Holiday Gifts That Give Back – 2020 Edition

It’s been months since I stepped inside the mall! With ongoing lockdowns, online shopping has become second nature. Now that its time to shop for the holidays, most of you would look to your web browser for ideas. So, how about helping each other out by giving meaningful gifts that also give back?

One thing 2020 has taught us is the important of living a simple and meaningful life, consuming less, and valuing our family and friends more. Here are some products that will not only make your friends, family and colleagues happy, but also give back to help someone in need. Shop directly from small businesses that are working towards uplifting others’ from poverty, empowering women, providing shelter to the needy, and protecting the environment, among other good deeds.

Work at home…

Hope slipper for Haiti
Proceeds from Give Hope Roger Slippers provide education, employment and healthcare in Haiti

Sandals For Haiti $50

These sleek and comfortable sandals are perfect for the men that are working from home or lounging after a tough day. They are made with locally and sustainably sourced leather.

Add a messenger bag, wallet and bracelet to round up your shopping. Give Hope Global is a non-profit ethical fashion line offering products that are handmade in Haiti. Proceeds from sales are used to open and operate schools, community health care program, model farms, transitional homes, and for providing dignified employment to Haitian artisans. 

Take 15% off your order of Hope Roger or other sandals with discount code “GOEATGIVE15”

Hippy Feet to end homelessness
Hippy Feet socks help fight homelessness in Minneapolis, Duluth, and Chicago

Socks For The Homeless $24

American-made Hippy Feet socks come in colorful holiday and travel inspired designs. These eco-friendly, recycled cotton socks are available for men and women in ankle, quarter and crew lengths.

When you shop Hippy Feet socks, you help provide jobs to young people aged 16-24 that are affected by homelessness. Since 2016, Minneapolis-based Benefit Corporation, Hippy Feet has provided transitional employment opportunities to over 120 young people affected by homelessness. 

Dosha mat is a gift to help relieve tension
Dosha Mat helps relieve stress and gives back to youth in need

Accupressure Mat for Youth Health $94.50

As you spend several hours of your workday in front of the screen, you may experience tension, soreness and body aches. This luxurious and eco friendly acupressure mat is based on the ancient Ayurvedic treatment. It works by massaging and stimulating key points on the body to promote deep relaxation and healing. In addition, Dosha Mats helps with sleep, stress, headaches, circulation, energy, and nervous and immune systems.

Each mat is carefully handmade using the highest-quality, hypoallergenic natural linen, a removable cushion made of 100% natural coconut fibre, and features more than 4,500 high-quality acupressure points in the beautiful shape of lotus flowers. Dosha Mat is a social enterprise that donates 15% of their profit to several non-profit organizations that work to provide exercise programs like yoga, to youth in need.

For when you can travel…

backpack give back to the environment
Day Owl Backpack is sustainably made from durable, recycled materials that create jobs around the world

Backpack for the Environment $149

The lightweight canvas Day Owl Backpack is the most responsible bag you will own and versatile for taking to school, airport, work and hikes. It is made ethically from First Mile waxed 100% recycled fabric, through traceable sourcing and fair working conditions. Each bag saves 25 bottles from landfills or oceans, 700 gallons of water, and avoids 1.2 lbs of pesticides (which is what is used in the production of a cotton bag).

Moreover, Day Owl supports quality jobs in the poorest parts of Haiti, Honduras, and Taiwan through its FirstMile program.

Gift Monos luggage to travelers
Monos focuses on minimalism, affordability and human connections

Terrazo Suitcase That Puts People Before Profits $335

Monos Suitcases are the most well-designed, affordable premium suitcase inspired by the Japanese concept of mono no aware – 
the profound appreciation of the beauty in fleeting moments. The bags are lightweight and unbreakable, made with aerospace grade material and vacuum-formed with German Makrolon polycarbonate.The extraordinarily resilient material absorbs energy from impacts and springs the case back to shape. Also, the interior lining is durable, waterproof, and anti-bacterial.

The Terrazzo collection is inspired by old Italian villas, 1920s Art Deco architecture, and modern designer spaces that have a similar design. The organic pattern and its stonelike, matte finish impart classic style, while rendering any scuffs virtually invisible.

Use code “EARLYBF2020” at checkout to save 35% on everything site wide during the early Black Friday sale.

Sustainable Snacking…

Steeped Coffee gives back to front line workers
Single use Steeped Coffee gives to frontline healthcare workers in California

Coffee That Gives To Front Line Workers $15

If you know someone who loves coffee, then you got to fill their stockings with California-based hand-roasted, ethically-sourced Steeped Coffee. The coffee comes in nitro-sealed single-serve bags (like tea) to ensure absolute freshness. And the package is made of compostable and renewable materials. All it takes to brew a perfect cup is hot water and a few minutes. At the end of the day, there are no wasteful plastic pods accumulating in waterways or landfills. Steeped is also great to take along when camping or traveling.

Steeped Coffee matches every gift your purchase, pack for pack, and delivers directly to frontline healthcare workers across California, as part of their “You Give, We Give” campaign.

Nunbelievable cookies give back to the hungry
For every cookie you buy, Nunbelievable donates a meal at a soup kitchen

Cookies That Feed The Hungry $29.99

Nunbelievable, a mission-based baked goods company, donates a meal for every cookie sold! Since they launched in October 2019, they have donated over 100,000 meals to partner soup kitchens across the country.  The GMO-free individually wrapped cookies are delicious and come in four flavors. Choose from Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Oatmeal Raisin, and Double Chocolate Chip (Gluten Free), or get all four!

Send a 6 or 12 pack of Nunbelievable cookies to those you love this holiday season, and let them know you are thinking of them. Also, check out their meaningful corporate gifting program.

Self care…

Give the gift of Celestial silk pillowcases
Celestial Silk Gives 10% Back to Charity

Silk Pillowcases That Give Back $85

Mr & Mrs silk pillowcases make for a practical and luxurious gift to parents, in-laws or a special couple. Celestial Silk pillowcases not only keep your hair smooth and your skin moisturized, they also help you sleep better. Silk sheets are naturally hypoallergenic and are among the top bedding choice for asthmatics and allergy sufferers. All of their products are Oeko-Tek certified, which means no harmful chemicals ever touch the 25 momme pure mulberry silk. The pillowcases come in a gift-ready box with a card.

Celestial Silk donates 10% of all proceeds to charities such as EarthJustice. Further, they have donated more than three thousand silk pillowcases to chemotherapy patients and lower income women.

Read about the many benefits of silk.

Healing Crystal makes for a great gift
Healing Crystals necklaces give to children with respiratory diseases

Crystal Necklace For Respiratory Health $64.50

Many of us have faced stressful situations this year, including losing people we love, housing, income and health. Gift these folks a unique Healing Crystals necklace in amethyst, white jade, rose quartz or black obsidian. In addition to looking good, this necklace doubles as a Japanese mindful breathing tool which helps slow your breathing and calm your body and mind. Breathing into the crystal can reduce levels of stress and anxiety, increase positivity, improve concentration, improve posture, release toxins, and strengthen the immune system.

Healing Crystal Company is 100% female-run and has a “crystal karma” program whereby they donate 15% of their profits to non-profit organizations that work to provide healthcare to children with respiratory diseases in developing countries.

A bit of luxury…

Jazeera ring
Azeera’s conflict free gems donates to children’s organizations

Black Onyx Ring That Helps Kids $310

Create your own special ring with any combination of Amethyst, Citrine, Black Onyx, or Garnet. Inlay it in 14k rose, white, or yellow gold.

Azeera is a New York City based responsible online fine jewelry company specializing in customizing quality colored stones. Ethical miners and brokers provide conflict-free gems, which are then hand cut at a family-owned workshop in Jaipur, India. Azeera prides itself in creating fair standards and responsible working conditions for craftsmen in India. Additionally, they give back a portion of each sale to various children’s organizations.

Use code “goeatgive” to receive 25% off your custom made jewelry at Azeera.

Isabella Grace gives back to American Cancer Society
Proceeds from Isabella Grace Rose Gold Bead Necklace go to the American Cancer Society

Gold Bead Necklace for Breast Cancer Research $36

Consciously handmade Isabelle Grace Jewelry makes for a beautiful gift this holiday season. The brand donates 15% of the proceeds from their Breast Cancer Awareness collection to the American Cancer Society.  The elegant gold rose bead necklace supports those afflicted with cancer, as well as survivors of the disease. Also, check out their bracelets that feature inspirational sayings.  

Check out other great gift ideas…

Disclaimer: We accept product samples for review, but no remuneration for our opinions or proceeds from sales.

As an Amazon Associate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. All donations go to Go Eat Give, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Shop at smile.amazon.com. Make sure to add “Go Eat Give” as your preferred charity, so Amazon can donate for every dollar you spend.

Chocolate Alternatives That Are Good For You

Do you have a love and hate relationship with chocolate? You love the sweet indulgent taste of chocolate. It is satisfying in the moment. However, you’re allergic to sugar and dairy. Or do you feel the candy you eat is too addictive and doesn’t help you with your diet goals? Now, there’s good news! Whether you want to indulge in Halloween candy, gourmet chocolates, or bake your own sweet treats, these chocolate alternatives will satisfy your palate in a healthy way. Discover liquid, spreadable, gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free chocolates. Ethical, organic and sustainable chocolates are not just good for you, they are for the planet too.

gluten free chocolate truffles
Sweet Vegan dark chocolate truffles are handmade in New York.

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

New York based chocolatier – Sweet Vegan shows how delicious a truffle can be without using any dairy or other animal products. Sweet Vegan offers “Dreamy Bite”  truffles made with organic, sustainable and fair trade ingredients. Most importantly, the chocolate’s full flavor profile is so good, you will not miss the dairy! Get a gift box or order one of these delectable flavors – Luscious Lemon, Energizing Espresso, Spicy Ginger, or Midnight Passion. Moreover, Sweet Vegan is free of soy, gluten and nuts.

Flax Chocolate Brownies

Fresh and healthy brownies out of a packet? Sounds too good to be true, still these passed my taste test! With Flax4Life gluten, nut and dairy free baked goods, you’ll feel like you’re treating yourself to a decadent dessert, minus the guilt. Plus, you get the added bonus of all natural ingredients, and a healthy dose of Omega 3, fiber, lignans and no preservatives, no hydrogenated fat, no cholesterol and no trans fats. The Chocolate Brownie Mini Muffin has 689 mg of Omega 3, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein per serving and is loaded with rich, decadent chocolate. Now, thats a healthy dessert!

Hydrating Chocolate Water

If you are trying to give up carbs and sugars, drink more water, or have a healthier lifestyle, try Pure Inventions alternative – chocolate water. Sweetened naturally with low-glycemic lohan fruit and stevia extracts, Pure Inventions comes in liquid drops that are free of synthetic colors, flavors, sugar, calories, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and gluten. Add the Coconut Water Chocolate beverage to your water and sip through it on your working day. You will feel like you are at a luxury spa!

Chocolate Covered Crickets

A bug covered chocolate alternative sounds unconventional, even so the great flavor will change your mind. Bug Out Bar is a chocolate brownie bar made with cricket protein powder. Crickets are sustainable and nutrient-dense food, packed with protein and nutrients, making it a nutritional powerhouse.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Spread

Looking for an alternate to Nutella? Get rid of high sugar, artificially flavored spreads in your pantry and replace them with Broma. The almond dark chocolate spread is made with sustainably sourced dark chocolate, almonds, and a nutrient formula. Broma tastes different from sugar based spreads, but you will feel good about it afterward.

Chocolate Protein Powder

Now here’s an alternate to chocolate and protein powder. PBfit All-Natural Chocolate Peanut Butter Powder uses premium cocoa to give you the chocolate you crave and the protein you need. With less fat and calories than regular peanut butter, PBfit is great in smoothies, mixed into baked goods, added to cereals, or sprinkled on fresh fruit.

Dairy Free Chocolate Milk

Sometimes you can satisfy that chocolate craving with just a glass of milk. The dairy free Oatsome Chocolate Oat Milk from Oatsome will become your favorite milk alternative.  Try it straight out of a glass, warmed up like hot cocoa, or in your favorite smoothie. Serve hot or iced. Oatsome Chocolate tastes like the chocolate milk that you drank as a child, without the lactose.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. All proceeds go to Go Eat Give, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Shop at smile.amazon.com. Make sure to add “Go Eat Give” as your preferred charity, so Amazon can donate for every dollar you spend.

Gifts That Give Back 2019: A Sustainable Shopping Guide

It’s that time of the year. Whether you like it or not, you have to give gifts to your loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Why not make it more meaningful and purchase something that also helps the community at large?

We have put together our list of Sustainable Gifts that are not only worth giving, but also give back to someone in need. Here are our top picks for Gifts that Give Back 2019:

Food For Thought Greeting Cards
Each Food for Thoughts greeting card gives a PB&J sandwich to the hungry.

Food For Thoughts Greeting Cards $22 (8-pack)

Instead of picking up a random holiday card from the drugstore, get a cute sandwich shaped Food for Thoughts Card that feeds the hungry. With the purchase of each card, the cash equivalent of one PB&J is donated to an organization that feeds the hungry, such as food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens. Besides holiday cards, they also have birthday, thank-you and new address cards. They make wonderful teacher and office gifts!

According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 Americans does not have access to enough food.

TLD Candles
Environment friendly candles that smell good too!

TLD Candles $25

Two Little Dumplings are not your ordinary candles. These are made in New York, using all-natural coconut soy wax, low smoke hemp/cotton wicks, essential oils and nontoxic adhesive. The products reduce CO2 emissions by using reusable containers and all-natural candle materials, and recyclable packaging. They are also long lasting and smell great! A portion of all proceeds go to NYC Material for the Arts.

Cat Praying Wood Sculpture
Handmade wood sculpture benefits handicraft worker in Bali.

Cat Praying Wood Sculpture $49.95

These meditating cat statues carved in wood is sure to make any animal lover smile. NOVICA empowers artists and provides them a platform have a broad reach. Browse for hundreds of handmade items from all over the world on their website or Amazon.com. We personally met with one of NOVICA’s 100-year old flute makers in Bali.

Every purchase is gift wrapped and comes with a handwritten postcard from the artist – in this case Nengah Sudarsana from Bali. He also says on the website, “Novica has created a much better life for me and my family. Before, I could hardly afford to live in a single room home. Now I live in a house with three rooms, and have my own car. Most importantly, I now support many other artisans who work with me.”

Society Socks, A Gift that Gives Back
For each pair of sock purchased, a pair is donated to charity.

Society Socks subscription $57 & above

Instead of stuffing the stocking with a pair of socks, you can gift someone a sock subscription, where they will receive two stylish pairs of cotton socks each month. For every pair sold, Society Socks donates a pair to charity. Chose from 3, 6 or 12 months subscription and include a hand written note in your gift. If you love the idea, you can also get them personalized or subscribe to yourself!

Socks are one of the most needed, but least donated clothing items in homeless shelters.

Wicked Dog Hoodie, A Gift that Gives Back
Proceeds support number of dog rescue programs throughout the US.

Wicked Dog Hoodie $60

Here is a cool gift for animal lovers. Wicked Dog Apparel is a Boston based clothing brand that brings together the love of Boston, dogs, and clothing, that includes t-shirts, hats, dog leashes, hoodies and more. 

Wicked Dog Apparel sponsors a number of dog and animal related charities such as BarkHappy and International Doodle Day, as well as Christopher’s Haven‘s fashion show, and The Longest Day – 48 Peaks, a hike to fight Alzheimer’s. You can sport a nice look while reuniting lost and found dogs with their families, and saving abandoned, neglected, and abused dogs from high-kill shelters throughout the United States. 

Lazy Sea Turtle Tee, A Gift that Gives Back
Proceeds from beachwear go to sea turtle conservation.

Lazy Turtle Save Our Shells Tee $38

Lazy Turtle’s hoodies, tanks and t-shirts make a great gift for someone who cares about oceans, sea life, and the environment, or to teach young ones about marine conservation. The Florida family-owned company sells sun-safe beachwear (SPF 50), proceeds of which go to the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), the world’s oldest and most respected sea turtle conservation group. Get one each for mom, dad and the kids before heading out on your next beach vacation!

NOSOFA Club Scarf and Pocket Square
NYC Taxi themed scarf provides skill training in Michigan.

NOSOFA CLUB Scarf and Pocket Square $49

The city focused accessories make a fashion statement and perfect gift for a pair – newly weds, mom and dad, young couple! The NYC taxi cab scarf for women and pocket square for men is made of Poly Chamuese (that feels like silk) in a beautiful grey-yellow pattern. NOFOSA Club provides employment, life skills, and confidence to women and men at the St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center, located in Flint, Michigan. They teach people how to sew, giving them a professional skill as well as employment.

Fair Anita Earrings, A Gift that Gives Back


Earrings that empower women in Peru.

Fair Anita Earrings $16

Fair Anita employs 8,000 survivors of sexual/domestic violence around the world to create sustainable, fair trade jewelry, and accessories. Through this gift that gives back, the women employed at Fair Anita are paid 2-3 times more than the minimum wage, plus provided with health insurance and educational scholarships. Most items retail under $22 and are made from recycled materials, sourced locally from the communities where they are created. You can shop by country and learn about the artisans on Fair Anita’s website.

Yowie Chocolate Covered Toys
Chocolate covered toys facilitate ecological conversations.

Yowie Chocolate Covered Toys $24.95

Yowie empowers kids and parents to make a difference in ecological conservation by eating one of their favorite things – chocolate! Every chocolate is shaped as a lovable Yowie character and comes with a limited-edition collectible animal. There’s a leaflet that features a picture of the real-life animal, its profile and level of endangerment, to encourage parents to start conversations about ecological conservation with their kids. Makes for delicious stocking stuffers and party favors. Available at retail stores, including Walmart.

Beato Goes To India Children's Books, A Gift that Gives Back
Children’s book that educates kids in Bali.

Beato Goes To Indonesia Children’s Book $14.95

This fun children’s picture book teaches kids about travel, diverse culture, and protecting the habitats of endangered animals, through the eyes of a traveling cat. Authored by Go Eat Give founder, Sucheta Rawal, the book is based on real-life characters and photographs. A portion of profits benefits Bali Children’s Project, a nonprofit that keeps kids off the street and gives them education (including books, uniforms, food, and tuition), so they have a better chance in life.

Go Eat Give takes travelers to Bali for culinary, yoga and volunteer journeys.

Charcoal Soaps, A Gift that Gives Back
Give a charcoal soap and one woman in Kenya or Tanzania will receive a new charcoal-efficient stove.

Apotheke Charcoal Soap +Candle Gift Set $45

This charcoal soap does not only prevent breakouts and keeps your skin hydrated, it supports women in Tanzania and Kenya who are running charcoal-efficient stove businesses. Cooking over open fires is one of the world’s leading killers in developing countries. This gift that gives back will help to ensure that each soap made helps to provide a woman in East Africa with a stove; and each candle provides a family with solar light.

Womens Beans Project Snack, A Gift that Gives Back
Snacks that employ incarcerated women.

Women’s Bean Project Snacks $5.75

Grab a Women’s Bean Project delicious and organic snack for all your coworkers. The project hires women with histories of incarceration, women who are ex-gang members or former addicts with multiple felonies, and puts them to work manufacturing gourmet food items. Assortment of sweet and spicy flavors include Greek Yogurt Covered Blueberries, Ginger Zing Trail Mix, Ginger Zing Trail Mix, Ginger Zing Trail Mix, Chili Spiced Mango, and Thai Curry Cashews.

Artisanal Foods, A Gift that Gives Back
Honey made products that save the bees.

Catskill Pollinator Artisanal Food Basket $70

Artisanal food products are always popular among coworkers, hostess gifts, and foodies. The New York-based farm-to-table food and spirits brand with honey at its core offers gift baskets filled with organic honey, maple syrup, waffle mix, chocolate honey truffles, and more. During the crafting of their New York Rye Whiskey, spent mash is given to local farmers three miles away to feed their pigs; and a percentage of every sale is donated to environmental causes devoted to saving bees and other pollinators including Friends of the Earth and The Sierra Club. 

Heals Stress Reliever Kit
Relaxation kits prepared by single moms.

H.E.A.L’s Stress Reliever Kit $19.99

With family, shopping, cooking, and traveling, holidays can be a stressful time. Pamper someone during the holidays with H.E.A.L’s Sleepy Time Kit and H.E.A.L’s Stress Reliever Kit. Created by Dr. Harmony, the kits contain magnesium bath flakes, relaxation oils, and body lotions. It is the perfect way to say “thank you” to the chefs, caretakers, and party hosts, while also giving back. These two gifts contain handcrafted items by single moms, people with disabilities, homeschool families. H.E.A.L’s products are available through their website, Amazon.com, and in Walmart stores.

How To Celebrate Christmas in Innsbruck

When you think of Christmas, you probably picture brilliantly white snow falling on fir trees; people wearing woolen mittens holding steaming cups of hot chocolate, and little kids screaming with excitement as they watch Santa bring a bag full of surprises. You can see their little faces light up as they open up their presents and discover something awesome. They might be getting a new toy for Christmas like a fluffy teddy, or for the more older child, they might be getting a cooler gadget type toy. If you are stuck on what to get your son, then take a look at this page here for more inspiration (you can check this out here). Hopefully, your kid will be able to tell you what they want, although it probably doesn’t matter, as they’ll just be happy to see Santa! This is the very Christmasy feeling you get when you travel to Innsbruck, Austria – the capital of the Alps.

The small city located near the border of Germany and Italy transforms into a winter wonderland through the month of December. There are lots of events taking place so make sure to check the calendar and plan your trip accordingly. Starting mid November, there are advent and Christmas concerts, a Christmas flea market, brass music on the tower. The best part is, most of these are free and open to public.

Here are some ways you can get into the Christmas spirit in Innsbruck…

Shop at The Christmas Markets

This was my first time at a Christmas market in Europe and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of families (mostly Italians) in town enjoying simple pleasures. While we in US focus mostly on shopping for presents at big name brands during the holiday season, the people at the Christmas market at Marktplatz were strolling through the decorated squares, sipping on gluhwein (mulled wine), eating cheesy raclette toast, roasted chestnuts and kiachl (fried donuts).

The market in Maria-Theresien-Strasse sold unique Christmas ornaments, little village scenes, handmade woolens, candles, statues, woodwork, candy, cards and so much more. I felt a gift bought here would be a lot more meaningful than from the mall!

Watch The Krampus Parade

Prior to visiting Innsbruck, I did not know much about the tradition of krampus – which apparently has been around for a couple of hundred years in western Europe. In olden times, the Catholic church used the mythological figure (half goat, half demon) to scare kids so they behave well. Men would dress up as krampus and beat up the naughty kids while Santa would bring gifts to the nice ones (naughty or nice, get it?).

Little did I know that I had been a bad girl this year because I was beaten up by many devils in the town of Igls this year! I arrived at the annual krampus parade as an innocent spectator taking videos of the masked devils riding their chariots lit with fire. But then some of these devils pulled adults and kids from the crowd and whipped them with their brooms and sticks. Yes it hurt, and by the time the fourth guy headed my way, I ran for the bus back to my hotel.

Though scary, it was an experience hanging out with locals who brought their little kids to watch the parade. Even the young ones went along with the whippings as it is just a part of tradition.

Stroll Through Swarovski Crystal Worlds

Located just outside the city is a magical Christmas themed garden with lighted figures. Also, the new poetic garden features a unique Crystal Cloud made from 800,000 hand-mounted and enchanted floating crystals – pictures don’t do justice to the glistening reflections!

Being a Swarovski fan, I also enjoyed visiting the museum that tells the story of the family (who was from Bohemia which is now in Czech Republic), and displays some of the most famous gowns and jewels that bestowed celebrities on red carpets. Also, there is the largest Swarovski store I have ever seen selling crystals ranging from $50-50,000. There’s no way you can walk out empty handed from here.

Brunch with a View

If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, you will definitely get it in Innsbruck. Just take the Nordketten cable car to Seegrube, where you will find some of the best ski slopes in the Alps. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the majestic Stubai glacier as I enjoyed my first snowfall of the season. Many locals hike up the mountain, grab a delicious lunch at Seegrube Restaurant, and then take the cable car back down.

Another popular option for Sunday brunch is Restaurant Bergisel SKY (make reservations in advance) overlooking the famous Olympic Bergisel Ski Jump. Perched above the city, the glass enclosed restaurant has some of the best views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains.

In the mood for Christmas already? Then head to Innsbruck, Austria and enjoy the special season! I would recommend staying at least two days to enjoy the festivities, and longer if you like winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, or winter hiking.

Gifts That Give Back 2018

Each year I put together a meaningful holiday shopping guide especially for you. These are gifts that are tied to causes and help people around the world not only during the season of celebration, but all through the year.

So get your holiday shopping off to a great start with these gifts that give back.

Layered Cuffs 

These Kayan style solid brass hammered cuffs are made by refugee designers by hammering brass into a carved buffalo horn mold, which gives them their unique size, shape and textured quality. The founder of the jewelry site Akamae, Cara Boccieri lives and works with refugee communities in the Jungle on the Thailand Burma border.

Oofos Sandal

These are my favorite slippers to wear around the house and to run errands in. Revolutionary OOfoam technology absorbs impact to reduce stress on feet and joints and provides great support for arches. For every pair of shoes sold OOFOS donates 3% directly to breast cancer research.

Rise & Grind Crew Pullover

Can’t beat the soft comfortable fabric on a cold winter day. This rise and grind crew pullover didn’t even make it to my closet as I keep it on all day long!  United By Blue is a sustainable apparel and lifestyle brand with a big focus on waterway conservation. For every product sold, they remove a pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways. 

Give Thanks Charm

The delicately sculpted sterling silver charm with a message of thanks is a must for charm collectors. Chamilia, a Swarovski company supports WhyHunger, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to ending hunger and poverty by connecting people in need to nutritious, affordable food through its “Give With All Your Heart” program.

 

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle

These cute water bottles are portable filtration systems perfect for camping, traveling or even school. New Go 2-Stage Special Edition bottles support public lands alongside the Conservation Alliance and also natural disaster victims through the Safe Water Fund. With every LifeStraw product purchase, one child in a community in need is provided with safe drinking water for an entire school year.

Fringe Basket

Moms will find this artisanal machine washable basket a fun place to store away toys, clothes and magazines. Portion of Lorena Canals’ proceeds helps finance the education of children in Northern India and make lives easier for moms in the community where their products are made. Recent projects include a nursery for 104 street kids in the state of Haryana in India.

Elephant Tote

Passion Lilie, eco-friendly, fair trade apparel company based in New Orleans, LA designed this beautiful elephant cotton tote using eco-friendly materials. Use it for groceries, gym or travel. Purchasing the product empowers artisans in India by creating dignified employment opportunities.

Artisana Arrow Blanket

From the first moment I spread this blanket, not only did it brighten up my living room, my cat did not leave the comfort of its warm and soft alpaca wool. The vibrant colors and artistic pattern remind you of the Andes. Each purchase helps support the weavers and craftsmen and their families in Ecuador.

Soul of Africa Canvas Shoes

Global barefoot shoe company VIVOBAREFOOT, in collaboration with Belgian co-creation brand Akaso, created Soul of Africa Ababa shoes for men and women, showcasing a unique body-painting art of Kara people in Ethiopia. The Kara tribe is one of Africa’s most authentic tribes known for their abstract body painting. This initiative provides local employment and training in Africa. It’s estimated that one fully finished product made in Africa creates five jobs along the supply chain.

LALF Limited Edition Tee

Having recently visited The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Nairobi, I love the new vegan, organic and sustainable clothing brand LALF (Love Animals, Love Fashion). LALF donates 25% of every piece sold from this collection to DSWT, which includes dedicated anti-poaching units, a rehabilitation program for orphaned elephants, actively working to conserve wilderness areas, and much more. 

Buddhi Box

Whether for a mom who needs a little Zen in her life, a sister the yogi, or your BFF who loves to try out new products, BuddhiBox is an easy, unique way to please even the pickiest ladies on your list. Get a monthly, quarterly or one-time BuddhiBox, filled with ethically sourced, made in the USA, cruelty-free products such as essential oils, healing crystals, mala beads, and jewelry. A portion of the proceeds are donated to a different charity every month, and this month’s benefactor is Feed the Children.

Use code buddhibox15 for 15% off all subscriptions and any sale items on Buddhi Box.

Corc Yoga Mat 

These yoga mats are durable, non slip, hypoallergenic and lightweight. Corc Yoga products are made from sustainable, organic cork, not rubber, which is gently harvested from trees in Portugal. Cork trees are the only trees capable of regenerating bark allowing for steady production from a 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable source. Additionally, Corc Yoga donates a portion of every sale to support the mental health crisis in Portugal.

Beaded Jewelry

BeadforLife empowers women by training them to create bead jewelry from recycled paper, earn an income, and lift their families out of poverty. These trendy bracelets make for meaningful fashion statement and cost only between $8-40. So go on and stuff your stockings!

Marula Oil

Marula oil is the trending super product this year full of antioxidants, fatty omegas, collages and oleic acid. It soothes sunburns, heals burns, moisturizes cuticles, tames frizzes, soothes lips, heals acne and reduces stretch marks and scars. All ingredients are produced by female-owned businesses and co-ops, and production of Vegamour marula oil provides jobs for women in Namibia.

Save 20% with code BLACK20 on Black Friday at Vegamour.

If you like to entertain, this handmade hamsa dish set with one large plate and six smaller serving or dipping plates is perfect for serving nuts and appetizers. When placed together, the plates create a bright, colorful hamsa hand that symbolize peace, prosperity, and protection. Each piece is made by local women for a fair wage in Neapolis, Tunisia, a city that’s been making renowned ceramics for centuries. And Kamsah supports the region even further, giving 10% of its profits to causes that benefit its artisans.

These beautiful brass necklaces won’t just make a fashion statement, they will spark a conversation. Each proceed benefits Love146, an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking through holistic, trauma-informed survivor care and prevention education. They operate two safe homes in the Philippines and care for survivors in the UK and the United States. They also have a robust prevention program called “Not a  Number,” which is currently in use in 20 states in the US, and in Madagascar and Liberia.

Growing Roots Sustainable Snacks

Instead of purchasing cookie-cutter gift baskets for your office crew, get certified organic, vegan and gluten free snacks that support urban farm initiatives across the country. From Pineapple Coconut Rum, Maple Bourbon and Coconut Curry to Cocoa Chipotle, Growing Roots snack bites and clusters are the perfect delicious, plant-based snack for any season. I am even adding them to my breakfast granolas and homemade salads!

12 Days of Christmas – Pear Custard Pie

Hear’s another recipe to keep your Christmas kitchen aroma!

Pear Custard Pie

Streusel

  • 1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened

Pie

  • 1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium fresh pears, peeled, sliced (about 3 cups)

pear custard pie

HEAT oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. In small bowl, stir 1/2 cup Bisquick mix, the oats, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until crumbly. Set aside.

In small bowl, STIR 1/2 cup Bisquick mix, the oats, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter, using pastry blender (or puling 2 table knives though ingredients in opposite directions), until crumbly. Set aside.

In medium bowl, STIR all pie ingredients except pears with wire whisk or fork until blended. Pour into pie plate. Arrange pears evenly over top.

BAKE 25 minutes. Sprinkle streusel over pie. Bake 12 to 15 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Serve warm. Store in refrigerator.

~ Courtesy of Janice Leary at St Frances Inn, Florida. 

12 Days of Christmas – Turtle Dove Cheesecake

TURTLE DOVE CHEESECAKE

  • 24 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 2 cups)
  • 6   Tbsp.  Butter or margarine, melted
  • 1   Pkg.  (14 oz.)  Caramels
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped Pecans
  • 3 Pkg.  (8 oz. each)Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1   Tbsp.  Vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 2oz.  Dove Chocolate

Turtle Dove CheesecakeHEAT oven to 325°F.

MIX crumbs and butter; press onto bottom and 2 inches up side of 9-inch spring form pan.

MICROWAVE caramels and milk in small microwaveable bowl on HIGH 3 min. or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after each minute. Stir in nuts; pour half into crust. Refrigerate 10 min. Refrigerate remaining caramel mixture for later use.

BEAT cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over caramel layer in crust.

BAKE 1 hour 5 min. to 1 hour 10 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours.

MICROWAVE reserved caramel mixture 1 min.; stir. Pour over cheesecake. Melt chocolate as directed on package; drizzle over cheesecake.

~ Courtesy of Janice Leary at St Frances Inn bed and breakfast, St Augustine, Florida. 

12 Days of Christmas – Swan Cream Puffs

The historic St. Francis Inn (circa 1791) treats their guests 365 days a year to complimentary evening desserts that are homemade and uniquely created for a perfect ending before bedtime. After guests enjoy their dinner or activities throughout St. Augustine, they enjoy returning to the comforting parlor or dining room, sipping a beverage and indulging their sweet tooth on something yummy and surprising from cook Janice Leary’s kitchen.

For Christmas 2014, once again the Inn’s themed desserts will be paired with one of the 12 Days of Christmas. Each of the desserts below pays homage to the English Christmas Carol that represents a series of increasingly grand gifts presented on each of the 12 days of Christmas.

The song, first published in England in 1780 was without music and offered as a chant or rhyme. Representative of that era – the St. Francis Inn was built in 1791!

swan cream puffs

SWAN CREAM PUFFS

Pastry Puffs Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
4 large eggs
Large zip-top bag
Directions

PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. In a small saucepan, bring water, butter, and sugar to a boil over high.

Immediately REMOVE from heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in all-purpose flour. Continue to stir until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, about 2 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes.

ADD eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition until batter comes together. Transfer batter to a large zip-top bag; twist and squeeze bag so batter is in one corner. With scissors, snip a 1/2-inch opening in corner (or use a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round plain tip).

PIPE batter into desired size mounds, 1 inch apart, onto sheets. For heads, pipe candy cane shapes on to parchment paper. With a wet finger, smooth pointy tops. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until puffs are golden brown and feel light and hollow inside, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Filling:

2 Cups cold eggnog
1 box white chocolate pudding mix

PREPARE according to pudding directions. Let set, then scoop into halved puffs.

~ Courtesy of Janice Leary at St Frances Inn, Florida. 

How to Cook Pears Properly

This December, the growers of USA Pears are spotlighting a trio of clever pear preparations by top Pacific Northwest chefs. December has again been proclaimed National Pear Month by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), thanks to the abundance and variety of fresh pears in season and available nationwide.

“We’re so inspired by the thoughtful pear preparations popping up on top menus,” says Cristie Mather, communications director for USA Pears/Pear Bureau Northwest. “Even though these dishes originated in the kitchens of popular restaurants, home cooks of all skill levels can learn to pickle or dehydrate a pear.”

This National Pear Month, take a cue from the pros and experiment with these pear preparations:

Poach and Dehydrate

At Ox Restaurant in Portland, Ore., chefs Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton take a patient approach. Their pear “prosciutto” is made by poaching halved pears in a savory mixture of sage, rosemary, red wine, salt and pepper – then dehydrating the pears for 18 hours at 125 degrees and slicing them. Served with foie gras terrine, pickled chanterelles, malted white chocolate and salted pear reduction, this Ox dish has locals lining up to indulge.

Pear Proscuitto
Pear Proscuitto

Pickle and Grill

Seattle restaurateur and chef Ethan Stowell’s take on pears will make you rethink your next pear salad. At Tavolàta, his double-treatment of pears – first pickling, then grilling – lends a sharp and satisfying flavor to a bed of healthy endive and frisée. Served atop a base of creamy goat cheese with a walnut vinaigrette, it’s clear this salad needs no entrée. (See recipe below.)

Mortar and Pestle

Pok Pok Restaurants owner and chef Andy Ricker uses a mortar and pestle to gently bruise slightly under-ripe pears in his version of Son Tam Phonlamai. One of Pok Pok’s signature recipes, this savory fruit salad aims to strike a balance between sweet and tart. Pick up Andy’s newly released book for the full recipe, or try it at Pok Pok’s Portland, Ore. and Brooklyn, NY restaurants throughout the fall.

Son Tam Phonlamai with Crisp Bosc Pears POK POK photo credit Austin Bush © 2013
Son Tam Phonlamai with Crisp Bosc Pears POK POK photo credit Austin Bush © 2013

For additional pear recipes and inspiration, including tips on selecting pear varieties, culinary applications, or how to tell when a pear is ripe, visit www.usapears.org, and follow USA Pears on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usapears and Twitter @USApears.

About Pear Bureau Northwest/USA Pears

The Pear Bureau Northwest was established in 1931 as a nonprofit marketing organization to promote the fresh pears grown in Oregon and Washington. Today, the United States is the third largest pear-producing country in the world, and Oregon and Washington comprise the nation’s largest pear growing region with 1,600 growers producing 84% of all fresh pears grown in the United States. Pears grown in these two Pacific Northwest states are distributed under the “USA Pears” brand. Pears are an excellent source of fiber (24% DV) and a good source of vitamin C (10% DV) for only 100 calories per medium sized pear. Sweet and juicy with no fat, no sodium, and no cholesterol, pears are a perfect choice for a snack as well as for any course of any meal of the day. Visit www.usapears.org for more pear facts and recipes.

 

Pickled and Grilled Bosc Pears with Endive, Frisée and Walnut Salad Recipe

By Chef Ethan Stowell (Seattle, Washington)

(Serves 4)

Pickled and Grilled Pears Salad
Pickled and Grilled Pears Salad

For the pickled pears:

4 Bosc pears, cored and cut in 8 pieces
3 cups water
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 T pickling spice

For the walnut dressing:

1 cup walnut oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

For the endive, frisée and walnut salad:

32 pieces pickled Bosc pears
2 each Belgian endive, cut into bite sized pieces
2 heads of frisée, green leaves removed, cut into bite sized pieces and washed
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced chives
½ cup fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
Walnut dressing (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper

Pickled Pears:

In a medium sized stainless steel pot add the water, vinegar, salt, sugar and pickling spices. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for about 15 minutes to let the spices infuse. Add the pears and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and place the entire pot in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Walnut Dressing:

Place all of the ingredients in a small clean glass bottle. Screw the cap back on the bottle or stuff a wine cork in the opening. Shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds or until all of the ingredients are perfectly combined. Set aside until ready to use. Shake vigorously before every use.

To make the salad:

Preheat a grill for the pears, preferably a grill that is heated by natural wood. Drain the pickled pears. Working in batches, grill all of the pear pieces for about one minute per side or until nice grill marks are seared into the fruit. Set aside at room temperature while you make the rest of the salad.
 
Lay out four entrée size plates to build the salads on. With the back of a spoon, smear the goat cheese across the bottom of the plate in a circle. It should be about a 4 inch across circle of goat cheese. Arrange the pickled pear pieces around the outside of the goat cheese to act as a border and a well to set the salad.
 
In a large metal bowl, toss the endive, frisée, walnuts, shallots and chives. Season to taste with salt, pepper and walnut dressing. Divide the salad between the four salad plates and serve immediately, preferably with a warm baguette.
 

~ Courtesy of Pear Bureau Northwest/USA Pears

Celebrating Christmas in India

I grew up as a Catholic in a country where less than 1% of the population is Christian. In the city of Chandigarh in northern India, ours was among the handful of Christian families. Even though Christmas was a big deal for us, it wasn’t as festive around as it is here in the western world. Continue reading “Celebrating Christmas in India”