If you are still doing your holiday gift shopping (like me), here is a round-up of various gift ideas I’ve come up with based on some of my favorite things.

Kitchen Gadgets

Progressive International Magnetic Measuring Spoons

Photo source: Amazon

I’ve owned many sets of measuring spoons throughout the years, but this is by far my favorite one ever. There are so many things that make them stand out.

1. They are double sided. This means you can measure 2 different ingredients of the same measurement before having to wash your measuring spoon. It saves so much time and clean-up and the oval-shape side works really well with liquids.

2. They are magnetic. They stick together, making it easier to keep them altogether. The other ones I own all use a ring or snap closure and as a result, they never stay together.

3. They are made of steel. Because of that, they are much sturdier than the plastic ones and are less likely to break or warp.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pure Can Opener

This is a smooth edge can opener, meaning it cuts on the side rather than the top, and doesn’t leave jagged edges.

No more being afraid of cutting yourself along the edge of an open can. You can even put it back on and stick it in the fridge if you don’t finish the contents of the can.

This one is a bit pricey  but it’s the one I own and I’ve had it for about a year with no issue. I did find some cheaper options, though I haven’t tried them myself. It if you are interested in trying out a smooth edge opener and not willing to pay as much you can try this Kuhn Rikon one that got really good reviews.

Ozeri Kitchen Scale

Photo source: Amazon

This scale remains one of the most used items in my kitchen. It’s great for measuring out recipes that are in ounces and grams. Sometimes recipes just need really precise measurements and I actually prefer to weigh out ingredients because it does make things more accurate. I also love using it to send out packages because I can weigh and do the postage online.

Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Photo source: Amazon

This is a cheaper alternative to the Le Creuset dutch ovens. I’ve never owned a Le Creuset though I know people rave about it. This brand got really good reviews and I love it. It’s heavy but is solidly built. Foods cook evenly and without sticking, and it’s very easy to clean with a very light scrub. I currently own the 6 qt and the 3 qt. They also have a 4.5 qt. If they had more versions, I would only cook with these.

This mug cake tastes just like a peppermint candy and has swirls of red mixed in, making it very festive.

I had another post planned for today, but it didn’t quite turn out. It was one of those days where nothing is going right in the kitchen and you just have to step away. I managed to somewhat salvage my kitchen disasters by making this simple holiday mug cake, but it actually took three attempts even though this isn’t a new recipe. It’s actually a recipe I created last year that ended up not making the final cut for my new book.

The first try, I had too much red and the entire batter became red. The second time, I forgot to add the baking powder and it was just a dense mess. Finally, on the third try, I got a decent result.

Szechuan Taste recently opened in San Diego, in the same plaza as Bullpen and Do Re Mi.

There’s been an influx of Sichuan-style Chinese restaurants that opened in San Diego this year and I guess there’s no signs of stopping.

On the evening we dined, the restaurant was pleasantly full but we were able to get a table right away. The menu, much like all the other new Sichuan restaurants in San Diego, is quite extensive, with glossy pages and photos. One noticeable difference is that they offer live whole fish, an item the waitress tried very hard to sell me on, but with just the two of us dining, I wanted  a simpler dinner.

Cumin Lamb

One thing I like about this place is that the serving plates and portions are quite large. Nearly every table in the restaurant was ordering the spicy boiled fish (a popular Sichuan dish which involves gently poaching fish fillet pieces in a spicy broth), which was served in a oversized bowl that looked big enough to hold food for at least half a dozen people.

For this dish, thinly sliced lamb pieces are stir fried with cumin and peppercorn. I thought this version was a little too toned down. While the meat was lightly scented with cumin, it wasn’t nearly as potent as other versions I’ve had.

Dry Cooked String Beans