As the holiday season kicks into high gear, I am eager for, already overwhelmed by, and dreading the aftermath of the flood of sweets that is soon to be upon us. While I too love to give gifts from the kitchen each year, I have been toying with the idea of sending healthier food items. Ones that might be equally enjoyed without the sugar rush and those extra pounds on the hips. Though I haven’t completely decided, here are a few great ideas that will suit a variety of special diets:
1) Spiced Beverages – Rich with holiday spices, a festive Chai Tea Mix is perfect for any tea lover on your gift list. Pair it with a tea infuser (just in case they don’t have one) and an oversized tea cup for that coffee shop-like indulgence. For a non-caffeinated delight, try a Spiced Cranberry Cider Mix.
2) Granola – Yes, granola. Whether intended for breakfast or snacking, this filling treat can be made festive with the addition of pecans and pumpkin spices, crystallized ginger, or nutmeg and dried cranberries. Trust me, this gift will be well received. After all, who doesn’t like granola? Start with a basic granola, and add your favorite seasonal flavors.
3) Hot Cocoa Mixes – Okay, so maybe you just have to give a gift with some sweet indulgence. Rather than sugar-loaded treats that must be inhaled immediately, why not send a little warmth to be enjoyed throughout the winter season. Plus, with the right cocoa selection, hot chocolate can even be counted as an antioxidant rich beverage. Didn’t you hear, chocolate is the new green tea in the world of antioxidants. This Spicy Hot Cocoa Mix recipe calls for only cocoa, sugar, and spices, so it is quite versatile for a variety of diets. If you would like to use a standard hot cocoa mix recipe, but are catering to lactose intolerant, milk allergic, or vegan friends, use soymilk powder, coconut milk powder, or rice milk powder in place of the milk powder. Package the gift with a nice big mug and some fluffy marshmallows (vegan ones are available too!).
4) Baking Mixes – While shopping with a friend who recently had her first child, she picked up every single baking mix on the shelves, before finally commenting, “These are so wonderful to have around now that I don’t have as much time to bake from scratch.” But there is no need to give sugary cake mixes; multi-grain pancake, savory bread (use one of the “milk” powders noted above, or omit), or even that entertaining beer bread mix will be equally enjoyed.
5) Oil and Vinegar Infusions – This easy to make gift is excellent for adventurous home cooks or salad lovers. Both oil and vinegar can be easily infused with Italian herbs, berries, or other fragrant flavors, and decoratively bottled for a palate-pleasing present. Be sure to start now though, as many of these recipes require a week or two to infuse.
6) Homemade Vanilla – As a vanilla fanatic, this is a gift I would truly love to receive (should any friends or family just happen to be reading this). Like the oil and vinegar infusions, a little forethought is helpful with a homemade vanilla gift, but the preparation time is next to none.
7) Soup Mix in a Jar – I am sure you are familiar with that dangerous Cookie Mix in a Jar, the one that suddenly reappears just after you have finalized a New Year’s resolution to cut back on desserts. Why not save your recipient some grief, and send a hearty mix in a jar? Since it is quite cold out (at least where I am), I really liked this Country Soup Mix. If any of the recipients are vegetarian, simply substitute the beef bouillon for a vegan version.
8) Make-a-Meal Baskets – Give them a healthy alternative to Rice-a-Roni with some custom made rice mixes (boil and serve instructions attached) or make a fun meal-themed gift basket. The old standard with quality whole-wheat pasta, a good quality olive oil, and a jar of wonderful sauce really never gets old … at least not in my house.
9) Seasoning Mixes – A little basket filled with meal-ready spice mixes would be a welcome addition to my kitchen. From Creole Seasoning to Taco or Sloppy Joe Mix, the possibilities are endless. Surely busy moms will appreciate this selection of shortcuts, along with a recipe or two for using them of course!
10) A Cookbook from Your Kitchen – Rather than haggling with perishables, organize your favorite recipes into a personalized cookbook. Fully equipped with your own notes and stories, recipients will appreciate the thoughtfulness and the individually tested recipes. Pick up some report folders and print off the recipes yourself to create a neat and tidy little “book,” or if you want the professional touch, create your own cookbook with an on-demand printer. Many can print as few as 10 copies.