7 Festive (and Healthy) Food Gifts

When yur parents were kids, exchangin’ a fruitcake between neighbors or co-workers used to be the thing to do at the holidays. Now people are all nutty over the fruitcake’s Italian cousin, the panettone. If you’ve never got one of these for Christmas, don’t feel bad. In fact, count yurself as downright lucky, because fur bein’ all fancy and foreign, they aren’t a lick better than a fruitcake. I actually prefer fruitcake!

Bread with green cherries notwithstandin’, I do enjoy gettin’ goodies at Christmastime and I enjoy givin’ em too. They make a great gift you can make in bulk, keepin’ costs low, and deliver in love to those folks for whom you can’t afford to buy a bathrobe or a BluRay. But let’s get real: Who needs a bunch a more fattenin’ stuff at the holidays? So here’s some great, healthy food gift ideas, most of which keep a good long time so they can be enjoyed through New Year’s and beyond. Now I have my favorite recipes for all of these ideas, but if I were to list them all – well, I’d miss my press deadline. So instead I linked ya to some good recipes from other sites, my preference bein’ for the independent foodie (that’s Reba’s gift to them). Let’s start with my one exception to this.

Aunt Yutha’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Is this a side dish or a dessert? It’s so delish, you’ll be hard-pressed to figure that out, and you’ll eat it for breakfast too! Buy a few of those disposable aluminum square baking pans with lids and double, triple or even quadruple this recipe. Don’t forget to save one of these to take with you to wherever you’re eatin’ Christmas dinner.

1 large can yams, drained and mashed

½ stick softened margarine or butter

½ tsp. salt

2 eggs

2 tbsp flour

2 tsp vanilla

½ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a square baking dish. Mix everything together and pour into the dish. Now mix up the toppin’ ingredients in a bowl and crumble evenly over the casserole:

½ stick melted margarine or butter

½ cup flour

½ cup brown sugar

Finally, make a fancy pattern on top of the casserole with pecan or walnut halves. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Gingerbread: Cookies, Loaf or Scones

Not only does nothin’ say holiday better, but gingerbread is a much healthier choice for a holiday sweet, as it uses lots of iron-rich molasses instead of sugar. Add some edge to the tradition by making scones, or…

Biscotti in a Box

Perfect for the coffee and tea lovers on your list, try healthier versions like (you guessed it) gingerbread biscotti or nut and seed biscotti. Dip half of them in a chocolate or powdered sugar glaze and sprinkle with green or red decorating sugar and present in a tin or holiday box.

Orange-Ginger, Pistachio or Other Healthy Muffins

Who doesn’t love muffins? (Don’t answer that!) But I stopped eatin’ em because they pack a meal’s worth of calories each. So I suggest you gift yur friends with mini muffins – and investin’ in a mini muffin pan will be a gift for yurself too. Make extras to throw in yur own freezer. A couple a minis make for a quick, hot and healthy breakfast or snack well into January.

Chunky Chutneys

Talk about yur comebacks – chutney used to be country, old folk food, but now it’s gone gourmet with just all kinds of possibilities of ingredients and uses. So get yur gourmet on with a chutney creation of yur own. Visit IndianFoodForever.com as a gateway to 30 different chutney recipes, such as spicy pineapple, mint mango, and guava, and let yur imagination and favorite flavors create a Chutney of yur own. My personal favorite is apricot/ginger/lime, but for a Christmas gift, you might try incorporatin’ cranberries with orange and pomegranate. Buy canning jars and dress them up with custom labels and ribbons, or visit the dollar store for some cheap, decorative glass containers. With all year to plan, you can scout garage sales for fun chutney receptacles, or recycle jars from yur favorite pickle relish, olives or other jarred food to ease the strain on yur wallet and the environment.

Custom Blend of Herbs and Spices

KFC put 13 herbs and spices together and has made a killin’. Who knows but what you’ve not got the next big secret recipe in yur noggin, just waitin’ to be concocted. You can layer the spices or blend ‘em in pint jars, or make several blends in smaller containers and give each person a collection like these featured on The Leftover Queen.  Print on fancy paper and laminate a few recipes including each blend if you think the recipient might need a little help learning to use yur custom blend.

Infused Oil

Oh, well ain’t that a fancy way of sayin’ “olive oil with stuff in it.” It’s back to the dollar store to find some interestin’ but inexpensive glass containers with lids. Old wine bottles work well too, but what would you be doin’ with old wine bottles??? Buy a big ole container of yur basic olive oil (no need to spring for somethin’ extra virgin and cold-pressed, cuz yur add-ins are gonna take care of that flavor problem for ya) and divvy it up between the containers. Now add yur stuff, like peppercorns, herb sprigs (basil, rosemary, flat-leaf parsley), peeled garlic cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, slices of lemon, lime or orange. Finish this gift off with a hearty loaf of multigrain bread from yur local bakery or Panera, that is, if yur not a bread baker yurself. (You may recall my irrational fear of working with yeast, which is why I’m pointin’ you to a store for a loaf of bread.)

Now don’t rush off with a bunch a naked food to give as gifts. Be sure you dress it up pretty for the holidays. You might wrap it in a dishtowel, making the gift one towel nicer, fancy up a paper bag, or use one of the nifty ideas from Country Living. I also favor many of the tips by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone.

Well, hope this helps you cook up somethin’ special for the holidays, and if yur in the neighborhood, don’t forget to stop by my house with some of the fruits of yur labor!

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