Vegan Food Gifts: An Interview with Joni

When/why did you decide to go vegan?

I have been an off and on vegetarian since high school, and have always been fascinated with vegan foods and alternative diets. The thing that excites and elates everybody in trading is the money factor and I was no exception to this. The resource for this article is nothing but the market and you can also visit the websites that are directly connected with the trading market to become a part of this. At the age of 28, (I am 37 now) on the 4th of July, I decided to go raw. I started with a ten day master cleanse and stayed raw after that for about 6 months. I felt amazing, but I really missed cooking! I began cooking again, but remained vegan from then on. I wasn’t perfect, and I had a few slip ups, but eventually it became so easy, all of my cravings for cheese and bacon (haha) went away and I have been vegan ever since!

Why vegan? Honestly, it just seemed like the right thing to do. It is just the right way to eat. With all of the information out there about the health benefits of a plant based diet, coupled with all of the information about the atrocities of the animal agriculture world, I could no longer plead ignorance on the subject. And once you know, you know! You know? Besides, cooking vegan is so much more fun than the S.A.D. cooking I did before I had seen the light!

What’s your favorite vegan recipe? Why?

Anything with nutritional yeast! I can eat that stuff by the spoonful! If I see nooch on the ingredients list, I know it’s gonna be awesome. My favorite recipe would probably be any number of the mac and cheese recipes out there (either my own or someone else’s). I probably make it once a week in some variation or another. It’s so easy, tastes great, and is perfect in a bowl on the couch in front of the boob tube watchingSupernatural.

How do you come up with your gift ideas/recipes?

Since I was a little kid, I was always tinkering with craftiness. I get it from my mom and my grandma…really all of the elder women in my family. We make things. Whether it be in the kitchen, or with a sewing machine, or a paintbrush, or scissors and glue. If we can make it, we do! I get inspiration from everywhere. Out and about, shopping, TV, the internet (Hello Pinterest!) and in my everyday life. As far as recipes, it is really a lot of trial and error. I drive a lot for work, so I am always concocting meals in my head, lists of ingredients, methods and visualizing final results and flavors. I jot them down in notebooks, and then I try it out! Most times they are wins, (with a bit of tweaking, of course) but sometimes they are a complete fail and it’s back to the drawing board in my mind!

What is your favorite thing to make out of the book?

As far as craftiness, I really, really love the Truffle Gift Boxes. They are so cheap and easy to make, and they make such wonderful gifts when packed up with Peanut Butter Balls or Cake Truffles.

Joni’s delicious Peanut Butter Balls

What is the most popular item to receive out of the book?

So far, it has been the booze! Haha. My neighbors, friends and relatives have gotten such a kick (and a buzz!)  from the flavored liqueurs. Vegemeister seems to be a real crowd favorite.

How long before the holidays do you plan out your gifts?

Well there is a big difference between “plan” and “execute.” I usually plan out my gifts by the summer time. I have a good idea what the theme of my holiday gift giving that year will be. But I am a busy girl, so I am usually still baking, packing and wrapping on Christmas morning!

Have you ever tried a gift idea that just didn’t work out? If so, what was the project?

Oh my, of course. I have many fails in my portfolio. I wish I had pictures, but it was before digital and cell phone cameras! A few that come to mind. I tried to re-upholster a chair for my mom and step-dad. It was a family heirloom that had been ripped up by the cats. HUGE FAIL! What a disaster.  It was so wrong on so many levels. I brought it home to my mom’s house on Christmas Eve in tears. My mom and step-dad just burst out laughing at the situation, and we all hugged. Then there was the year of the home made sweaters. I think that is pretty self-explanatory. I stick to beanies and scarves now. As far as food gifts, the bean pie wasn’t really a hit, either. Oh, and the chocolate bark with candied orange peel and ginger bits sounded like a good idea, and I liked it fine, but no one else did. Ah well, it’s the thought that counts, right?

With everyone focusing on budget-friendly ideas, which project would say is the best bang for your buck?

Definitely the Old Fashioned Mashed Potato Candy! The ingredients are cheap, and the recipe yields 200 pieces! Plenty for packaging up and making lots and lots of gifts. Also, throughout the entire book I have marked each recipe with symbols. Level of Difficulty (1, 2 or 3 stars), Cost (1, 2 or 3 dollar signs) and if the recipe is quick and easy to put together, it gets a lightning bolt!

Joni Marie Newman is the author of The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet as well as the co-author of 500 Vegan Recipes, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, and Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites. A Southern California native, she lives in Orange County with her husband, three dogs, and cat. Visit her online at

Create stunning (and delicious) holiday gifts with help from Joni. Pick up your copy of Vegan Food Gifts today!


Impress your family, friends, neighbors, guests—anyone!—with homemade gifts that you can feel good about and others will love. From mouthwatering vegan baking mixes you can create, package, and label yourself, to DIY gift baskets, preserves, liquors, and more, you’ll find that perfect something for everyone, no matter what their views or inclinations. (No one can say no to a chocolate chip cookie after all—vegan or otherwise!)

Vegan Food Gifts shows you how easy it is to create great homemade gifts that are not only kind and eco-conscious, but delicious too. So whether you are an expert chef or a beginner cook, a crafty genius or someone without an artistic bone in your body, you’ll find projects that not only suit your skills, but your budget too.

Be the hit of the bake sale, the darling of the holidays, the hostess with the most-est, and more with Vegan Food Gifts.