Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite confections are from Allison’s Gourmet. Allison has mastered the art of making vegan caramels, brittle, toffee, truffles, cookies, fudge, bark candy and more. And you know how hard it is to find really great confectionary treats that are vegan, fair trade and organic. Yeah, there are a lot of chocolate bars in the stores but not a lot of gift-worthy, high-end goodies that you can be confident sending to loved ones or business associates while still being able to sleep at night.

Her treats are so good they’re our preferred holiday gift for clients 2 years running. And of course, they work for employee bonuses as well, not to mention Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. And now you can enter to win a $20 gift certificate toward anything in Allison’s Gourmet Store. Yep, just read further.

The mastermind that is Allison.

If you haven’t heard about Allison’s Gourmet confections before, you may have seen Allison’s recipes in VegNews magazine. Same chic, same dogged dedication to veganizing great classics whether they’re for dinner or treats.

Gena at Choosing Raw wrote a great backgrounder on Allison and yeah, it totally makes me look like a lazy pixel pushing schmuck. But hey, if we don’t have people like Allison to look up to as heroes, we’d all just be a bunch of aimless mouse potatoes and then were would the world be?

Toffee, caramels, truffles, cookies, how will you choose?

My personal favorites always lean toward the caramels, toffees and brittle. She even has salted, salted chocolate, and chipotle caramels along with traditional vanilla. Lots of varieties of toffee and brittle too.

If you lust after chocolate truffles, Allison just launched a new palette of flavors this month! I did order a box for my own personal employee bonus this year and they are indeed silky, flavorful and very decadent.

And let’s not forget the cookies, brownies, fudge and other delectibles. We received a gift box of the cookies yesterday at work and I am totally hooked on the Butterscotch Pecan even though it was a limited edition. So the next time that flavor swings around on the seasonal schedule, be sure to snag some.

We have a winner! Congrats Meryl!

Random Number Generator select Meryl from among the entries submitted prior to 9am today, Chicago time (per the contest rules). Congratulations Meryl!

Is your mouth watering yet? So enter the contest already!

Allison is providing one lucky Snarky Vegan reader a $20 gift certificate for anything from her online store. I will announce the winner on December 23rd so you can choose to give the gift certificate as a stocking stuffer (printable pdf certificate), keep it for yourself or use it for New Years or some future special event.

I’ll make this very simple: you can enter up to 6 times in the pool to win a $20 gift certificate from Allison’s by leaving a separate comment for each of the following:

  1. Look through Allison’s Gourmet store and leave a comment with what you’d like to buy from her gourmet shop.
  2. Leave a second comment if you care to divulge how you intend to use the giveaway.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using this bit: “Enter @SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  4. Either like Allison’s on Facebook or post about this giveaway on your wall: “Enter SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  5. Follow Allison’s on Twitter.
  6. Follow SnarkyVegan on Twitter.

Deadline for your comments is 9:00 am December 23, 2011. Drawing will be among comments left prior to 9:00 am CST (Chicago Standard Time ;-) I will send out the gift certificate immediately but you MUST ENTER WITH YOUR CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS when leaving a comment.

US residents only, sorry.

Legal disclaimer: Yes, I know Allison, I order her goodies for our clients at work and no, she’s never given me anything for free or in return for my patronage. I just think she’s an awesome happy person whose groovy vibe rubs off on everyone she meets. And I’m a whore for supreme toffee to go with my single malt.

[UPDATE: After reading Colleen's excellent post on the relationships between corporations and bloggers, I felt the need to update this post since it is a gift guide that lists products I am recommending. My update is at the end.]

Buying gifts for vegans may be challenging enough but what if your favorite vegan is also an avid gardener? What do you need to know?

First I’ll list some of my favorite groovy gifts that I think are perfect for gardeners, especially vegan gardeners. Then I’ll give you a few pointers to help you stay out of trouble while shopping for your favorite vegan gardener. And BTW, I’ve listed some extremely affordable items and some that well, shall we say, may be so nice you’d get lucky this season ;-P

Snarky’s Top 10 Great Gift Ideas:

1. Ethel Gloves

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Ethel Gloves makes a special vegan gardening glove that I actually own and absolutely love. It’s the Garden 4X, a tough and classy glove that even I can’t wear through. I’m really hard on gardening gloves, typically going through 2 pairs in a season. My fingertips generally poke right through because I like to make holes for seeds with my hands rather than a trowel. But after a full season, my pair of Garden 4X black bamboo gloves are holding up just fine. No sign of letting my middle finger loose in the dirt. These gloves also use vegan latex that does not use casein during manufacturing. A very thoughtful gift for a vegan gardener. (And if black isn’t your vegan’s style, all their other colored bamboo gloves are also vegan, they just don’t have the reinforced fingertips that the 4X does.)

2. Seeds!

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D. Landreth Seed Company is the oldest continuously running seed house in the US and one of the oldest companies. In fact, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both Landreth customers! Landreth ran into financial hardship this year and most of the gardening world has fretted about it for months. So any gift you buy from them will go towards saving this American institution. I’d recommend the catalog of course, as it’s a work of art and full of gardening information. They also have little “Seeds In A Sack” that make great stocking stuffers. They’re all awesome so there’s no way I can single out just one. Besides, you know your gardener best: would they like the Olde Fashion Zinnias collection, Antique Vines for the Garden or Heirloom Tomatoes?

3. German Design

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Weck canning jars are a totally BPA-free and beautiful option for organic gardeners. Yes, I said BPA-free. You know that white rubbery liner in the lid of traditional canning jars in the USA? Yeah, that—don’t go lick it now—it’s made with BPA. The Weck jars use an old fashioned rubber and reusable gasket instead. How well do they work? I’ve heard stories of German great grandmothers still using their jars from the beginning of the last century and they haven’t killed anyone yet. The only problem with these jars is that I don’t want to use them as gifts. No, I’m kinda selfish that way. Oh, if you’re in the Chicago area, you can buy these at Green Home Experts.

4. Garden Art for the Kitchen

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Vetegabowls makes insanely cool food serving bowls that look exactly like garden fruits and vegetables! They are slip cast and glazed to match the colors and actual textures you’d find in a cantaloupe, tomato, grapefruit, onion, honeydew melon, oranges, etc. I adore these bowls and think a set of these would be an awesome gift. (DH, that’s a hint dood, just in case that wasn’t clear ;-)

5. Gear

Click for close up.

Autonomie Project Inc. has a lot of great products but I’m especially excited about their new fair-trade and vegan rain/gardening boots! The rubber in these boots is certified by the FSC for sustainable forestry and the makers receive a fair trade premium on their wages. When looking for gardening boots, remember these things: they are often labeled “rain” boots, consider the calf fit (if your vegan may have large calves, best to skip this item or buy a gift certificate), and the pattern/color.

Fun gardening socks from Garden Shoes Online come with lady bugs, bees, turtles and sunflowers. The more colorful selections are also vegan because they’re made with nylon, CoolMax® and Lycra® rather than latex. Latex is made with casein from cow’s milk so steer clear of anything with that fiber as well as wool and silk.

6. Books

Veganic Agriculture Network has a nice book list of tomes that would be appropriate for a vegan gardener. If you can’t score an out-of-print copy of Veganic Gardening by Kenneth Dalziel, I’d snag Growing Green which is also a source of info for organic gardening without animal products.

7. Luxury

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Moxie Organix has some really nice soaps and lotions that would help a gardener maintain soft hands after a long day digging in the soil. Lavender or rose petal would be great scents for a gardener.

8. Sprouting Supplies

A brick or two of coir fiber makes a great gift for the gardener who starts seeds indoors for Spring. The bricks are small enough to even fit in a stocking while causing a lot of funny head scratching over what could that be? I get my bricks at Green Home Experts in Oak Park, Illinois. When checking your local source, compare pricing with sizes (big box stores sell smaller bricks for a full brick price) and compare the source of the coir itself.

Chamomile tea, believe it or not, would be a nifty stocking stuffer for a gardener because not only can they drink it when pests are bumming them out, it’s a great fungal deterrent. In fact, many professional growers spray it on the soil’s surface to fight Damping Off in tomato seedlings. A great little crafty gift could be a box of chamomile tea bags and a spray bottle. You could even craft up your own Healthy Seedling or Fight Damping Off label for the bottle.

9. One-of-a-Kind Glass Garden Sculptures

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Barbara Sanderson is a glass artist specializing in hand-blown art glass for gardens. Her Fiddlesticks and Flowers are amazingly beautiful. You can often find Babara at various flower and garden shows around the country as well as art shows. She’ll work with you to combine glass, water, light and gardens to create lovely and stunning outdoor spaces. If you can’t afford her larger works she also creates Christmas ornaments and other holiday glassworks. Her Halloween pumpkins are always groovy and I’d love to have some of her originals in my garden.

10. The Holy Grail of Gifts!

The Holy Grail of Gifts!

And finally, the Holy Grail! Whether you wanna be rewarded with sex from xmas until New Year’s Eve or simply awesome food for the rest of your life, I’d totally recommend giving your vegan the new Blendtec’s Total Blender Designer Series. It’s a super badass blender that can handle anything your organic gardener can grow. Seriously. But check first to make sure your vegan hasn’t already ordered it or that ‘other’ brand of blender. The Designer Series model is so badass, it includes the WildSide jar which is a patented 5-sided jar allowing a better vortex during blending and wider at the base for easier removal of thick nut butters, a nearly 4-inch diameter blade, and a new touch interface like on the iPhone. AND a 7-year warranty! Oh yeah baby, it can handle just about anything including those twigs and leaves you think your vegan eats.

And THAT my fine fiends, is the best of the best, the most unique, and perfectly vegan-friendly gifts for organic gardeners!

Read onward for some tips on what to avoid when shopping. It seems tricky sometimes but it all makes sense, I promise.

Things to watch out for:

  • Leather gardening gloves and leather tool pouches: Many gloves have leather palms or are fully constructed from leather, a big no-no for vegan gifts. Also, most tool companies like Felco, Fiskar and Corona sometimes bundle leather pouches with their pruners. Best to just buy the awesome pruner and ignore any bundles that include leather.
  • Manure or animal ingredient plant foods: Not that you’d give your gardener crap for xmas, right? But anyway, you’re going to have to read the labels on these. Avoid brands that include manure or feather, fish, bone, and blood meals. Best to stick with plant-derived ingredients like kelp or seed meals like cottonseed. It also goes without saying that most vegans will also be organic so steer clear of chemicals like Miracle-Gro (the cosmic blue stuff).
  • Pesticides: This is a tricky area. Some vegans may be ok killing insects while others are not. Safer to just not go there.
  • Animal hide journals or notebooks: Garden journals are quite popular these days and are awesome gifts for keeping a diary of what’s been planted. However, I’ve seen a few that are leather bound. Look for a label that says, “man-made materials” or go with canvas or paper coverings.
  • Boots or garden shoes: Again, watch out for leather. A gift certificate from a place like Zappos may be safer than actually trying to find a poly boot that fits the foot of your vegan Cinderella, depending of course on how well you know that foot.
  • Wool socks: Garden socks can be a really fun gift, many come with ladybugs and flowers woven into them and are quite charming. Just read the label to ensure there’s no wool or silk. Bamboo would be a nice fiber to find and is soft and resilient. Or see the links above for cool and fun socks.
  • Vermiculture or ‘Worm bins”: Best to steer clear of this as well. Not all vegans would be happy with worms in captivity although some are. Unless you know your vegan gardener well, safer to look for other gift ideas.
  • Homesteading Books: Watch out for homesteading books that include chapters on raising cows for milk, beheading chickens or butchering pigs. Go for books that focus on veggies and such.

So, now that you’re prepared, what are you waiting for? You’ve only got 12 more days until Christmas! Get the compost out!

Snarky’s Product Relationship Disclosure (or rather, more info than you wanted to know)

Below I will note any relationship I have with any of the companies making the products I’ve included in my gift guide for gardeners:

  1. Ethel Gloves: Over the years, they have sent me several pairs of gloves either through events or as awards when I entered contests. None of them lasted more than a month or two because I wore through the fingertips. I guess I use that middle finger on my right hand a little too much. When I saw them at the IGC in 2010, I asked about the 4X. They explained that the fingertips are reinforced for people like me (my words, not theirs). I tried to buy a pair but they didn’t have change for a $50 so they gave me a pair to try out. I have now used them through 14 months with none of the middle finger issues I had previously. Yes, these gloves were free to me but when they do eventually wear out, they will also be the only pair I buy.
  2. D. Landreth seeds: They have never given me anything for free. I buy their seeds and love them. They don’t even know who I am.
  3. Weck Canning: They have never given me anything for free. I bought their jars last season for canning relish (which was awesome BTW), and I love these jars. I feel safer using them over the regular jars with traditional metal lids and they are way prettier.
  4. Vegetabowls: They have never sent me anything for free and they didn’t even know I was including their bowls on my list until I emailed them after posting. I just love their bowls. I hope they don’t mind me using their photo.
  5. Autonomie and Garden Shoes Online: Neither company has ever given me anything for free. I searched high and low for fun garden things that are vegan-friendly to include in my list. The boots have the added benefit of being FSC certified. But alas, I am a large woman with large calves and have yet to find any boot that fits me but I thought these may be great for other gardeners, who are skinnier.
  6. Books: There are not a lot of veganic gardening books in print or out of print. Given the less than stellar options, I’ve listed two that come recommended by another reliable source, Veganic Agriculture Network. Currently, I am on a waiting list for the out of print book.
  7. Moxie Organix: Yes, I have used samples of their soap at the Vida Vegan Con in August. They included their samples in our hotel kits so we didn’t have to worry about hotel soaps containing tallow. I loved the soaps enough to wrap the used samples gently and schlepp them home on the airplane.
  8. Sprouting supplies: no corporate brands here but I use both of these recommendations when starting seeds indoors for spring.
  9. Barbara Sanderson glass sculptures: Barbara has never given me anything for free. I have purchased her glass ornaments as client gifts in the past and they are truly beautiful. I love the quality of her glass.
  10. Blendtec: Blendtec has never sent me anything for free. I have borrowed “that other blender” from a friend and it overheated repeatedly when grinding sopping wet cashews. I also have two friends who purchased Blendtecs this past year and they use them, with no problems, for grinding nuts . Therefore I became a Blendtec Affiliate and ordered the newest Designer Series model for myself as soon as it was released to the public. I am anxiously awaiting its arrival right now and will test it immediately to compare it to the older models my friends have.

OMG you’ve got a vegan coming to Christmas dinner. What the hell are you gonna serve?

Let’s assume that in the spirit of the holidays, you want to make sure the vegan feels welcome. You do right?

Ok, so go to Whole Foods and look in the frozen foods section for this box and buy it:

Got that box? Yeah? Good. Here’s what you’re gonna do:

  1. Thaw this roast in the fridge overnight and it’s ready to go in the oven after unwrapping so all you gotta do is put it on a pan and pop it in. And remember, don’t put it in the same pan as whatever carcass you’re serving. Keep it separate to keep it vegan.
  2. Then you’re gonna make some roasted veggies that are baked in their own gravy, this will save you an extra pan for a separate gravy. Just cook ‘em both together in a casserole. EZ peezy.
  3. Then if you really love the vegan, saute something green like kale, spinach, broccoli or peas in a pan on the stove top while the roast and veggies are in the oven.
  4. BTW, the roast and veggies won’t take more than 45 minutes so they can go in after your carcass, while you’re all still munching on appetizers and getting drunk. Which reminds me, don’t forget vegan booze.

Here’s what the roast and veggies will look like when you’re done:

Use a serrated knife to slice the roast when plating.

Let’s get started!

First, arrange two racks in your oven so the roast is at the halfway mark or slightly above and there is room for the casserole on a rack below it without being too close to the bottom of the oven.

Field Roast® Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute

  • 1 Field Roast En Croute, found in freezer section
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Prepare the Field Roast for baking by placing thawed roast on lightly greased baking sheet. Follow the package instructions for baking. Give yourself 45 minutes for this. It’s really simple.

Here’s what your roast looks like after baking. The puff pastry shell should be golden but not burnt.

Kinda looks like a Yule Log right? You could platter this sliced and garnished for a festive look.

Slice gently with a serrated knife so the puff pastry doesn't completely crumble away.

Roasted Veggies with Gravy

  • 4 average-sized potatoes, chopped into 1 inch dice
  • 5-8 carrots, depending on size, chopped same size as potatoes
  • 4 smallish onions, quartered and chopped roughly
  • kosher salt (or regular)
  • pepper (freshly ground if you can)
  • half head of garlic, peeled and each clove halved
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • light splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped from woody stems and chopped
  • 1 carton Imagine® brand leeks and potato soup (this soup is vegan and is the base for your gravy)
  • 4 cups sliced mushrooms
  1. Mix it all up in a HUGE bowl and spread in a large greased casserole pan.
  2. Put casserole on lower rack in oven for the last 35 minutes of roast’s time, stirring occasionally for even cooking.

The soup makes a wonderful gravy within your roasted root veggies. And yeah, I know this is a full casserole’s worth of veggies but you can serve it to anyone. There’s nothing weird in it like that tofu shit.

YUMMY!!! Love that built-in gravy with the roasted veggies.

What about something green?

In that last 35 minutes, you have plenty of time to either defrost some frozen peas in the microwave OR… braise some fresh kale or spinach in a pot with veggie bouillon like Rapunzel® vegetable bouillon or Edward and Sons® Garden Veggie bouillon. One cube, one cup water, a dab of olive oil and a big bundle of chopped greens is all you need in your pot to create a yummy greenfest.

See, it wasn’t that bad. Now all you gotta do is make sure your vegan is not sitting next to the turkey/ham/whatever carcass you have on the table.

And you’re on your own for dessert!

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