December 16, 2018

18-Holiday Gifts

In episode 18 Denise and Diane holiday gifts. Scroll down for recipes and links to books and gifts for people who love to cook. Women Beyond a Certain Age is a weekly podcast by Denise Vivaldo and Diane Worthington.  

Denise is an award-winning food stylist and author of The Food Stylist's Handbook and 8 other books, as well as writing for the Huffington Post. You can find out more about her at:

Diane is the author of over 20 cookbooks and has twice won the James Beard Award. She is also a nationally syndicated food columnist. You can find out more about her at:

Podcast credits: Cindie Flannigan does everything else. You can find out more about her at:

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Here are Diane and Denise’s recommendations for holiday gifts:


Let’s face it. Holiday shopping can be a tedious, exhausting experience. I’ve done some digging and found some great items in every price range for the cook or wine lover on your list. Take heart, you can order from your bed and have that extra cup of coffee--- a truly stressless experience. Look no further than, or for easy ordering and lots of last minute discounts. I can say that all of these items will bring smiles to those you are gifting. Happy Holidays.


Sur La Table Classic Half Sheet & Grid Set

This reasonably priced set comes with a pan featuring superior nonstick dual coating for easy release and a grid for cooling. This commercial-grade aluminized steel of a lighter color provides even baking and a rolled rim for excellent durability. Bake cookies, tarts or sheet pan dinners on this must-have-for-this-season pan.


Instant Pot Aura Pro, 8 Quart

The first thing to know about this latest Insta Pot is that it is NOT a pressure cooker like all of the others. Instead it is an11-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Multicooker with Advanced Microprocessor technology thatcontrols the time and temperature to ensure consistent cooking results.The Aura Pro replaces 11 commonly used appliances. With the Pro, you can - Sear/Sauté, Bake, Slow Cook, Steam, Stew, Sous Vide, Roast, Yogurt, Rice, Multigrain and Keep Warm, all in one cooker. With 11 Smart Programs your favorite dishes can now be prepared to perfection by simply pushing a button. The interior cooking pot is Food Grade Stainless Steel 304 (18/8)  which is great for sauteeing and cleaning. And, the cooking pot, the lid and the collapsible steam/roasting/sous vide rack are all dishwasher safe. This is the gift to give those that love to cook with little space in their kitchen.


Wüsthof 8-Piece Steak Knife Set in Presentation Box

Meat lovers on your list?  They’ll love this beautiful and very useful set of steak knives. The set includes eight 4” steak knives crafted from 18/10 stainless steel. The knives have sharp serrated edges that  are designed to cut easily through thick steaks without tearing., https://www.surlatable.comor


All-Clad Pasta Pot, 6 Quart

This is an essential item for any pasta lover on your list. It has ample room for pasta to boil and features a handy strainer insert that eliminates the need to use a separate colander. The pot is also perfect for preparing broth and stocks or steaming shellfish and vegetables—simply add the ingredients to the insert and remove when cooking is complete. Constructed of durable and attractive stainless steel, pot features a steel-clad aluminum base that heats evenly and efficiently.


LIFU Wine Opener, Stainless Steel Electric Wine Bottle Opener with Foil Cutter

This is still my favorite choice for the wine lovers on your list. It’s a conversation starter as well as a great way to open bottles of wine. It’s easy to use. The electric opener removes a wine bottle cork with the gentle push of a button. It includes the foil cutter. Unlike other electric wine openers, it features a transparent corkscrew shell that makes the cork removal process completely visible. If you want to make it a bigger gift select a bottle of wine to go along with it.



Hestan NanoBond Skillet

I love this pan. I have the 11-inch one that has been a workhorse in my kitchen. Unlike other high-end cookware, It has a patented, multilayer structure of titanium-based alloys that bonds directly to stainless steel through an environmentally friendly and chemical-free process. It is not a non-stick surface, yet I have found most of my sauteed dishes slide right out of the pan. The key thing to remember about this pan is to preheat it for best reulsts. It cleans easily and really holds the heat evenly. This is the pan to buy for the fussy cook who proclaims they have it all.


Stocking Stuffers


Tovolo Measuring System

Never lose measuring cups and spoons again with Tovolo’s magnetic measuring system. This complete measuring set was designed with strong magnets that keep the pieces secure, and to stack neatly for compact storage. The set includes 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, 1 tbsp, 2 tbsp, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 cup and 3 cup measuring pieces. Ideal for wet or dry ingredients, the measuring system also features easy-to-read, etched measurement markings that won't fade.


Drizzle spoons:


Microplane Tools

This innovative company is always coming up with clever ideas to help cooks in their kitchen. Here are a few ideas:


Microplane 3-grater set:


Spice Mill

Will grind hard spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Designed for professional chefs and home cooks, the Spice Mill also features storage on the top where whole spices can be stored.


Premium Classic Series Zester Graters

The original iconic long and narrow rasp-style design is now available in a rainbow of colors includng torquoise, bright green, baby blue, orange and dark blue. Any one will appreciate one of these kitchen helpers.



Holiday Sweets:

Sur La Table Holiday Sampler

Each box contains individually wrapped bite-size pieces of the
Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate Mexican Spiced Caramel, Milk Chocolate English Toffee and Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark Bite---YUM!!!


Williams-Sonoma Chocolate and Candy and Gift Crates.

Select from tasty choices of candy and gift crates. I personally love to give tins of their famous Peppermint Bark. I also love to give decorative cans of Peppermint Cocoa along with a box of marshmallows for families. Whatever you are looking for, you’ll find it on their website.


Trader Joe’s

You’ll find lots of candies, popcorn and cookies in festive holiday wrapping at an affordable prices. Trader Joes close to you.



Book recommendations:


A Treasury of Great Recipoes by Mary and Vincent Price


Sunday Suppers by Cynthia Graubart


The New Essentials Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen


The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen


Everyday Dorie by Dorie Greenspan


Israeli Soul by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook



Out of print books to look for:


La Technique by Jacques Pepin


Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker


A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and Alta Ann Parkins


Beard on Food by James Beard


La Varenne Pratique by Anne Willan






Chocolate Black Currant Truffles

Makes about 4 dozen


Easy, decadent and impressive. These are our holiday gifts to some of the biggest names in Hollywood and truffles are always well-received…especially by celebrity diet cookbook authors. The black currant extract add that little extra something that make these truffles irresistible.


1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon black currant extract (optional)


  1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside. Place cocoa powder in a small shallow bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the chocolate chips in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped.
  3. Heat cream in a saucepan until it just starts to boil. Pour into processor over chopped chocolate. Blend until chocolate has completely melted and mixture is smooth. Add butter and pulse until combined.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Form into rough teaspoon-sized balls, roll in cocoa powder and place on baking sheet. Chill until firm. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Tip: Recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

Tip: Place truffles in small candy boxes lined with wax paper.




Makes 2 (750 ml) bottles


For best results, buy good quality unflavored vodka. This recipe takes awhile to develop its flavors so start it at least 3 weeks or more before you want to serve it!



12 lemons, scrubbed

2 (750 ml) bottles 100-proof vodka

4 cups superfine sugar

4 cups filtered water



  1. Using a microplane grater, grate the zest from all the lemons, being careful not to include any of the bitter white pith. Place in a gallon sized glass jar. Add vodka, cover tightly and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 weeks or up to 4 weeks.
  2. Place sugar and water in a large saucepan, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Add to vodka mixture and let stand for an additional 1-4 weeks.
  3. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into decorative bottles. Serve cold.


Tip: This recipe can be doubled.

Tip: Pour finished limoncello into small decorative bottles to give as gifts.



Lemon Lavender Shortbread

Makes 32 cookies.


We make these cookies when we teach at Rancho La Puerta and they are always a big hit.



2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons fresh lavender, finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon zest

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup granulated sugar



  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place flours, salt, baking powder, lavender, and lemon zest in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Place butter, powdered sugar, and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until combined at low speed.
  4. Add flour and continue mixing until dough resembles coarse cornmeal.
  5. Gather dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly, just until dough comes together.
  6. Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out to 1/2-inch thick. Place on prepared baking sheets. Score shallow cut marks (8 wedges) into top of shortbread. Sprinkle with remaining granulated sugar.
  7. Bake until lightly golden, about 22 minutes. Remove from heat and cut through, following score lines, while still warm.


Tip: Recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

Tip: Line clear Chinese take-out containers (available at restaurant supply stores) with wax or parchment paper and fill with cookies.








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