This year, we're suggesting three themed gift baskets. First, a slide show of some of the items we recommend, and then (below the slide show) a detailed description with links to the items.
This first one is of personal care items made of only the purest ingredients. From Gemstone Organic, we're featuring Ruby Face Cream and Organic Gem Juice in Lavender Hydrosol. The face cream has a lovely fragrance and texture and is safe to use even around your eyes and on your lips, because the ingredients are so pure. Gemstone Organic, a California-based company, offers five different face creams. Their Ruby is especially good for extra dry skin. And it heals conditions like eczema and acne. Gemstone writes that Ruby is known for igniting your root and heart chakras, removing toxins, and increasing life force energy (chi). You'll want to store this face cream in a cool, dry area and use it by its "best by" date. Keeping it in the refrigerator will keep it fresh a bit longer. Gemstone Organic's Organic Gem Juice (in a spray bottle) is a versatile product that you can use to refresh your skin, spray on your pillow, and even use to refresh your yoga mat. We're very happy to have discovered Gemstone Organic products and highly recommend them!
This basket also features two new bar soaps, Oatmeal Lavender, and Shea Butter, from Vermont Soaps, another company we admire for the pure ingredients in their products. (And while we're talking about Vermont Soap, we also recommend their Liquid Sunshine Dish Foam, made with organic oils. We didn't include it in the personal care gift basket, but it's a great way to hand-wash dishes, because it does not contain those awful chemicals that other dish washing liquids contain, even ones sold in health food stores.)
This personal care gift basket also contains four bottles of Suncoat Products Inc. water-based nail polish made from non-toxic ingredients -- how wonderful is that? They make a line for adults (in a wide range of delicious colors) and a line for children, called Suncoat Girl, which is easy to peel off after the girls soak their fingers in warm water for a minute or two. The children's polish is matte and also comes in a glitter variety. The adult polishes are shiny and pretty. They're easy to remove with Suncoat "2 in 1 Remover Gel and Balm," which comes in a nifty orange tube that has a little mirror in its flip-top cap, and a small reservoir of cuticle cream at the top (kind of reminds of of the configuration of cream atop a bottle of milk, when they had such things in the old days). We love that Suncoat's nail products are free from chemicals and from chemical fumes!
From left to right, first is Dr. Fuhrman's Nutritional Yeast. As you may know, nutritional yeast is high in protein and contains a good amount of fiber, while adding a cheesy taste to foods. For example, two tablespoons of this product provides 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber. What we especially like about this brand is that it does not contain the synthetic folic acid found in most brands. Synthetic folate (folic acid) can be harmful to our health, as opposed to dietary folate. In fact, there is nothing artificial in Dr. Fuhrman nutritional yeast at all. Dr. Fuhrman is Joel Fuhrman, M.D., a best-selling author who advocates a "nutritarian" diet. You can see our interview with him here.
Next is AztecSeaSalt from Salt Revolution. It's an unrefined, organically processed hand-harvested sea salt from the Cuyutlán Lagoon off the coast of Mexico. It contains trace minerals not found in ordinary table salt. It's naturally moist and evaporated by the sun. The company writes: "It is about 92% sodium chloride and about 7% less sodium chloride than any other salt in the market." It's non-perishable, with no limit to its shelf-life, so is great for gift baskets. AztecSeaSalt is expensive, but the company offers a money-back guarantee.
The tall bottle is Ava Jane's 100% Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Avocado Oil. It comes from Mexican avocados, and increases the absorption of carotenoids, which is a good thing.
Finally, we included SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Extract because stevia is arguably the best sweetener to use, and because this pictured SweetLeaf product (unlike the brand's individually wrapped packets) contains nothing but stevia.
Oh no! STOP THE PRESSES!
We just went to the SweetLeaf website to look for the container that we have here. And we're not finding it. We're finding some "new" version that contains "inulin fibers and silica" in addition to stevia. We're very sorry to report this, and now will have to find another stevia product to recommend.
As with this "new" SweetLeaf stevia product, most brands are adulterated with additives like maltodextrin, additives which are high on the glycemic scale -- a bad thing.
Before seeing their revised product, we had written: "SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Extract, being pure, does not raise the blood sugar. Sweeteners like sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and agave all raise the blood sugar and are not good for our health. Stevia, which comes from the leaves of a plant, is something like 300 times sweeter than sugar, for example, so you only need a tiny bit in recipes, and such things as home-made lemonade. There is another brand of stevia, a compromised brand that we will not mention, that includes a tiny spoon in the container. We keep wishing that SweetLeaf would do the same, as that would make it much easier to use in recipes."
In light of this disappointing news, we're going back to the drawing board to find a really pure stevia. We will let you know once we've found it.
Starting in the center, we have "Juice It!" by Robin Asbell, with lovely photos by Antonis Achilleos. This beautiful, colorful, 132-page book makes a perfect gift for anyone who loves food and good health. As the author writes in her first sentence, "Juicing just might change your life." For the better, that is! Asbell covers everything, from why juicing is good for us, to the types of juicers there are, to what to do with the pulp that results from juicing. However, one thing we don't agree with is this book's suggestion to use an oven to bake anything. Studies have shown that baking (along with roasting, grilling and frying) produces harmful chemicals that cause aging and chronic disease. But the baking section in the book is tiny. And we also don't agree with this book's using dairy products, as we believe they are harmful to health. On the plus side, the many juice recipes cover a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and some have funny names, like Sushi Martini (a name that we hope does not offend vegans reading this) and Melon Collie (which, like the Sushi Martini, is made only of fresh produce).
To the left of "Juice It!" in our third basket is "The Meaty Truth" by Shushana Castle and Amy-Lee Goodman, with a foreword by Dr. Neal Barnard. The subtitle of this book is "Why Our Food is Destroying Our Health and Environment - and Who is Responsible." This topic is very timely, with increased worldwide discussion as we write this of the problems of climate change (which scientists agree is caused by human decisions), and studies showing what many of us knew for a long time, that meat eating is harmful to our health. This is a must-read book for any intelligent person -- and especially for policy-makers, should you be planning on sending any of them a holiday gift.
Also in the basket is our own book, The Little Book of Raw Vegan Holiday Recipes by Judy Pokras. Although this book is especially useful during the holidays, the recipes can be enjoyed all year long. It includes traditional favorites like Cranberry Sauce and Apple Pie a la Mode, and globally inspired treats such as Anisette Cookies, Thai Coconut Soup, and Borscht. It's available in paperback and Kindle editions, and includes suggested menus for holidays including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day Brunch. Best-selling author Harvey Diamond ("Fit for Life") has written about this book:
I hear people say over and over again that raw, vegan recipes just aren't interesting or tasty enough. Well....Judy soundly and tastefully blasts that myth into oblivion once and for all.
Finally, we've included in our third suggested gift basket a fun vintage book called "Make Beliefs" by Bill Zimmerman, which will provide hours of interactive fun at holiday gatherings. And we're delighted to let you know that author Bill provides a free e-book version!
Dont' miss Part 2 of our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!
Wishing you a warm and wonderful holiday season!