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HIGH

T-Fal Actifry ($349.99) Various retailers; t-fal.ca



LOW

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Bamboo steamer ($9.95) Chinatown shops and T&T; tnt-supermarket.com

Currently all the rage in France, the Actifry's big claim to fame is its ability to make a kilogram of seriously good French fries using only a tablespoon of oil (the secret is in the patented mixing arm). Less well known is that it also stirs up a great risotto. Also encouraging healthy cooking: the infinitely useful bamboo steamer, possibly the world's first kitchen appliance. (It also makes an excellent pie transporter.)



HIGH

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998 ($238.95) LCBO; lcbo.com



LOW

Codorniu Brut Clasico ($10.90 on sale at the LCBO) LCBO; lcbo.com

A more perfect mom gift is hard to imagine. The marvellous Madame Clicquot, who the pricey wine honours, was one of the 19th century's great businesswomen, a pioneer in the art of Champagne production and a single mother. Toasty and complex at 11 years old, this classic beauty is ready to drink. And while it may not make her cry, mom will also appreciate this bright, zesty Codorniu cava from Spain. It makes a great Christmas morning bellini.

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HIGH

Le Creuset 4.3-litre French oven ($299) Various retailers; lecreuset.ca



LOW

IKEA Senior casserole with lid ($54.99) IKEA; ikea.com

The joy of unwrapping a new piece of Le Creuset never diminishes. Everyone wants one, and if they have some, they want more. Start with the 4.3-litre enameled cast-iron French oven, now available in chic black onyx. IKEA's Senior series of cookware pieces are somewhat heavier and bulkier, with a raw cast-iron interior, but they still look good and roast a mean chicken.

HIGH

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Ad Hoc at Home ($65) Indigo; chapters.indigo.ca



LOW

Kitchen Scraps ($29.95) Indigo; chapters.indigo.ca

Billed as superchef Thomas Keller's most accessible book yet, serious home cooks will find much to emulate in this handsome, insightful bit of gastroporn. Word of warning: "Accessible" in Mr. Keller's case still means recipes that involve making your own mozzarella. Too much? Canadian illustrator and chef-instructor Pierre Lamielle has a tendency toward kitschy recipe titles - "beans and gas," "totally-baked-out-of-their-minds potatoes," "religious hollandaise" - but he populates his first cookbook with whimsical illustrations and fun, manageable recipes.

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