Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide + RECIPE: Spicy Ham Hand Pies

It’s official. We have entered cookie bake season which means I’m feeling very festive, a little fat, and way behind schedule on all of my gift purchasing.

Without fail, every single Christmas I repeat this pattern where I sort of forget to be thoughtful until it’s nearly too late. I wax poetic to everyone who will listen about how the holidays are filled with too many things and isn’t our presence present enough? And then suddenly remember there are loads of really cool, really thoughtful, and/or really local things that are totally my vibe that also happen to make excellent gifts for people I love. But by then the deadline has passed for guaranteed shipping before Christmas for most of the unique things I want to give all the people I for some reason just remembered mean a ton to me.

It’s a ridiculous pattern, but one that seems to repeat every year. So I’m getting a whole lot better at being creative.

Below you will find my list of thoughtful, conscientious gifts that make this world a better place instead of one filled with more stuff. The majority of which will still get to you on time.


A CSA SUBSCRIPTION WITH A LOCAL FARM (or a gift certificate towards the purchase of a share)

This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but my favorite gift to give is the gift of health, nutrition and a summer full of fresh, organic produce. We’ve given the gift of a CSA share for many a wedding and it’s truly a thing of beauty. Especially if you pair it with a really great cookbook or two to help your friend know how to use their bounty.

However, there is no question that CSAs are expensive. Even the minimum share size at most farms is two or three hundred dollars making it a bit steep for holiday gift giving. Our farm just added Raleigh’s Hillside Farm gift cards for this reason! You can now give the gift of CSA to your local friends regardless of your budget! If you aren’t in our delivery area, email a local farm in your community to see if they offer a similar program.



There is nothing more festive or comforting to me this time of year than a warm beverage in a beautiful handmade mug. It’s a simple yet thoughtful gift especially if you tailor the warm beverage to your local area and your loved ones’ tastes. No matter where you live, there is probably at least one brand of locally roasted, high quality coffee. If you live near me there are several. My favorites at the moment are Rusty Dog and Kickapoo Coffee Roasters. Most folks will also have a local potter within 30 minutes of their home. A great place to look is at your local food cooperative or small town market. These places often feature local artisans alongside more artisanal food products.

And if coffee isn’t an option, don’t worry. Teas, specialty hot cocoa (or homemade hot cocoa), Tom & Jerry’s with a bottle of booze, or some homemade hot buttered rum are all fabulous options to accompany a beautiful mug.


These kits from The Kombucha Shop are perfect for the DIY friend who’s been dying to get into kombucha for years but needs step-by-step instructions to learn how. They also have loads of great options for the friend who already brews and may need some replacement items (think bulk teas, second ferment flavorings, jars, growlers, pH strips, etc). Order by December 18th at midnight to guarantee delivery by December 25th. Bonus: my Carrot works for this local company and there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be the one packing up your order if you order this week.



My dear friend and former farm employee Kristen is the queen of holistic, sustainable living something I always want to support but something that comes front and center in my mind this time of year. She sells a few lovely hand-crafted goodies on her website, things like hand-stamped spoons (pictured above) and lovely herb-riddled soaps. There’s pretty much no guarantee that these beautiful products will make it to you before Christmas (especially as Kristen is currently hiking in Arizona) but I wanted to share them with you anyway because I know some families meet after the holidays and would be buying these things for everyone on my list if I hadn’t dragged my feet. Enjoy This  also has an e-book, The Peaceful Palate, on plant-based recipes for healthy living that I adore that would also make a lovely gift.



I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This is actually my go to housewarming gift whenever one of my friends moves into a new home because I know that a) moving with plants is difficult (I have killed more than 50% of our house plants on each of our last three moves and I supposedly keep plants alive for a living) and b) plants create an immediate sense of home. You are more than welcome to steal that idea.

And also you can use it now for Christmas even if your friends aren’t moving because guess what? There is essentially no limit to how many plants one may have in their home because unlike normal clutter, more plants will almost never cause a person more stress. This is an easy gift that’s readily available at the last minute that you can put as much or as little personality into it as you like. And if you want to get your friend the gift of a year of plants, well guess what, there’s an option for that now too. Check out Succulent Studios. 



You may sense a theme in this year’s gift giving tendencies. This Christmas, I am all about gifting joy, health, wellness and self-care to the people I love. Very few of us are good at slowing down and taking care of ourselves. I know I’m not good at it 99% of the time. Luckily, 2018 has been the year of admitting this to myself and then working to find tools that work for me.

I stumbled upon the Happy Not Perfect app a few weeks ago and fell in love immediately. I highly recommend you all race out and download the free version immediately (which includes daily meditations, breathing exercises, opportunities to check in with yourself, gratitude journaling, and mindfulness distractions) and gift that idea to all of your friends. And then for the friends or family you know desire jumping into the next level of mindfulness, consider buying them a one-year subscription to the Premium version of the app which includes more focused meditations for varying situations and access to experts and guides for more a personalized journey.


And if you’re far more organized than me and have already planned out who is getting what, I have another holiday treat to offer you: a delectably festive recipe for Spicy Ham Hand Pies that can be eaten pretty much any time of the day. This is the perfect treat to bring to Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas Day brunch. Because of the complex flavors and flaky pastry, they can fit well into pretty much any spread.

It also happens to be the perfect handheld snack to grab on your way out the door as well as being wonderfully gift-able. Throw a dozen of these beauties in a basket, cover them with a towel and hand deliver them to busy friends who may be totally on top of their holiday game but not so great at remembering to feed themselves well in the midst of this festive madness. They’re really the perfect bite to celebrate any moment this December.

Phew! We accomplished a lot on this Monday. So now that we’ve gotten both your gifts and your Christmas dinner contribution out of the way, let’s all take a moment to breathe in deeply, relax, and savor the sunshine that’s finely graced us. It’s not snowy here yet but it’s a beautiful December day to be alive. May your holiday be filled with good food and great gifts if you feel like or are able, but more importantly, may it be filled with kindness, compassion, lightness and a whole lot of laughter. Happy Holidays everyone!


P.S. I am enthusiastic supporter of the locally grown and milled organic all-purpose flour from Meadowlark Organics for this dough– and pretty much all doughs I make– plus local food products make excellent gifts! Check them out and enter LEEKLARK20 at checkout for 20% off your order!


These are some of the most delicious things you will eat this December. I promise. But they are also QUITE putsy. I put this recipe into the category of fun holiday fare with the caveat that you should only embark on this project if you have the time to play in your kitchen OR are looking for a fun holiday project to do with loved ones. Projects like this are great with a group and a bottle (or two) of wine.

Makes 15-16 little pies
Serves 6-8
Takes 1 hour, 45 minutes

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed and chilled
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more for seasoning pastry
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppers + more for seasoning pastry
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 cups diced ham
3 cups finely chopped kale
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or other cheese of your choosing)
2 eggs

  1. Prepare your pie dough by combining flour, sugar and salt into a food processor or large bowl. Add cubed butter. Pulse briefly in food processor or use two forks to cut butter into flour. It will be varied in size but the largest pieces should be no larger than a marble. Stir in buttermilk until mixture comes together into a wet dough. Wrap in plastic and chill immediately.
  2. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, warm olive oil for filling over medium heat. Add onion, salt and pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add Apple, syrup, red pepper flakes and cayenne. Reduce heat to medium low and cook gently for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the apples to be soft and the onions to be well caramelized. Add ham and kale. Sauté 15 minutes more until the ham is warm and the kale is completely wilted. Remove from heat immediately and set in the fridge (or outside) to quickly cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Whisk eggs in a small bowl until very smooth. Use a pastry brush to spread egg wash on edges of all your circles.
  5. Roll out your chilled dough onto a well-floured counter. Cut into 30-32 2-inch circles (or squares if that’s easier). Fill half of the circles with 2-3 tablespoons of filling and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese leaving a 1/2-inch ring of empty space around the edge.
  6. Press an empty crust circle onto the top of your filled circles making sure the two edges of the dough brushed with are touching. Use a fork to gently seal. Cut a slit on top, brush with more egg, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until very golden. Enjoy warm. These babies also reheat very well!

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