The Sans Shopping Gift List

Christmas Tree from Relish the Feast

Right before Christmas, the majority of the population seems to have a collective freak out. There are people everywhere, and everyone seems stressed doing their “last minute” purchases. Personally, if you get everything done before heading to Midnight Mass, then you’re ahead of the game. Last minute to me would be trying to get something on Christmas Day. (Side note: Should you find yourself in that position, write down what you intend to give the person. Put it in an envelope. Put it under the tree. Bonus points if you hid the envelope and send them on an elaborate scavenger hunt to find it.) I have in the past finished & wrapped presents on Christmas Day, some after we had already begun unwrapping presents. No shame.

Anyway, if you’re stumped about what the cook in your life (or any of your loved ones) might like, here are some easy suggestions that you can (most likely) create without a trip to the store.

  • Wine, beer or that half-finished bottle of liquor in the back of your pantry (Pour it into a rinsed out jam jar, add something to flavor it like fresh fruit and dress it up with a pretty ribbon & note.)
  • Small collection of your favorite recipes in your own handwriting (or typed nicely if you write like a doctor)
  • Your grandmother’s famous [insert dish here]
  • A piece of original food-themed art
  • An offer to do the dishes for … a week? 2? The longer the better.

If you choose to give, remember it’s the thought that counts. Gifts are an added bonus to having you in their life.

Happy holidays!


Pepper Pie

My aunt makes a delicious tomato pie. It’s a minimalist dish that helps the flavors you use stand out. I’ve never made it, but I’ve eaten it a lot, which makes me an expert on how to remake it as something else. … ? Ha. No. But it gives me a decent template to work with. Enter the pepper pie.


Fair warning: I took zero notes while making this, and I didn’t measure a thing. Measurements and times are based on guesstimates.


  • Pie Crust
  • Good grainy mustard
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced peppers (I can’t tell you what type mine were. They popped up from a friend’s compost pile.)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese


  • Slightly pre-cook your pie crust. You want the bottom cooked enough to not longer look or feel like dough. Likewise, pay attention to the edges. They burn easily, and no one likes that.
  • Spread a thin layer of grainy mustard on the bottom of the slightly cooked pie crust. Adjust based on your taste. (At this stage, you could also spread a little cream cheese on the bottom, which would add a nice creaminess and help with the dryness of the finished pie.)
  • Sprinkle a smidge of the parm on the mustard.
  • Layer sliced peppers and onions into the pie.
  • Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of the peppers and onions.
  • Cook for roughly 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. You need the crust cooked and the cheese melted.
  • Slice and eat!

As you can see in the picture, I paired mine with freshly sliced tomatoes and topped it all with a balsamic reduction and fresh basil. The finished pie is a bit dry compared to tomato pie, so a sauce on the top or the addition of cream cheese in the pie really help add some desired moisture.



Roasting Speghetti Squash

Let’s file this under Fail. In theory, roasting spaghetti squash is fairly simply. Cut in half. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Pop in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 45-ish minutes. That 45-ish time frame is where it all went wrong. I left it in a bit longer, and the result was mush. I still ate it, but it wasn’t what it could have been. Whomp.