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Great gift ideas for the cook

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AquaFarm aquaponic indoor garden and fish tank. AquaFarm aquaponic indoor garden and fish tank.

The Yule Blog, Dec. 4: 21 days until Christmas

Kitchens are the heart of the home, and often the person who spends the most time working the stove and the counter relies on his or her own routines and favorite tools to work their culinary magic.

But why not treat the cook to something new this year to make the task easier or to help them take their cooking up a notch?

There is no shortage of kitchen gift ideas out there; here are a few of our favorites:

Aquafarm aquaponic indoor garden with fish tank

This ingenious tabletop fish tank has an herb garden on top that puts fresh basil, parsley, dill and other herbs at the chef’s fingertips year-round.

The kit is a small self-contained symbiotic ecosystem designed so that the fish thrive in a healthy environment thanks to the fresh herbs growing above. The plants, in turn, are nourished by the fish waste in this self-cleaning system.

The three-gallon acrylic tank has space for five plants and is the perfect size for most countertops. It’s a great conversation starter that will fascinate adults and children.

Available at Nordstrom for $60.

Microplane Herb Mill. Microplane Herb Mill.

Microplane Herb Mill

A perfect companion gift for the aqua garden, the Microplane Herb Mill dices up fresh herbs, operating similar to the way a pepper mill grinds peppercorns.

Simply place basil, parsley, cilantro or any fresh herb into the mill, twist the handle and the blades mince the aromatic greens. Perfect for use in salad dressing, sauces and rice dishes.

The blades will not bruise or blemish the herbs’ delicate leaves, according to the product description. The mill is also dishwasher safe.

Available at Williams Sonoma for $19.95

Custom tea towels printed with handwritten recipes. Custom tea towels printed with handwritten recipes.

Custom-printed tea towels

Here’s a gift you can be quite certain the recipient will not get in duplicate: a custom-made kitchen towel printed with a handwritten family recipe, a favorite saying or other personalized design.

Often, family recipes are handed down on handwritten cards stuffed away in boxes or recipe files. These precious mementos of a beloved person or recipe can now be preserved in a practical way that keeps them where they belong and can be seen: in the kitchen.

Blogger Emma Jeffery wrote a how-to on the project and turned to the custom fabric company Spoonflower.com to make her idea a reality.

“For a woman who keeps a newspaper from the day she was born, my mum has surprisingly few keepsakes or handwritten memorabilia from her own mother who passed away in 1999,” Jeffery wrote on her blog “Hello Beautiful.”

“When I asked her to trawl through her old papers and files, she managed to find three handwritten recipes from my grandmother. They appear to be the only remaining examples of her handwriting left in the world, and they are therefore as precious as they are priceless.”

Jeffery decided to make a set of dish towels for her mother and herself that featured these special recipes.

“This way, the handwritten originals can be safely stored away yet the joy of being able to see my grandmother’s handwriting in an everyday context will continue to make us smile and feel close to her,” she wrote.

Jeffery used a linen-cotton canvas for the fabric, but Spoonflower offers other options. Read about the project and get prices by clicking HERE.

Personalized bamboo cutting board. Personalized bamboo cutting board.

Personalized cutting board

Bamboo absorbs little moisture, does not shrink or swell, and is very hard, making it a good choice for cutting board material. And through companies like PersonalizationMall.com, you can add a personal touch to this practical kitchen staple, listing the chef or family name on the board. The words are engraved on the top and bottom of the board with a laser.

Various sizes and options are available, from a standard 14-inch by 10-inch bamboo cutting board priced at $34.95 to a deluxe maple raised-monogram serving board with iron handles for $179.95.

Countertop compost bin. Countertop compost bin.

Countertop compost bin

A smart idea for the environmentally-minded cook, countertop compost bins allow food scraps to be collected conveniently right where they are generated – in the kitchen. A charcoal filter inside the lid keep odors from escaping. The bin measures 7 inches by 11.5 inches and has a tall handle to make the trip to the compost pile an easy task, and the clean and attractive design adds a nice touch to the kitchen décor.

Available at bambeco.com, $41.

Grill Comb Grill Comb. Grill Comb.

Stacking up meat and vegetables onto kebob skewers just to slide them back off after a few minutes on the grill is a time-consuming task. The stainless steel Grill Comb seems like an easier alternative. Simply slide the food onto the multiple teeth of the comb and set the comb on the grill. Turning the food for consistent cooking is easier with the flat-faced comb compared to skewers, which allow the food to slide around. They also contain no chemical coatings.

Available at mightynest.com, $10.95 for a set of two.

Catamount Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper. Catamount Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper.

Glass microwave popcorn popper

The Catamount Glass Microwave Popcorn Popper offers the fast convenience of microwaved popcorn without the risk of chemicals in microwavable popcorn bags.

The popper also allows users to select what kernels to use, opening up healthier options.

Pour kernels into the container, place desired amount of butter in the silicone melting lid and microwave. As the butter melts, it drips through the lid to evenly coat the kernels. The popper is made from FDA-approved laboratory glass and is dishwasher safe. All inks are nontoxic and lead free, according to the product description.

Available at mightynest.com : $15.95 for 1-quart personal popper, $21.21 for 2.5-quart popper.

Tablet recipe holder. Tablet recipe holder.

Tablet recipe holder

There are apps galore for foodies, but it’s hard to find a proper and safe place to display the iPad or other tablet while following recipes or cooking videos. This tablet recipe holder does the job and looks good while it works. Resembling a vintage breadboard, it has a raised lip to hold the tablet device. This sturdy kitchen helper keeps recipes and other cooking information at the cook’s fingertips.

Available at potterybarn.com, $34.50.

The Yule Blog is a day-to-day countdown to Christmas featuring a new story each day. Click the links below to read other stories in the series.

Nov. 29: Best shopping apps put you where the buys are

Nov. 30: Small Business Saturday gives independent shops their turn to shine.

Dec. 1: Before there was 'Elf,' there was 'The Santaland Diaries.'

Dec. 2: Historic Smithville has plenty of old-fashioned Christmas spirit to go around

Dec. 3: Earth-friendly gifts help preserve the world's green assets

Dec. 4: Great gift ideas for the cook

Dec. 5: Let Cape May kindle your Christmas spirit

Dec. 6: The worst and the weirdest Christmas films

Dec. 7: How to take the perfect holiday portrait

Dec. 8: Will South Jersey have a white Christmas in 2013?

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