If you have a vegetarian on your shopping list this year, I have a few gift ideas for you.

A high-quality knife, a food processor or an enameled cast iron cooking pot makes an excellent gift for culinary newbies, if your budget can cover it. But, for vegetarians who have been around the kitchen island a few times, all the essentials are no doubt covered. That’s where you need to get creative.

Here are a handful of ideas sure to impress the vegetarians on your list.


Daddy’s Private Stock cookies – $4.99

Where to buy: Natural food retailers, such as Lois’ Natural Marketplace, Royal River, Whole Foods and online at daddysprivatestock.com.

New to the market this year, these organic, vegan cookies are a heaven-sent treat. Julianna Thrasher makes five flavors in the certified kitchen of her Canaan home. The tasty and satisfying cookies (available in chocolate peanut butter, cashew quinoa crunch, cookie dough, cashew quinoa pumpkin crunch and peanut butter chia) come as single cookies, cookie six-packs and packets of cookie bites.

The mostly raw ingredients (such as coconut oil, agave nectar and cashews) are lightly heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike baked cookies, these delicate energy-boosters must be kept frozen or refrigerated until eaten. So it’s best to give them to those in your own home or who live close by.

Thrasher, a devout Christian, says her inspiration for the business was sparked by a dream where God handed her the recipe. She told me “Daddy” is her way of referring to God. She’s also a certified nutrition coach. “I don’t want people to deprive themselves,” she said. “I have a passion for letting people know food doesn’t have to taste bad to be good for you.”

Papa’s Juicy Noodles – $4.99

Where to buy: Health food stores and local markets, such as Bow Street Market, Rosemont Market and Whole Foods.

A favorite with college students and the budget-conscious, ramen noodles have taken a hit lately. First there was the stomach-cam video that went viral showing how much longer it takes to digest processed ramen noodles compared to homemade noodles. Then this fall, research out of Baylor University and the Harvard School of Public Health showed a possible link between eating the instant noodles and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Enter Maine-made Papa’s Juicy Noodles. While not quite instant (they take about 10 minutes to prepare and call for butter, olive oil and Parmesan cheese), the tasty vegetarian noodles come without an ingredient list that requires a chemistry degree to decipher. You can easily add stir-fried vegetables, baked tofu or fried tempeh.

The noodles were invented years ago as a family alternative to ramen noodles and were brought to market this year by Nancy Polito of Portland and her daughters. “My grandfather Giovanni Polito opened the first Italian restaurant, the Napoli Restaurant, on Middle Street in 1919,” Polito said. Her father created the noodles after he “became so upset with the unhealthy ingredients” in ramen noodles.

The resulting Papa’s Juicy Noodles make a great stocking stuffer or addition to a college care package.


Immersion blender – $40 to $200-plus

Where to buy: Department stores, kitchen stores, online.

One of these gadgets is essential for vegetarians who enjoy pureed soups. Rather than transferring hot soup to an upright blender, you just plug in this nifty appliance and lower the wand into the soup pot. Press the button and puree. A little or a lot.

The immersion blender is also a compact alternative to an upright blender or a food processor for making smoothies, salsa, cheesecakes, pesto, bean purees and numerous other vegetarian staples. They store easily when space is at a premium.

The prices vary widely, as do the blenders’ reliability, so check online reviews before you buy.

Whirley Pop popcorn maker – $25 to $45

Where to buy: Specialty kitchen stores and whirleypopshop.com.

A friend gave my husband and me a Whirley Pop when we got married, and I’ve used it ever since. On a gas stove, it only takes a couple minutes and some vigorous cranking before I have a pot of freshly popped corn. The Whirley Pop makes a great gift for movie lovers, college students and anyone else who appreciates this classic vegetarian snack food.

Whether the vegetarian you’re buying for is the type who avoids microwave popcorn because of the chemicals or the kind who will appreciate it if you throw in some organic, Maine-grown kernels (often sold still on the cob), he or she will find plenty to love in this brilliant promoter of whole-grain snacking.

The popping corn smells fantastic, and the results taste much better than the microwaved stuff. These days when I want popcorn, I make it after my son is in bed. The sharp kernels create a choking hazard for kids under 4, so it’s best not to gift it to anyone with preschoolers. It could force your gift recipient to become a clandestine nighttime popcorn eater, too.

Yonanas frozen treat maker – $50 to $130

Where to buy: Department stores and online.

My son loves bananas. And while some weeks he’ll eat 10 bananas, the following week he may eat only four. Since my husband and I aren’t big banana eaters, I’m often faced with a bunch of organic bananas about to turn from ripe to ruined. So I pop them in the freezer. I usually pull them out to make smoothies. But now I have another trick.

The simple, surprisingly easy-to-clean Yonanas makes a creamy sugar-free, vegan sorbet from frozen bananas, other fruit and additions like peanut butter. Basic blueberry banana is the favorite in our house, but the website tempts with recipes for blackberry vanilla bean and apple maple walnut. It’s a great gift for vegetarians with young kids, banana lovers, people who don’t eat sugar and raw food enthusiasts.


Portland Public Market House

Where to buy: Portland Public Market House, 28 Monument Way, Portland; 228-2056.

If a vegetarian on your shopping list lives, works or goes to school in downtown Portland, a Market House gift certificate makes a much-appreciated present. The two-story venue is packed with vegetarian-friendly businesses (which all accept the gift certificates).

The food court is upstairs, and downstairs is K. Horton Specialty Foods, with an impressive cheese case and a number of vegetarian sandwiches on the menu. It sits across from Big Sky Bakery, where you can get vegetarian sandwiches and pizza.

Upstairs, Granny’s Burritos always has multiple daily vegan specials in addition to regular vegetarian menu items. Kamasouptra offers vegetarian and vegan soups each day. The Daily Greens salad bar is another veg-friendly spot, and the Maine Squeeze Juice Café is all-vegetarian. Both Market House Coffee and Love Cupcakes sell vegan baked goods.

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

Where to buy: kripalu.org; (866) 200-5203

Need a splurge gift for that special vegetarian someone who’s also a fan of yoga? Consider buying a gift certificate to the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. While the retreat’s menu is no longer exclusively all-vegetarian, the dining hall offers plenty of vegetarian choices for herbivore guests.

The center runs a busy schedule of yoga- and nutrition-focused retreats, including Produce Rules: A Weekend of Vegetarian Cuisine scheduled for May 29-31. Tuition for the retreat costs $295, plus room and board, which varies depending on the room.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila