In a spirit of practicality (with one or two completely frivolous and outrageous exceptions), I once again share with you my Christmas gift list of mostly practical items that have proven their worth in my own kitchen and/or stomach. A few of these items were discovered by our test kitchen, and others are purely personal selections.
Breville Juice Fountain Plus, $149.95
This juicer is the top in its class and is easy enough to clean up as well. It does a superlative job and is built to last. Available on Amazon.
Presso Manual Espresso Machine, $105
Yes, this is very expensive, but it makes very good espresso without the $1,000 price tag of an electric pump machine. It looks a bit like an old-fashioned winged corkscrew, and a little elbow grease does the trick instead of a pump.
Update: The ROK ($199) is the newest incarnation of the Presso Espresso Machine. Available on Importika.
Fissler Vitaquick, $300, or Fagor Duo 8-quart, $110, Stovetop Pressure Cookers
Breville BOV800XL The Smart Oven 1800-Watt Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ, $249
This is one of the few toaster ovens that can actually make toast. I use it all the time. Available on Amazon.
California Cooler Bags T-Rex Large Collapsible Rolling Cooler, $79
This is the best portable cooler bar none. It has rollers, it is collapsible, it’s not bulky, it uses a layer of air for insulation, and it is easily cleaned. Love it. Available on Keep Your Cooler.
Vitamix 5200 Blender, $450, or Breville Hemisphere Blender, $200
iRobot Roomba Vacuum Cleaning Robot, $350 to $700 depending on features
I thought this was silly until Lisa McManus in our testing department sold me on it. I use it to do the linoleum kitchen floor—it uses water and soap to clean the floor as well as brushes it. It works great while I sleep. Browse on Amazon.
Oxo Good Grips Cookie Spatula, $7.99
It sounds odd, but this is one spatula that you will use all the time. Available on Amazon.
Chef’s Choice 838 Waffle Cone Express Ice Cream Cone Maker, $49
This is another item that I would normally avoid, but everyone in our testing department fell in love with it. It’s especially useful if you have kids around the house. Available on Amazon.