Just in Time for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Hostess gifts that are unique without breaking the bank

Earlier this week, I put up the first of my four Just in Time for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving posts. If you missed it (scroll down!), it was a collection of items to make Thanksgiving just a little bit easier for the cook, from a kitchen mat for your aching legs and back to a neat little gadget for cooking chestnuts.

Then, next week, I’ll look at vegetarian wine and an etiquette question that just has me stumped (I can use your help on this one).

Today, we’ll deal with the tricky issue of hostess gifts that are great without breaking the bank (the first one on the list is $25 and the last is $6.50).

In fact, we are so budget-conscious these days that the last idea on the list comes with an exclusive online discount for you. And a present at a discount is a present both for you and for them!

Hostess gifts that are adorable and fun and don’t break the bank
See, I want to give people nice things (ideally, things that look like they cost a lot more than they did), but I don't want to go broke (can anyone say recession) doing it. So here are some of my ideas.

Old MacDonald had a farm
I made the mistake of popping into Williams-Sonoma for a browse (“No, no, of course I’m not planning on buying anything. I just want to see what’s new”) and popping out knowing I had found the perfect hostess gift: The most adorable cutting board in the shape of a pig.

Now, of course, I can’t give everyone the exact same style, so this is where I got smart. I went to the manufacturers site (J.K. Adams). And not only do they have six different versions, but they had them for less ($25) than Williams-Sonoma ($29).

Made in Vermont from maple, the boards all have a different color edge, are treated with a food-safe antique stain, and are lightly distressed for that it’s-been-in-the-family-forever look. And they come in not one, but six amusing shapes: Maple leaf, rooster, cow, fish, chicken, and of course, the pig. Meaning I can give the same gift to everyone (no favoritism), but in a different style (tailored to individual likes). Pretty smart, eh?

For the dessert baker
I like two kinds of gifts best: Extravagant items no one would ever give themselves, but that they yearn for. And totally practical gifts that the recipient can use right away. The whimsical cutting boards fall into the first category. And this gift, the Baking Extracts gift box from Spice House, falls into the second.

Ideal for the baker on your list, this box contains almond and vanilla extract as well as (and this is the good part because these are hard to find) chocolate and coffee extracts. Now wouldn’t this be a thoughtful gift to give to someone who likes to bake? I think so! (Of course, if you have people on your list that are into cookies or curries or even salads, they have gift boxes for them, too.)

For the bread baker
I find that bakers fall into two camps: Those that make desserts and those that make breads. I like desserts (oh, how I like my desserts!) and they are fun to make, but bread making totally fascinates me.

And when I'm making bread, I use King Arthur Flour. Which means a King Arthur Flour gift is just perfect.

If you know a bread maker, here's a nice one: The Artisan Bread Baker Gift Basket. Here's why this is brilliant. First, you've got a bread mix. Sure, if you are a bread baker, you might not need the mix, but, really, show me someone who has 12 hours everyday to bake bread and I'll show you someone who needs a mix!

Next, there is a bread topping mix containing everything from anise and poppy seeds to flax, toasted sesame, and black caraway seeds. Not only is this a very nice, chewy combination, but they give you plenty which means you can produce multiple seeded loaves or bread sticks or even bagels.

Then you have two little gadgets absolutely every bread maker will appreciate: A Danish dough whisk for mixing yeast doughs and a dough slasher for slashing dough to release the steam (you've seen these sorts of slashes before in, for example, a baguette). And, (and this is the great part) all of this comes packaged in the handiest gift basket ever: A brotform.

A brotform is a coiled cane basket you put your dough into when it rises. Here's the good part about these baskets . . . because it is coiled cane, it will imprint a very pretty design on your dough as it rises, making it look just like a bakery store loaf. Pretty good, eh?

Sweets for my sweetheart
There are vegetarians who do not eat honey. So, if you are one, or if you are giving a gift to one, then this next item is not for you. However, if you (or they) do enjoy honey, then I have found you a honey that is so incredible my husband wants to eat it out of the jar with a big spoon (last night he was leaning against the counter, mumbling “This is so amazing that not only can I taste the honey but I can taste flowers.”).

Now, the honey is from the Volcano Island Honey Company. You can always go for an individual jar, but if you want to really impress someone, their best present is the Sweetness & Light Gift Box which contains three 8-oz jars of honeys (you get to choose which three you want) as well as two 10" pure beeswax tapers.

Preserve this
If you don't eat honey, then I haven't forgotten you. Oh no! Instead, I found you preserves from the Oregon Growers & Shippers. They have incredible flavors ranging from red raspberry and blueberry to strawberry pinot noir, cherry zinfandel, and huckleberry.

Of the flavors I have tried (and I haven’t tried them all, but I aim to, oh yes, I aim to), my favorite is the marionberry. This is why I think the Summer Harvest Trio, which contains three jams (Marionberry, Strawberry Pinot Noir and Cherry Zinfandel) in a handmade box for $23.95 would make a lovely present.

Of course, if you are really strapped for cash, I see no reason why you can't just get one of pretty bottles of jam ($6.50), top it with a pretty ribbon and give that. Personally, I would be delighted.

And an exclusive online chocolate discount for you!
This month (and only this month so get shopping if you want presents for December holidays, too) Vosges is offering 10% off all Website purchases. Simply use the promotional code 2810WB1 at checkout.

Now, one item that would make for a very sweet little treat is the Organic Exotic Candy Bar Library. This consists of four, 3oz bars: Dominica Noir, Dominica Lait, Enchanted Mushroom, Peanut Butter Bonbon Bar. Vosges is famous for their innovative use of ingredients (mushroom and chocolate), so they are fun to enjoy.

But if you want a little treat for yourself, then you might head over to the drinking chocolate sampler. This consists of three 3-ounce sample sizes of three different flavors, giving you seven or eight cups of cocoa to help chase away the chill.