If you've got a friend or family member who seems to have everything, looking to the kitchen may be your gift-giving solution. The holiday season is a perfect time to encourage healthy eating habits and home cooking, especially in the aftermath of holiday parties, cookie exchanges and family gatherings with a heavy focus on food.
For people who prefer to "shop local," Whatcom County has a variety of tasty products, from cheeses and jams to locally raised meats and poultry.
Food-related gifts, gift certificates and advance orders for produce are presents that won't be thrown in a closet and forgotten.
Here are a few suggestions to help your gift recipient cook up a healthy new year.
It's a bit on the pricey side, but investing a few hundred dollars will provide a loved one with fresh produce from spring until next fall. Community Supported Agriculture means you invest early for a share of the produce grown on a farm. Each week, a farmer provides a basket of the freshly picked produce.
CSAs offer weekly produce baskets for 12 to 18 weeks, beginning mid-spring. Many farmers provide recipes, or can make suggestions on how to prepare the produce, in case you don't know what to do with that flying-saucer-shaped kohlrabi.
To find a CSA farm in Whatcom County, visit localharvest.org and put in your zip code.
If a CSA membership is too expensive, consider a gift of Market Bucks from Bellingham Farmers Market. Market Bucks come in $5 denominations and can be used like cash with market vendors year-round. Market Bucks can be purchased online at bellinghamfarmers.goodsie.com.
If you've wondered what it's really like to have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, a local orchard can turn that Christmas song into reality. Washington Chestnut Company grows fresh chestnuts on a six-acre orchard near Everson.
Unlike fat-filled, high-calorie nuts typical of a mixed nut bowl at a cocktail party, chestnuts are made mostly of starch. They are relatively low in calories but high in phytonutrients and minerals. Chestnuts can be roasted, microwaved, pureed for desserts, or sliced and added to a favorite stuffing.
Joe Anne Hilgard, a co-owner of Washington Chestnut Company, says the orchard's chestnuts are harvested in September and typically sold out by Thanksgiving. But a healthy harvest this year could mean they will still have inventory available by early winter.
Prices currently are $5.75 a pound, but can vary based on nationwide chestnut markets. Even if they are sold out, Hilgard says the orchard takes advance orders year-round for the next year's harvest. For more information, visit washingtonchestnut.com.
What was once a vice is now a virtue, according to the science behind the heart-healthy benefits of a daily glass of wine. So there's no guilt about giving the gift of vino, and a good bottle of wine or champagne is a perfect hostess gift, too.
To boost a wine gift's wow factor, Purple Smile Wines in Fairhaven, 1143 11th St., offers a wine club that costs from $75 to $95 a month. Membership includes up to six wines per month, depending on the package selected. Club members are also invited to a monthly tasting of new wines, and receive invitations to a variety of events and wine discounts.
The club begins with a three-month investment and continues month-to-month afterward. For details, visit purplesmilewines.com/club.
At Kitchen Konnection, 517 Front St., in Lynden, owner Lori Bosman can help gift-givers find a perfect time-saving device for the kitchen.
She recommends silicon lids from Charles Viancin. The round, flat discs can be put on hot pans, bowls in the refrigerator or freezer, or simply on top of a dish sitting at room temperature. The silicon creates an air-tight seal.
Designs include lily pads, sunflowers and hibiscus flowers. Bosman says it has been tough keeping the lids in stock.
"I want to get some for myself, but we keep selling out," she says.
The lids sell for $3.99 to $17.99, depending on size. The smallest lid can be used as a wine stopper.
Bosman also recommends the JarKey from Brix, $5.99, which releases airtight seals on jars. The kitchen implement is especially useful for seniors or others who have lost strength in their hands.
Kitchen Konnection also specializes in commercial bakeware, perfect for a friend who loves to bake Christmas cookies. For more information call Kitchen Konnection, 360-354-4542.
If you're buying for a foodie, a home cook or someone who needs a guidebook to get started in the kitchen, Jenny Blenk at Village Books in Fairhaven, 1200 11th St., recommends these titles:
- "Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals" by Caroline Wright, $12.95.
"It's simple meals that can be prepared fast," Blenk says. "And they have a good variety of cuisines."
- "1,001 Best Slow-Cooker Recipes" by Sue Spitler, $19.95.
"The advantage of this one is you can prep it in the morning and leave it all day It's not just the slow cooker pot roast recipe. There's a recipe for kimchi."
- "One Pan, Two Plates" by Carla Snyder, $24.95.
"This one has a lot of easy, gourmet meals. It's great for one or two people, but most of the recipes can be easily multiplied if you are feeding a bigger crowd. A lot of them are classic American comfort foods with a twist."
- "Art Smith's Healthy Comfort" by Art Smith, $27.99.
"It's nice to see a cookbook with personal anecdotes. It's fun to read. He's an older person who changed his lifestyle with nutrition."
- "Good Food for Life" by Maggie Davis, $8.50.
"This one got my attention because it comes with a meal planner, a nutrition fact sheet and a pyramid breakdown of each meal."
Ericka Pizzillo Cohen is an Ohio-based freelance writer and former reporter for The Bellingham Herald.