Edible gifts: Vegan Spiced Cookies & Hortus Christmas Menu!

Note: Again, the super pretty dishes you see in this post are courtesy of DishesOnly! They ship worldwide, in case you need some Christmas gift ideas!

Christmas Is all about cookies and cookie swaps, cute cookie cutters, and kids smothering icing all over your house. Isn’t it lovely, Unfortunately, I have never been a cookie person. Ever. Or, at least, I have never been the kind of decorated, shortbread kind of cookie person. As a kid, I have fond memories of helping my mom (i.e: eating broken pieces of almonds) making Cantucci (biscotti), of which she would make hundreds of pieces. I remember, every christmas, the smell of biscotti permeating the entire house, as they would be offered at the end of the family Christmas meal, which would include over 15 people, along with coffee and limoncello. My house has always been a powerhouse producing strozzapreti, cappelletti, gnocchi and ravioli, with us kids hiding under the table and stealing pieces of dough (germs never had a prayer, we ate raw eggs on the friggin’ floor) and occasionally help arranging the pieces of pasta on the large trays.
Even my mom, who has worked as a cook all her life, was never enthusiastic about cookies. I always found that the cookies we tried to make were only decent, so at some point we just gave up. We preferred ciambella (or ciambellone) anyway.

Fast-forward years later, I kept thinking about these ‘meh’ cookies we kept producing, and the idea kept pestering me. But cookies are just an extra sweet thing that is completely unnecessary, considering the incredible amount of sweets there is going to be in this period, and overall just a cluster of flour and sugar that needs tons of butter to stay together and taste good, so definitely not my cup of tea. Since I’m in this new roll of healthy eating and stuff, why not try making vegan cookies? They make pretty gifts and they would be the perfect chance to make up for the time we lost years ago in our baking effort.

Vegan Spiced Christmas Cookies | Hortus Natural Cooking

Vegan Spiced Christmas Cookies | Hortus Natural Cooking

As we already said, cookies are clusters of flour (or flour-like) stuff kept together by sweetener and fat. I kept Gena Hamshaw’s gingerbread cookie recipe on hand for inspiration, and adapted things from there. well, the results were surprising! This woman is amazing. I barely ever made recipes from other people following them to the tee, but I made several of hers and loved them all like crazy. In this case, I subbed and added several things, so hers are probably better than mine, but mine came out pretty well.
I love the fact that you can add whatever you want to the dough, as most things would go well with the spices: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, superfoods like dried goji or mulberries, you can coat them in chocolate (and, why not, sprinkle some more chopped nuts on top)…whatever strikes your fancy!
Also, this recipe is super easy. It’s pretty much one of those throw-everything-in-a-bowl kind of thing, and the spices, coconut oil and tahini totally make up for the lack of butter. Even my mom loved these, and that’s ’nuff said. My only recommendation is to store them well sealed in a cookie tin, a glass jar or in a bag, as they tend to turn very limp if left out in the air.
As for wrapping, I recommend putting these in a glass jar and fancying things up with pretty ribbons. It is super easy, and looks a million bucks. Add a handmade label, and anything you made with your own hands will be the most appreciated gift you could think of.

Before the recipe, I wanted to share some more inspiration for your holidays! I am sorry not all the recipes linked here can be considered healthy or clean (lol, cookies) but for once a year we can use a little indulgence in moderation, no?

Brazil Nuts | Hortus Natural Cooking

These Brazil nuts, covered in 70% dark chocolate melted with a bit of coconut oil, would also make an awesome gift in a jar!

Vegan Spiced Christmas Cookies | Hortus Natural Cooking

These cookies are so pretty delivered in a glass jar to keep them fresh!


First, a list of dishes that would be terrific for an Italian-style, vegetarian christmas table straight from the archives of my blog. Many recipes are vegan or vegan-izable. If you are planning to host a vegetarian party, whether it be for Christmas or New Year’s, I hope these ideas can help inspire you and have an amazing, healthy time with your dear ones.



Mixed Bruschetta Spread with Walnut Chestnut Bread

(If you want to try your hand at making your own pasta and pasta filling, see: how to make fresh pasta – the basics and the dough, and this Classic Vegetarian Filling)
Vegan Truffle Mushroom Pasta Bake
Tuscan Mushroom & Kale Farrotto
Pumpkin, Mushroom & Cheese Creamy Ravioli

Chickpea & Rapini Pizza Roulade
(Note: this can also be stuffed like regular pizza, with pizza tomato sauce and mozzarella!)
Mediterranean Ricotta Stuffed vegetables, or Stuffed Onions
(Try the Mediterranean stuffing with portabellas or acorn squash, too!)

Braised Fennel & Mushrooms with Shallots & Herbs
Roasted Beets with Balsamic Cipollini Vinaigrette
Carrot & celeriac Slaw
Roasted crumbed Carrot Salad with Almonds

Cantucci (Biscotti), to serve with sweet wine
Pear & Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake


…And, here is a list of edible gift ideas and COOKIES FROM MY FRIENDS AROUND THE WEB!!!

Flavored salt, flavored gin (!) and clementine curd from Lab Noon
Bohemian Dream Gift Granola (Vegan & gluten-free!) by Will Frolic For Food
Decadent Chocolate Mix by Smitten Kitchen is TOTALLY the gift I’d love to receive. (for a healthier twist, I’d skip the sugar so you can add the sweetener you want when you make it)
Rose Pistachio Shortbread by My Blue & White Kitchen
Rosemary Salted Caramel Linzer Cookies by Two Red Bowls
These Vegan Sweet Sesame Cookies by the ever-amazing Gena Hamshaw are on my to-do list!
Swedish Chocolate & Mocha Biscuits by Green Kitchen Stories
Molly made amazing Halva Rugelachs, healthy Hemp Coconut Macaroons and Gingerbread houses that I’m sure are great even without turning them into a farm
Chewy Walnut Biscuits, an adaptation of the classic Brutti ma Buoni cookies, by From my Dining Table
Stephanie Le of I Am a Food Blog has a giftables roundup on her blog too, and it involves sweets with cat faces
…and the very classic Panettone by Emiko Davies!!

And here’s my version of Vegan Spiced Cookies, adapted from Gena Hamshaw’s Choosing Raw, and her Food52 post!

Vegan Spiced Christmas Cookies | Hortus Natural Cooking

Vegan Spiced Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Makes about 30 cookies of various dimensions
Recipe type: Cookie
Serves: 30
  • 1 cup spelt flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ⅔ cups almond flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp Pain d'Epices mix (if you have it)
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Grated zest of half a lemon or orange
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup tahini, or almond butter
  • ½ cup demerara, muscovado or coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 172 cup chopped chocolate, pistachios or other nuts
  1. Melt together the coconut oil, sugar, maple, vanilla, tahini or almond butter and water. I did so by briefly heating everything in the microwave and whisking well.
  2. Add the dry ingredients (flours, spices, baking powders, salt, zest) to a bowl and slowly add the liquid mixture, taking care to avoid making clumps. You can also do this in a food processor. Add the chopped chocolate, nuts or whatever you decided to add. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour, but overnight is even better.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 Fº.
  4. Prepare two large pieces of parchment paper, and sandwich the dough between the sheets. Roll it out ¼ inch thick, then cut out your favorite shapes.
  5. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, until the edges are just browning. They might seem very soft fresh out of the oven, but just let them cool before eating and they'll firm up!

Vegan Spiced Christmas Cookies | Hortus Natural Cooking

  1. I am so mesmerized by these stunning photos!! And you paint such a quaint picture of you as kids — I love the thought of the kids stealing table scraps :) These cookies look spectacular, Valentina — so perfect that they’re vegan and a little bit lighter, but by the sound of it, no less delicious.. That’s a holiday win-win. Love this post soso much! Happy holidays to you, lady!! (And AHH, thank you SO much for the link love!!)

  2. i never fail to be inspired by your photos or your words valentina. you have a way with both :)
    love these spiced cookies – unlike you i LOVE sweets and these crispy delicious rounds wouldn’t last long around me.
    thank you so much for the link love and have a wonderful wonderful holiday season! xoxo
    ps – can i come to your christmas dinner!? it sounds SO amazing!!! especially the pastas!!!

    • Hi Steph! Happy holiday season to you too!!! <3 aw, tou have no idea how much I wish I could host a huge holiday party with all you awesome people. You're invited!! :D

  3. AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! This is literally the sound I made when I realized I’m on your list of Christmassy things! I’m so so honored! really! Thank you!
    That’s an adorabile list. I had seen some of them before and I found so many new ideas.

    Last year I tried for the first time the classic sugar cookies after a long search on the web for a cleaner version (didn’t find anything interesting). The main reason I wanted to make them was to use them as decorations with red & white threads. We did eat them all at the end.

    Yours look gorgeous and they’re intriguingly dark (my favorite characteristic in cookies). Gotta be the spice and the dark flours. They’re so easy I can imagine baking them maybe during the holidays (no time before, sigh).

    One question; where do you get coconut oil? I get it from NaturaSì and in small jars, and it’s not cheap. And ideas on where to get a more convenient one?

    baci :D

    • Hey Saghar! How could I not include your amazing homemade gifts in my list? :) Yes, these cookies are dark because of the flours and dark sugar!
      As for the coconut oil, of course, I have the same problem…here in Italy you can only find it in expensive small jars…truth be told, I used half coconut oil and half vegetable oil (SSSSH). Have you tried looking online? In some sites it’s a bit cheaper.

  4. Pingback: Dulce de Leche Graham Sandwich Cookies (Vegan, Gluten Free)

  5. Thanks so much for including me in your roundup!!! I was going to put a list of my favorite holiday recipes in my post today but then I saw your list and, really, it would have just been redundant. I was going to link to (almost) all of the same posts! & I agree with you, once a year it’s all about indulging. that’s part of celebrating the season! your cookies turned out beautifully, too. you’re such a talent at styling!

  6. As much as I love holiday baking and cookies (blame my Bavarian genes), I love your take on those sweet treats. Also, I love your idea of chocolate covered Brazil nuts! And your Christmas menu. And those cookie links. Heck, I love the whole post! Happy holidays, Valentina! xx

    • Hey Sini! Sure enough, cookies and such are more of a northern Europe thing. Italy doesn’t really have a Christmas cookie tradition…it’s all about Panettone here! happy holidays to you too! <3

  7. I’m so late to the party but hope you had a fantastic time during these holidays and super bummer I didn’t manage to come to Le Marche but plenty of more chances I’m sure – because we MUST come! Wish your 2015 will be as amazing and succesful as your 2014 – you rock my dear! x

  8. This as a fantastic recipe. I made it as is and another version using organic shortening instead of coconut oil, all spelt flour with no whole wheat flour, no Pain d’Epices. Both versions used tahini and brown sugar instead of the sugars listed and both were delicious. The alternate version ended up spreading a lot despite setting the freezer for at least 2 days and was really soft, like the soft sugar cookies you see in the store. But the amount of spices were perfect, balanced and not overpowering (although I wonder if freezing the dough affected that some how). Next time I’ll try making both versions in a small baking pan and see if they work well as bar cookies. Thank you for sharing the recipe!