For gift giving try a good spatula or a jar of jam

There's no simpler gift to choose than a gift from your kitchen. No worrying about size or matching color to personality. No need to wonder if it's going to be a duplication. Often the very same thing -- such as carrot cake or fruitcake or plum pudding -- can go to the same people each year. And it doesn't matter. They look forward to receiving it.

It helps when you know the favorites for the people on your list. There are also ``safe'' items -- like brownies for some and jams and jellies for others. Most recipients will appreciate anything you make yourself.

Kitchen tools and equipment are also fine gifts for people who like cooking. But don't think everything needs to be expensive. There are many moderately priced, practical things that are helpful.

I'm a great believer in lots of measuring cups -- small and large. Large quart sizes are good for preserves or quantity recipes. Two-cup glass ones are good for mixing things such as half a cup of liquid and a few tablespoons of flour or cornstarch. Having extra ones, some aluminum, some glass or plastic, is a luxury for many cooks.

Strainers are in the same category, as are spatulas and good spoons, bowls, and whisks -- plus gadgets for the cook who likes gadgets. A long plastic spatula for washing bottles is low in price and offers a switch from the old-fashioned bottle brush. Items similar to these appear every year.

Cookbooks, of course, are another good gift item. Besides the many on sale for the holidays, consider the basic ones and those that fit the person receiving the gift. One of these will be more meaningful than a cookbook on the newest trendy food fad.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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