6 Holiday Gift Ideas That Aren’t Stuff

While giving items can be good, this time of year it seems to get out of control. I actually get anxious thinking about all the gifts I get that I won’t use and don’t have space for. I don’t agree that all object-gifts should be condemned, but it can be good to think out of the box and opt for gifting experiences instead.

I compiled a few ideas of experience-based gifts to consider if you are unsure of what to give!

1. Donate to a Cause or Charity

Donate to a cause or charity that person is passionate about. This is nice because people don’t always have extra money to support causes they believe in, so you can help them out! Plus is emphasizes some really positive things regarding the holidays, like giving and being thankful.

2. Buy a Class

This can be just for the person, or you can buy a class for you to do together! Classes can be expensive, but this is a great way to give the gift of exploring interests.

3. Gift Cards/Vouchers

Gift cards are almost always a good idea, but they can still be personal! Opt for a gift card for their favorite store or a voucher for an activity you know they enjoy (such as a manicure or going to the cinema).

4. Tickets

Tickets to a concert, play, comedy show, sports game, and the list goes on! People don’t always treat themselves to extra experiences like this, so it can be a really special night out. If you are gifting a couple and want to be extra thoughtful, offer to babysit children or pets on the night of the event to allow them stress-free enjoyment 🙂

5. Pay for a Nice Dinner/Drinks

This is a nice option for friends, especially if you are unsure of what they want. Inviting them somewhere nicer than usual (or their favorite restaurant/bar) and treating them the entire night is bound to be fun for everyone involved! Plus they will probably find this more enjoyable than having to keep around some tacky candle/oven mitt/figurine.

6. Try a New Recipe Together

Not necessarily limited to a recipe, this could be trying anything new together. The gift component is that you purchase all the ingredients (or other supplies) to make it. This is great because you spend time with someone and you get to try your hand at something new!

Let me know if you like any of these ideas, or if you have more to add!

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu

Hosting holidays is something I enjoy. While some people find it stressful, I think for me it is laid-back and just plain fun. I try to not make anything too complicated or fussy and generally tend to have a balanced plate, snacks for peckish people, and a crowd-pleasing dessert. In my opinion, it is best to keep it simple and focus on doing just a few things, but doing them well.

Thanksgiving can be an especially difficult holiday for vegetarians and vegans, as many of the traditional offerings are heavy in animal products. The same flavors are definitely still possible without meat, so whether you are making a dish for a vegetarian guest, or plan on hosting a fully cruelty-free Thanksgiving, I’ve included a sample menu to get you started 🙂

I would include a red wine, IPA, and sparkling water for guests to drink (of course more options if you desire, but I try to keep it simple). Mixed salted nuts and dried cherries are a great snack to have out on tables, as well as soft cheese with baguette. For dessert, apple crisp is easy to make vegan by simply using vegan butter and pairing with vegan ice cream (SO Delicious Vanilla Cashewmilk is my personal recommendation for vegan vanilla). Of course most desserts are already vegetarian, so no need to plan too much for that ;p

Mixed Green Cranberry Walnut Salad

Serves 6


Large container spring greens (around 8 cups)

Brianna’s Blush Wine vinaigrette

3/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

4-6 oz. goat cheese crumbles (leave out if making vegan)

Salt and pepper to taste


Toss all ingredients together!

Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Serves 6


4 medium sweet potatoes, washed well

3/4 cup Maple Syrup

4 Tablespoons butter (or earth balance)

Salt and Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400º F.

Slice potatoes lengthwise, then chop into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. In skillet melt butter on med-high heat. Add potatoes.

Add maple syrup, toss to coat, then bring to a boil. Place potatoes in oven, stirring every 5 minutes, until done (they should able to be pierced by a fork). This should take about 20 minutes.

Beyond Beef Pot Pies

Serves 6


I lb. Beyond Beef (or other meatless ground)

1 medium yellow onion

4 cloves minced garlic

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 cups frozen peas

3 Tablespoons olive oil (1-2 additional Tablespoons to brown the Beyond Beef)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup AP flour

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup wine (I use a red wine to bring out a richer flavor, but white whine is fine if you prefer)

1 package puff pastry (if you prefer homemade, see my post Vegan Puff Pastry)


Preheat oven to 425º F.

In large skillet or saucepan, heat the 3 Tablespoons olive oil on med-high. Add onion and garlic and cook 4-5 minutes, until soft.

Add carrots, celery, and peas. Cook a few more minutes.

Add herbs, salt, and flour. Stir to disperse flour and avoid clumps. Add wine and broth slowly, stirring well. Turn heat down to low and let simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In separate pan, use a bit of olive oil to brown the beyond meat (this should only take a few minutes, so be careful not to over cook it).

Add the beyond meat to the rest of the filling and remove from heat. Assemble pot pies by filling in ideal ramekins with about 1 cup of filling each (if you don’t have ramekins, simply use a pie dish or a 9×9 baking dish). Top with puff pastry.

Bake until crust is done (about 20 minutes). Garnish with fresh parsley or rosemary sprigs.

A Break

Hi! I didn’t really discuss this because it just sort of happened, but I took a break from blogging for the past few months. It was not necessarily a conscious decision, there were just other things going on that made it difficult to apply myself to hobbies.

I was going through a lot of changes and they were all negative changes, so I was feeling pretty down. Getting through that I’m back on the upswing, with lots of positive changes following that slump (new job that I’m enjoying, classes, and rejuvenation in my goals). It’s a good reminder for me that life is constantly ebbing and flowing.

Anyway, I’m back to (hopefully) posting somewhat regularly.

Vegetarian Stew

Lately it has been chilly and rainy where I live (the Bay Area version of winter weather). After being outside, I crave a warm and hearty dinner on these types of days. Veggie stew is perfect because it is warm, comforting, and relatively healthy.

This is perhaps the most simplistic type of stew and does not require a plethora of ingredients to make.

Veggie Stew

Serves 2


1 Purple Onion

1 Sweet Potato

3-4 Carrots (depending on size)

1 Stalk Celery

1 1/4 Cup frozen peas

1 Can Diced Tomatoes

1 teaspoon Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Few Sprinkles Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (I like Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)

1 teaspoon chopped Rosemary (dried is fine too)

Salt to taste


1. Dice half the onion, the celery stalk, and one of the carrots. Heat a pan that is at least a few inches deep on medium-high heat. Add the oil and the diced onion, celery, and carrot mixture. Cook until softened and beginning to color.

2. While the mixture is cooking, chop the remaining onion into 1-inch pieces. Deglaze pan with the balsamic vinegar and a few Tablespoons water (you can use wine to deglaze if you have that), then add the rest of the onion. Cover and cook for a few minutes.

3. After the onion has softened a bit, add the diced tomatoes, about half cup water, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and rosemary.

4. Chop carrots and sweet potato into about 1-inch pieces. Add to the pan, cover with lid, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook until veggies are done (I just test by piercing with a fork). This will probably take around 20-25 minutes, but make sure to stir a few times.

5. Once the veggies are cooked through, add the peas and salt and stir well. Let heat through for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

I included pictures of some steps to help follow the recipe. It is easy to make, but difficult to explain to people.

Hopefully you like this as much as I do! It’s really simple and the leftovers reheat well (I just keep them in a glass dish and reheat in the microwave). My husband likes to top this with grated Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, but I like it as it is.


If you have found yourself here, welcome.

I suppose it may have been the new year that spurred the idea to start writing this, though it has been a thought of mine for some time to have my space to share recipes and ideas.

Last year brought with it some new changes, one of these being a move from Minneapolis, Minnesota to San Jose, California. Though life here is nice, I do find myself missing Minnesota (I especially miss the cold winters, which people think I’m weird for). Despite this, the adventure here so far has been wonderful.

Since moving we got a puppy, both started new jobs, and have discovered new friends and activities in the area. Of course one of my favorite activities has always been cooking and baking, so there will be a lot of that in my little corner of the internet.

Anyway, I won’t drag this out. Thanks for reading! 🙂

View of the Golden Gate Bridge during a bike ride along the bay.
Luna, shortly after taking her home.