The Best Gifts for the Healthy Plant-Based or Vegan Chef in Your Life
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, or Festivus, here is an essential gift list of ideas from stocking stuffers to more extravagant treats to give to the plant-based cook.
Give Him the Brush
A beautiful vegetable brush encourages getting all of those vegetable skins get clean, so you can eat them without peeling. This is no ordinary brush but the gift of health, since there is a good reason to eat the peel!
Most skins are edible and contain the nourishing vitamins, minerals, and fiber that otherwise would end up in your compost -- where they will make your soil healthy but you will miss out on all the good stuff. Meanwhile, if you’re paying by the pound, why toss those skins? Shop for The Ring by Full Circle, $5.
Make it a little fancy: Pair the brush with a set of chic and rugged reusable, washable produce bags (check out this 6-bag set from Simple Ecology at Amazon for $16). Keep them in your trunk so you can bring them with you to the market and you won’t pay for the weight of the bag at checkout. The bags are great for storing the produce in the refrigerator once you bring them home, too. Shop for The Ring by Full Circle, $5.
We Promised You an Herb Garden
No this is not for growing weed (though it could be). This little powerhouse indoor herb garden lets your chef grow his or her own fresh herbs. The popular Aero “Harvest” garden provides the ability to grow up to six plants indoors, without taking up much space and needs no soil. The LED grow light hood will extend upwards to 12", so it's perfect for growing herbs, lettuce or even flowers. It takes only about 10 minutes to set up, you plug in the garden, fill the bowl with water and a couple of capfuls of the included liquid plant food, and drop in the pre-seeded pods. Then, you set the garden's timer and it’s ready. It will automatically turn the grow lights off after 15 hours and back on at the same time the next day. It even reminds you when the soil water is low and when it's time to add more food (every two weeks). It requires zero gardening know-how and you can grow fresh herbs in even the smallest of apartments with no natural light. The Harvest's regular price is $149.95 but you can get it for under $100 during the holiday season on Amazon.com, AeroGarden.com, and other retailer websites.
If you do have access to outdoor space or your chef wants to get their hands dirty during the next growing season, buy them the helpful book “One Magic Square: Vegetable Gardening – The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square” by Lolo Houbein. The pages show how to take a tiny plot and grow an amazing abundance of greens, with 40 plot designs to choose from and beautiful photos, illustrations, and countless helpful tips.
You can learn from Loubein, an environmental activist who has been gardening for decades, on how to compost, conserve water, care for your soil, troubleshoot weeds and pests as well as get tips on preserving your harvest. You’ll get ideas for themed gardens like ‘The Antioxidant Plot’ (with turnip greens, chard, arugula, spinach and more), ‘The Stir-Fry Plot’ (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, snow peas), or ‘The Soup Plot’ (garlic, kale, carrots, beets, leek, and potatoes), and many more inspired ideas for the perfect companion plantings.
By the Book
Cookbooks are an excellent source of inspiration and are fun to give and get. Take a look at some of these iconic offerings you’ll cherish with dog-eared pages for years to come. Here are titles that the plant-based or vegan chef in your life would love:
“Vegan for Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and In-Between” (ATK, $30) serves up flavorful and beautiful dishes everyone will enjoy. From the colorful Basmati Rice Bowl with Spiced Cauliflower and Pomegranate to the hearty Roasted Poblano and White Bean Chili or French Apple Tart, you’ll find a range of cuisine styles represented to keep you on your kitchen game throughout the seasons.
“Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health” by Gene Stone (The Experiment/Workman Publishing, $15) is a long-heralded go-to for those looking to eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet. With insights from experts like Dr. Neal Barnard, medical success stories for converts to plant-based eating, and 125 recipes with a helpful primer on crafting a healthy diet rich in unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, this book is great for both the novice or the experienced cook. Try recipes like Garlic Rosemary Polenta or the Raspberry-Pear Crisp – delicious options for weeknight cooking or dinner parties. You may also sign up for their online cooking classes where the Essentials Course provides 20 hours of instruction and teaches the foundational plant-based techniques ($140) or the Ultimate Course with 55 hours of instruction ($350) and you earn a certificate upon completion.
“Vegan: The Cookbook” by Jean-Christian Jury (Phaidon, $50), celebrates vibrant, flavorful and fresh food, and is one of the most comprehensive cookbooks of vegan dishes from around the world. Featuring readily available ingredients, you’ll find recipes from Blue Hill’s Dan Barber (V9 Juice), Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert (Cauliflower ‘Couscous’ with Market Vegetables and Argan Oil Vinaigrette’), along with setting up the essential vegan pantry, and full chapters like starters, salads, soups, mains, grains and beans, pasta and noodles and desserts. In addition, you’ll also find a very thorough index – one of the most useful parts of a comprehensive cookbook.
“What Should I Eat?” by Dr. Mark Hyman (Little Brown, $32) offers a way to ease into a plant-based diet, particularly for those who might be a part of a blended household where you might have a range of dietary preferences. His book draws on enticing recipes from his friends like Gwyneth Paltrow, Chef Marco Canora, Chef David Bouley, Mark Bittman, and Chef José Andrés. He includes science-backed evidence for nutritional choices, and he explains his focus on culinary nutrition or food as medicine and his thesis that plants should be the star of your diet. Particularly delicious, is the Butternut Taco Wraps with Hemp Seed Cream, the Delicata Buckwheat Bowls or the sweet Maple Harvest Crisp.
Serving it Up, with a Smile
Beautiful serving pieces make cooking, serving and eating a lovingly created meal a treat. Having cheerful, sophisticated and unique ceramics or hand-crafted serving dishes, platters or utensils will elevate your table game. This is a chef's "must have."
First stop: JK Adams in Dorset, VT, where you’ll find beautiful black walnut salad bowl and salad servers created by artisan Andrew Pearce ($65-$425). These pieces will become your family's coveted heirlooms in a matter of no time. They come in a wide range of wood types and shapes.
Next: the classic! For oven-to-table dishes, consider a classic enameled cast-iron casserole from Le Creuset ($150-$560) in a range of colors representing all of our favorite vegetable colors, too – great for stews, chilis, and soups all year long. They are the recommended Dutch oven from America’s Test Kitchen; they are really durable, suitable for both stovetop and oven use, and have a lifetime guarantee.
Some food items rate their own type of platter and serving utensil – true with asparagus. Take a look at this handsome platter ($39) from Hudson Grace or this stoneware asparagus platter from Vagabond House ($119) found at Amazon. Pair a platter with a set of asparagus tongs you can click and shop at Amazon, as well. Nothing says I love you more than his own favorite vegetable tongs!
Okay, so you may need to explain to your giftee that by eating all these veggies, he or she will live longer and healthier, and by serving veggies to you and the rest of your loved ones, they will benefit and be healthier as well. So in a way, this is the most important gift he or she will get all year! Salut!