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By Laura Stec

Still need a gift? Try culinary.

Uploaded: Dec 18, 2013

Giving gifts friends and family will actually use is ideal, but it's hard to know what people like. So give em' what they need instead! Try culinary gifts this year as a way to insure success. Everyone needs help making their kitchen easier to use. Many young people don't have good kitchen tools, and older people often need them replaced.

Pictured are gifts I have given in the past, or am giving this year. Many fit nicely into Christmas stockings, and are easy to get a hold of. Find them in specialty grocery and kitchen supply stores, or ask me specifically about any.

Note to family: I didn't put all my gifts in this picture so don't think you are getting a sneak preview of Christmas morning. What do you think I am stupid? Ok, don't answer that. ☺

Cheap Asian knife: The gift of a sharp knife is one to remember! I have a number of the expensive, heavy German knives, but prefer the super light Kiwi brand instead (so easy to keep sharp). They're $5 in San Francisco at Kamai (6th & Clement), but look for them in any Asian grocery store.

Honing stick/rod: Most people do not know how to keep their knives sharp. Sharpening happens only a few times a year, but honing should happen after every 30 minutes of cutting time. A happy, fulfilling kitchen life requires an 8' or larger chef's knife and a honing stick.

Microplane: Perfect tool for grating ginger, cheese, chocolate, or zesting citrus.

Lemon/lime juice squeezer: Love this tool, easy to use and clean. Look for one that is not colored yellow for lemons or green for limes, as the paint can chip off.

Interesting oils and vinegars: So much to choose from. Pictured are macadamia nut oil and coconut white balsamic vinegar (gifts to myself this year).

Cloud 9 olive oil: Local foods make a terrific gift. Palo Alto Cloud 9 owner May Chevallier creates a delicious brand from her Monterey county trees.

Specialty salt or spice: Salts have been "in" for a while as a nice gift, and always appreciated. Spice blends are the newer kid on the gift block. I like shopping at Spice Ace in San Francisco, or Penzeys Spices in Menlo Park.

Colorful kitchen tools: If you like your kitchen tools ? you will use them more often. My old measuring spoons have been chewed alive by the garbage disposal (hint, hint) and who wouldn't like stirring with a black and orange-striped spatula? (Go Giants, Go Tigers!)

Fun chocolates from Trader Joes: So many new munchies at TJ's. Terrific, unique stocking stuffers, especially for people who don't live near one of their stores.

Dang Toasted Coconut Chips: A new fun food ? unique! I got these at Whole Foods.

Homemade spiced nuts: Pictured are Maple Spiced Nuts out of my book Cool Cuisine. They are the fastest spiced nut recipe I have ever made. Click here for the recipe.

A local cooking class: Cooking is all about tips and the more you know the faster, more creative and delicious your food and cooking will be. On average, only a ¼ of students in my classes have ever taken a cooking class. Look at offerings from Draegers, 18 Reasons, Cavallo Point, or get your friend an adventure gift - breakfast, shopping and a free cooking class (taught by Bay Area chefs) on Saturday morning at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market, operated by the nonprofit CUESA.