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Last Minute Foodie Gift Ideas

by | Dec 14, 2009
Photo by danesparza

Photo by danesparza

Sometimes the stars just do not align for getting your holiday shopping done early. I know I haven’t started mine yet. But there are still plenty of easy-to-find, yet super valuable gifts out there for your favorite foodies.

Personally I try to avoid giving gifts that require guessing someone else’s taste or style. Instead I rely on things that are either super useful, completely novel or just ridiculously cool.

At this stage of the game your best bets are things you can order online and have delivered in the next week, gift subscriptions, or books that you can find just about everywhere.

Here are some of the coolest tricks I have up my sleeve for 2009.

Last Minute Gift Ideas That Aren’t Lame

1. Artisan foods from FoodzieFoodzie_Facebook_Logo

Decadent food is one of the easiest ways to make someone happy. But Summer Tomato readers know that I do not take my indulgences lightly. If I’m going to eat something that isn’t healthy, I want it to be beyond awesome–the healthy food I eat is just too delicious to bother with anything less.

That’s why Foodzie is so cool. If you don’t live in San Francisco, New York or LA, finding high-end artisanal foods can be a challenge. But now thanks to Foodzie, anyone can have Bacon Jam or Single Malt Scotch Bars delivered to your doorstep. Just be sure to order in the next day or 2 or your orders won’t make it before Christmas without extra shipping costs.

2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0143038583&fc1[/amazon-product]

As you might imagine, I’ve read A LOT about nutrition and have tried almost every diet myself. One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in this research is that while the content of your diet is certainly important, how you think about and approach food is one of the most influential factors in your long-term health and happiness.

By far the best book I’ve read on food philosophy is Michael Pollan’s landmark work The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This book is remarkably well-written, meticulously researched and an overall pleasure to read. It is also the perfect gift for the curious yet unconvinced soon-to-be healthy eater.

If you are still looking for more, check out his practical guide for following these principles, In Defense of Food.

3. How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0764578650&fc1[/amazon-product]

For someone who has decided to start cooking but doesn’t know where to begin, this book has everything you need to know. Mark Bittman is the brilliant author of the New York Times food column, The Minimalist, that includes fantastic 2-3 minute cooking videos also available as a podcast.

Bittman demystifies the kitchen by explaining basic cooking concepts and fundamentals in this classic cookbook. There is even a vegetarian version for those who aren’t interested in the perfect roasted chicken.

4. Splendid Soups, by James Peterson[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0471391360&fc1[/amazon-product]

The only other cookbook I consider indispensable is Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. Soup is pretty close to perfect food, especially during these cold, stormy winter months. Soup is also perfect for dinner parties and potlucks, since it stays warm all night and doesn’t require a set “dinner time.”

I recently re-ordered this cookbook for myself (my last copy actually belonged to a former housemate) even though I have most of my favorite recipes memorized. I’ve benefited so tremendously from this book, I just feel better if it is always in my kitchen.

5. Cuisinart Hand Blender[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B0006G3JRO&fc[/amazon-product]

This makes a great bundle gift with Splendid Soups, since a purée is often the last step in soup-making magic. Though it is possible to make a wonderful soup in a regular blender or food processor, it is exponentially easier if you have an immersion hand blender. You can also use an immersion blender for smoothies and other blended foods, like hummus.

The Cuisinart hand blender is especially awesome because it comes with attachments that transform it into either an electric beater or a mini chopping food processor as well.

For $50 this is some of the best value you can get out of a kitchen gadget.

6. Fagor Pressure cooker[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B00023D9RG&fc1[/amazon-product]

My pressure cooker is the one special piece of cooking equipment that I cannot live without. The reason is that the first time I tasted beans made from scratch I knew I could never go back to canned. But beans are such an essential part of my healthstyle that the 1-4 hr cook time is a bit too inconvenient to be practical for real life.

Enter the pressure cooker. A pressure cooker cuts bean cooking time down to under half hour. It’s also great for grains and a ton of other foods. Fagor is the only brand I recommend bothering with. You don’t want to mess around with high-pressure cooking unless you are sure about your gear.

7. Audible membership

I rave about Audible every chance I get. If you’ve never heard of it, think Netflix but for audiobooks. While a monthly audiobook subscription isn’t for everyone, for those of us with commutes or jobs with extensive manual/technical (aka mindless) work, Audible is a godsend.

Though audio is still not my favorite way to “read,” it is perfect for those books in which I only have a passing curiosity. If I find a book I love (which happens often), I will buy a hard copy as well. Sometimes I listen to a book more than once. Rarely am I disinclined to finish one.

Audible is a great way to finally read all those food and health books you’ve been meaning to get to.

Have I mentioned I love Audible?

8. Zagat subscriptionzagat_twitter_bigger

Yelp is great if you want to find the best tailor near your house or need a place to get your pets groomed, but I never use Yelp for restaurant recommendations. There are very few people I trust in food taste, and in my experience Yelp reviews reflect the typical American appetite for cheap, big and cheesy. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

When I’m curious about the best Korean food in SF or if I’m traveling to a city I’m not familiar with Zagat is where I turn. I never hesitate to renew my subscription and recommend it to anyone looking for reviews by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

9. Bialetti stovetop espresso maker[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B0001WYDP0&fc1[/amazon-product]

I’m something of a coffee purist, and of all the home brew methods I’ve tried (most of them) the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker is my favorite. It’s relatively inexpensive and has the added charm of being a little old-school.

This is how everyone makes coffee at home in Italy.

10. CSA membership

Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you are provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season.

Buying someone a subscription to a CSA is a great way to encourage healthy eating and support local farmers. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences.

There are also meat and dairy CSAs, which you will become more interested in after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Visit Local Harvest to find CSAs in your area.

Good luck with your shopping and happy holidays!

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Holiday Gift Ideas For the Health Conscious

by | Dec 8, 2008

Know anyone who is trying build healthy habits? Want to give yourself a leg up on your New Year’s resolution? Here are some simple gift ideas for anyone wanting to embrace a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, by Walter Willett. This is my favorite nutrition book. Dr. Willett, a physician and Harvard nutrition scientist, presents a comprehensive guide explaining the basics of nutrition science and why few things are as important as what you choose to eat. His recommendations are based on solid science, but everything is explained in clear, simple language and is easy for anyone to understand. This book will change the way you think about food and nutrition.
  2. Subscription to Cooks Illustrated magazine. It is almost impossible to have a healthy diet if you are eating out for most of your meals. Cooking at home can be a pleasure, but to many people it is a source of fear and anxiety. Cooks Illustrated is a resource that demystifies cooking and makes it virtually idiot proof. Their staff tests recipes over and over in “America’s Test Kitchen” so you don’t have to. The result is the easiest, most reliable method for making almost any meal.A bonus of subscribing is that they also offer product and appliance reviews. I often find myself browsing their website with my online subscription, but they also have a beautiful print magazine if you prefer to peruse recipes on the go. Because of Cooks Illustrated I feel like I can cook just about anything I set my mind to, even things I have never tasted before. I couldn’t live without my Cooks!
  3. Braun Hand Blender. This is the magic kitchen appliance. If you or someone you know is not the type to buy every single piece of fancy kitchen equipment, this is the perfect item. Its many attachments make it so you have a blender, food processor and mixer all in the palm of your hand. Everything you need rolled into one tiny device!
  4. CSA membership. Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you will be provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences. For the truly dedicated, there are also meat and dairy CSAs.
  5. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. Michael Pollan is a journalist and UC Berkeley professor who has spent the past several years figuring out the best way to eat in the Western world. This book distills everything he found, and his advice is surprisingly simple: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. In Defense of Food is a quick, easy read that is both entertaining and filled with valuable information.
  6. Wii Fit. I’m not sure if a video game can really be exercise, but it sure beats sitting on your butt watching T.V. I cannot deny that on cold evenings when I have worked too long at home to squeeze in a workout I have resorted to my Wii to get the blood pumping. Wiis are not easy to acquire (I have had success with Wii Alerts), but if you can get your hands on one they are easily worth the money.
  7. Pressure cooker. You probably do not eat enough legumes. People have weird ideas about beans and assume they are accompanied by foul smells, but home-cooked beans are an entirely different species. A pressure cooker can make it so you have a week’s supply of your favorite beans in under half an hour. What’s not to love?
  8. Full body massage. The latest research suggests that stress may be as bad for you as red meat. Luckily getting rid of stress can be one of the best experiences of your life. Everyone loves a trip to the day spa. A full body massage is the perfect gift for that person who has everything.
  9. Lunch box. Eating out for lunch every single day is not an option if you want to be healthy. But that does not mean you have to be a nerd. REI makes a great, affordable lunch cooler that is both stylish and functional. Want more of a selection? Browse the offerings at Amazon.com through the link on the sidebar.
  10. Email subscription to Summer Tomato. It’s free and comes with a 25-page healthy eating guide! Get to know what fruits and vegetables are in season, learn about the latest nutrition research and discover simple and delicious recipes for health straight from my brain to yours. This is the ultimate gift for the ultimate connoisseur! (OK, I admit this is kind of a cheap gift. I recommend it, but you should probably get one of those real gifts I mentioned too 😉

Good luck shopping and happy holidays!

Check out my 2009 healthy gift ideas

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