Presents for the Almost Vegetarian family (and a gorgeous Nigella Lawson vegetarian pear recipe for you)

So you're going to visit a family and you want to bring something. Something the kids will like. Or something for a parent. Or something the entire family can use.

Well I've got ideas.

  • Mimi the Sardine lunchbags. These are the goofiest, silliest, most delightful kids lunchbags. And, best of all, these bags are machine washable, 100% lead-free, eco-friendly, and insulated. Which means mom (and dad) are happy, too.
  • Blue Globe and Bone Puppy Chews and Welcome Home Puppy Gift Set. While we certainly don't believe in giving puppies as presents, we do believe in giving presents to puppies, and here are two incredibly sweet organic treats perfect for our furry friends. The first gift is a bone and a globe (nom, nom, nom), both made of non-toxic, recyclable material, both with a treat hole that can be stuffed with treats, and both perfect for the puppy or smaller dog. And the second gift consists of a 20" x 20" blanket and a plush squeaky toy made of cotton and a chewy bone and a tin of organic gourmet biscuits. All totally adorable for your little friend.
  • Klean Kanteen 27 oz bottle with insulating sleeve and Sigg snack boxes. Heck, why stop at helping the kids to be more eco-friendly when you can help the whole family? The Klean Kanteen bottle is made from a safe stainless steel that is designed not to leech minerals and the neoprene Built NY insulated sleeve insulates and limits surface condensation. Meaning your bottle won't make everything all damp. And as for the cool-looking midi and maxi aluminum Sigg snack boxes, they are light, leak-proof, and perfect for keeping food from getting smushed. So buh bye plastic!
  • Cuisinart Brick Oven Toaster Oven. So you're going to Grandma's house, and so is your family and your aunts and your uncles and your cousins and their families and friends and more family and neighbors and associates and . . . Okay. So Grandma is overwhelmed with cooking. And could do with more space. Which is where this handy little oven comes in. You can bake, you can broil, you can toast, and best of all, you can use the convection feature which is great for even cooking (think desserts). Best of all, the day after the holidays, good old Granny can freeze the leftovers and make herself a pizza on the handy pizza stone which, let's face it, is all anyone wants after all that holiday food.
  • The City Block Snack Tower. Sure, there is more salt and sugar packed into these boxes than you really should eat in a year, but, hey, with a generous assortment of nine different treats, from popcorn and pretzels to sesame stix, old-fashioned taffy, and corn nuts, there is bound to be something to please every member of the family. So enjoy, but do remember to eat a celery stick every so often!
  • Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Variety Gift Set. Forget the white vinegar, the ammonia, the bleach. Finally, there are cleaning products you will want to inhale. Loaded with Lavender Dish Soap, Lemon Verbena All Purpose Cleaner, Geranium Countertop Spray, Lavender Hand Soap Liquid, Lemon Verbena Surface Scrub, and Geranium Room Freshener, this is a natural cleaning line you won't worry about using around the kids.
  • Ugly Dolls. Struggling to get around gender stereotypes? Or just looking for something to make someone giggle? Then take a look at the Ugly Dolls. Charming, goofy, and delightful, these imaginative creatures range from Ox, who uses his long ears to hug to the shy Peaco who lives to dance to Bop N' Beep, a two-sided doll.
  • The Improvisational Cook. I tend to like the Sally Schneider cookbooks. She is not a vegetarian, but she does put a lot of thought into her recipes, always trying to balance flavor with health, which is pretty much what I try to do. I like the overall philosophy here (improvisational cooking is ideal for busy families who often have to make do with whatever is on hand), and I like a lot of the dishes she comes up with such as the Salad of Cress, Pine Nuts, Pears, and Chives. And, of course, published by William Morrow, you have to know it is a pretty book.
  • Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast. Again, we have that fast theme which, on a busy weekday night, can be a lifesaver. And, personally, I can never flip through a Nigella Lawson recipe book without finding at least a few good, staple, vegetarian recipes I can rely on. This nicely thick book, which is published by Hyperion, is loaded with temptations, such as this one:

  • Marsala honey pears with gorgonzola
    2 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)
    2 pears (approx 500g/1lb total weight), unpeeled and uncored
    3 tbsp Marsala
    2 tbsp honey
    2oz walnut halves
    1lb ripe gorgonzola

    Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Meanwhile, cut the pears into eighths, leaving the skin and core on.

    Fry the pears for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until softened. Meanwhile, whisk the Marsala and honey together in a cup or small bowl.

    Add the Marsala mixture to the pears and allow to bubble and become syrupy. Transfer the pears to a large serving plate, reserving the syrupy mixture in the pan. Add the walnuts to the same pan and stir fry them for about a minute, or until they are slightly darkened and sticky all over.

    To serve, transfer the walnuts to the serving plate along with any remaining pan juices and place the gorgonzola onto the plate.

    More presents tomorrow
    And tomorrow, we'll look at almost vegetarian hostess gifts. The fun continues!