Colorful Culinary Gifts For Your Easter Basket

Instead of confetti and candy, why not fill your Easter baskets with these colorful locally-produced culinary gifts? I have picked a few unique foods and kitchen accessories that will remind you of bright spring colors and will come in handy even after the holiday is over! Shop from the small companies that produce them, and ship directly to your home or to your loved ones.

easter gifts
2oz Easter jams are the perfectly size for little hands

V Smiley Preserves

These are the best tasting fruit preserves I have ever tried, and the flavors are so unconventional, you cannot find them anywhere else. There’s no sugar or preservatives – only honey and fruit in a jar! Try the Pear Lemon Sage White Pepper, Navel Orange Mission Fig Cardamom, Seville Orange and Bergamot Orange, or Raspberry Redcurrant Geranium Jam spread on toast or pair it with your favorite cheese. These jars are made in small batches with locally sourced fruits from farms in Vermont.

What’s more? 25% of this month’s featured flavor – Lavender Blackberry Rhubarb Jam – goes to the Trans Justice Funding Project. 

culinary gifts
Bees Wrap is a colorful environment friendly alternative to plastic

Bees’ Wrap

Bee’s Wrap is a reusable and biodegradable alternative to plastic wrap. It is perfect for storing leftovers, wrapping up snacks for on-the-go snacking, and eliminating unnecessary waste at home. And they are so pretty and vibrant! Wrap your unused piece of fruit or cover a bowl of leftover lunch with prints that will also brighten the refrigerator shelves. Bee’s Wrap is made in Vermont by a woman-founded certified B Corp.

colorful kitchen gifts
Opinel tools are handy in the kitchen everyday

Opinel Essentials

Opinel’s Essentials+ collection brings bright colors together in practical everyday workhorses – a peeler, serrated knife, and paring knife. These are available individually or in a three-pack set. Designed for precise handling, these tools make it easier to keep that 2021 resolution to cook joyfully in the new year. Plus, the dishwasher-friendly polymer handles are good for both right and left-handed cooks.

colorful maple syrup
Everyone should have these all-natural spice infused maple syrups in their cocktail bar

Runamok Maple Syrups

The 100% pure Vermont maple syrup is also organic. The collection of Runamok cocktail mixers will sweeten your brunch mimosas and ice teas, without the added sugar. With flavors like Cinnamon+Vanilla-Infused, Ginger Root-Infused, Rum Barrel-Aged, and Pecan Wood-Smoked, the collection of syrups are just as good in baked goods, savory dishes, cocktails, and desserts, as they are on top of breakfast staples like pancakes and waffles. Runamok Maple is a family-run company based in Vermont.

Easter egg Stroopwafels are covered in white and milk chocolate

3Bros Stroopwafles

Liven up your Easter basket with Easter egg and butterfly shaped stroopwafels dipped in white or milk chocolate with sugar icing.

Stroopwafels are classic Dutch cookies with a sweet caramel filling, enjoyed as a snack with a cup of hot coffee. But you don’t need to go to Netherlands to buy fresh tasting Stroopwafels. Fayetteville, Georgia-based family-owned and operated 3Bros Stroopwafels uses the original Dutch recipe. The recipe calls for butter and sugar beet molasses, pressed inside a cinnamon wafer.

Lastly, 3Bros supports organization by helping them host Stroopwafel fundraisers.

Delysia Easter collection can be served as dessert

Delysia Chocolate Truffles

Obviously, you can’t entirely skip chocolate on Easter Sunday, but you can go gourmet with it! Delysia’s 16 piece Easter truffle collection features the beloved desserts of a pastel party on a warm spring day. The box contains pieces of carrot cake, lemon meringue, hot cross bun and caffe latte turtle chocolate truffles. Additionally, they sell painted chocolate eggs, golden egg molded chocolate, and handcrafted Easter gift baskets on their website.

Chef-owner and chocolatier Nicole Patel of Austin, Texas-based Delysia Chocolatier is a Top 3 chocolatier in the Americas. Patel uses only the finest quality chocolate from sustainable sources and freshest ingredients to create these delectable works of art. She also offers virtual chocolate tastings that you can enjoy with your friends and colleagues!

A Chef’s Review of Rotimatic – The Robotic Roti Maker

As you probably know by now, I am a food and travel writer and a chef. I have taught cooking classes across the US. I would say, I have perfected many cuisines, including Mexican, Spanish,  Italian, Moroccan, Indian, and more. However, one thing I have never been able to perfect is the quintessential “roti.” I can make a perfect French crepe, get a golden crust on an Italian crostata, and bake a mouth-watering banana nut cake from scratch. But I have yet to perfect making a roti!

I know this is sad, but what looks like a simple and easy recipe, takes years of perfection.

Whenever I visit my grandmother in my hometown of Chandigarh, I step back in the kitchen to observe our home chef churning out one soft and fluffy roti after another, within a matter of seconds. Often times, I’m inspired by her to get my hands dirty in the kitchen, but like a child who has learned to make cookie dough for the first time, I retreat messy and complacent with just being served at the table.

Back in the US, I satisfy myself with frozen parathas, whole wheat tortillas or rotis bought from the Indian store.

So when I heard about this new automatic roti maker that can make fresh, homemade rotis, without much effort, I was eager to learn more.

Why not get help of a robot?

What is Roti?

Roti is a round flatbread made of wholemeal flour and water, native to the Indian subcontinent. It is also found in parts of Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, though it may be prepared slightly differently. Roti is also known as chapati or phulka and eaten as a staple with most Indian curries and vegetables. No Indian meal is complete without rice, roti or both!

My first batch of Rotimatic rotis

If you frequent Indian restaurants, you may be familiar with its cousin – naan, which is actually quite different. Unlike roti, naan is typically made with processed flour, yeast or baking powder, and dairy (yogurt or milk), and baked in a clay oven known as tandoor. It has more calories than roti L

In Indian households, roti is proffered over naan, as its easier to make and healthier.

This is what a Rotimatic looks like when in use

Using Rotimatic

Rotimatic is like a bread maker, but for rotis. It kneads the dough, rolls it out, bakes it and churns out fresh rotis – within minutes! The Singapore based company, Zimplistic sent me my very own Rotimatic to try out and these opinions are strictly my own.

At first glance, the box I received was bulky and huge. It was as big as a microwave oven, though I was expecting it to be more like a bread maker. Weighing 45 lbs., I needed the help of my husband to move the machine to the kitchen, which occupied a bit of counter space.

In order to get started with my robotic roti maker, the first thing I needed to do was download the app that goes with it. Now, the app doesn’t really control the machine, but talks to it. Mostly, it’s there for recipes, help and track how many rotis you made.

Select preferences on the Rotimatic to get started

The Rotimatic comes ready to go and you don’t even have to wash it before its first use.

The second step is to fill the three canisters with ingredients – water, oil and flour. Turn the machine on and use the screen to make your selections. You will need to select what type of flour you are using (they strongly recommend Aashirvaad Select Whole Wheat Atta from India), what you want to make (roti, puri, pizza/ flatbread), the thickness you prefer (from 5 levels), how much roast you like on it (4 levels), and the quantity you want.

The first time you turn on the machine, it takes about 7-8 minutes to warm up. After that, each roti is made one at a time. The Rotimatic will take the required amount of ingredients to produce one roti roughly about every 2.5 minutes. The roti comes out hot and ready to eat.

Rotimatic is not any noisier then a blender or food processor. It does get pretty hot in front of the oven area, but it won’t cause burning if you happen to be there.

Enjoying an Indian dinner with fresh rotis

The Taste Test

The first warning Rotimatic gives you to is “This is a learning machine. Your rotis will get better over time!” I guess like the face recognition software on the iPhone, the Rotimatic learns your preferences over time. Exactly how, this is not clear to me.

My first few rotis were actually quite good. They were perfectly round, consistently shaped and evenly cooked. I watched closely to see how the oven fluffed each roti like one would do at home. 

I tried a few different settings as well. My personal preference was thin and crispy, though even the thick ones were pretty good. I fried the thick ones in light oil to make it a paratha. I recommend wrapping the rotis in a cloth if you are not going to eat them right away.

You still need to fry the pooris in hot oil

What else can you do with it?

You can also make poori (a type of fried bread) with the Rotimatic setting designed for it. Small round thin discs are spit out, which you still need to deep fry in hot oil to cook your poori. They are hard to make manually because you need to roll out the dough very thin. I thought these were delicious and a must at my next Diwali party! They also come out much faster than the rotis, so you can get a bigger batch ready to go into the fryer.

Ragi roti served with kaya make for a delicious & healthy breakfast or snack

The app and website have a lot of recipes for desserts, sides and mains you can make using the Rotimatic, such as masala besan roti, chaat puri, puran poli, and more. You can also use masa harina flour for tortillas, amarnath flour for pasta, spelt flour for biscuits, and brown rice flour for rotis.

Rotimatic was first released in 2017, and since then the machine has improved. As the technology continue to evolve, more options will be released, such as making tortillas and wraps.

Switch out store bough bread for whole wheat roti for breakfast

Is it worth it?

My testimonial of the Rotimatic is that it makes practical sense for my family. Since we are only two people, we don’t want to labor to make only 4-5 pieces of roti for ourselves. On the Rotimatic, I can set how many rotis I want to eat at that time and it will make only that quantity.

Also, if different family members prefer different kinds of rotis (say I like a thin roti, my husband likes a poori), you don’t have to knead two different kinds of dough. The machine does it for you.

I often travel for work and my husband can use the Rotimatic on his own as well. When he returns from work, he turns on the machine, goes to freshen up, and when he returns, his dinner is ready!

My husband has dinner ready!

What about cleaning?

I once threw away my heavy-duty vegetable juicer only because cleaning all the different parts took more time and effort than it did to make the juice. With Rotimatic, I am happy to say the cleaning process is painless. The only thing you need to clean after each use is the kneading area. Wait for 30 minutes for the machine to cool down before opening the door, but make sure not to wait till the next day or the dough will solidify.

A handy brush comes with the equipment so you can simply dust off the flour.

The rest of the parts require cleaning at least every 2 weeks and it takes only 10 minutes.

Final Thoughts

The Upside

Rotimatic is super easy to use and directions are given for every step. Like a robot, it talks to you! My machine told me when flour was running low or there was an obstruction in the door.

It forces you to eat healthier. The main ingredient when using the Rotimatic is whole wheat flour, but you can also use other varieties such as gluten-free, almond flour, millet, etc. There are no preservatives or added sugars or salt used. Plus it is much cheaper the buying store bought rotis (in Atlanta, they cost $1-2 each). The machine also gives you a summary of how much time and calories you saved after each use!

I feel this is going to force me to experiment with other kinds of low-carb, high-fiber flours that I wasn’t comfortable with cooking before. This is especially useful for people with dietary restrictions, such as diabetes, celiac, or allergies towards certain grains.

Saving money, time and calories!

I like the fact that that the Rotimatic just doesn’t make rotis. You can also make homemade, healthy and delicious pasta, flatbread, tacos, wraps and more with it. Keep in mind, all will be the same size.

Did I mention it saves time? I turn on my Rotimatic when I start to make my main dish, like saag paneer, daal or chicken curry. By the time I am done cooking, my rotis are done too. Cooking rotis for only 1-2 people is more time consuming since it requires same amount of labor as if you were making a big batch. Using Rotimatic reduces your time in the kitchen. 

Actual size of Rotimatic

The Downside

At over $800, the Rotimatic is quite an investment for a kitchen gadget that can only make limited things. You have to think about how often you would use the product to justify the price.

Rotimatic occupies quite a bit of counter space and is not easy to move, so make sure you have a big enough kitchen where this machine can sit permanently.

Since the Rotimatic has only been out for 2 years, it’s long-term warranty and life is not yet know. As it is a high-tech machine, there are bound to be glitches. A few times, my screen alerted me that the dough was running low or the kneading rotator was stuck, but that wasn’t true. Couple of times the dough balls got left behind and didn’t make it to the second step.

Are you owner of a Rotimatic? What has been your experience with it? Please share with our readers in the comments section below.

Must have kitchen equipment for healthy eating

As I teach cooking classes across the US, often times students ask me about “must have” kitchen equipment. While you don’t need to have all the handy-dandy gadgets that have come about on the Home Shopping Network, there are a few things that do make life easier. And they don’t need to break the bank either, if you can find deals for kitchen accessories then you’ll be able to afford to buy more of this equipment than you may have first thought. Nonetheless, here are my recommendations specially if you are looking to cook and eat healthier food at home. Continue reading “Must have kitchen equipment for healthy eating”