8 gift ideas for the new graduate
June is graduation month with many students leaving the academic world and setting up apartments for the first time. My children have all now graduated from college, but I recall distinctly that when they graduated from college their college kitchen setups were pretty dismal. Developing healthy eating habits starts with cooking your own food and to cook your own food you need some basic supplies. So this post is dedicated to graduation gifts designed to set up a first kitchen, plus a some fun gifts for equipping a home bar.
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Knife and a cutting board
In my opinion, the single most important tool in the kitchen is a good knife. One of the best knife values is the Victorinox Fibrox 8" chef's knife. It is selling on Amazon for just $45.00 at the time this post was written. This knife has over 5,000 5-star ratings on Amazon and is highly recommended by Cook's Magazine. I have given these knives as gifts several times and always get rave reviews about how fabulous they are. In my opinion, the 8" chef's knife is the best general purpose knife, but Victorinox also make an assortment of knives, all with the great quality you would expect from the company that makes Swiss Army knives.
Most people do not realize how important a good chopping board is. There is really no point in investing in a good knife if you are not also going to invest in a good chopping board. To me the best chopping boards are hard wood maple. Why? Bamboo boards look cool and are reasonably priced, but are very tough on knives because bamboo is so hard. Plastic cutting boards warp, are hard on knives and while easy to clean initially, as they become knife-scarred bacteria lodges in the knife cuts. Hard rubber boards, like Sani-tuff cutting boards are used industrially, are easy to clean, easy on knives, but a little less appealing visually.
John Boos maple cutting boards are a classic for a reason: they are easy on knives, easy to sanitize and nice looking. Boos makes a variety of cutting boards. Their end-cut boards are the best, but a little on the pricey side. This John Boos 20" x 15" maple chopping board is a great size and a good starter cutting board.
Everyone likes the ease of cooking with non-stick pans, but health and environmental concerns over PTFE and PFOA make traditional non-stick pans a non-starter for me. GreenPan makes excellent ceramic, non-stick, non-toxic pans that are made without chemicals or pollutants. They wear very well. I have a GreenPan that I have been using for over 2 years now with continued great results. This 12" covered saute pan is a versatile workhorse. Hand wash and keep the heat medium or lower for best results.
The Cuisinart Mini-Prep is the best-value small appliance I have in my kitchen, priced at under $31 at the time of this post. It is great for doing laborious jobs in seconds, like mincing ginger and garlic, chopping nuts and herbs or making salad dressing. If you are interested in a larger food processor, see my post on How to use a food processor. Not only do food processors save you time in the kitchen, but they make it easy for you to eat more vegetables because they minimize chopping time.
Mixing and prep bowls are important for all cooks. Stacking bowls are important if you are space constrained or just like a neat cupboard. This set of 9 nesting glass prep bowls range from 2 1/4" to 9" and are great for prepping and storing food. This lidded set of 5 stainless steel nesting bowls doubles for both food prep and food storage. They are well-designed with non-skid bottoms, internal measuring marks, a cheese grater insert and easy-to-pour spouts. Both bowl sets are non-reactive and can be used for virtually all of your cooking needs.
This is another favorite gift of mine to youngsters just setting up their homes for entertaining. These crystal glasses are sturdy, beautiful, come in three sizes and are dishwasher-safe. They are suitable to use for wine or for a rocks-style cocktail. What more could you want?
A Hand-Crafted Cocktail Kit
This is a great starter kit for a young mixologist and makes for a fun basket of goodies. Start them off with a stainless steel cocktail shaker, a nylon-tipped muddler, a citrus press, cocktail strainer, bar spoons and sphere ice cube molds and they will be all set to make hand-crafted cocktails. According to my adult kids, this is the most enjoyed graduation gift on the list.
So here is to the college graduates in your life. May they learn to enjoy cooking at home and embark on a lifetime of healthy eating. May they also celebrate life's victories, both big and small with classy handcrafted cocktails. If they learn how to cook great food and how to make a celebratory cocktail their lives will be full of friends, family and community.