Since this is gift-buying season and the Black Friday sales are around the corner, we thought we would share a list of some of our favourite things. We’ve been shopping for ourselves, for relatives, for friends. None of these manufacturers have bribed us in cash or kind to endorse their products. We just happen to have purchased most of them and have positive feedback to offer.

NOTE: To find the best deals, go to thefind.com and do a search for that particular item. It will show up the online merchants and the best rate on offer along with coupons and special deals.

Also, before ordering, search online for a coupon code. e.g. “chefsresource.com coupon”. You may be surprised at what you find, and it may work out cheaper buying directly from the vendor than from Amazon.

UNDER $25

BLENDER BOTTLE from Sundesa

There are many brands out there, but this one’s the best. Great for protein shakes, beating eggs for omelettes, pancake batter and for salad dressings.

BPA-free bottle with a little steel whisk ball inside. If you make your own protein smoothies, put liquid first in the blender bottle, then the powder, close lid tight, shake shake shake for a few seconds, and you’re done. No lumps, no leaks, and if the protein settles to the bottom after an hour or two, just shake again and drink.

To clean the bottle, put water, soap, shake shake shake, or put it in the top rack of the dishwasher. Get the 28 oz one and get more than one. (It actually holds only about 20 oz to the rim)

Best deal – go to iherb.com and place your order. It’s $8.99 per bottle plus $2 shipping. Put in coupon code HAV137 (that’s the code we used yesterday) and get $5.00 off your first order. So your total price, shipped will be $11 minus 5, that’s $6. (Free shipping over $40)

TUNEBAND

Armband and silicone screen protector for your iPod. Available at Amazon. You can also throw in a shoe pouch. Search online for a “Grantwood Technology coupon” code. They have one sometimes, and it is then cheaper if you buy it directly from their store.

Fully adjustable, breathable, and the silicone cover protects your iPod from sweat.

SPORT HEADPHONES

Sony MDR-Q68LW Clip-on Style Headphone with Retractable Cord
Good for those who hate the earbud-type headphones that go inside the ear. Great for workouts and not noise-cancelling. You want to be able to hear some surrounding noise when you run on the road for safety reasons. Available at most retailers or on Amazon.

Also check out Nike Vapor headphone, which comes with a cord extension for taller people.

KLEAN KANTEEN wide mouth stainless steel water bottle

Ranges 12 oz to 64 oz. at REI or online ($15 to $30).

We prefer the wide mouth because the narrow mouth design has a lip that bends outwards and creates a gap with the bottle side, where gunk and bacteria can collect. The wide mouth has a flat edge and no such problem. Unlike other bottles that have an enamel lining inside, Klean Kanteen is stainless through and through.

Don’t get the coloured ones ‘cos the paint will peel. Stick with the stainless look. And stick with the screw cap that comes with it. The sports cap supposedly leaks. Our 18oz bottles fit in the car cup holder and their lids can be interchanged with the sports lids from our Camelbak bottles.

OVE GLOVE

Some say “Can handle temps upto 540 F”, others say “480F”. We love it because it gives a much better grip than padded fabric mitts. As long as you don’t dunk your hand into hot liquids that can soak through, it works great. Available in most regular stores for around $15. (A pair on Amazon is about $28)

Kuhn Rikon SAFETY LID CAN OPENER

$10 to $15 depending on the model.

A Swiss can opener that opens cans from the top rather than the side without cut edges. This one also comes with “jaws” to lift the lid once you’ve opened the can. See VIDEO DEMO.

LEATHER STROP

Keep your knives, blades and woodworking tools sharp and honed with a leather strop. We use it each time we use our German and Japanese kitchen knives to keep them super sharp. Works out much better than the metal honing steel (the honing steel is not recommended for knives and tools made in Japan, which have harder steel).

We made our own, but the best deal online is at Lee Valley, where the double-side strop goes for $25. Or check out Woodcraft or similar woodworking stores in your area. We occasionally rub the strop with vegetable oil to prevent it from drying out. (Some people use a polishing compound on it, we don’t.)

Video demo: HOW TO STROP A KNIFE

12″ CAST IRON SKILLET

Jai adores this skillet. Great for searing/browning veggies (esp. mushrooms) and adding a little iron to your diet. There’s the one from Lodge which is easily available off the shelf at most stores for under $20.

And there’s the sexier one from Bobby Flay for $25 at kohls.com

CAST IRON AEBLESKIVER PAN

Great for appam, paniyaram, dumplings, and the best for deep-frying fritters, bondas and vadais. (We’ve used it here and here)

This particular one from Norpro is a steal for $9.99 at Amazon.

10.5″ CAST IRON GRILL PAN

From Bobby Flay for $25 at kohls.com

It’s heavier and takes up more shelf space than the single burner reversible one from Lodge, but that one costs about $40.

BOOKS and DVDs

Under $25.

Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays by Joel Waldfogel
UltraMetabolism by Mark Hyman
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Why We Run: A History by Bernd Heinrich
ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer

DVDs
Classical Pilates Technique – The Complete Mat Workout Series
Power Yoga by Rodney Yee

UNDER $50

BORNER V-PRO MANDOLINE

$50 at Amazon. Even if you can afford a $200 mandoline with all the bells and whistles, this is the one you’ll use most often, ‘cos it’s so easy to pull out, use, rinse and put away, plus it has a bunch of safety features to make sure you won’t hurt yourself. We use it all the time.

See VIDEO DEMO.

A cut resistant glove is highly recommended for changing and washing blades or for slicing long objects like cucumbers.

CUT-RESISTANT GLOVE

Also called Rapala Filet Glove, Butcher Glove.

Sources: Restaurant Supply stores, Hunting and Fishing Stores, cabelas.com. An absolute must if you’re using a mandoline.

Under $20 a pair.

UNDER $100

GretagMacbeth COLOR CHECKER CHART

Between $55 and $70. A photographer’s aide for calibrating various systems.

M-ROCK Olympic Camera Bag

About $52 plus shipping on Amazon.

Very clever design. Perfect for a hike with one camera, two big lenses or one big and two small ones. Plenty of tiny pockets and the sling bag is much more convenient that the backpack style. We like it more than our slightly bigger LowePro bag.

The small size is perfect ‘cos if you get a bigger bag, you’ll pack more stuff in and it gets really heavy.

DAKINE APEX BIKING BACKPACK

$80 to $90.

Perfection.

If you own just one backpack for hiking, biking or just going to the gym, this is the one. See DEMO VIDEO. We have the smaller Dakine Drafter, but the Apex is really the perfect size. 1600 cu in capacity with a 100 oz Nalgene reservoir. So there’s no need to cary a water bottle. If you just want to bike with it and want a super compact bag that carries your biking gear and water, get the Drafter, which is 700 cu in.

SYPDERCO TRIANGLE SHARPMAKER

Around $60.

Keep your knives sharp with this easy to use kit with ceramic sharpening stones in two grits – medium and fine. DEMO VIDEO.

Does a great job with knives made in Europe (Wusthof, Henckel, Sabatier, Messermeister, Forschner, etc.) For knives made in Japan, use the fine grit, but not the coarser ones, ‘cos the steel is harder and more brittle. It also can sharpen serrated knives, scissors and an assortment of tools. After sharpening them with the Spyderco, keep them sharp with a leather strop. If you do this regularly and maybe sharpen your good knives professionally once a year, you’re set.

VIBRAM FIVE FINGER SHOES

Between $80 and $100

The craziest-looking most comfortable thing resembling a shoe. If you have shin or calf pain, cramps, or general discomfort in your leg, this is what you need. Even if your leg’s fine, this is just the most comfortable thing you could walk around in. Get used to people stopping you everywhere to ask “Where did you get that?”

Great for those into barefoot running. For regular use get Vibram Classic, for running get the Vibram KSO or Sprint (same sole, extra strap). CHECK THEM OUT. Find a retailer near you at THIS SITE.

OVER $100

A JAPANESE KNIFE

$70 to $200

By “Japanese” we mean made in Japan, not “Japanese-style” like santoku or nakiri. So if a Western-style chef’s knife is made in Japan, we call it a Japanese knife. It’s harder steel and holds a better edge than a European knife. You get 100% stainless steel or those with a carbon steel edge (that the connoisseurs prefer, but will rust if you don’t dry it right after use). Unlike European-style knives that have a 50-50 bevel on both sides, some of the Japanese knives have a bevel on just one side, some have it on both sides and the angle may vary.

Use a strop and a Japanese waterstone, or use a strop and get them professionally sharpened once a year.

Once you use one of these, there’s no going back.

Ones we like –

1. Misono UX10 210mm chef’s knife (Gyuto) . If you own just one kitchen knife, this is the one. About 160$ at japanesechefsknife.com plus $7 shipping per order, straight from Japan, shipped worldwide.
about $225 with dimples

2. A nakiri knife – which is a rectangular Japanese vegetable knife. Great for chopping with a super thin sharp edge. We like Hattori HD because of the wonderful blade and gorgeous Damascus pattern. It comes in a beautiful box and makes a great wedding gift. It’s engraved with the maker’s name in kanji. ($135 plus $7 shipping at japanesechefsknife.com)

3. Gekko Santoku with Mahogany wood handle – $98 plus $7 shipping

4. Gekko Nakiri with Mahogany wood handle – $98 plus $7 shipping

5. MAC Nakiri – restaurant chefs love it. (about $70 plus shipping at epicedge.com).

6. Anything from the Tojiro DP series (budget) and Tojiro Powdered Steel Series (higher quality).

7. For the carbon steel lovers, Hiromoto Aogami Gyuto – $123 plus $7 shipping. Also check out the carbon steel knives (esp. the cool paring knives) at japanwoodworker.com

THE KNIFE SNOB’S KIT

About $200.

If you’re a knife snob with a nice collection and want to sharpen all your gear at home, you need

1. a 1000/6000 combination grit waterstone/whetstone (best price $31 at japanwoodworker.com). We use this for all our knives twice a year. (How to use a waterstone)
2. Mundial Diamond Sharpening Steel (This has a very coarse grit and takes off a lot of metal. Good for very blunt tools and for smoothing out chips on blades. Not for regular use) . We got ours for $18 at the local restaurant supply store.
3. A superfine grit stone. You can order a set of extrafine ceramic stones to add to your Spyderco kit ($40 for a pair) or the 8000 grit DMT extra extra fine Diasharp stone ($70 here). Unlike ceramic, metal won’t break, plus it can be used to flatten the Japanese waterstones.
4. Leather strop. Make your own or use an old leather belt, or buy it from the link listed above.

The Spyderco Sharpmaker (about $60) is not necessary if you have the waterstone, but it’s more convenient for tools, serrated knives and such.

BREVILLE SMART OVEN

Between $235 and $250, cheaper if you use a 20% off coupon at Bed Bath and Beyond.

After we bought this countertop convection oven, we stopped using our big oven and donated our toaster and tabletop grill. Can make a 12-inch pizza, or two (if you get an extra rack) and heats up to 450F in about four minutes. Cooks everything more evenly and faster and is the most used appliance in our kitchen. It has some “smart features” that are programmed in and makes the best toast you’ve ever eaten – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Best of all, it can accommodate a quarter baking sheet and most of our ceramic containers. DETAILS AND DEMO.

Do call the company directly and order an extra rack for $15. You can make double of everything.

Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet

About $350 for Medium, $450 for large.

If you prefer writing to typing, or like to create graphic art, this is for you. We don’t own this yet, but plan to. See DEMO VIDEO.

What are some of your your favourite things? Share some gift ideas with us.

Happy shopping,

Bee and Jai

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44 Comments

  1. veggiebelly says:

    im loving that shoe!

  2. Love the cast iron skillet from Lodge. In fact I have the flat one too, for making dosas and paranthas.
    Thank you for pointing to the CAST IRON AEBLESKIVER PAN and the BF Grill Pan. Have been looking for something in that price range. I am off to Kohl’s tomorrow. :)

    As to my gift ideas: I usually bake cookies and pack them in metal cookie tins from Michael’s. They sell for about a dollar but are sturdy, have holiday themes and look nice. Reminds me to do a post soon.
    To reduce gift clutter and help a worthy cause, donating to a charity of your choice or NPR on behalf of friends and family is another way of giving gift.

  3. Sonia says:

    Great collection! I don’t find all the items (except books) here itself. Wish I could.

  4. Shankari says:

    Great collection Jai & Bee. My favorite is the shoes. I like to gift home baked stuff or sometimes we frame pics of their kids etc and gift it to them..

  5. Elizabeth says:

    One of the few gift lists I’ve seen so far this season on which I would love to get practically every item. Perhaps I should just print it and hand it out to friends… ;)

  6. musical says:

    Lovely ideas, all of them! I am especially eying the pans and the mandoline!

  7. Mamatha says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I was planning to buy something to sharpen my knives. You’ve just made it easy for me.

    I got Vibram Sprints a few months ago and the right one fits like a glove but the left one hurts my achilles tendon on and off. I wish I’d break into them soon because they are so comfortable otherwise :(

    • jai bee says:

      That’s interesting. Let’s know how it goes. if your achilles hurt then you are most likely doing a heel strike. With this shoe I’d expect less of a heel strike if at all.

      -Jai

      • Mamatha says:

        I strike with the ball of the feet. Or maybe I’m doing it with the heel unconciously when it hurts. I’ll have to pay attention the next time it hurts to see what I’m doing.

  8. Mamatha says:

    As for the gift ideas, I’m really bad at gauging what people like, so usually it’s something as unimaginitive as a gift card :(

  9. Nate says:

    Great gift ideas. I especially like the beautiful Japanese knives.

    I’m putting together a big list of foodie gift guides and would like to include yours. May I?

  10. nags says:

    i love a bunch of stuff in there, too bad most is for US residents. will be awfully more exp if i order in t o SG :(

  11. Anjali Koli says:

    I’ve flipped for the 5 fingers. Cool choice.

  12. Rosa says:

    Great ideas! I love everything!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  13. Apee says:

    Love your cast iron skillet idea. I have been wondering about a good iron wok – any recommendations ?

  14. Jyothsna says:

    Those shoes are cool! Tell me, does the cast iron skillet work on an inducton hob? I should go and check the websites now! Thanks for all this info!

  15. Happy Cook says:

    I would love to buy that afbelskiver pan ( who said one can’t buy for one self :-) )
    I am sure they don’t shop to belgium will check it out.
    I also tried the link you gave for those cashew cookies shapes but the said they don’t ship to this side, so i might ask sis to buy and ship to me instead.

    • Jai says:

      Since such a pan has been used in your part of the world for centuries, I’d be surprised if another outfit in Belgium or thereabouts doesnt sell one.

  16. notyet100 says:

    lovely list luved the cast iron skillet

  17. Kay says:

    Yep, That Bobby Flay cast iron is sexy!!! Love the list!! :)

  18. Jai and Bee, congratulations on not one, not two but three nominations on the Indiebloggie Hall of Fame. Jugalbandi has been nominated for Best Indie Blog of the Year, Best Travel Blog and Best Designed Indiblog. :)
    Here’s the link: http://www.indibloggies.org/nominations-2008

  19. A&N says:

    Hi guys,

    I’ve been receiving some Direct Messages on Twitter from you guys. I’m not able to respond from there since you don’t follow me or some such thing. However, this looks like spam. I get this link to check IQ and stuff.

    I’m thinking your account may have been compromised! Do check.

    Will come back later to read the post :)

    • bee says:

      time to cancel that twitter account then. one day of use and the nonsense begins. thanks for letting us know.

  20. shoba says:

    The knife sharpener and the Cut-resistant glove is very much needed in our house. Thanks for the tips.
    One of our friends has started barefoot running using the Vibrams and is apparently loving it.
    What about Sigg aluminum bottles? I own both Sigg and Klean Kanteen. Just wondering if you have a preference.
    Personally, when buying gifts for friends here, I end up with clothes(the style changes depending on their preferences) or some decorative items for the household.

  21. Soma says:

    Thanks for the sites for finds and coupons.. need some stuff for ourselves. I could not live without my iron skillet or the grill.

    My oven has been broken for a few months now. was contemplating getting the stove top convection. here’s the thing; does it get too hot on the outside? the way that will heat up my counter top? That is the only thing bothering me.

    BTW: Twitter’s requesting me to beat u in the IQ test ;-) I know that would not be from u.. it’s spam. so check it out.

  22. Meena says:

    Hi,

    Am a regular reader of your blog, kind of a lurker coz i hardly ever comment. have commented may be a couple of times..Just seen that Jugalbandi has been listed as a nominee under quite a few categories in the Indian Weblog awards. Check out http://www.indibloggies.org/poll-2008

  23. Manggy says:

    My favorite thing is my Wacom Bamboo Fun Tablet. I am extremely uncomfortable using mice and it’s just so much faster. And with the fun size, it’s nicely portable to go with my laptop :)

  24. purplesque says:

    What a fab post- wish I’d seen this before I went holiday-shopping for my food and fitness freaks!

    Here are a few things that I like and would make nice gifts:

    1. MIU Stainless-Steel 15-Inch Magnetic Knife Storage Bar
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006IVY7E/ref=ox_ya_oh_product

    Clears up counter space. Perfect for about 6 knives plus one steel plus one pair of kitchen scissors. $20

    2. OXO Good grips food scale with pull out display
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000WJMTNA/ref=ox_ya_oh_product

    Small and efficient. Has a tare, lb/kilo conversion and pull out display to use with large bowls/plates. $46.70

    3. Accusharp knife sharpener.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004VWKQ/ref=ox_ya_oh_product

    Cheap and very effective. Diamond honed tungsten carbide. Takes some metal off the knives, so use sparingly. $10

    Okay, this last one is not really food/fitness/photography related, but I love it so much!

    4. Higher Ground 13″ shuttle laptop bag
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001PCGTRA/ref=ox_ya_oh_product

    The best laptop bag ever. Period.

  25. Uttoran Sen says:

    never seen a shoe like that, looks like the shoe has its own fingers, freaky stuff…

  26. Nate says:

    Hi,

    I featured your site on our Big Guide to Foodie Gift Guides. Come check it out! If you like it, please share it with your social network (Foodbuzz, Facebook, Twitter, etc).

    Aloha,

    Nate
    House of Annie food blog

  27. Miri says:

    Sigh…I spent an amazing 10 minutes reading this cool gift list – I think i need to make a trip somewhere just to shop!!

  28. A&N says:

    I got the books on running :) I’m starting the C-25k and so, been eyeing those books for sometime now!

    Thanks for the list.

  29. AA_Mom says:

    I am very happy to see the borner v-slicer plus. I have recently purchased this item after a bit a research and this post is validating it.

    Already own a cast iron pan, but am not using it much as it is too heavy and a bit cumbersome to rinse.

    Loved the idea for the Alu bonda in the appam pan. Tried it and liked it.

    Had already voted for you guys at the IndiBlogs.

    summary of thoughts after having read a few posts back to back. All the best guys!

  30. Great ideas! :) I’ll be adding them to my Christmas list!

  31. Dee says:

    Bee , thanks for the great Ideas , the sundesa bottles are being sold in 3 packs in costco for 14.99 and if anyone lives in the southwest , Sprouts farmers markets are selling them for 7.99 each.

  32. [...] shakes make great parking lot dinners. We make it a point to have one blender bottle in each car while rushing to the gym or martial arts class through evening peak hour traffic. If [...]

  33. Anupama says:

    Very nice list! (sorry to chime in late though)

    Two things on top of my list

    Rebounders/trampolines
    “You might know that the exercise benefits of mini trampoline jumping (rebounding) is very possibly the best form of exercise you can do. It works every one of the trillion cells in the body, and forces the lymph system to pump, without joint pain like jumping rope causes. It can put you in your target heart rate zone, which strengthens your heart. It relieves stress by stabilizing the nervous system; it helps the lymph system move waste and detoxifies; and it builds muscle. And it’s fun!”
    from greensmoothiegirl.com
    from Needak http://www.needakrebounders.com/page2377.php?catMode=2&cid=20001&type=pr

    2) Arise and Shine Cleanse (for 4 weeks) to remove plaque from the system.
    http://www.ariseandshine.com/cleanse28.aspx

    btw, GSG is the ULTIMATE site for all my nutrition related information, I visit it almost everday (and now jugalbandhi) Check out the quiz: http://www.greensmoothiegirl.com/quiz/nutrition-quiz/

  34. Kim Tyree says:

    Useful post would it be OK if i translate into Spanish for our blogs viewers? Thanks



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