Suggestions for cooks, eaters and indoor gardeners
As someone who loves to cook (and eat), I’m often asked for gift ideas. Whether you’re looking to treat someone for Father’s Day, attend a virtual wedding shower, thank a really helpful neighbour or even just reward yourself for having endured the last few strange months, I’ve rounded up a few suggestions. There’s an emphasis on the practical, because it’s just that kind of year.
Ninja Air Fryer
I’ve tried several air fryers in the past but didn’t love them as they didn’t have the capacity needed for family-sized meals. Thankfully, the Ninja Air Fryer has finally delivered the size I need, in an ultra-efficient unit that produces crispy, delicious food using up to 75% less fat than traditional frying methods. Two great features: an innovative fan that adjusts speed based on cooking function (dehydrate, reheat, roast or air fry) and a variable temperature control. It’s easy to clean and the ceramic-coated crisper plate is useful. From fish to chips to cauliflower ‘wings’ and more, I’m having a lot of fun coming up with new dishes, like these terrific crispy chili-lime chickpeas.
Available at Canadian Tire and The Real Canadian Superstore.
Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast
Like many people, I dove into sourdough in 2020, though mercifully early in the year so I had time to practice a little before regular bread-baking became imperative. For the past few months I have had fun reading and working my way through this award-winning, New York Times bestselling cookbook, penned by Ken Forkish who left behind a 20 year high tech career to become a successful baker. The book – subtitled The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza – is a great baking guide with terrific, easy to follow recipes and good explanations of the science behind dough. I like that it’s specifically designed for home cooks, giving the tips and tricks needed to turn out bakery-worthy bread consistently.
Available at Chapters stores or indigo.ca.
I’m really ready to lighten things up in the food and drink department. This new line of canned vodka soda beverages, made by Molson Canada, first caught my eye because of the simple, attractive artwork, but a quick label read revealed that they also have no sugar, no carbohydrates and just 100 calories per serving – all pluses in my book! Three flavours of Aquarelle spirit-based coolers have been released in Eastern Canada: lemon-lime, passionfruit and berry-pomegranate. Clear, sparkling and refreshing, they’re great for sipping but also very food-friendly.
Available at the LCBO and other licensed outlets across Canada.
Desktop LED grow light
For someone who hasn’t become an avid “backyard farmer” this spring but still wants to have an abundant supply of fresh herbs for cooking close at hand, this desktop grow light from Lee Valley Tools might be the perfect thing. A built-in timer ensures plants get a consistent 16 hour cycle of light each day; the lampshade can be lowered when seeds are planted then raised as they grow. Several pots can be nestled into the 8 inch (20 cm) diameter tray which will also catch any water overflow from the pots.
Available in Lee Valley stores or online at leevalley.com.
The Shark Rocket Pet Pro Cordless Stick Vacuum
This might seem like an odd ‘foodie gift’ but as occasional dog-sitters and very frequent cooks so an easy-to-use, lightweight stick vacuum gets a lot of exercise in our home. When testing the Shark Rocket, I kid you not, my husband said, “this thing actually makes vacuuming fun.” Good thing, since he makes at least 50% of the mess in our home and WAY more when he’s on cooking duty. (Why does he insist on chopping at the VERY edge of the counter? I’ll never figure that out.) With a removable, quick-charging battery, several accessories and an easy-to-empty canister with a HEPA filter, we’re using this almost exclusively now instead of our central vac system. I’m happy to keep on cooking and my husband is happy to keep on cleaning. Win-win!
Available at Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart.
Disclaimer: I was provided samples of several of these products for testing purposes but opinions, as always, are entirely my own.