It’s been a little while since my last post but as routine is slowly coming back into my life I think I’m ready for regular posts again, starting in the new year. Other than build-your-own style recipes I want to shift my focus towards reducing food waste and plastic use. Also, I would really like to get a little deeper into fermentation and gardening.
Making the holidays a little greener this year
But let’s get into what you’re probably here for: Christmas is around the corner. And even though this probably doesn’t come as a surprise I always wonder how we got here this fast. Don’t you? So as the holidays are approaching and everyone is busy with office Christmas parties, finishing up the last projects of the year at work and planning new ones, the big question remains: what shall I gift my loved ones this year?
Usually I am team sweet treats since we all like to eat and it’s hard to disappoint with something homemade. But let’s face it, it’s a wonderful thing to give so here are some of my personal favourites of 2018. Most of the companies, or rather the people behind, have crossed my path lately. I hope you find a piece of inspiration here or maybe even come up with some new ideas of your own after reading this. Let me know what gifts will be waiting under the Christmas tree for your loved ones this year down below in the comments.
Gifts for foodies
As a foodie at heart, the first things coming to my mind obviously are little kitchen gadgets. Since nobody needs yet another pepper grinder or salad bowl, how about some items that actually help us reduce plastic waste?
Practical items for a small budget:
- Bees wax food wraps: I use wraps from Wildwax. Bees wax is an animal product, yes. But we need bees for our biodiversity and the wax for these wraps comes from bee-friendly beekeepers in Germany. It naturally contains high amounts of propolis, a natural antibiotic. A perfect little gift from our fauna to keep foods at home safe and fresh.
- Reusable eco shopping bags: No more single-use paper or plastic at the supermarket with this lovely alternative from Naturtasche! Anneliese was one of the first promoters of the zero waste movement. She’s even written a book on zero waste. Her bags are made from GOTS-certified cotton and really well-designed. You can also use them to store bread and they’re even freezer-friendly.
- Glass straws are a great alternative to plastic: check out the ones from HALM Straws – not only are they more sustainable but also super stylish!
For veggie lovers and smoothie fans:
- One season of gardening: here in Germany we’ve got a few start-ups offering plots for rent already planted with a variety of organic veggies for you to tend to and harvest. Usually, there’s also additional space for you own projects. I just completed a full season with meine Ernte (= my harvest): you don’t need more than a pair of rubber boots and some gardening gloves to get started – tools, watering cans and expert support is included! You can find them at more than 25 locations all over Germany. I am sure you’ll find a similar concept or a community garden in your neighbourhood to get your hands dirty!
- For friends and relatives, who are not yet ready for the responsibility of a full season of gardening here’s another idea: sets for growing sprouts and micro greens at home! There are a few sustainable options out on the market already. Check out Grown from The Netherlands! I met the founder Toon at the #EatingTheGap conference in Ghent recently. Or try Heimgart – they’re Berlin-based.
- You want to dig deep into your pockets a little deeper? I can highly recommend you the blenders and grain mills from KoMo. This Austrian company promotes local value chains and uses only sustainable materials in their gadgets. No cheap imports from Asia. I am sold!
Your loved ones are always eager to learn something new? How about gifting them a course this year for a change? There are so many possibilities to choose from: local workshops you could attend together and even online courses independent of location. I can strongly recommend the two options below which are held by friends of mine with a vast knowledge in their respective fields.
- Online courses at Edible Alchemy*: As mentioned in the intro of this blog post, I am currently diving deep into the whole topic of fermentation. Luckily, I had the chance to meet Alexis this year. This girl a real fermentation guru! Her videos are fun and easy to comprehend: from making your own sourdough, krauts & pickles to vegan nut cheeses – you can learn it all. Course language is English. [*Affiliate link: I receive a small commission if you follow this link and book a course.]
- My dear friend Boris Lauser offers “hands on” workshops. Here you can stir, mix and, of course, indulge in the delicious raw food you’ll be preparing. In case reading “raw food” makes you think of nothing but coleslaw you are so far off! Skipping this one, you’ll miss out on a truly inspiring culinary experience. In fact, one of the most memorable dishes I’ve had so far has been a raw vegan dumpling that Boris made. Now, if that’s not reason enough to check out one of his seminars and learn from the best?
Yummy gifts to work with in the kitchen
Since we all gotta eat, food is one of the most precious gifts, don’t you think?
- How about a membership in a community supported agriculture group? I just recently discovered this German page called “Ernte teilen” (=sharing the harvest). Food Box Finder is a similar project in the UK. I am sure you’ll find something in your country / language, too. This gift will be really special since the person you are giving it to will be able to benefit from locally produced vegetables and fruit throughout an entire season.
- Dried mango from gebana: Enjoying deliciously sweet mango while supporting a great cause at the same time? Absolutely possible! From Swiss fair trade pioneer gebana you can order a mango transport box for their smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso and thereby support them during harvesting. They will thank you with a package of yummy mango. Their other fruits & nuts make for delicious gifts, too. In the UK you can order from Ethical Shop and in Sweden they got an online shop as well.
For most people, chocolate is part of the equation during the holidays. Unfortunately, most sustainable & fair labels in the conventional supermarkets and discounters are more green washing than anything else. With a clear conscience, I can recommend the following brands.
- Original Beans: No monocultures, investments in local environment protection, prices clearly above world market prices, no child labour, and single origin cacao! These super high-quality chocolate bars, buttons for cooking and cacao nibs are manufactured in Switzerland. The majority of the bars is vegan, too, and the ingredient lists are free from additives and refined sugars. Must-try!
- fairafric: Chocolate made in Ghana with full value-addition at the origin! This Munich-based start-up pays their cocoa farmers way beyond world market prices. Knowledge transfer generates more employment opportunities and benefits the local communities.
- Zotter: These small handmade bars from Austria contain ingredients traded according to WFTO standards. They are incredibly delicious! New flavours are issued on a regular base – make sure you don’t miss the Christmas editions.
In case you aren’t entirely sure about the personal taste of someone here’s another idea: How about a gift voucher for the closest zero waste store? Often only a little nudge is needed to shift towards a more planet-friendly behaviour. So why not convince a friend of the benefits of shopping unpackaged goodies? Shia from Wasteland Rebel compiles a great map with all zero waste stores in Germany, Austria & Switzerland (in German only, but you’ll find stores all over Europe). In case there’s no store around, you could still get a voucher for the next organic supermarket or an online store where you can buy pantry items in bulk.
It doesn’t always have to be food. A good bottle of wine or spirit can be a great gift, too. With these ones here you can impress even true connoisseurs.
- Someone who likes gin and has a soft spot for design will surely get excited about a bottle of GIN-seng by Dr. Jaglas. My friend Christina has an apothecary background, thus, only botanicals of the highest quality make their way into these beautifully designed bottles. For lovers of all things Christmas-spiced there’s another spirit rarity: a mulled wine herb elixir.
- More into wines? How about some natural wine from 8greenbottles for a change? Cause it is definitely on the rise at the moment! What’s really cool about Ramona & Philipp’s online shop: you can rate the wines and get personalised recommendations based on your reviews. Check it out!
- Rather staying non-alcoholic? No problem my friends – have a look at the Swabian Manufaktur Jörg Geiger. They make the world’s greatest alcohol-free PriSeccos (my favourite flavour is #11 “Unripe Apple & Oak Leaves”) and this great cider which is very low in alcohol. Also make sure you try their „Don’t Call me Gin“ – although with 46% vol. this one’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. ?
Cookbooks and Non-Fiction
- “Bento Power” from my friend Sara of Shiso Delicious: Even if up until now you’ve never heard of bentos – the Japanese form of the beloved lunch box – I am sure this book will inspire you to get cooking! Not only will you find delicious non-boring take-away meals but also tons of practical tips & tricks, amazing flavour combinations and true passion for great food.
- My favourite every-day cookbook which has definitely earned a permanent spot on my shelf. No recipe has ever disappointed so far: “At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen” written by the talented Amy Chaplin.
- „Vegan Klischee ade“ (= Goodbye to vegan clichés) is a book written by Niko Rittenau – great for anyone trying to get a better understanding of what the scientific research really says about plant-based diets. Niko is just plain awesome at explaining things and does away with some nasty prejudices. He told me translations of his over 400-pages long work are on their way, at the moment it’s only available in German though. Keep watching out for this one!
By the way: I refrain from using Amazon affiliate links here (and elsewhere on this blog). Please support your local book store. Usually they are able to order any book for pick-up on the next working day. Now, if that’s not fast enough… Plus, another benefit: no annoying wait for the delivery service. Win-win!
Other creative ideas
I hope you found a few inspirations in this list. Obviously, another great way to give is choosing to spend time with your loves. How about some tickets to a concert, an exhibition or for a joint trip. For the cultural aficionado an annual museum pass might do the trick. Something completely different (and very sustainable!) would be a membership or credit for your local electric car sharing. The sporty types will probably get excited about a membership at their local gym or yoga studio nearby.
A few last words on packaging your carefully selected gifts. Yes, you can go full-on crazy and shop all the sparkling wrapping paper and shiny ribbons you can find. But how about going a little more minimal this year? I try to keep packaging paper from deliveries I’ve received and use that to wrap gifts. Old newspaper will work just a good. Knot everything together with cooking string, maybe using some some pine tree twigs and red winter berries for decoration. It has to be gift wrap for you? Look out for local printing companies. Munich-based PaketPlanet, for example, makes wrapping paper according to the cradle-to-cradle principle. No toxic substances are used and waste is completely avoided by reusing everything full-cycle.
I hope there were a few things to take away from this blog post for you. Have a wonderful – hopefully stress-free – Christmas time, enjoy giving and receiving.
Much love, Caro