All-Clad 7-Quart Deluxe Slow Cooker With Cast Aluminum Insert$249.95 at Williams-Sonoma 1 of 14
A lot of slow cookers get too hot, too quick and end up cooking food fast—the opposite of what they're intended to do. This All-Clad model does exactly what it's supposed to: slow cook. The nonstick cast-aluminum insert conducts heat evenly. Plus, it can be used on the stovetop so your favorite cook can brown ingredients before transferring the insert to the base. The push-button controls are simple to use and the digital time display is easy to read. Once it's set, your loved one can walk away and feel confident that their soups, stews and other healthy meals will cook to perfection while they work, exercise or do last-minute holiday shopping.
Euro Cuisine Electric Yogurt Maker$49.99 at Best Buy 2 of 14
Commercial and homemade yogurts both contain beneficial bacteria, but the difference lies in the concentration. The National Yogurt Association, which set the standard for commercial yogurt, requires that yogurts contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture and at least 10 million cultures per grams at consumption. Some commercial yogurts claim their products exceed that, but some don't. Homemade yogurt that's fermented for 24 hours, as recommended in the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, contains 3 billion colony-forming units per milliliter of yogurt. That means 500 milliliters—a small bowl—of homemade yogurt has roughly 1.5 trillion beneficial bacteria. The Euro Cuisine makes seven, 6-ounce servings of yogurt in reusable glass jars. Its built-in timer will beep when the yogurt is done. The only drawback is that the machine only allows for up to a 15-hour fermentation time, so it has to be set twice for longer fermentation times.
Fagor Duo 9-Piece Pressure Canning Set$130 at Sur La Table 3 of 14
The carbon-based synthetic BPA is found in many commercial canned foods, such as tomatoes. That alone has been incentive for many home cooks to can their own food. This way, they can preserve foods' vitamins and minerals without adding preservatives or other additives. Traditional canning is great, but it can be time-consuming. Pressure canning, on the other hand, speeds up the process. Fagor's handy set cans food 70 percent faster with less energy. The cooker works on all types of stovetops: gas, electric, ceramic and induction.
Gefu Spirelli Spiral Slicer$29.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond 4 of 14
This handy vegetable slicer allows cooks to create piles of julienned zucchini, squash, carrots and other vegetables. If they're gluten-free or simply trying to add more nutrients to their diet, the long veggie strands can double as pasta or serve as salad toppers. Using this manual slicer is as simple as inserting and twisting the vegetable. The stainless steel blades do the rest.
High-Quality Stainless Steel Pots and PansPrices Vary at Williams-Sonoma 5 of 14
Quality stainless-steel pots and pans are known for efficient heat distribution—critical for cooking meats, fish and vegetables. All-Clad (pictured), Demeyere, Mauviel and Calphalon have all crafted high-grade cookware. You'll pay upfront for quality, but save in the long run because these pots and pans were built to last. Pair this present with a bottle of Bar Keepers Friend, which is available at most markets and superstores. It will help your home cook keep the pots and pans polished. Its non-bleach formula uses the active ingredient found in the rhubarb plant to clean the stainless steel.
Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven$105 to $465 at Williams-Sonoma 6 of 14
Cast-iron vessels have been used in cooking for centuries. The reason: They have excellent heat-retention properties. Bare cast-iron pots require seasoning so food doesn't stick. The beauty of enameled cast-iron cookware, such as this Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven, is that it doesn't have to be seasoned. Right out of the box, it's primed and ready to braise chicken, simmer soup, bake breads, or slow-cook applesauce. To ensure your loved one doesn't get burned, the composite knob on the lid resists temps up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lekue Ogya XL Microwave Pot$24.99 at Sur La Table 7 of 14
Soups, stews, pasta and rice are cooked to perfection in this 1-quart pot—in the microwave. The steam-cooking process keeps textures and all the nutrients in tact. The 100-percent premium platinum silicone was built to withstand temperatures from -76 degrees Fahrenheit to 428 degrees Fahrenheit. To make life even easier, it's dishwasher safe.
Measuring Cups and SpoonsPrices Vary at Macy's 8 of 14
Balanced, healthy dishes are all about ratios. And the best way to ensure the ratios are right-on is to measure out the ingredients. Today, measuring cups and spoons come in all kinds of materials—stainless steel (pictured), plastic, silicon, glass and the list goes on. After you pick out the perfect measuring cups and spoons, head over Active's Nutrition Guide and get the latest healthy recipes for whomever you're shopping for.
Microplane Premium Zester$14.95 on Amazon.com 9 of 14
The edges of this razor-sharp rasp are formed by a process called photo-etching, which finely grates instead of tearing or shredding. This extracts the best flavor from foods. With a Microplane zester, cooks can grate everything from nutmeg and ginger to hard cheeses and citrus-fruit rinds. The rinds of citrus fruits contain higher levels of fiber and vitamin C than the flesh, according to the website Nutrition and You, and spices have anti-inflammatory properties.
Shun Classic Hollow-Edge Santoku 7-Inch Knife$139.95 at Sur La Table 10 of 14
A good, sharp knife is critical for cutting fruits and veggies, butterflying chicken breasts, and deboning fish. Although this Shun Santoku knife meets professional standards, even novice cooks will find it easy to use. The knife's curved blade lets cooks effortlessly rock the knife back and forth. The razor-sharp blade is thin and light, and the oval indentations reduce friction and ensure clean, uniform cuts.
Vitamix 5200 Standard$449 on Vitamix.com 11 of 14
This high-powered machine can do so much more than blend smoothies. It can make everything from raw nut butters to steaming-hot soup. No, really—its blades spin so fast they will actually cook the soup. The Vitamix comes with a tamper—that processes thicker mixtures—and a cookbook, which includes hundreds of chef-tested recipes (including soups).
Williams-Sonoma Traditional Finish Half Sheet Pan$19.95 to $34.95 at Williams-Sonoma 12 of 14
If the home cook in your life has ever wondered why their Omega Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies always come out of the oven with burnt bottoms, it's likely one of two thing: their oven temperature is extremely off or the cookie sheet they're using doesn't conduct heat well. Commerical-grade, aluminized-steel, half-sheet pans distribute heat quickly and evenly, and yield consistent results. And they're not only great for baking desserts; they can also be used to roast meats, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The Williams-Sonoma Traditional Finish Half Sheet Pan features a distinctive diamond-texture surface that strengthens the pan, increases airflow, and allows for more even baking.
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