Sure, you could give loved ones a homemade gift from the heart of sugar
cookies or gingerbread--but in a season when sweets abound, why not try
something different and make a present that's healthy as well as delicious?
Try one of the options below to spread some holiday cheer.
1. Dry soup mixes
Warm up your gift recipient's winter with a glass jar filled with the
makings of a tasty soup. Bean soups work especially well for this; the
beans are packed with fiber, protein and a lot of nutrients. Put all the
dry ingredients for the soup in the jar and make a homemade label with
the recipe or attach it to the jar with a cord or ribbon.
2. Spice rubs
These are a healthy way to add powerful flavor to cuts of meat, poultry
or fish--they are low in calories and free of the additives that can be
found in manufactured rubs. You can also buy several spice ingredients
for rubs in bulk, allowing you to make multiple gifts at once. Plus, it's
easy--just combine the spices and you're set. Package it in a pretty,
airtight container--spice rubs can be stored for up to six months.
3. Infused vinegar
This gift takes some time to make, but the end result is an elegant finishing
vinegar that can be drizzled over salads and vegetables. Glass decanters
and jars are the best vessel for these vinegars; make sure to wash and
sterilize them in boiling water before using. A variety of herbs can be
added for flavor--either wash and thoroughly dry fresh herbs, or use dried
ones. Once they are combined with the vinegars, they usually need to be
stored away from light for three to four weeks, straining every so often
until the vinegar is clear.
4. Spiced nuts
Heart-healthy nuts offer fiber, unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids.
Friends with a sweet tooth can get cinnamon spiced pecans, while those
with bolder taste buds will enjoy chili-lime cashews. Nuts are usually
covered with the spices of choice and roasted in the oven for a zesty
crunch. An airtight mason jar or decorative tin will help keep them fresh.
5. Pancake mix
Friends looking for a quick and healthy holiday breakfast will appreciate
this gift. Unlike the additives found in manufactured pancake mixes, homemade
mixes are prepared without preservatives and with healthy ingredients
such as whole wheat flour and, if desired, protein powder or nuts or dried
fruit that can be mixed into the batter. As with the soups at the top
of the list, the dry ingredients can be layered into a mason jar or similar
container with the recipe attached.
Bean and Barley Soup
Put beans and barley in jar for gift giving.
- 1 cup dried borlotti or pinto beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped red onion
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 9 cups water
- 2 cups organic vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- Sort and wash beans; place in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches
above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover
and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel.
- Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, parsley, celery, carrot
and basil; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add beans, 9 cups water,
vegetable broth, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer
1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves.
- Place 3/4 cup beans and 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender; process until
smooth. Return pureed bean mixture to pan. Stir in barley, salt, pepper,
and hot sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or
until barley is done. Ladle soup into individual bowls; sprinkle with cheese.
Asian Five-Spice Rub Recipe
- 2 tablespoons anise powder
- 1 tablespoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground fennel
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon Himalayan or sea salt
Combine the spices in an airtight container.
Oregano, Rosemary and Marjoram Vinegar
- 6 cups distilled white vinegar
- 9 sprigs fresh oregano
- 9 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 9 sprigs fresh marjoram
- Additional fresh herbs for decoration (optional)
- Wash 3 pint-size (2-cup) heatproof glass-canning jars (or similar containers)
and their lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well with hot water. Fill
a large, deep pot (such as a water bath canner) about half full with water.
Place the jars upright into the pot; add enough additional water to cover
by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil; boil jars for 10 minutes. Add
the lids to the pot, and then remove the pot from the heat. Let the jars
and lids stay in the hot water as you prepare the flavoring and vinegar.
(Keeping the jars warm minimizes breakage when filling with hot liquid.)
- Thoroughly rinse herbs with water and dry. Remove the jars from the water
bath with a jar lifter or tongs. Divide the herb sprigs among the jars.
Heat vinegar in a large saucepan to a bare simmer (at least 190° F).
Carefully divide the vinegar among the prepared jars, leaving at least
1/4-inch of space between the top of the jar and the vinegar. Remove lids
from the water bath, dry with a clean towel, and screw tightly onto the jars.
- Store the jars in a cool, dark place, undisturbed for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain
vinegar through cheesecloth into another container. Repeat as needed until
all the sediment is removed and the vinegar is clear. Discard all solids
and pour the strained vinegar back into rinsed jars or divide among sterilized
decorative bottles. Decorate with a few well-rinsed sprigs of fresh herbs,
Clean Eating Spicy Roasted Almonds
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
- Stir all ingredients together in a bowl until the almonds are well coated.
- Spread the nuts out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 to
20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Stir halfway through the baking time, and make sure to watch the nuts during
the last five minutes of cooking time, as they can burn easily.
Almond Protein Pancakes
* Package dry ingredients together
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 3 ounces vanilla protein powder
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup vanilla soy milk (or almond milk)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- Cooking spray for pan
- In a bowl, mix the whole-wheat flour, protein powder, baking powder, salt,
egg, maple syrup and almond extract.
- Stir in the milk and oil. Mix in the sliced almonds.
- Place a skillet or griddle on medium heat. After spraying the pan, pour
batter into circles (using about 1/4 cup of batter).
- Once the pancakes begin to bubble, flip them and cook for another minute
or so on the other side until golden brown.