Holiday gift guide 2016 for foodies in your life

I google "gift ideas" many times during the course of a year. I look for inspiration for birthday gifts for my husband, my mom, my best friend. During holiday season I devour these gift guide posts like candy. Even if I have a perfect gift idea in mind for this year, then these posts often help me organize myself for another year too and who wouldn't want some help with Christmas shopping?

Recently I looked around my kitchen and realized that there are a few items that I keep recommending to my friends over and over again. Certain books and gadgets and products that I use daily and wouldn't imagine not having them. I give them as gifts to my friends and family. If I like them so much, then I'm sure other foodies would love them too. 

This is a gift guide for foodies and it has stocking stuffers, medium size gifts and more expensive items too, so it'll appeal to various budgets. Please note that there are affiliate links in this post.

Holiday gift guide 2016 for foodies in your life | Imagelicious

Now that I'm staying home on maternity leave, I don't use these too often. But when I was working in my office, I used these nifty Toastabags a few times a week. Assemble a sandwich at home, place it into one of these toastabags and pop it into a toaster - bread will get nice and toasty, cheese will melt into a delicious gooey layer and all other toppings will get warmed up for an ultimate grilled sandwich experience without a pan or a grill. I converted quite a few people at the office and they all now use these bags!!

My mom gave me these lids a few years ago and I was pretty sceptical at first - why would I use them when I can use foil or saran wrap? But now I use these lids all the time! They work great for covering bowls and pans and placing them in the fridge thus eliminating unnecessary waste of plastic wrap. These lids also work in the oven. I use square lids on casserole dishes all the time. Round covers also work on the stove. I have many different size pans and not all of them have regular lids, so these silicone lids are perfect for that. I linked to the ones that I have, but there are different kinds that are less expensive, although I haven't tried them.

I use this orange oil all the time when baking. It's my secret ingredient in banana bread, chocolate cakes, waffles, brownies and many more! Half a teaspoon goes a long way, so the bottle lasts for a long time. I highly recommend this product as it makes any dessert just a little bit more special and every single person always asks what is it as they can't really tell what that hint of goodness is, they just know that it's delicious. If you live in GTA then you can find it at Golda's Kitchen store too.

We were given this for Christmas last year and haven't really used it until a few months ago. Now I use it daily. It's my ritual while baby is taking a morning nap. I make myself a big mug of coffee and unwind before the start of a hectic day. This Hario decanter is a perfect way to have a cup of coffee without committing to another appliance and it also looks beautiful on a table if you are hosting brunch.

I have these spatulas in green and I use them daily. I have quite a few different spatulas and some are made out of really soft material, so they can't be used for mixing thick doughs for example. These spatulas are sturdy enough to mix cookie dough by hand, but soft enough that they won't scrape non-stick pans. Out of many different brands of spatulas that I have these are my favourite.

This is one gorgeous, cozy, inspirational, festive, delicious Christmas cookbook! I love just leafing through it in november and december. I made many recipes from it and they all turn out well. It's not new, but it definitely one of my favourite cookbooks! If you love Christmas and love cookbooks then it's a must have!

This is the latest book in Barefoot Contessa series by Ina Garten. I have all of her books and they have a place of honour in my kitchen. I love her recipes, her photos, her stories. She's not shy about using butter and sugar, so I usually try to adjust her recipes to my taste, but the flavours are incredible and very inspirational. If you want to invest into just a few cookbooks, then I'd recommend Ina Garten's series.

Why do I have both drip coffee decanter and nespresso on this list? Well, both coffee makers serve different purposes. Drip coffee is perfect for those long mornings when you want to relax with a big mug of coffee. Nespresso is great for a quick afternoon pick me up or when you want to make a nice cup of latte or cappuccino. I use it almost daily although I mostly make decaf for myself. We actually have two Nespresso makers, one at home and one at my husband's office. I also gave it as presents to quite a few people. It's just an amazing gift to give.

Over the years I tried many different pans. I once purchased a 500$ pan (yes, one pan) at some food show because they promised that it'll last forever and will be non-stick. In a year it was garbage. Calphalon pans, however, stood the taste of time. I have a pan that I got five years ago and although it needs replacing, it is totally my fault since I didn't care for it as I should have. And even now it still works great, it just looks ugly. Other Calphalon pans that I have still look new after five years.

I wanted a SodaStream for a few years and kept bugging my husband who was really against yet another appliance on the kitchen counter. Finally he gave up and got it for me two years ago for Christmas. It is now one of the most used items in my kitchen. I don't use any syrups for the soda water, but I make sparkling water multiple times a day. It is an investment in the beginning, but if you love sparkling water and buy Perrier or San Pellegrino on regular basis, then this will definitely save you money in the long run. It is also better for the environment!


So here you have it, 10 gifts that any foodie would love. I use some of the items daily, some a few times a week, but I use them all regularly. I've given some as gifts over the years and I recommended many of them to my friends. 

What are you favourite Foodie Finds that you love, recommend and give as gifts? I'd love to hear about your favourite gadgets, cookbooks and "secret" items in the kitchen!!

Posted on December 7, 2016 and filed under Gift guide.
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Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata

Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is a perfect brunch dish to make during holidays. Elegant, savoury and a little bit indulgent it's a sure way to please everyone at the table without breaking a bank.

Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is a perfect brunch dish to make during holidays. Elegant, savoury and a little bit indulgent it's a sure way to please everyone at the table without breaking a bank | Imagelicious

It's December and it feels like I lost a year. This feeling of loss is so tightly intertwined with joy that I don't know where one ends and the other begins. I found out I was pregnant just a few days before the end of January and on February 1st my morning sickness started. Pregnancy didn't bring me glowing skin or happiness. I counted the days until it was over and it was way too soon, much sooner than I was prepared for. The following weeks in the hospital and hectic months at home now bring me to December. Ten months have past in a year that I lost, in a year that changed my life.

It's December and as usual I feel nostalgic. I keep thinking about my childhood, my grandparents, and the magic of holidays. I wrote about traditions just over a year ago and I can't believe how much changed since that post. Now, more than ever, I want to bring rituals into my life. I want to instil the sense of security and stability into my baby's path. I want her to have traditions that would make her happy and would fill her with a sense of wonder and joy for years to come. 

For the past seven years that my husband and I have been together, it's not just the traditional Russian New Year festivities that happen during holidays for me; it's now filled with Christmas celebrations too. I may not understand Christmas as well as I do New Year, but I love all kinds of celebrations, especially when there are twinkle lights and presents involved. I asked A. many times about his childhood Christmas morning traditions, yet he failed to convey the importance of them. This year, my baby's first Christmas, I hope to start our own family traditions and that includes a fun and delicious breakfast (even though baby isn't eating solids yet). 

Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is a perfect brunch dish to make during holidays. Elegant, savoury and a little bit indulgent it's a sure way to please everyone at the table without breaking a bank | Imagelicious

When I host brunches (and I host them often enough), I love making strata or savoury pudding as some know that dish. It's perfect for the occasion since it needs to be prepared a night before, thus removing the stress of last minute cooking. Even with brunches I follow my tips for easy and stress-free entertaining. I set the table a night before, I make cheese platters and dips, and I prepare a savoury strata. I've made many kinds over the years with meats and cheeses and fish and vegetables. I used baguettes, brioches, challas, croissants. All are delicious and all are impressive. But this Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is my favourite - it looks impressive, it tastes festive, and it's just a little bit more special than your average ham and cheese dish with the addition of smoked salmon, dill, and capers.

I measured ingredients for this recipe, but in reality, the only items that should be measured are eggs and milk (and even that I most often than not pour freely). Smoked salmon, dill, capers, and cream cheese could be adjusted to your taste. The idea is that smoked salmon sandwiches are made with cream cheese, salmon and capers, and how much of each ingredient you use is up to you. What I like about this recipe is that smoked salmon, which is not the cheapest ingredient, can be stretched to make am elegant meal that is still not very expensive. 

Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is a perfect brunch dish to make during holidays. Elegant, savoury and a little bit indulgent it's a sure way to please everyone at the table without breaking a bank | Imagelicious

Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata

makes 2 large portions or 4 smaller portions if there's something else served for breakfast

Please read the recipe instructions first, as the strata needs to be refrigerated over night and can't be assembled just before breakfast

Small butter croissants - 4
Cream cheese - 40 g
Smoked salmon - 60 g
Capers - 5 g (1 teaspoon)
Dill, chopped - 10 g (~1/4 cup)
Eggs - 5 large
Dijon mustard - 2 teaspoons
Milk - 1/2 cup
Cheddar, shredded - 60 g (~1/2 cup)
Salt, pepper to taste
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Slice croissants crosswise for sandwiches, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 7-10 minutes until edges just begin to turn golden brown and the croissants are dry.
  • Meanwhile, butter two 5"x5" ovenproof dishes and finely chop capers.
  • Place cooled bottom parts of the croissants into the baking forms, spread cream cheese evenly dividing between all croissants.
  • Add roughly torn smoked salmon to each croissant, sprinkle chopped capers, sprinkle dill all over the croissants and around them.
  • Cover the sandwiches with the top parts of the croissants.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, mustard and milk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the milk-egg mixture over the croissants.
  • Tightly cover the baking dishes with plastic wrap and place in the fridge over night (or a minimum of two hours).
  • In the morning, preheat the oven to 350F and take the stratas out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
  • Just before baking sprinkle shredded cheese over each dish.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes until egg mixture is cooked and firm.

Notes: as I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't really measure cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, dill, and even cheese when making this. The idea is that you are making smoked salmon sandwiches, so add as much or as little cream cheese and smoked salmon as you'd like. I personally love dill, so I use it a lot especially with fish, but if you are not a fan of dill, then you can use less dill or parsley or omit it all together. Same with shredded cheese - you want to cover the strata with it, so if you want it to be cheesier, then by all means add a bit more cheddar or for a healthier spin don't add any on top.

I used two 5x5" baking dishes, but you can use one larger dish too. If you are using a larger baking form, the cooking time may need to increase a little bit, just make sure that eggs are cooked in the middle of the dish. 

Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is a perfect brunch dish to make during holidays. Elegant, savoury and a little bit indulgent it's a sure way to please everyone at the table without breaking a bank | Imagelicious
Smoked Salmon Croissant Strata is a perfect brunch dish to make during holidays. Elegant, savoury and a little bit indulgent it's a sure way to please everyone at the table without breaking a bank | Imagelicious
Posted on December 5, 2016 and filed under Recipe.
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Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork

This Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork is easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, tastes delicious and is a little bit lighter than traditional recipes. Perfect for winter months and entertaining.

This Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork is easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, tastes delicious and is a little bit lighter than traditional recipes. Perfect for winter months and entertaining | Imagelicious

Last year my best friend hosted a little get together around holidays. She had a wonderful and delicious spread waiting for us on the dining table: cheeses, smoked salmon rillette, veggies, dips, and for the main event a big bowl of sweet and smokey and savoury pulled pork that she made in her slow cooker. She told me that it was the famous Dr Pepper pulled pork from Pinterest. 

A few weeks later I bought a package of pork loins at Costco and knew that it was my time to make pulled pork. I also knew that I had to use a different recipe. It's one thing to have that at a friend's house but my husband wouldn't like anything made with pop at home. He also isn't a fan of BBQ sauce (I know, crazy!) and the amount of sauce would need to be adjusted. Enter this Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork. I have to say I am not sure if beer is much better than Dr. Pepper, but it feels better in my mind. I don't go too heavy on spices and add a little bit of BBQ sauce right in the beginning of cooking along with beer. Once it's cooked, I add more BBQ sauce onto my own portion and my husband adds cayenne pepper and garlic salt onto his. This is what I love about this particular recipe - the end result is the pulled pork that tastes light and clean and is perfect to use for other meals.

And with that I am announcing a new series of Pulled Pork Posts on my site!! There will be Pulled Pork Pies and Pulled Pork Pizza and Pulled Pork Waffles! Yes, that's right, I took Pulled Pork and stuffed it inside crispy waffles and topped them with an oozing poached egg. I spent weeks coming up and testing various ways of using Pulled Pork in anything other than a standard (yet delicious) sandwich. And if you are looking for a delicious Pulled Pork Sandwich, then may I suggest my Cottage Cheese and JalapeΓ±o Rolls from a few weeks ago? They are the ones I used in the photos. These rolls are sturdy enough, yet fluffy. They also have this subtle jalapeΓ±o kick that goes so well with the Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork.

Did I also mention how easy this recipe is? The only difficult part is chopping an onion and I have to be really honest - you don't necessary need an onion, you can totally omit it, although it's better with the onion! So, even though it takes 9 hours to make, I am filing this under Mom recipe since it takes under 5 minutes to throw it together. And you also get to finish that bottle of beer after using 250ml in the recipe and I love this excuse to drink beer in the morning!!

This Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork is easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, tastes delicious and is a little bit lighter than traditional recipes. Perfect for winter months and entertaining | Imagelicious

Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork

Makes a lot of pulled pork

Onion, diced - 1 large
Pork tenderloins - 3-4 pounds or 3 tenderloins
Spicy smoked paprika - 1 tablespoon
Mustard powder - 1 tablespoon
Dried parsley - 1 tablespoon
Garlic salt - 1 teaspoon (or more to taste, I use very little salt usually)
Beer - 250 ml
BBQ sauce - 1/4 cup
  • Add all the ingredients to slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for about 8 hours.
  • After 8 hours use two forks to pull pork apart and cook for another 30-60 minutes.
  • Serve with more bbq sauce and spices to taste.

After the initial 8 hours of cooking it'll look that there's a lot of liquid, but once the pork is pulled, the liquid will coat all of the little pieces and will become sauce. If there's not enough liquid after pork is pulled apart, then add a little bit more water or stock or beer.

This Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork is easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, tastes delicious and is a little bit lighter than traditional recipes. Perfect for winter months and entertaining | Imagelicious
This Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork is easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, tastes delicious and is a little bit lighter than traditional recipes. Perfect for winter months and entertaining | Imagelicious
Posted on December 1, 2016 and filed under Mom recipe, Recipe, Pulled Pork Posts.
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