all falling within the same seven days, my tongue is only sort of in my cheek when I say that the last week of December is all about me.

I spend most waking hours in the kitchen, so many of the gifts that come my way during Christine Week are intended to join me there. I used to be a total gadget girl. I had the thing that removes avocado flesh from its skin but does little else, an egg separator (two, actually), a hydrating herb keeper and scissors designed to cut multiple chives simultaneously. Now, after nine moves of house in 20 years, a stint at culinary school and a desire to trade the consumerism culture for a more sustainable one, I’ve regifted those gadgets and simply use a soup spoon, my hands, a flour sack towel and a chef’s knife, respectively, for those jobs.

Should you have a cook on your holiday shopping list who is looking for culinary tools well suited for a more sustainable kitchen, here are my suggestions for gifts that cut waste, buck the one-trick pony trend and save energy.

1. MELON BALLER ($4-10)

757060_605415-melonballerI grew up in a huge Italian-Irish family so showers – bridal followed by baby – were frequent. As a kid, I used it for its intended purpose as we always served fruit salad at these events. But a melon baller is also perfect for coring apples and pears, shaving Parmesan cheese, taking the choke out of an artichoke and portioning ice cream in a pinch.

2. 12-X-17-INCH METAL HALF SHEET PANS ($15-20)


757060_605415-halfsheetAlso called jelly roll pans, the five I have in my kitchen get used at every meal and have the patina to prove it. I like USA-made ones with corrugated bottoms for baking cookies, roasting vegetables, protecting my oven floor from overflowing pies and covering pots of pasta water when I’m too lazy to find their rightful covers.

3. FISH SPATULA ($10-20)

757060_605415-fishspatDesigned with a very thin, angled edge and a wide body for gingerly turning whole fillets of fish, this is the only spatula you need in the drawer for pancake flipping, pan-to-cooling rack cookie transferal and lifting the second cake layer into place.


757060_605415-evoOil needs some air mixed in so that it sprays a wide swath rather than squirting a stream. This the first sprayer (Evo is the brand name) I’ve owned that has not gobbed up in short order. Olive oil comes from away, far away; this tool helps cut my usage by a third, thereby reducing my kitchen’s carbon footprint.



757060_605415-meatthermA meat thermometer with a long, flexible cord with the probe on the end helps keep track of meat’s temperature without the cook needing to open the oven door (and waste energy).


757060_605415-boardsThese boards, made of a wood composite from trees harvested according to North America sustainable forestry standards, are safe for the dishwasher (helps prevent the spread foodborne illness) and oven (up to 350 degrees).

7. CHEF’S KNIFE (Price varies widely)

757060_605415-knifeOne good knife that fits your hand is worth more than an entire Ginsu set.

8. BENCH SCRAPER ($5-15)


757060_605415-benchGreat for working with dough, scraping off gunk on the counter and scooping vegetables off the cutting board and into the pot.


757060_605415-silpatI never bake cookies or roll out pie dough without one of these. And they cut down on the amount of parchment paper used in my kitchen.

10. WHITE FLOUR SACK TOWELS ($12 for 12)

757060_605415-flourtowelsBoth the crisp whiteness of these towels and their ability to keep salad greens and herbs separated and fresh for a week play into my Type A sensibilities.



In the spirit of giving, I’m giving up my all-time favorite holiday cookie recipe. It’s not one I developed myself, but I’ve been making it every year since I found the recipe by Joanne Chang (of Boston’s Flour bakery) in Fine Cooking magazine 10 years ago. Any raspberry preserve will work, but Raspberry Rhubarb from Forgotten Recipes in Wiscasset strikes just the right sweet and sour chord to counter the dense, nutty cookie base.

Makes 4 dozen cookies

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and finely ground


1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup red raspberry preserves with seeds

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt to blend. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and pecans on medium speed until very soft and light (about 3 minutes). Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined (about 1 minute). Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low speed, slowly blend in flour until totally incorporated.

Using your hands, roll the dough into 1- to 11/4-inch balls and set them about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with silicon mats. Use a melon baller (or your thumb) to make an indentation in the middle of each dough ball to create a well for the preserves. Stir the preserves to loosen and then spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into the middle of each dough ball. Resist the urge to put in more as it will overflow and burn on the cookie sheet. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 1 minute before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer and tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at [email protected]

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