Sunday, December 07, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas! & "Vegan Food Gifts" Giveaway!

I've never done holiday gift guide post before! The truth is, I don't really buy all that many Christmas presents. My whole family is pretty low-key about gifts. I usually give everyone a copy of my little homemade annual recipe cookbooklette, some homemade applesauce, and a few other homemade edible goodies.

And yet, I have a secret joy : I love looking at holiday gift guides. I just like reading about all the cool goodies and books and treats that exist, even if I never buy them. So, in light of that, I thought I'd present you with some of my favorite finds of the year, as well as a few stand-by favorites-- books, treats, and fun stuff. You can buy them for people on your list, or you can put them on your own wish list, or you can just read about them and then give everyone some applesauce and homemade cookies. ha ha! If you're a fellow homemade-gifts fan like me, be sure to make it to the end of the post - I've got a giveaway for a copy of Joni's amazing book "Vegan Food Gifts." Yeah!

Wax Orchards Chocolate Sauce 
Have you ever tried this stuff? I love it so much. It's entirely sweetened with fruit, it's thick and fudgey, and it's only 45 calories for a whole tablespoon. I first found this stuff many, many years ago when I lived in Seattle after graduating from college. Happily, it's vegan, and delicious. When I looked up the link, I saw that now that have peppermint and orange fudge sauces too. Those sound great, but I've never tried them! I love putting this stuff on my vanilla ice cream, or - more commonly - just eating a little dab of it when I want a chocolatey blast.

Freddy Guys Amazing Hazelnuts
These are the best hazelnuts ever, anywhere in the world. I first found them at the PSU farmers market in Portland, and fell in love. Then, I tried buying roasted hazelnuts other places - and even tried roasting my own. Nothing compares to these. Now, I order these online and always get enought to give my family and friends for holiday gifts. They're perfectly fat and plump and perfectly roasted and consistently great, one after the next. Pro tip: They are really good with chocolate chips.

Julie's Original Gluten Free Cake Mixes
I finally tried these mixes recently and was super impressed - I plan on giving a couple boxes of these as gifts to some of my gluten-free friends. I also plan on using my last box of the Fudge Brownie Mix to make brownies for my gluten-free yoga students!

Sweet & Sara Marshmallows 
Sara makes the most crazy delicious vegan marshmallows. They come in classic vanilla, many other great flavors, snowman shapes, reindeer shapes, smores, and my favorite: Toasted Coconut. She also has the sweetest Facebook feed, in which she shares the joys and toils of being a small business owner and her overflowing love for her darling parents, who work with her at the marshmallow factory. You can buy delicious treats, support an awesome family, and feel doubly good about your purchase!

Just Great Stuff 
I've noticed that most powdered peanut butter fans seem to prefer PB2, but I like this stuff. It has pretty much the same nutritional profile, but unlike PB2, Just Great Stuff Powdered Peanut Butter is organic and GMO-free. This especially matters to me with the chocolate variety, because organic chocolate has a much higher likelihood of being grown and processed without slave labor.

Jeanette Zeis Ceramics 
Oh man. Swoon!! Jeanette's work is SO beautiful. I've been coveting her work and hoping desperately to win one of her exclusive annual "Vegan MoFo" mugs for years. Last year I finally broke down and bought myself two small blue cereal bowls and two cheery yellow plates. The bowls have a little bird stamped on the other side, and the yellow plates say "vegan" and have a little heart-shape stamped into them. You've definitely seen these dishes make frequent appearances on my blog and on my Instagram account. I love them so much. Beautifully crafted, perfectly glazed, sunny and clearly made with love.

Mat and Natt Bag 
A while back, I was looking high and low for a new purse. I had so many picky things that I wanted in my "perfect bag." Then, along came the VidaVegan Con conference in 2013, and I spotted this turquoise Mat and Natt bag and it was love at first sight. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and my awesome mom bought it for me - right then and there! - for a birthday present. I've used this bag every day, rain or shine, around the world for about 18 months now and it is truly as good as new. No signs of wear, as pretty and lovely and functional as ever. Mat and Natt makes loads of bags, wallets, and accessories - all vegan (!), for men and women, all very stylish. They aren't cheap, but based on my experience, they're worth the investment.

VidaVeganCon 2015 ticket! 
While we're on the topic of VidaVeganCon, did you know that the next best-ever-vegan-extravaganza-little-conference-that-could is coming up in May of 2015 in Austin Texas??!! It's gonna be so super awesome. I'll even be there as a speaker (and as a fellow attendee). Put it on your wish list folks, the VVC is such a great time.

Elephant Sweatshirt from Herbivore
How about some fun goodies from Herbivore? You can buy some for your friends and family, and put some on your wishlist too! Over the years, I've got tees, sweatshirts, buttons, stickers, wallets, jewelry, cards, and cookbooks all from Herbivore. I have at least 4 different versions of the "Compassion is Invincible" t-shirt, and my recent favorite is the bright blue Elephant fleece sweatshirt. It's cozy and beautiful. You can probably find something awesome for most people on your list at Herbivore - and you'll be supporting a super awesome vegan-owned store too!

Jambu Esmerelda Boots
Truth be told, I am usually wearing flip-flops. Since I'm often on my way to or from teaching yoga, i like to be able to easily kick off my shoes. My second most common pair of shoes is probably my bike shoes. But sometimes, I wanna get out of my yoga clothes and feel like a legitimate member of society. These Jambu boots are so pretty and so comfy and I always feel swanky and awesome when I wear them. They give me a little swagger in my step! They're quite warm too - I think they're lightly lined inside - so they keep my feet stylish and cozy all at once.

Tom's Vegan Platform Wedges
Sometimes I even go all the way out and put away my yoga shorts and put on a skirt! Imagine that! People always seem a bit surprised to learn this, but I like wearing heels. It makes me feel tall and fancy. I've got 3-4 pairs of heels in my closet, but once I found these, they immediately became my favorite pair. Because they're platform wedges, you get the height without much pressure on your feet. They're really comfortable, totally vegan, and really pretty too. Plus, they're on sale on Zappo's right now!

Merrell Vegan Hiking Boots
I just bought these recently, when my old pair of non-vegan hiking boots finally bit the dust (after 15 years). These Merrell boots are vegan and comfy and pretty and my feet feel really secure in them. It's so great that there are so many vegan hiking boot options these days!

Awesome Vegan Cookbooks! 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook - by Angela Liddon
This book was the surprise hit of the year for Mr VE&T and me. I have made so many recipes from OSG that have become instant favorites in our household. I absolutely love the style of Angela's recipes - healthy (without being obsessive), fresh, textured, delicious (!), and easy. There are super healthy meals, indulgent treats, and everything in between. I am a total convert, and I've already bought this book for a few people this year.

Salad Samurai ~ by Terry Hope Romero
Terry's salad book was another of my top favorites this year! SO many delicious, creative, and memorable salads that have graced our table thanks to this book. The recipes are organized by season (love this!), and are truly special. Left to my own devices, I can make a killer green salad, but don't really know where to go from there. You might think a whole cookbook dedicated to salads seems silly, but this book is definitely worth owning because the recipes are exciting and not like salads you've had before.

Vegan Casseroles ~ by Julie Hasson
I've really been enjoying the recipes in this book a lot - especially in the fall and winter with more family gatherings, and more of an appetite for warm, oven-baked hearty dishes. I think this is a really great book to have in your collection for those times when you want to cook a delicious and hearty meal to feed a crowd (or to feed yourself for a few days!). Plus, giving cookbooks to people who might also one day cook for you is also a very clever tactic - because then they will know what to make for you. Mwahaha!

Oatrageous Oatmeals ~ by Kathy Hester
I actually won this book from a giveaway, and I love it! It's chock full of creative recipes for oatmeal breakfasts, drinks, savory entrees, and treats. I am quite amazed at how many compelling uses Kathy has found for oats - and I have so many recipes bookmarked already!

Maybe, even after looking at all those fun gift ideas, you still just want to bake cookies and give homemade treats to your loved ones. Homemade gifts are always so special! Last week, Joni over at Just The Food asked me if I'd like to do a giveaway of her awesome book "Vegan Food Gifts." Heck, yeah!

a few of the goodies I've made so far from "Vegan Food Gifts:"
1. Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies ~ 2. Candied Orange and Lime Peels ~ 3. Savory Bar Nuts

This book is stuffed full with ideas for homemade gifts: sweeties, savories, baked goods, cookie mixes in jars, alcoholic treats, infused olive oils, gift baskets, and more. The book even includes loads of tips on how to wrap your gifts, with directions on how to make all sorts of homemade boxes and gift bags. It's super fun. A few other things I've really enjoyed about this book: the recipes include measurements by volume and weight (I always appreciate that), each recipe is marked with symbols indicating how complicated it is and how expensive it will be to make, & each recipe includes suggestions for how to best wrap and present your gifts.

As soon as I got my copy, I dove right in and got busy. I'm in the holiday spirit, y'all! I made two batches of candied citrus peel - a double batch of orange peels and a batch of lime peels (all with fruit from our own trees!). These were fun and easy. I have in mind to give some of these as gifts and to use the rest of it in holiday baking.  Next I made a batch of the Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. I got 40 cookies out of it! I'm hosting a vegan Holiday Cookie Party this weekend, so these will be up for swapping this weekend. I also made a batch of the Bar Nuts. These are amazing! Unfortunately I slightly over-roasted them just a tiny bit, but I rescued them before anything actually became too roasted to be tasty. Next time I think I'll lower the temp &/or the time a little bit. But the flavors are amazing: various dried herbs and a touch of sweetener combine for super, super tasty nut nibbles. I put some in the fridge for Mr. VE&T, and hid the rest from him so I can give it as gifts. Yum!

So, thanks to Joni, I'm delighted to host a giveaway for a copy of this great book just in time for the holidays to one lucky person. And, best of all - since Joni is so rad, this giveaway is open to everyone in the whole world! Ho ho ho!

To enter, just leave a comment here, about your favorite gifts to give or the best homemade gift you've ever received - and I'll pick a winner Thursday Dec 11th. 


  1. My favorite gifts to give are books - fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, we can always find the perfect book for everyone on our list! I like giving homemade cookies, too, and I've been meaning to get Joni's book in order to expand my repertoire of edible gifts. I also enjoy giving time to my nephews and niece - a special day during which I take them (one or two at a time, so that I can give them extra special attention) on an adventure; truly, those days are so much fun, it ends up being a gift to myself as much as it is for them!

  2. What fun gift ideas!! Now I wish that we exchanged Christmas gifts! We have so many similar likes, and it's always the most fun to give someone something that you'd love to have yourself. On my Etsy wish list, I have a ton of pottery from Jeanette Zeis. I already own several pieces from her, but I would love to have a whole kitchen full of her beautiful pottery! And that Herbivore elephant sweatshirt in aqua is my favorite of the moment. It's so cozy and the color is beautiful. I don't own Oatrageous Oatmeals, but the other three are big favorites from the year in my home too.

    Don't enter me in the contest, because I already have a cop of Vegan Food Gifts heading my way from Joni too. (So excited! It's been on my wish list for a long while!)

  3. Anonymous10:36 AM

    A jar of canned apricots from my favorite auntie!

  4. Anonymous10:43 AM

    My favourite gift to give is taking my Grandma out on the town. She chooses the restaurant (last year it was Ethiopian), and I wine and dine her. We both love it!

  5. My favorite gift I'm giving this year is necklaces to friends with their parents signatures on them - this is especially important to me this year because I lost my dad

    1. Aimee B.9:42 AM

      What a beautiful and thoughtful gift. Where can those necklaces be found? They will be treasured for sure!
      I'm truly sorry about your dad. (((hugs)))

  6. My family isn't big on homemade gifts but my mom makes a KILLER vegetarian meatloaf for the holidays every year, YUM!

  7. In the summer my son and I pick organic strawberries in Watsonville or up near Davenport and then I come home and make strawberry jam. I like this gift because not many people I know make homemade jam. I'd love to give you a jar, Amey.

  8. A few years ago my family decided to stop buying presents (except for the kids). My favourite present to give or receive has always been books. But now the home made presents are sneaking in - usually food related :)

  9. This year my favorite gift to give will be one of my nephew's Hanukkah gifts. He loves my two guinea pigs and has become a huge Star Wars fan. I found a really cute art print of a Jedi guinea pig and I think he'll love it. =)

  10. When my children were young we would let them each pick out something from the Sears Toy Catalog (totaling $25 30-35 years ago) and they had so much fun making their choices. The other nights of Hanukkah they each received a small gift that we had picked out for them which was a surprise. They spent hours deciding what they wanted which was very fun for them.

  11. This is sooo cool. I just have this one from the library and really dont wanna give it back, except for that its german and my own english copy would top it off!
    Well that's that.
    For gift's I like to give away cookies, and homemade ornaments, jewelry and what else interests my crafty hands that year. This year I mada a batch from the mac and cheese mix from said book to put into a "adventskalender". so there are a couple of jars still waiting to be shared...
    also my favorite self made gift was, when a good friend knitted me a pair of socks. rad!

  12. I'm thinking of making granola to give this year. Thanks for the recipe! Any food gift I receive is appreciated!

  13. The best gift I received a few years ago. My sister and her boyfriend had been in Paris and bought me two beautiful photographs of Audrey Hepburn (I'm a big fan). They framed the portraits so I could hang them in my room. They will be there for a good many years to come!

  14. My husband and I love to buy dog food and related gifts for dogs and drop them off at animal shelters during the holiday season. I also make crochet blankets for dogs and include them. This gives us the most satisfaction during the holidays as we need so little and they need so much.

  15. Anonymous3:11 AM

    Awesome giveaway, especially for this time of year! Excited for the chance to win.

  16. I love home-made granola as a Christmas gift. I am planning on making it this year.

  17. Anonymous5:25 AM

    My favorite home made gifts always come from my siblings - a hand bound journals, shirts my brother drew wolves on with sharpies, acrylic wolf paintings and a -few- portraits of my canine roommate. So much time and effort in the execution of these gifts that brought them creative joy in making. It's a win-win.
    Don't put me in the contest - I already have Joni's book, it's awesome!

  18. I like to give vegan cookbooks and since I usually give ones that I also own myself I'll give a little preview by/ baking something from the book. The 'Oh She Glows' is definitely a favorite of mine-I'm making a batch of her 10-spice vegetable soup w/ cashew cream today-yum!

  19. I'm a knitter, so I'm always knitting gifts for everyone!

  20. Every year I make big cookie tins for friends and family. It really brings me joy to bake all December long and share with the ones I love! I've been baking for the past two weekends (and freezing) and have one more weekend ahead of me. I will pack up the tins the weekend before xmas for friends and the rest will be delivered to neighbors and family on xmas eve!

  21. I love giving homemade treats with a jar of my summer bounty fruit spread.

  22. Aimee B.9:46 AM

    Our family of 4 started making Christmas ornaments for each other back in 2008. It's our very favorite tradition. They are the best gifts ever because they are always made with love.

  23. I have an older sister who taught herself to knit when she was nine. Growing up, Christmas gifts from her were always customized hand-knit items (she would ask us well in advance what we wanted). Although she's too busy with her career these days to do something like that, I still use what awesome scarves/hats/mittens she did give me to this day!

  24. Anonymous11:30 AM

    I love to give cookies and handmade ornaments and more cookies. I joke sometimes that food is my tertiary love language.

  25. This year I want to give soup mixes to my family. I would love to have this book to give me inspiration for recipes.

  26. Nice ideas! And I am ordering those hazelnuts right now!

    The book suggestions reminded me... Have you seen "But I Could Never Go Vegan"? I thought it was going to be a very basic cookbook, but was surprised looking at it by the complexity and unique recipes. As I was looking through it at the bookstore, I thought: these are just the kind of challenging recipes that Amey would take on :-)

  27. I have a friend who knits and sews the best scarves. My most-worn scarf is one she made for me 10 years ago! She just recently gave me a beautifully sewn infinity scarf, and it is the only one that can displace the one from 10 years ago! I usually make holiday treats for my family, and it is different every year. One of my favorites was the year I made pistachio brittle and dipped pretzel rods. Yum! This book looks like it has wonderful ideas!

  28. I received roasted pumpkin seeds from my sister a few years back. It took me back to when I was little carving pumpkins, saving the seeds and then roasting them the next day. They were delicious and definitely made with love.

  29. Jennifer4:33 PM

    Every year in elementary school my niece has turned her artwork into magnets for the fridge and I love them. It's fun to see her creativity increase with her years. Sadly this year's magnet will be the last one as she enters middle school next year.

    I'm dying to order that fudge but I think it could be regretted many spoonfuls later! Thanks for the awesome gift guide and the giveaway!

  30. I love giving people food, though I never have anything cute to present it in. Hmph.
    I don't know that I have gotten many homemade gifts of late, though if someone gave me some homemade cookies I would be over the moon!
    Great gift guide!

  31. I love making wreaths, stained glass suncatchers, and banana bread for gifts.

  32. Chantal3:30 PM

    Hi! First, a quick question: I have been seeing the powdered peanut butter more and more, but I can't figure out how people use it. What do you do with yours?

    My favorite homemade gift: the mother of a friend often sends me canned goods (pickled beets and jardiniera) and I just love them!

  33. Anonymous3:28 AM

    I'm not sure if my last comment worked, so I'll try again. This year I am making a bunch of things...infused vodkas and oils, chocolate bark, cookies, little plants in tea cups and more (if I don't run out of time AHHHH!). I love any homemade gifts. My boyfriend made me a cake earlier this year, but instead of using icing he melted a couple of blocks of chocolate over the cake. It was so cute, but we had to use a bread knife to saw through the chocolate it was that thick!

  34. One year my brother gave me a memory stick loaded with some of his favourite music. I was really touched but also, that stick introduced me to some wonderful artists.

  35. I tried to comment here a few days ago but my comments not here so it obviously didn't work - hope I'm not too late for this!

    My good friend makes homemade gifts every year. In 2013 I received a personalized calender from her, with different photos of us together for each month. Last Christmas, she gifted me a hand embroidered book mark with the 'doge' meme on it. It's always so thoughtful and has really inspired me to start making and giving homemade gifts.

    Happy holidays from Perth, Western Australia, by the way :)

  36. Anonymous9:57 PM

    One of the yummiest homemade gifts I've received is cashew brittle made by my brother-in-law. Another homemade food gift that comes to mind was a pecan-cranberry pie from a good friend.


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  38. Haha, I've received both a Matt & Nat bag and a ticket to VVC for holiday gifts! I'm hoping for a copy of Vegan Casseroles, too. This was a great list you put together!


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