Holiday Gifts and Eats, 2011
December 23, 2011

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For many of us, the last few years have been lean years in terms of material wealth. This means that the holidays are an excellent time to remind ourselves that the best and most meaningful gifts don’t have the highest price tags: they’re the gifts that embody love and consideration. To me, the best gift is one that indicates to me that the person giving knows me well enough to know what would make me smile.

I like to think that I keep this in mind when I give gifts to family and friends: they’re not always fancy, and they’re often not even store bought, but they are full of love, and I always try to fit my gifts to the tastes and fancies of the people I’m giving to.

This year, I made more edible gifts than I ever have before. It was a little more work than usual, given my final exam schedule, but absolutely worth it. I was really happy with how my holiday treats turned out, and I’ll definitely be repeating them. Here, for the 2011 giving season, is a roundup of my favorites—most of which you saw here when I first posted them—as well as my picks for holiday dining this year (don’t worry: there will be more of those in the next two days).

Raw, Vegan Macaroons


Low Fat, Raw, and Vegan Apple Cinnamon Raisin Granola


Sweet n’ Spicy Candied Nuts


Sour Cream and Cherry Muffins


Cocoa Crunch Buckwheat Granola


Vegan Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies


And, if you’re looking for some fantastic holiday dishes to prepare tomorrow, on Sunday, and throughout the week, you can try:

Creamy Fusilli with Beets, Kale, and Toasted Pine Nuts


Raw, Vegan Pumpkin Pie


Sunflower Seed and Cashew Cheese with Cranberries


Gluten Free, Vegan Stuffing with Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash


Curried Cauliflower with Fresh Cranberries

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Vegan Colcannon



Looking back, I think that Christmas was truly the holiday that taught me to be conscious of my own good fortune. I was so grateful for my cozy holiday dinners, my gifts, my friends, and my family, and it occurred to me that so many people around the world were spending their own Christmases without shelter, warmth, food, or company.

This Christmas, as we all get ready to dig into presents and feed ourselves like kings and queens, let’s all try to remember not only the many other human beings who are less fortunate than we are, but also the hundreds of thousands of animals who are suffering this holiday season—all too often, suffering for us. Let’s remember that they, too, are without warmth, shelter, or rest; let’s remember that they’re often sick, scared, and lonely. Before you check off all of your Christmas gifts, please consider donating to your favorite animal-oriented charity or non-profit, or, if you’d like to link your own life to that of an animal in need, please consider sponsoring an animal at a local farm sanctuary.


My life is so much richer because of Hamlet, the ornery pig I sponsor at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary near DC. And the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York is the place I learned how to connect intimately and compassionately with animals. There’s really no greater gift you can give yourself and an animal than the gift of a newly forged relationship.

For a list of farm sanctuaries near you, check this link out.

And an early, tasty, happy Christmas to you, readers Smile See you tomorrow!


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  1. I think I let some of the fun come out of food this year – for a couple of months, focusing on finding healthy, viable gluten-free options took all of my food-related brain power! I think Christmas really helped me to remember how much I love food, baking, and cooking – I did a lot of food-related gifts too – I think giving helped me to remember the good about food again!

  2. What a happy looking pig. Many animals suffered at the hands of my family’s Christmas meal and I’m so glad I wasn’t a part of it. And I made your raw vegan pumpkin pie, it was a hit! Activism at its finest 🙂

  3. Hi! I have been reading your blog for about a month now (and loving it!) and I am ready to purchase a dehydrator (probably off Amazon because I got a gift card for Christmas!!) I’m wondering – do you have some kind of dehydrator 101 post? or know of one? I don’t really know what to look for in a dehydrator. I know I wouldn’t use it super often or make very large batches of anything. I just want to be able to make crackers, raw onion bread, dehydrate buckwheat like many of your recipes use, kale chips, and whatever lovely things you inspire me to try. I also don’t know about the sheets you put stuff on. Are they reusable? Do you buy them separately?

    Sorry this is a little off topic, or maybe not with those wonderful looking dehydrated macaroons up there… 🙂

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas Gena! Thanks so much for your blog.

  4. Edible gifts and animal sponsorships are two of the best present ideas ever. And these recipes look so yummy.

    Have a wonderful Christmas, Gena!!

  5. Thank you, Gena! I needed a fun, easily transportable gift for a few people this Christmas, and your spiced nuts were perfect (and delicious….I had a terrible time leaving any on the tray to package up!)

  6. LOVE the macaroon and candied nut idea so so much. I think anyone would be more than happy to get some of those! Also love your reminder to give. Tis the season, let us all spread the love.

  7. This was really a sweet post to read, Gena. With the cold weather fast upon us, I am always reminded how lucky I am to be able to live in a warm house. With materialism rampant everywhere, it’s refreshing to see you write about bigger and more important things.

  8. Love this post! Your culinary creations are gorgeous and anyone would be lucky to receive them! And your devotion to animals — and raising awareness about them — is a huge gift, too. I made a point to give to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary this month because every dollar they receive in December will be matched! Nothing better than that!

  9. Gena this is a fabulous post and sentiment all-around. We skipped gifts, entirely, this year. The people in our life and us decided to scale wayyyy back and just skip gifts this year…from family, extended family, and friends…we all made a no-gift pact this year and it’s been wonderful.

    I did do some homemade baked gifts for a few of Skylar’s teachers and a few others but really pretty much next to nothing. As you said, it’s hard times financially for many folks and rather than sending them into even more debt or deciding between buying a gift and buying some food for their family, obviously the gifts need to be skipped. And it’s cut everyone’s stress levels way down.

    But you have made me want to start cooking (again) with all your ideas!

    • Gena, I thought this was a great post, and then I read Averie’s comment and it made it even more meaningful. I actually have always felt relieved that my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas because the gift buying seems so out of control. Averie, what you and your family decided to do is commendable.