Take it from a professional eater and an amateur cook: People need help in the kitchen. And since we're all currently staring into the mistletoe-fringed barrel of the mandatory gift-giving season, why not hand out presents with a purpose, tree-trimmings with a hint? To these ends, I cruised my sleigh through a few culinary-oriented stores and came up with this list of should-haves.

Take it from a professional eater and an amateur cook: People need help in the kitchen. And since we're all currently staring into the mistletoe-fringed barrel of the mandatory gift-giving season, why not hand out presents with a purpose, tree-trimmings with a hint? To these ends, I cruised my sleigh through a few culinary-oriented stores and came up with this list of should-haves.

AmyD apron, $30

Whole Foods Market, Dublin

Is your mom traipsing about in a ragged old apron that's seen better decades? Do you have a cooking-crazy hip sister with stained clothing because she won't wear a corporate-looking cooking smock? Well, it's local seamstress Amy D to the stylish rescue. AmyD's understated aprons feature a nifty blend of retro cool and up-to-the-minute local-loving Ohio-proud designs.


Taylor Elite Digital Instant Read Thermometer, $20

Williams-Sonoma

Is Dad - aka your family's self-proclaimed barbecue "expert" - still serving up medium-rare chicken and medium-shoe-leathered steak? Help eliminate his guesswork - and your digestive worries - by endowing your gadget-loving dad with an easy-to-see instant-read digital thermometer.


Melamine measuring cups and spoons ($15/$9)

Williams-Sonoma

Everyone knows one: the Food Network-viewing would-be chef who talks about their "pinch of this and dash of that" natural style and flair for cooking. Trouble is, dinner guests too often come away with jarring mouthfuls of nutmeg or 15-alarm cayenne pepper overloads. Well, maybe the fun and bright colors of these nesting sets of calibrated spoons and cups might induce that "innate" cook to think about taking a more measured approach to making dinner.


Can-Ram Aluminum Can Crusher, $15

The Container Store, Easton

Here's the guy: the more beers he drinks in his cramped home - and it seems like there's always a can in his hand - the more he talks about saving Planet Earth. Here's the perfect gift: the planet and space-saving miracle device of a wall-mounted can crusher. Being green, tipsy and having a ball smashing things has never been so fun, easy and good for the planet.


Blown glass wine stopper, $13

Hausfrau Haven, German Village

This is for that someone special who really needs to put a stopper in it. I'm talking about that unnecessarily opened "just one more bottle" of wine, which inevitably transforms an interesting conversation into a strange and slurred monologue. With this pretty little device, those excess glugs of grape will stay fresh for all tomorrow's parties instead. Put a stopper in it, indeed.


"Kids' Cookbook: Healthy and Fun!" $6

Half-Price Books

Know any budding chefs out there who are overly eager to lend a hand in the kitchen? Well, encourage that tyke's hunger for cooking knowledge with the Kids' Cookbook, which leans toward healthy and fun-looking recipes (like cottage cheese and veggie "Smiley Sandwiches") and even comes with its own wooden spoon.

"Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes," $8

Half-Price Books

If your little budding chef also has a taste for the naughty side of humor, try this Roald Dahl book with recipes for Stinkbud Eggs (just boiled eggs) and Mosquito Toes and Wampfish Roes Delicately Fried (basically, fish sandwiches).


"Momofuku," $40

Barnes & Noble

If your budding chef with a taste for the naughty side of humor isn't so little anymore, and thinks she/he is hot stuff in the kitchen, then the rowdy-reading Momofuku cookbook (with some complex and technique-heavy recipes) would be just what the red-clad fat man ordered.