2015 Vegan Holiday Gift Guide

Many of you know that I test recipes and make meals for myself and friends in a small apartment in New York City. I feel lucky to have an open kitchen with large windows that look out on the Hudson River, but the space is very limited. In order to score counter, drawer, or cabinet space, tools, ingredients, and cookbooks have to be useful––which to me means used!

Periodically I do an active paring down, and that’s where I was while I was choosing items for my 2015 Vegan Holiday Gift Guide. I’ve listed what I like. Some are inexpensive, some are pricy, all are useful. I’m very interested in hearing what you feel is essential, nice to have, or a waste, so please leave a comment.


Fran Costigan's 2015 Vegan Holiday Gift GuideThere are a lot of worthy books, some are new and some are essential standards.

Be Inspired!

Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook, Richa Hingle
Whether you want to enjoy Indian cooking, try some new spices, or add more protein to your meals using legumes and lentils, this book has got it covered. You’ll explore some well-known and new Indian flavors that are easy to make in your own kitchen. Learn the secrets of eclectic Indian taste and textures, and discover meals in which pulses and vegetables are the stars of the dish. And once you taste Richa’s mouth-watering desserts, they will like be added to your list of favorites.

Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine, Tal Ronnen,  Scot Jones (Contributor), Serafina Magnussen (Contributor)
Reinventing plant-based eating is what Tal Ronnen is all about. At his Los Angeles restaurant, Crossroads, the menu is vegan, but you won’t find soybeans or  seitan. Tal and executive chef, Scot Jones turn seasonal vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains into sophisticated Mediterranean fare. In Crossroads, Ronnen shares the restaurant’s recipes with us. You’ll need some time to make most of the recipes, but you’ll have the inside track to a Crossroads meal. Gorgeous photos inspire.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples, Miyoko Schinner
Studded with full-color photos, The Homemade Vegan Pantry celebrates beautiful, handcrafted foods. From ice cream and pizza dough, to granola and breakfast sausage. Miyoko Schinner guides readers through the techniques for making roasted tomatoes,cheeses, sauces, pastas and much more, and all without special equipment. Her easy methods make “slow food” fast, and full of flavor.

DIY Vegan: More Than 100 Easy Recipes to Create an Awesome Plant-Based Pantry, Nicole Axworthy & Lisa Pitman
In their new book, Lisa and Nicole also show readers how easy it is to make their own vegan pantry staples at home. Using easy-to-find whole food ingredients that amp up flavors and nutrition, they’ve created over one hundred recipes that will stock your pantry shelves, refrigerators and freezers: vegan milks, ice creams and butters made from a variety of nuts and seeds, home-ground flours, yummy sauces and spreads, snack foods and an array of artisanal make-them-yourself cheeses. All of the recipes are vegan and have gluten-free options and some are from their list of raw food favorites.

Eat Like You Give a Damn: Recipes for the New Ethical Vegan Michelle Schwegmann & Josh Hooten
Inspiring people to eat like they give a damn, Michelle and Josh share a collection of their favorite everyday vegan dishes. Ranging from comfort foods to more epicurean dishes, sumptuous photos will kick any cook into high gear. Their intro alone is worth the price of this book.

The Blender Girl Smoothies: 100 Gluten-Free, Vegan, and Paleo-Friendly Recipes, Tess Masters 
Find 100 gluten-free, vegan recipes for fantastic smoothies, meals, and more made quickly and easily in a blender. In addition to the excellent recipes, you will find a great deal of clear and easy to understand information about health supportive ingredients, why and how to use them, charts for making plant milks and much more. See also: The Blender Girl App.

The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide for Transitioning to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight, Lani Muelrath
If you’ve ever wanted to make the plant-based switch but felt overwhelmed about where to start, we have good news: you don’t have to do it alone. The Plant-Based Journey provides the support you need every step of the way to make your transition into eating plant-based a fun and (ful)filling experience!

Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better, Tracey Stewart
The more we know about the animals in our world and the better we care for them, the better our lives will be. Former veterinary technician and animal advocate Tracey Stewart understands this better than most—and she’s on a mission to change how we interact with animals. Through hundreds of charming illustrations, a few homemade projects, and her humorous, knowledgeable voice, Stewart provides insight into the secret lives of animals and the kindest ways to live with and alongside them. This book just landed on Number 1 in the New York Times!

The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook: Over 125 Delicious, Life-Changing, Plant-Based Recipes, Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn
For the SOS crowd: The authors are a mother-daughter team with decades of experience developing delicious, healthful dishes for both their family and Dr. Esselstyn’s many grateful patients. In this much-anticipated cookbook, they share more than 125 delicious and nutritious recipes that make it easy to follow Dr. Esselstyn’s lifesaving dietary advice.

Culinary Fundamentals

How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science, Paula I. Figoni
The essence of baking is chemistry, and anyone who wants to be a master pastry chef must understand the principles and science that make baking work. This book explains the whys and hows of every chemical reaction, essential ingredient, and technique, revealing the complex mysteries of bread loaves, pastries, and everything in between.

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs, Karen Page
To quote the author Karen Page, “If you master a single recipe, you’ll learn how to cook a single dish. If you master the dynamics of flavor, you can make anything taste better.” Emphasizing plant-based whole foods including vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, the book provides an A-to-Z listing of hundreds of ingredients, from Açaí to Zucchini Blossoms, cross-referenced with the herbs, spices, and other seasonings that best enhance their flavor, resulting in thousands of recommended pairings. I’m amazed at what I am learning as I read this book.

Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, by me, Fran Costigan, photos by Kate Lewis 
Because chocolate always makes everything better! Anyone – from newbie to pro – can make irresistible chocolate desserts from this book. With gorgeous full color photos by Kate Lewis, the book makes a gorgeous coffee table book gift too! (Friends outside of the United States, note that Vegan Chocolate has been published in German, French and Italian.)

More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally, by Fran Costigan,
Because this dessert book is the basis of the Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive® and still absolutely relevant.


Fran Costigan's 2015 Vegan Holiday Gift GuideHere are some essentials for making desserts. I’ve included links so that you can have visuals of the items.

Escali Digital Scale
How much chocolate did you chop? Is that cup of cashews really 5 ounces? Get a digital scale already. You won’t look back!

Norpro Stainless Steel 8 Piece Measuring Spoon Set 
What makes these measuring spoons so awesome is their long necks, which makes scooping from small jars easy. You’ll appreciate the 1/8 tsp measure too. I have several sets.

Nesting Measuring Cups for Dry Ingredients
No fancy shaped cups please! Get 1, 2, and 4 cup liquid measuring cups too! I like these for home and traveling.

Indispensible 1/4 cup Liquid Measuring Cups
I carry these with me to schools and on trips.

Parchment Paper Rounds to line baking pans
Sure, you can cut parchment to fit your pans, but I find having a stack of these precut  8-9- and 10 inch rounds handy. Make sure you have some parchment sheets to line your baking pans too.

Whisks, Ballon

Whisks, Flat

Silicone Spatulas
I like mini ones too. Get more than you think you need, because you will need them.

Heatproof Mixing Bowls 

Flexible Cutting Boards
These make transferring chopped chocolate easy.

Hand Blender 
An immersion or stick blender enables you to puree soaked prunes (for making brownies), as well as make soups, sauces, and much more directly in the pan or serving bowl. The blade attachment, which in some models is interchangeable with a whisk, snaps onto a long shaft. You press a button and blend.  I use my immersion blender often and find it a breeze to clean, but the blades are sharp and the button is sensitive, so it is extrememly important that you unplug the blender before cleaning.

Lemon and Lime Squeezer
Amazing little gadget gets all the juice out of lemons and limes, strains the seeds, fits into small places for storing.

Microplane Premium Zester/Grater
I used to avoid zesting until I found the microplane. With razor sharp teeth that allow for zesting in both directions, you can quickly zest citrus fruits, garlic, ginger and whole nutmeg–chocolate too!

Because high-speed blenders are pricy big ticket item, I’d say technically this is a of nice to have instead of essential. But honestly, I can’t imagine not having my Vitamix in the kitchen. I know it saves time and utimately money too. I was tired burning out standard blenders. Want a Vitamix? Be very good, and let Santa know. Get free standard shipping ($25US/$35CN) by calling 1-800-848-2649 and using the code 06-007033

Food Processor
Don’t bother with a mini processor. They don’t work.

Stand Mixer
Nice to have, especially if you are into working with aquafaba or making vegan buttercream. My Kitchen Aid mixer does not tilt, and it is 30 or 35 years old! Maybe they don’t make them like they used to, but although I don’t have a need to use a mixer often, I’m glad I own this. You can also use a hand mixer and patience.

Cupcake Boxes
I just started ordering these boxes for gifting mini cupcakes and Gluten-Free Brownie Bites. The packaging is flat, the windowed box makes an attractive presentation.


Fran Costigan's 2015 Vegan Holiday Gift Guide

Lagusta’s Luscious 
Offer: 10% off everything in their Caramel and Toffee category on their website. Use code weheartfran at checkout. Offer expires 12/21/15. (Offer excludes the Caramel Collection and Large Caramel Assortment box.)

Allisons Gourmet
Offer: Free Shipping on orders over $100 (no code needed)

Sweet & Sara
Marshmallows never tasted this good! 100% Vegan. 100% Divine. Vegan Tested. Animal Approved. Offer: 15% – use code FCVEGAN. Offer expires 12/22/15.


The Big Ticket Items


Fran Costigan's 2015 Vegan Holiday Gift GuideOnline and classroom learning is a gift that will keep on giving!

Rouxbe Plant–Based Certification Course
Led by world-renowned plant-based chef educator Chad Sarno, this ground-breaking certification course is the most comprehensive plant-based course ever put together. Read what Dianne Wenz had to say of her Rouxbe experience.

Natural Gourmet Institute
Give a gift certificate to a friend – or to yourself – for the Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive®, which takes place in a pro pastry kitchen, February 24 to 28, 2016 in NYC. Enrollment is strictly limited to 15 students. This unique in the world course is comprised of 1 lecture-demo and 8 hands-on classes, all taught by me, with an occaisional guest specialist chef. Learn how to make world class vegan desserts everyone will love. This certificate granting course is suitable for pros and newbies, and everyone in between. See link above for detailed information, but don’t delay. Just do it!!



Fran Costigan's 2015 Vegan Holiday Gift GuideLastly, you will find the big treats: the vegan travel options coming up in 2016. (Everyone is welcome!)

Vegan Cruise to Mexican Riviera 
Last year I was thrilled beyond words to have traveled to Alaska with the Vegan Cruise Planners, Miyoko Schinner, Vegan Zombies and Vegan Black Metal Chef. This year right around Halloween, we’ll all be back and headed to the Mexican Riviera for sun, fun, cooking demos, tastings, parties, the best new friends you haven’t met yet, and always– surprises!

Vegan Italy
As a guest host on the Vegano Italiano Tour of the region of Cilento last summer, I was in awe every day of the beauty, unbelievably fresh food, historic sitesn and the friendships made. Stay tuned  for my announcement coming very soon about the early Oct, 2016 Vegano Trip to Sicily, the land of pistachios, chestnuts, citrus, olive oil and wine– and the very special chocolate of Modina. Details are being finalized now!


Dear friends, I am truly interested to know what you like to give and to get as gifts, so please let me know in the comments section.  I’m sending my sincere wishes to each one of you for a happy, healthy holiday season. May there be peace on earth for all.

With love,

  • somehow you missed Dear Coco Chocolate – my FAV chocs!! They have the most incredible vegan toffee and chocolate bars with great spices and nuts, hot chocolate spoons with marshmallow already inside and lots of other really creative deliciousness. Honestly can’t get enough – once I found them on Go Dairy Free I was hooked 🙂 http://www.DearCoco.com

    • Thanks for letting me know. There is happily today, an embarrasemebent of riches in the realm of quality vegan chocolate. I’m always happy to learn about another company.

  • My grandma went thru the depression, so I must have a little bit of her with me still. I mostly like to give practical gifts at Christmas. Things that people can really use in their life. This year, I picked up three sets of silicon baking mats for my family. I felt like this was a gift they could use and enjoy all year.

    • My mother in law Wini Costigan, my baking mentor, also talked about going throught the depression. Practical gifts are the gifts that are well used. The idea of gifting baking mats is a a winner. Thank you for sharing with us Kris. Happy holidays to you!

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