All posts filed under: Global Gift Ideas

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Why I’m giving my family nothing for Christmas

We’re a few days post Thanksgiving. The words “hurry now” and “save 50%” have left our fingers twitching towards our wallets. In most cases we don’t even know what we want to buy – we just want to SAVE. Friends, we’re in the liminal zone – wandering in a post-Thanksgiving haze, headed towards the New Year, just a few short weeks away. The time can easily be spent in a craze of shopping that we hope will somehow transform us into happier, more fulfilled versions of ourselves, but that only ends up dumping us on the other side of the New Year with more stuff. We wobble through the first days of the New Year, staggered by the weight of our new belongings, grappling for a resolution that will make the future somehow more meaningful. Can we just… stop? Instead of following the signs – “hurry now” and “save 50%” – let’s slow down and spend 100% on each other. A family tradition After my daughter’s first Christmas, when she got a million and one gifts, I realized I’d have …

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Homemade Balsamic Figs | Entertaining the Italian way

A daydream worth dreaming

Cobblestone alleys flanked by weathered walls. Hilltop churches. Sunlight warm on fig trees and grapevines.  This is the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Deep in the cellars there’s Parmesan, balsamic, and prosciutto aging. They slumber in the dim recesses, the nuttiness and salt growing bolder, rounder. Waiting for the perfect moment to shine.

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DIY Teacher's Gifts for under $3

18 Meaningful DIY Gifts for as little as $1.22 each for teachers, friends, & more!

What do you see when you look at several boxes of tea? I see opportuni-tea.  I’m so, so sorry! But it’s true: with just six boxes of tea, I can create a world of flavor for up to 18 people (some boxes only hold 16 bags) for hardly any money.  It’s so easy I almost feel guilty for making a step-by-step post about it. A little background first. There’s no end to the occasions that require thoughtful gifts. But it’s hard to find thoughtful gifts that are affordable. While these gifts would be great for Valentine’s Day, Office Christmas gifts, or party favors… School is almost over so we’re doing them as a teacher’s thank you. Ava will give one to each of her four teachers, as well as the preschool director. She’s had an amazing time these last few years, and we wanted to put care into thanking them. We accompanied the gifts with a little Q&A about Ava’s favorite memories and messages she wanted to pass on to make it even more personal. I chose …

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5 DIY Gardening Gifts for the Global Foodie

I’m already Gone Herbs are heaven. A few clippings of lemongrass into a pot of pho, some rosemary in a ball of bread dough, or  a sprinkling of cilantro over rice and I’m transported to another place entirely. Another continent. I don’t even have to eat the herbs – I can shut my eyes and breathe in their aroma and … ahhhh… I’m already gone. It doesn’t help that I’ve been digging in the garden for these last couple of weeks… early spring is my favorite time of year because anything is possible. Everything is about to take off and grow! A world of flavor Imagine giving your friends an herb starter plant from every continent so they can experience some of the edible, craveable bounty the world has to offer? Whenever they take clippings of those herbs and add them to their meals they’ll be eating their way around the world –  an easy way to make their lives a little happier and tastier. Yes, there are herbs from every continent. At the end of …

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Peanut Brittle with Coconut & Cardamom | Kashata

On the simmering streets of Uganda, you can walk up to a street vendor and satisfy your sweet tooth with a big bite of Kashata. Loosely speaking, Kashata is East African brittle.  It’s most popular in Uganda and Tanzania. It’s hard, sweet, and all kinds of delicious. I’ve seen Kashata shaped as cubes, balls, and diamonds. Some are flat, some are thick. Just like people, the shape doesn’t matter; it’s all about what’s on the inside. The most glorious Kashata are a blend of peanuts, shredded coconut, and either cinnamon or cardamom. You can also find Kashata made from all coconut or all peanuts. Moreover, sometimes you simply dump in whatever nuts you have on hand. Easy. Makes enough to share. 1-2 dozen (depending on how thin you spread the mixture) Ingredients: 2 cups sugar 1 1/2 – 2 cups peanuts 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried coconut (unsweet) 3/4 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon) pinch salt oil, for greasing Method: Let’s go to Uganda, where electricity is optional… because, truth be told, this entire …

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Watermelon Jam

Imagine living in a place that has a National Holiday called “Melon Day.”  You could be surrounded by more than 400 kinds of melon, including some 50 varieties of watermelon.* The cool, sweet flesh would fill your belly and spirit. Eating it would definitely make you smile. And spreading it on bread? Even better. If any of this appeals to you, you might want to consider moving to Turkmenistan. These lovely people have celebrated Melon Day since 1994, and they don’t plan to stop eating the sweetness anytime soon. When I read in The World Cookbook for Students that Watermelon Jam is a thing in Turkmenistan (particularly when served on toast with tea), I knew we had to try it. I made a nice batch of jam from half a regular watermelon. Tastes like jarred sunshine. What a great gift to share with friends and family! Perhaps with a spot of tea… NOTE: I used Pamona’s Universal Pectin because it allows me to add less sugar to the mix (just 2 cups). I found Pamona’s at Whole Foods, though …

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Coconut Curd | Kaya

Singapore is a true melting pot. In every kitchen, you’ll find time honored traditions from around the world, especially India, China, Malaysia, and Europe. Today’s recipe, Kaya, belies the British influence on the islands. Think tea time and crumpets. But Asian-style. Here’s the skinny: Kaya is Coconut Curd. Curd is a spread that’s thickened with egg yolks… In this sense, Kaya is just like Britain’s much adored lemon curd, but with the hauntingly addictive flavor of rich, velvety coconut milk instead of tart lemon juice. While the tropical spread would be incredible between cake layers, the most traditional use in Singapore is on toast for breakfast or teatime. Kaya is smooth and silky on the tongue, and makes any breakfast instantly feel special. The best part is that there are only three ingredients, the luscious blend is vegetarian, and, just by chance, gluten-free. Win. Win. Win. I suggest sipping a little tea or coffee on the side… perhaps with a mega view, like this: P.S. I think kaya would also be divine on crumpets, scones, or biscuits. P.P.S. Kaya would …

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West African Peanut Bites | Kanya

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this Adventure, it’s that my family’s unfaltering love of peanuts inexorably links us to the fine people of West Africa, where this little legume is  enjoyed in both savory and sweet concoctions. Peanut soups and cookies are both fair game, but today we explore Kanya, an altogether new delight. Kanya are naturally gluten free and beyond simple, made with just three ingredients: peanuts, sugar, and toasted rice flour. That’s it! Kanya remind me of fudge, but with a drier, slightly crunchy texture thanks to the toasted rice flour. There’s just one catch (there always is, isn’t there?)… If you want to make Kanya the old fashioned way, you’re going to need arms of steel to push, and punch, and grind the mixture until it is so pulverized that it begins to stick together. Women in Sierra Leone (and beyond) know this art well and can be found patiently pounding grains and peanuts in the dappled sunlight, laughing and talking all the while. When I read about Kanya, I …

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Caribbean Black Cake

Sometimes I think the holidays would go a lot smoother if everyone was handed a shot of rum and a slice of cake. How could conversation not go smoothly after that? Turns out, that’s what they do in the Caribbean… with great success. Black cake is a cousin to the British Plum Pudding and is made with an expensive array of dried fruits, like cherries, raisins, and prunes and topped off with a bit of nutty crunch (almonds for me). Before baking  – sometimes for months – the fruit soaks in rum and cherry brandy until it’s so plump and intoxicated, that only good things can come from it. What version of the cake ends up on your fork depends on what island your plate rests on, although most will agree that – unlike with American fruit cakes – grinding up the boozy fruit is a must. This, along with a dose of molasses and brown sugar give the cake it’s deep brown coloring (while some also like to add a local ingredient called “browning”). …

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Mango & Ginger Chutney

Sometimes life throws us some pretty major “boulders” – huge, overwhelming problems we can’t seem to solve, let alone nudge out of the way. In Namibia, you can find a lot of these boulders, literally. Strangely out of proportion, these massive stones perch atop bald, widswept vistas. I like to think of these formiddable boulders as mangoes. Yes, mangoes. Something that, if given enough time, will soften and sweeten and delight you. Why can’t all problems be this way? Today’s recipe combines three beloved Namibian ingredients: mangoes, ginger, chili pepper flakes. The resulting chutney tastes great with meats, veggies, breads… you name it. It’s quite sweet, vinegary, and mildly spicy. You can add fresh minced chili peppers to increase the heat to sweat-inducing levels, if you’d like.   Makes 1 quart Ingredients: 4 cups cubed mango 1/2 cup white wine vinegar 1 cup sugar (less if your mangoes are very sweet) 1 small onion, chopped 1 tsp fresh ginger 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes (or more to taste) 1/2 tsp mustard seed (I had …

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Lithuanian Honey Spirits | Krupnikas

The holidays are over. We stuffed our wrapping paper back into the closet and swept the confetti into the trash, right on top of the party hats that say 2012. The cookies and the friendly buffets of family favorites are long since gone, replaced by soulless detoxes and way-too-skinny drinks. I know some of us are even thinking about spring – scanning the frozen ground, vainly hoping to see some stray spot of green, willing a warm gust of air to come our way, instead of a moveable wall of ice. But can we just… pause for a second, in the interest of good planning? Would you be very mad if I asked you to make a few presents for next year? Right… now? Hear me out. They say Lithuania has the largest collection of amber in the world – known as the gold of the baltics – but I uncovered a far more enticing “gold” in their liquor cabinets: Krupnikas, or Honey Spirits. This boozy drink tastes like heaven on fire – a sweet, fragrant blend that …

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11 Global Gifts for Your Very Global Black Friday

While I am a stuff-my-face-with-turkey-and-gratitude kind of gal, I’m decidedly not a get-up-at-three-am-to-go-shopping kind of gal. Still, I love the satisfaction of finding just the right gift for just the right person. After all, what’s better than a moment like this, when you open up an entire world with a simple book … … or when you can practically smell the flowers of the world when you turn the page… … or when you get lost in a dream of snuggling in a hammock bed… … yes, just the right gift is worth a little looking. But can we just do it after breakfast, please? Or maybe next week? Thanks. YOUR  VERY GLOBAL GIFT GUIDE (Click the titles for more information)  Welcome to my list of globally inspired holiday gifts. It’s a hodge-podge of items, with a heavy emphasis on gifts for the very young child. Because, let’s face it, that’s my life right now. P.S. See if your local shops carry these items. You might be surprised.   1. COMAL GRIDDLE I purchased a carbon steel comal griddle at my …

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