Monday, December 29, 2014

Vegan Appetizers And Bubbly
A Stress-Free New Year's Menu

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Make it Simple
We've made it past the holidays and have had our share of eating and cooking big meals so it's absolutely fine if you want to celebrate New Year's Eve with a few appetizers and a bottle of bubbly. The following are some of my most popular appetizer posts that you may want to consider.

But First the Bubbly
A lot of people spend big bucks on their New Year's champagne, but our absolute favorite is Roederer Estate Brut - Estate bottled sparkling wine, Anderson Valley. And it's less than $25 a bottle and you can sometimes find it for less than $20. Since Roederer Estate was founded by one of the most famous Champagne houses in France, Louis Roederer, it should be no surprise that it is in the style of French Champagne and just as delicious. Except for the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco (I have no particular favorite brands), Roederer Brut is the only bubbly we drink.

My Favorite Appetizers 

What's a party without a simple Antipasto? Most of these ingredients can be found in a olive bar or in jars at your local market. It's a great alternative to crudités. Or if you prefer, prepare an Antipasto Salad.

Serve an Antipasto with a sliced baguette or GF crackers

Antipasto salad
Vegan, dairy free, and gluten free

Dips are always popular and you can usually make them earlier in the day or the day before (unless it's guacamole or something that would oxidize.) Here are some of my favorites:

Romesco with Almonds, Peppers and Tomatoes
This yummy vegan Catalan Romesco sauce makes a tasty dip and if made with gluten-free bread, can be suitable for your gluten-free guests. 

Romesco sauce
Vegan, dairy free. Gluten free if made with GF bread.

Kalamata Olive Tapenade
This Sweet and Spicy Kalamata Olive and Artichoke Tapenade with Hazelnuts is a crowd pleaser. You can make it earlier in the day or even the day before. 

Kalamata olive tapenade
Vegan, dairy free and gluten free

Raw Red Pepper Dip
Enjoy this healthy, raw Garlicky Red Pepper Dip with Basil and Cashew Cream and enjoy all the cancer-fighting benefits of cruciferous veggies. This can also be made ahead of time.

Raw vegan and gluten free Red Pepper Dip.

Finger Foods
Appetizers that don't require a knife and fork always make entertaining easier. Here are a few of my favorites:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Although most recipes stuff mushrooms with sausage and cheese, this Raw Vegan and Gluten-Free Walnut and Spinach Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms are a lot lighter and healthier. Pesto can turn a little brown so don't fill the mushrooms more than several hours before your party. 

Pesto stuffed mushrooms

Since we grow wine grapes we usually make these with fresh leaves but you can use the ones in the can to make these yummy Dolmades. Or make a raw vegan version that uses raw chard leaves and sprouted garbanzos. Both recipes are vegan, dairy free and gluten free. Domades make great appetizers so even if you don't want to go to the trouble of making them, buy them in a local deli.

Dolmades are a popular appetizer

Miso and Ginger-Glazed Eggplant would make a wonderful appetizer for your New Year's Eve party. Prepare them up to the step where you cover them with the glaze. Then cook them under the broiler for the last 5 minutes before you serve them.

Prepare up to this point earlier in the day.
Miso and ginger-glazed eggplant is vegan,
dairy free and gluten free.

Raw Crackers
These will take a day and a half so you'll have to start them right away, but these Raw Vegan and Gluten-Free Zucchini Onion Crackers are delicious and will make a nice accompaniment to your dips. Of course there are lots of vegan and gluten-free crackers and chips available in your local market so you can just purchase an assortment of them to make life even easier.

Zucchini onion crackers

I hope I've given you some ideas for a simple and stress-free New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Butternut Squash Risotto With Meyer Lemon Gremolata -- Vegan And Gluten Free
On Stove Or In Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

Creamy butternut squash risotto is the perfect Christmas
dish for your vegan and gluten-free guests.

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Christmas Menu
I love to serve risotto for the holidays but it is a difficult dish to make when there are a number of things on the menu and you don't feel like stirring for 30 minutes with company sitting at the table. But this year I have my new Instant Pot Pressure Cooker and making risotto is a snap. Once the butternut squash is roasted, scooped from the skin, and mashed (you can do that earlier in the day), just stir it into the cooked risotto which only takes minutes in this pot and requires no stirring! But even if you make risotto the traditional way, this dish is worth the effort. The roasted squash adds a beautiful buttery texture to the risotto and the Meyer lemon gremolata is the perfect topping when you want flavor without a dairy parmesan. 

Make no-stir risotto in the Instant PotIP-DU060 in 5 minute (plus the time it takes to bring to pot up to pressure)!

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Butternut Squash Risotto
Vegan, Gluten Free
(makes 6 servings)

For the risotto
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus some for squash
1 pound of butternut squash
1 or 2 tablespoon Earth Balance or ghee (not vegan), divided*
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 cups veggie broth**
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

* Ghee is clarified butter and if it is very pure, does not contain casein or lactose
You will use 1 tablespoon for the pressure cooker method and 2 for the stovetop
** 4 cups for Instant Pot pressure cooker and 6 cups stovetop

For the gremolata
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Zest of half a Meyer lemon
1 clove garlic

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut a butternut squash in half, removing the seeds. Use one pound of it (I had a 2 pound squash and used one half of it). Rub the cut side with olive oil and place, cut side down, on a non-stick roasting pan or a pan lined with a Silpat mat.
Roast until a fork easily pierces through the skin, about 30 to 45 minutes. When cooked, remove the squash from the oven. Let cool a bit and, with a spoon, scoop out the squash. Place in a bowl, mash, cover to keep warm and set aside. 

Roasted butternut squash on a Silpat silicon mat.

Make the gremolata while the squash is roasting. Place the chopped parsley in a small bowl. Grate the garlic clove over the parsley and then grate the Meyer lemon peel. I like to use my Microplane Zester/Grater to do this. Mix together until combined and set aside. 

Parsley, lemon zest and grated garlic combine to make gremolata.

Risotto using the Instant Pot
Using the sauté function on the instant pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the Earth Balance (or ghee). Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. 

Add the rice and stir until coated. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Stir in 4 cups of the broth, salt and pepper. 

Hit the off button. Secure the lid and set the manual button to cook under high pressure for 5 minutes. Then, do a quick release.

Carefully remove the lid, tilting it so that the steam comes out the back. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of Earth Balance (or ghee) and the warm, mashed butternut squash. Stir until well combined.

Add warm butternut squash to the cooked risotto
Butternut squash incorporated into the risotto

If it's not warm enough, briefly turn on the sauté function and heat it up, while stirring.

Adjust seasonings and serve immediately in wide, shallow bowls topped with Meyer lemon gremolata.

Per serving: 342 calories, 4.4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 35 mg omega-3 and 308 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 64 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 215 mg sodium.

Risotto on the stovetop
Heat 6 cups of broth in a small pot and keep warm on low heat.

Place a 12-inch saute pan with at least 3-inch sides over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance (or ghee). Stir in the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir continually until the grains are opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add the hot broth to the rice 1 cup at a time, stirring continually, until each cup is almost absorbed. This takes about 20 to 25 minutes and will use up most or all of the 6 cups of broth.

When the rice is just tender, stir in the remaining tablespoon of the Earth Balance (or ghee) and the mashed butternut squash.

Adjust seasonings and serve immediately in wide shallow bowls topped with Meyer lemon gremolata.

Per serving: 365 calories, 3,6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 35 mg omega-3 and 308 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 64 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 232 mg sodium.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keep Fido Out Of The Brownies
Marijuana Can Kill Your Dog

Our husky-lab Budha as a puppy.

Toking Up for the Holidays?
As marijuana is legalized in certain states for recreational and medical use, I would venture to guess that some of you will be toking up for the holidays or adding that special ingredient to your favorite holiday baked goods (perhaps there's some hope for that dreaded fruit cake after all.) Of course common sense would tell you to keep all alluring edibles away from the children, but what you may not know is that marijuana is very toxic to dogs. It's also dangerous for cats but most cats are finicky and wouldn't eat it, although they could inhale it.

I opened this morning's Press Democrat (our local newspaper here in Sonoma county) to find my friend Diane Szczepanski on the front page with her dog Rae who became terribly ill after ingesting marijuana at the fairgrounds. Unfortunately there were two events this weekend there. The canine agility competition (which is what Diane and her dog were participating in) and the Emerald Cup, the world's only outdoor cannabis competition. After her "potty walk" around the fairgrounds, the dog appeared a bit out of it. After getting home, Rae fell deathly ill. In the emergency room, they diagnosed the problem as marijuana toxicity.

Diane Szczepanski with her border collie Rae
from the Press Democrat article.

Signs of Marijuana Poisoning in Pets
Symptoms of marijuana poisoning are:
* glassy-eyes
* stumbling and incoordination
* dilated pupils
* vomiting
* urinary incontinence
* lowered body temperature and heart rate
* coma or seizures

Treatment and Recovery
Charcoal is often administered to absorb the toxins and IV fluids are administered. Ventilator support and hospitalization are required when critical. It can take pets 18 to 36 hours to recover. If severe cases are not properly treated, your pet could die.

Add Marijuana to the List
Three years ago I wrote an article on Foods to Avoid Feeding your Dog. Since those foods include chocolate, macadamia nuts, and raisins, any of these foods in marijuana edibles would certainly add to the toxicity if ingested by your pets. Pets can also be sickened by inhalation of the smoke. 

So if marijuana is on the menu this holiday, keep it far away from the kids AND the pets!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Chia Hachiya Vegan Eggnog
2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck
Ripen A Hichiya Persimmon Overnight!

No eggs, no dairy - just creamy eggnog goodness!

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download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen
on Amazon and iTunes.

Welcome to the 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck!
Bloggers from all over the world are participating once again to bring you delicious vegan recipes - from appetizers to desserts. You will be able to click to through to their recipes later on but first, let me share my mine.

Hachiya Persimmons
This recipe starts with a funny story - well, maybe not-so-funny story. 

Four years ago I planted what I thought was a fuyu persimmon tree. It hasn't done very well. In fact I haven't gotten a single persimmon on it - until this year. I got ONE. Yes, after four long years I got one stinkin' persimmon. I didn't even notice it until every leaf fell off the tree and then, there it was. A big hachiya persimmon. I waited all this time only to discover that the nursery sold me the wrong persimmon tree!

My entire harvest!

Ripen a Hachiya Overnight!
The reason I didn't like hachiya persimmons that much was because they took so long to ripen and lose their astringency. But I recently discovered that they can easily ripen overnight if you put them in the freezer! Who knew? 

Freeze overnight or longer and defrost.
If you have the time, let them sit out an extra day
after defrosting to ripen even more.
Slice and scoop out ripened fruit. 

Friends with Persimmon Trees are the Best Kind
My friends Bill and Lauren have been supplying me with fuyu persimmons while I've been patiently waiting for my tree to produce. My friends Ray and Rory have lots of hachiyas that I have never been that interested in because I didn't know the freezer trick. But now I'm thrilled about getting hachiyas from them and they have generously given me several boxes of them. His tree gets almost 1,000 persimmons on a good year!

Thanks Ray and Rory!

The Best Recipes are Accidents
Now that I am mother to many hachiyas, I've been wondering what to do with them. One day I made a smoothie with almond milk, cinnamon, chia seeds, and a juicy persimmon and my husband said, "this tastes like eggnog!" It sure did. To be certain, I threw a shot of bourbon in it, sprinkled it with nutmeg and it was wonderful. I was so excited because I LOVE EGGNOG but can't have dairy. And, I HATE CALORIES. Even the vegan eggnogs in the store are crazy high in calories.

So I have been playing around with this recipe all week and I think I've finally perfected it. 

Chia Hachiya Eggnog Ingredients

By the way, this eggnog has only 185 calories and 3 grams of fat, even with a shot of Maker's Mark. Regular eggnog, with a shot of whiskey, has over 400 calories and 19 grams of fat! 

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Chia Hachiya Eggnog
Vegan, Gluten Free (if using a gluten-free alcohol or omitting alcohol)
[makes 6 (1-cup) servings]
Requires a good blender

Plan ahead one day to freeze persimmons and a few hours to defrost and soak chia seeds.

2 large hachiya persimmons
4 cups Silk vanilla almond milk (or other non-dairy vanilla, sweetened milk)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg plus some to sprinkle
2 packets stevia, or to taste 
Tiny pinch of salt
6 ounces (3/4 cup) Maker's Mark whiskey (optional)*

* Maker's Mark does not claim to be gluten free because they use red winter wheat used as a flavoring grain that gives it its special taste. However, the bourbon is double-distilled which supposedly strips the gluten from the wheat. Use your own discretion given your particular sensitivity to gluten. For a gluten-free alcoholic eggnog, substitute rum, which is generally gluten free. If gluten is not a problem, I highly recommend adding Maker's Mark.

The night before, or sooner, place the hachiya persimmons in the freezer. 

Take them out of the freezer to defrost. Meanwhile, sprinkle chia seeds into the vanilla almond milk and stir vigorously until they are well separated. Do this several times over the course of 10 minutes to make sure they don't clump together. Set aside for an hour or more while the persimmons are just defrosted enough to cut. 

Slice the top off the persimmons and then cut each vertically in four pieces, cutting away the inner, fibrous center vein that tends to be astringent.

Scoop out the flesh and place in the blender, discarding the skin. 

Stir up the milk and chia seeds and add them to the blender along with the cinnamon, 1/8th teaspoon of the nutmeg, stevia and salt. Blend until smooth.

Pour into glasses and stir an ounce (2 tablespoons) of Maker's Mark (or other bourbon) or rum into each glass (optional). Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve. 

Per serving (without alcohol) 116 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 594 mg omega-3 and 219 mg omega-6 fatty acids**, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 108 mg sodium.

Per serving (with a shot of Maker's Mark) 185 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 594 mg omega-3 and 219 mg omega-6 fatty acids**, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 108 mg sodium.

** Omega fatty acids do not include contribution from almond milk since that information is not available.

OK, now for the rest of the Virtual Vegan Potluck Recipes!




Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Shiitake And Maitake Mushroom Stroganoff
An Elegant Vegan And Gluten-Free Holiday Recipe

Fresh shiitake and maitake mushrooms are used for this elegant
vegan stroganoff recipe but others can be substituted.

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Mushrooms for your Health
Shiitake and maitake mushrooms are both known for their heath-promoting and disease-fighting properties. I am so fortunate to live down the street from Gourmet Mushrooms Inc, where they grow a gorgeous assortment of yummy fungi. (See my Tour of Gourmet Mushrooms back in 2011).  In October they had a great direct-to-the-public sale and I was able to walk away with almost 6 pounds of fresh shiitake and maitake mushrooms for $20. Who could resist?

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula endodes) have been found, in animal studies, to lower cholesterol, slow or stop the growth of tumors and inhibit viruses by boosting the immune system. Their medicinal use dates back to 100 AD.

Maitake mushrooms (grifolla frondosa), also known as "hen of the woods", have been shown to modulate glucose levels (important for limiting development of type 2 diabetes). Research has also studied their ability to fight tumor grown by restricting the proliferation of blood cells that feed them.

Shiitakes, around the edges, and maitake in the middle of bowl

Besides these important health benefits, they are both delicious and make the  perfect ingredients for hearty, meat-free main course meals. This shiitake and maitake mushroom stroganoff can be made with other mushrooms if you can't find fresh shiitakes and maitakes where you live. Cremini or white button mushrooms can be substituted for the shiitakes and oyster mushrooms for the maitake.

I like to make a simple veggie broth out of the shiitake mushroom stems and a few other veggies. If you don't want to do that, just use whatever broth you'd like. You can even use a veggie bouillon cube (my favorite is Rapunzel) in water. But save the stems in the freezer in case you decide to use them for veggie stock later.

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Shiitake and Maitake Mushroom Stroganoff
Vegan and Gluten Free (if using gluten-free pasta)
[makes 4 to 6 servings]

For the stroganoff
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces fresh maitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup almond or other non-dairy milk
2 1/2 cups veggie broth* 
1 tablespoon Earth Balance buttery spread
1/4 cup Tofutti dairy-free sour cream
1 or 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or vermouth, to taste
8 ounces pasta (for gluten free I use Garden Pagodas from Ancient Grains)
2 T chopped fresh parsley (optional)

* For the broth (if you want to make your own)
Stems from the above shiitake mushrooms
3 cups water
8 peppercorns
1 stalk celery, cut in thirds
1 thick slice of onion
1 small carrot, sliced in fourths

Prepare the mushrooms. Wipe the shiitake mushrooms clean with a slightly damp paper towel. Gently remove their stems and set them aside for the broth. Break apart the maitakes into smaller pieces.

Prepared mushrooms

Make the broth. Combine the shiitake mushroom stems, water, peppercorns, celery, onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Lower and simmer on medium low heat, covered, for 30 minutes.

Don't throw out the shiitake stems.
Use them to make this simple veggie-mushroom broth.

Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil to prepare the pasta.

Heat the oil in a medium pot and sauté the onion on medium low heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. 

Add the prepared mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they release their liquids, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.

In a small cup, add cornstarch to the almond milk and stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

After the broth has been cooking for 30 minutes, strain 2 1/2 cups of it into the mushrooms.

Stir in Earth Balance until melted. 

Stir in the cornstarch and milk mixture and simmer until it thickens. 

Stir in the sour cream and lemon juice (or vermouth). Adjust seasoning if needed. Cover to keep warm while making the pasta. 

Thickened stroganoff with sour cream and lemon juice.

If putting on top of pasta or noodles, prepare them according to manufacturers directions.

Drain the pasta and place in a large serving dish or 4 to 6 individual bowls. Top with stroganoff and fresh parsley and serve.

This is also delicious on top of baked potatoes! Just bake 6 potatoes, place in a shallow bowl and cover with stroganoff. Top with fresh parsley and serve. 

Nutritional Information
Per serving - 4 servings: (stroganoff without pasta or potato) 177 calories, 9 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 410 mg sodium.

 To make this dish even richer and more decadent, stir in some artichoke hearts. I prefer using the frozen ones (cook first before adding) than the canned ones.

Mushroom stroganoff with artichoke hearts

Want lots more yummy vegan recipes at your fingertips? Download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen: Delicious and Easy Vegan Recipes and Seasonal Food Plan available on Amazon and iTunes -  only $9.99.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Chanukah And Christmas Gift Ideas
For Health-Conscious Cooks
Many Gifts Under $20 And $35

Gift ideas for health-conscious cooks.

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Meaningful and Useful Gifts
I love giving people gifts that involve cooking - gifts that inspire a person to create a delicious meal and enjoy it with family and friends. It's fun to help a young person stock their first kitchen or to give an experienced cook a new innovative kitchen tool. So here's my list of new things I've discovered or enjoyed this year that I think would make great gifts. 

Lots of people enjoyed my 2013 Great Christmas Gifts for Healthy Cooking so make sure you check out that list also. 

Things for the Kitchen that Make Wonderful Gifts - 2014
Gifts Under $20
I fell in love with Silpat mats this year. They line your pans and are perfect for making Garlicky Rosemary Roasted Potatoes or Vegan Italian Pignoli cookies. NOTHING sticks to these mats and they allow you to cook without using oil to grease the pans.

Making cookies is a snap on these Silpat sheets,
especially sticky ones like pignolis or macaroons.

You can buy Silpat mats in different sizes to fit half sheet pans, 14 3/8-inch x 9 1/2-inch pans, even toaster oven pans. These all run under $15 each.

Bean, Rice, and Grains make a beautiful and inexpensive gift, especially if you buy unusual heirloom varieties in pretty one-pound packages. You can find a huge variety of conventionally grown and organic beans, rice, corn, and corn flour at Purcell Mountain Farms. Rancho Gordo also has a very nice selection of similar products. 

Jubilee Rice, Marrow Beans, Black Beans,
and Anasazi Beans from Purcell Farms.

See my recipe for Marrow Beans with Lemon and Rosemary. I bought these lovely, creamy beans online from Purcell Mountain Farms. But purchase as many as you will need at one time to defray shipping costs.

Measuring Spoons are a great gift for any young chef, or experienced chef who needs new ones. You can pick them up anywhere and you can definitely find some for under $20. I like the ones that have a rounded spoon on one side and an oblong shape on the other. The oblong side allows you to fit the spoon into narrow spice jars.

Prepworks stainless steel magnetic measuring spoons
from Progressive International are under $15

Cookbooks are always a great gift. Just stroll through your local bookstore and find something with lots of beautiful pictures that would inspire someone to cook. I'm sure you will find lots of great cookbooks for under $20.

If the person you are buying a gift for has a reader, like a Kindle or IPad, you can send them my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen, available on Amazon and iTunes for only $9.99. You'll enjoy the 145 mouth-watering photographs and the 160 vegan recipes (most are gluten free.) And it's also packed with critical nutritional information, menus for entertaining, a Seasonal Food Plan as well as information and recipes to do a Raw Food Cleanse.

Thanks to all who have bought the book this year and who have supported my vision to teach people how to cook simple, delicious, and healthy plant-based meals. 

Gifts under $35
This year I bought my first Ceramic Knife and I love it! They are incredibly sharp and stay that way for a long time. The one I have is the Kyocera Revolution 5 1/2-inch Santoku Knife with a white blade. It's a good size for chopping veggies. The perfect gift for those friends with dull knives!

Kyocera Ceramic Knife

An Immersion Blender is an amazing kitchen tool. Instead of having to blend those creamy soups in your blender (and often in batches), you just immerse this hand blender into your soup pot and voila, you've got blended soup.

Here's one that's a little nicer than mine because it has 2 speeds. It's the Cuisinart Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender in brushed chrome.  To see how I use this tool, read my post on how to make Creamy Celeriac, Potato and Pear Soup.

Immersion hand blender

Another great gift is Wine! Recently I wrote about why it's important to know What is in Your Wine. The Pinot Noir we grow in our vineyard here in Sebastopol is not only delicious but it's vegan and gluten free. Check out our Turtle Vines Pinot Noir which is one of the wines featured in the Modvive Ultimate Gift Guide.  

Gifts over $50
Spice up someones life with a collection of spices. I particularly like using and gifting Organic Spices. Go to a local spice store and buy what you think a person would use. If it's a spice that the person hasn't yet tried, it would be nice to include a sample recipe that includes the spice. It the person you are buying for is just setting up their kitchen (a newly married couple, for example), buy them a spice set.

This Simply Organic Gourmet Starter 12 Spices Gift Set looks really nice. I like to use organic spices because they are dried and concentrated and any toxins or pesticides on the leaves will also be concentrated. These spices are certified organic, kosher, and gluten free. They include: All purpose seasoning, basil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, onion powder, oregano, paprika, and thyme. 

A very nice selection of spices from Simply Organic. 

Now for my favorite gift which I will happily give to anyone on my Christmas list who wants one. The Amazing Electric Instant Pot. I blogged about it in October and I still LOVE this pot and use it every day. Read about how this pot has changed my life! When I wrote about it, I only focused on its use as a pressure cooker, which is perfect for cooking beans, grains, stuffed artichokes, stews and other dishes that usually take a long time to cook. But it does a lot more. It's also a slow cooker, pressure steamer, and a rice cooker. I look forward to using every function of this pot!

Amazing Instant Pot Pressure Cooker and more.

Don't forget to check out my 2013 Gift Recommendations,
Happy Shopping!