Hi everyone! I’m so excited for today’s post. Not only am I sharing some of my favorite online & homemade gift ideas (the best gifts to give/receive, IMO), but I’m giving away 3 bottles of my homemade vanilla extract for the holiday season!
I’ve been making my own vanilla since I realized how easy it was almost a decade ago. All you need is vanilla beans, vodka, and time. Lots and lots of time. The vanilla beans steep in the vodka until it transforms from clear, flavorless alcohol to dark, rich, aromatic vanilla extract. Sometimes this process can take up to a year. Not only does homemade vanilla extract taste better than store bought, it’s also a lot cheaper to make it yourself; instead of being mostly water and corn syrup, the homemade stuff is legit. I’m talking real deal vanilla bean specks in every drop of extract.
I sometimes make extra and give it to my friends and family as gifts, but if I’m being completely honest, I mostly just hoard it all to myself. I manage to go through an entire 1.75L bottle of vanilla extract in a year. Easily. Most years I buy a single type of vanilla bean (like Madagascar or Bourbon) from one region for my homemade vanilla, but this year I sourced beans from three different locations: Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. I steeped them all separately and am currently debating how best to compare their flavors (vanilla ice cream? cake? shots of vanilla?).
Since it’s too late for you to make homemade vanilla to give your friends this holiday season, I’m giving away some of my own personal stash to YOU, along with some ideas for other homemade food gifts and sustainable store-bought presents.
1. WIDE MOUTH BALL JARS + PLASTIC LIDS AND STRAWS. This is by far my favorite shape/size of ball jar to drink out of, and the lids make it perfect for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. You can also use the straws with the lids for taking smoothies and iced coffee on the go! My local coffee shop will fill my ball jar with coffee and no one looks at me like a weirdo with a reusable container. You could make this into multiple gifts by buying one pack of jars and 3 packs of lids- divide up the jars and you have a 2-pack of jars and lids for 6 people!
2. EQUAL EXCHANGE CHOCOLATE BARS. I love that EE is based right here in Massachusetts, and pioneered the fair trade/organic coffee and chocolate business in the U.S. These guys are doing right by the farmers and communities they work with, and it shows up in their deliciously smooth, rich, complex chocolate bars. I’m a sucker for dark chocolate, but their milk chocolate is equally delicious. If anyone out there wants to buy me the sampler pack, I’ll love your forever. They also make minis, which are the cutest stocking stuffers around.
3. MAPLE CREAM. Anyone in your life who loves maple syrup will go crazy for maple cream. It’s been cooked down until it reaches a thick, peanut butter-like consistency, and is a-m-a-z-i-n-g spread onto waffles, pancakes, toast, scones, muffins, or spooned over ice cream. It’s practically the golden nectar of the gods. I swear I’m not exaggerating.
4. AEROPRESS COFFEE MAKER. I asked for an AeroPress for my wedding and have been using it daily since. It makes a strong, flavorful cup of coffee in less than a minute, and with little to no waste (filters and coffee grounds can both be composted!). It’s also the perfect size for travelling: I’ve taken it on vacation, camping, to work, and to my Dad’s house every time I visit. Instead of big, fancy, electric, plastic-waste-producing coffee machines (cough-Keurig-cough), buy your coffee-loving friends and family the AeroPress. They’ll love it, I promise!
5. DECOMPOSITION NOTEBOOK These notebooks are perfect for notes, lists, doodling, writing recipes, or even for your kids to take to school. They are made out of 100% recycled paper, and are printed with soy-based inks so they can be recycled all over again, when you’re done. I love this rainforest pattern, but there are other fun patterns like the Everglades, the Andes, dinosaurs, blueberries, honeycomb, kittens in space (!!), etc.
6. ALLEGRO SEASONAL WELLNESS TEA. This blend of herbs, leaves, roots, and flowers is especially comforting when the temperature gets colder outside, and your body is struggling to adjust to the changing seasons. I’ve been drinking it all month and love it’s mellow, minty flavor and warming properties.
7. ADULT COLORING BOOKS. I know it seems silly that coloring would be therapeutic, but it really is so relaxing. I love Johanna Basford’s coloring books, and have had my eye on the Enchanted Forest all year. I also love the Lost Ocean and Secret Garden.
8. REUSABLE SANDWICH/SNACK BAGS. I love the PlanetWise ones for their fun patterns and high quality. Plus, they’re easy to clean, and super durable. They can be used for more than just food: think makeup, jewelry, hair ties, medicine, nail polish, or a mini wallet.
9. HOMEMADE GRANOLA. I love filling Ball Jars with granola, writing the ingredients on washi tape, and tying a ribbon around the top. A double batch of my basic granola with plenty of nuts should fill at least 6 12-oz jars. Or, if you are surrounded by chocolate lovers like me, go for the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Granola. It’s SO GOOD.
10. HOMEMADE NUT BUTTERS. Just like the granola, I write out its ingredients on a label or some tape, tie a ribbon around it, and stick it in a mini gift bag. Try my Cinnamon-Raisin Almond Butter or Dark Chocolate Cashew-Almond Butter. Both recipes make enough to fill two half-pint jars: the perfect size for gifting.
I hope you feel inspired to go out and buy/make your loved ones some simple, enjoyable gifts this year!!
And don’t forget about the giveaway! To be entered to win a bottle of my homemade vanilla extract, leave a comment below answering this question: what’s your favorite way to use vanilla? This giveaway is open to readers worldwide. Three winners will be announced on Monday, December 5!
Update: the winners are Julie Anne, Aimee, and Susan C!