The belief that Santa Claus comes down chimneys and puts presents in stockings is said to be based upon Saint Nicholas’ charitable acts. Since he wanted to give money to the poor anonymously, he climbed the roofs of houses and dropped a purse of money down the chimneys. It just so happened that in one instance, the purse landed in a stocking that a girl had placed to dry by the fire.
Hence, one of our cherished traditions was born.
Now, I’m not suggesting you strap on your rock climbing gear in the middle of the night to deliver your Christmas presents via rooftop. Instead, you can keep with the spirit of giving by making thoughtful homemade gifts that your loved ones will treasure. Homemade food gifts are unique presents that you can’t simply pick up at the store, and if you’re on a tighter budget than usual, they’re very affordable. And, even if you’re not on a budget, the sheer number of people you need to shop for can be stressful.
These edible presents can alleviate some of that stress since you can mass produce them by making them in bigger batches. They’re also loved by all, so you don’t have to brainstorm too much about gift ideas. Take a cue from Santa, he’s not the only one looking forward to a present in the form of milk and cookies. Don’t forget the special touches. Create charming labels, tie ribbons, and add fabric toppers to make the jar as appealing as what’s inside it!
Gingerbread Cookie Mix in a Jar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
To make the edible gift, mix the 2 cups of flour, baking soda, and baking powder together. Mix the remaining 1 ½ cups of flour with the spices. In a one-quart, wide-mouth canning jar, layer the ingredients starting with the flour baking powder mixture then the brown sugar and finally the flour and spice mixture. (The layering makes for a pretty color scheme.)
For a special touch, tie a gingerbread man cookie cutter to jar with a ribbon. Be sure to attach a card with the following directions:
1. Empty contents into a large mixing bowl and blend together.
2. Add ½ cup softened butter, ¾ cup molasses, and 1 beaten egg. Hand mix the dough until blended. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Roll dough to ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Place cookies 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Decorate and Enjoy!
To make your gift more impressive, you can make a variety of edible gifts in a jar and place them in one festive basket. Another jarred gift you can give is layered soup in a jar.
Minestrone Soup in a Jar:
¼ cup red lentils
¼ cup white cannellini beans
¼ cup green split peas
¼ cup barley
1/3 cup beef bouillon powder
2 tbsp. parsley flakes
3 tbsp. onion flakes
1/3 tsp. thyme
¼ cup macaroni
salt and black pepper
Minestrone Soup Jar Mix:
In a two-cup jar, layer ingredients into the bottom of the jar in the order of ingredients listed above. Seal the jar, and add the following instructions on the gift tag.
In a large saucepan, combine 8 to 10 cups of water, a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and the jarred soup mix. Add 2 chopped carrots, and 2 stalks of chopped celery. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.
These simple jarred presents free up your oven, so you can fill the house with the pleasant aroma of freshly baked cookies. Straight from the oven, you can bake impressive edible presents in the form of a cookie ornament.
Stained Glass Christmas Cookie Ornaments:
1. Roll out a package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough or one of your own recipes that makes flat cookies (instead of puffy ones).
2. Cut out holiday shapes with a cookie cutter. For the stained glass, use a cookie cutter or knife to cut out a design in the cookie, and leave a ½ inch border. Place cookies on foil lined cookie sheets and spoon ground hard candies into the spaces.
3. Use a straw to make a small hole in the top of each shape.
4. Bake the cookies according to the package directions or until the candy is melted and the cookies are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and transfer the foil with the cookies to a wire cake rack to cool.
5. When the cookies are cool and dry, slip a colorful ribbon through the hole in each, then tie and hang on your tree or against a frosted window where they will catch the light.
These make for stunning decorations that your guests can take with them. You can even make several batches of these cookie ornaments and put them in a basket as a present. If you’re making ornaments in the shape of Christmas trees, you can place a popsicle stick on the back of them (they’ll look like tree trunks) and stand them up in styrofoam for a creative centerpiece.
With all this cooking and baking, you’re bound to be parched by the time the Yule log begins to die out. And nothing quenches your holiday thirst quite like a large mug of eggnog.
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of cinnamon
In the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Add sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together milk, cream and nutmeg until combined. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in just a bit of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Gradually add, stirring constantly, until well combined. Transfer mixture to saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, place egg whites in a medium-sized bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until egg whites form stiff peaks. Whisk egg whites into eggnog and serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg. (Serves
If your holiday preparations get too hectic, you can look to Dr. Seuss for some words of wisdom: “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
by Nicholette von Reiche.
Photography by Louis Hiemstra.
We all know that we should eat 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. We even know why this is imperative to our health. Fruit and vegetables are vital for a healthy lifestyle because they contain essential vitamins and minerals, which our bodies need to function properly. Knowing it and practicing it is of course two vastly different things. We sometimes consider these foods to be dull and boring and we ignore all the other wonderful advantages that fruit and vegetables can offer us.
In addition to being packed full of essential nutrients, most fruit and vegetables are an important source of antioxidants and not only do they contain fiber, but they contain soluble and insoluble fibers. Insoluble fiber is the one that maintains our healthy digestive system while the soluble fibers may help reduce blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, fruit and vegetables contain very little fat and are lower in calories compared to other foods, making them a great choice for maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that people who consume 5-9 portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers and other health problems.
You may think you are young and the majority of these health issues do not concern you, but you are wrong. You need essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants at every stage of your life, especially when you are younger. It is when you are youthful that you are laying the “foundation” and adopting a healthy lifestyle that will affect your health and your body for years to come. Heart disease, cancers and obesity do not occur overnight and cannot be treated over night.
Get the idea of fruit and vegetables being boring out of your head. There is a reason why fruit was the object of seduction when Eve tempted Adam with that apple. Fruit is juicy, trendy, luscious and delicious. They beg to be eaten fresh and raw at the peak of ripeness without too much tampering or cooking. But they are also delicious combined with vegetables, especially in salads and makes the most irresistible desserts. Filling up on wholesome vegetables is just as easy and tasty. Raw or cooked they can create the most amazing dishes. Liven up your veggies with fresh herbs, spices, fresh ginger, lemons and limes.
Above all remember that you are more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan and the 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetable goal if your food looks, tastes and smells delicious. Experiment with new foods and tantalize your taste buds with at least two new fruits or vegetables a day.
Below are three of my most favorite recipes to prove to you how easy and far form dull it is to get your daily fix of 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables. There are so many guidelines on the net and in health magazines to help you achieve this goal and if you need more inspiration, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grilled chicken with stir-fry vegetables
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 15 minutes
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 cup low fat or fat free milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, whisked
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp of cooking oil
Pure maple syrup or berry sauce
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a bowl.
Combine the orange zest and juice, milk, vanilla extract and whisked egg.
Stir the mixture into the flour mixture to form a smooth batter. Stir in the blueberries.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat.
Pour spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and cook until bubbles form on the surface and the base is light golden brown. Turn the hotcakes over and cook for 1-2 minutes longer or until golden.
Serve sprinkled with extra blueberries and drizzle with a little maple syrup or berry sauce.
Put the cooked pancakes on a plate, cover with foil and keep warm on a low heat in the oven while you cook the rest of the batter.
Boost your fruit intake even more by serving your hotcakes with mixed berries or banana and peach slices.
Replace the blueberries in this recipe with raspberries
Replace the blueberries with 2 small mashed bananas and add 1 tsp cinnamon spice.
Preparation: 10-15 minutes
9 oz (250g) mixed greens
2 granny smith apples, sliced
2 oranges, segmented
3 bananas, sliced horizontally
1-2 ripe avocados, sliced
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup low fat cottage
Bean sprouts, to garnish
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt and ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients for the dressing and set aside
Arrange the mixed greens on four plates, top with the fruit and avocado slices.
Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and top each salad with a ¼ cup cottage cheese.
Garnish with the bean sprouts and serve with the dressing on the side.
Grilled chicken and stir-fry vegetables
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 10-15 minutes
4 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp thyme, handpicked
4.5 oz (125g) button mushrooms
9oz (250g) baby tomatoes
7oz (200g) butternut or pumpkin, diced
4.5oz (125g) baby spinach leaves
Brush the chicken breasts lightly with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Preheat a grill pan over a medium high heat. Cook the chicken on the grill pan for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. Add the sliced red onion, garlic and thyme and sauté for 1 minute.
Add the remaining vegetables except for the spinach and sauté for 3 minutes or until the butternut or pumpkin is tender.
Stir through the baby spinach leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve vegetables immediately with the grilled chicken.
Line a bamboo steamer with baking paper. Place raw chicken breast, sliced on the paper, cover and steam over simmering water for 10 minutes. Add vegetables of choice to the steamer, and steam, covered, for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the chicken breasts are cooked through and the vegetables are just tender. Serve sprinkled with salt, pepper and fresh herbs or a knob of flavored butter if desired.
Notes: For steaming a two-tiered steamer is ideal for cooking both the chicken and vegetables. You can also use a larger steamer or cook in two batches.
For grilling, a George Formann grill can also be used to grill the chicken and vegetables.
By Lauren Foreman
Cheeseburgers, tacos, fast food.
Like most college students, 20 year old Nicole Mitchell eats these types of foods on a daily basis.
A senior at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Mitchell works at a nearby clothing store, takes 15 credit hours, and is involved with numerous different organizations.
For Mitchell, convenience and cost are keys in deciding what to eat.
“I’m not a chef, and I’m not trying to be a chef, so anything that’s easy or convenient and tastes ok, I’ll eat,” she admits.
Her summers run similar to her school years, splitting her stressful days between classes, meetings and work. But one summer in Italy provided a nutritional escape from the tacos and burgers she was used to.
“In Italy your dining experience is at least two hours because they try to market themselves as a place you can go and eat with family,” she says.
It is truly about a dining experience of bonding with your dinner companions, as reflected in the more family-oriented and traditional Italian culture. It’s a slower lifestyle without the processed foods, trans fat and stress of American culture whereas the American college student reflects a different culture of high intensity task completion.
Registered nutritionist Megan Campbell says Nicole’s regular diet is not uncommon of American college students.
“People who are stressed, their immune systems have a hard time keeping up. So really getting the fruits and vegetables is important,”
Campbell said. “Berries are full of antioxidants. Also omega three fatty acids are very good for you especially when you’re talking about students and brain health.”
She suggests filling half the plate with vegetables, rather raw or cooked.
Campbell recommends some meal and snacking options that are both healthy and quick to make.
Between classes or before work, a home made trail mix with walnuts, almonds and dried fruit like apricots, cherries and raisins are a good portable snack. Air popped popcorn can be added to the mix, healthy because it is whole grain and contains a lot of fiber.
For a lighter option low fat cottage cheese or yogurt with some fresh or canned fruit is flavorful and tangy. Add some dried fruit, granola, or cereal for a heartier addition.
With a kitchen and 30 minutes, you can help start off the day of classes right. An omelet with fresh vegetables and whole grain toast is filling and nutritional.
A little later in the day, instead of skipping lunch, try a twice-baked potato topped with chili, salsa, or broccoli, canned low sodium soup,
pinto or black beans, or chilli with crackers.
When dinner times comes around, avoid flashing fast food signs by using local resources, brown rice and vegetables or veggie whole grain pizza with marinara splashed over an English muffin with cheese. Even a lean cuisine for the more involved student is a healthy option if the portions are balanced, and it is low in sodium and calories.
These meal options compliment the dining outlook borrowed from Italian culture to satisfy taste buds and busy schedules, ever-expanding minds and the elusive peace of mind that so often escapes college women.