Holiday Gifts From Your Kitchen

Many holidays have become so commercialized that much of the true meaning of the holiday has been lost. While it is nice to give money or fancy gifts, no gift is appreciated more than those that are homemade or hand made. Those are the special gifts that come from the heart and take extra effort, time and thought. Gifts created in your kitchen are a special way to share a little of yourself. Imaginative packaging of food gifts doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. The food gift need not be elaborate or contain costly ingredients, but it should be a bit out of the ordinary and something the recipient is not likely to make or already have in the pantry. Try to match the gift of food to the food preferences of the person to whom you are giving it. When thinking about what you might give as a gift, think about something -

Etsy: Sarit Ceramics

Festive Gift Packaging.
The way the gift is presented can be as fun as the homemade gift itself. In some cases it is nice to use a container that will be a lasting reminder of your thoughtfulness long after the edible in or on it has disappeared. Flea markets and yard sales are great places to shop for these kinds of giveaway containers. Also check your own basement or garage for things you have saved that might be just the right container for your food gift. Here are a few suggestions:


Fiesta Ware

Edible Gift Ideas.
Many holiday foods are high in sugar, fat and calories. A few of these during the holidays will not cause problems for most people, but remember food gifts can also be nutritious. To get away from giving less healthy food gifts, consider some of these ideas:


The anise flavor is especially delicious with a cup of tea, and flavor will intensify a day after baking.

1½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 to 1½ tbs whole anise seed
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (4 oz) coarsely chopped dates, well packed
3 tbs frozen apple juice concentrate, at room temperature
½ cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp freshly grated lemon rind
1 egg
1 tsp frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed, room temperature

In a large bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, anise and salt. In a blender or food processor, purée the dates and 3 tablespoons apple juice concentrate. Blend in the butter. Blend in the egg and lemon rind, just stirring to blend. Form into a ball, adding more flour if the mixture is too sticky. If necessary, chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Prepare 2 cookie sheets with oil. Roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch on a lightly floured board. Cut into fancy shapes. Place on the cookie sheets and brush with an egg wash made by beating the remaining egg with 1 tsp apple juice concentrate. Bake cookies for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cookies cool briefly before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 36 Cookies. (Per Cookie: 47 Cal; 2 g Total Fat; 7 g Carb; 13 mg Cholesterol; 38 mg Sodium.)

A delicious bread to serve any time, but especially festive for the holidays. The citrus flavor will enhance any combination of dried fruits you choose.

Dry Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
⅓ cup raisins

Wet Ingredients:

¼ cup honey
3 eggs
½ cup sliced banana
½ cup orange juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped, mixed dried fruits

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a large loaf pan, 9- x5- x 3-inch, with coconut oil. Mix together the dry ingredients. Combine honey, eggs, banana, orange juice, and vanilla in a blender. Process until smooth. Add to the dried fruits. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing well. Spoon into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Yield: 16 Slices. (Per Slice: 172 Cal; 2 g Total Fat; 36 g Carb; 45 mg Cholesterol; 175 mg Sodium; 1 g Fiber; 5 g Protein.)

A nice addition to your home-made holiday goodie basket. Recipe from Low-Fat Ways To Cook For The Holidays, ©1998 by Oxmoor House, Inc.

1 cup white vinegar
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup cranberry juice cocktail
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a pint-size jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously. Chill at least 8 hours. Place rosemary sprigs in vinegar mixture, if desired. Use in salad dressings or vinaigrettes. Yield: 2 cups. ( Per (2 Tbsp) Serving: 6 Cal; 00 g Total Fat; 1 g Carb; 00 mg Cholesterol; 00 mg Sodium.)

It’s amazing what moisture and sweetness carrots give to this loaf. Crunchy fig seeds and walnuts add an unusual texture.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1½ cups finely grated carrots, lightly packed
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dried figs (use kitchen shears)
½ cup orange juice
2 eggs
⅔ cup frozen apple juice concentrate, at room temperature
⅓ cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the carrots and nuts. In a small saucepan, simmer the figs in the orange juice until the liquid is absorbed and the figs are softened. Set aside to cool. Beat the eggs until foamy. Stir in the apple juice concentrate, oil and vanilla & continue to beat until well mixed. Stir in the softened figs. Mix the fig mixture with the dry ingredients, stirring just enough to blend. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes in the large loaf pan. If using the miniature pans (3 pans, 5-1/2-inch by 3-1/2-inches), bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan. Yield: 1 large loaf (14 slices) or 3 miniature loaves. (Per slice: 209 Cal; 10 g Total Fat; 26 g Carb; 34 mg Cholesterol; 151 mg Sodium; 5g Protein.)

Aromatic, hot and very satisfying. Package in a gift tin, accompany with seasonal mugs and instructions for preparation. Add a variety of holiday cookies, if desired.

6 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1¼ cups cocoa
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tbs ground cinnamon

Combine milk powder, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well. Store in an airtight container. (Mason jars work great!) Before Serving: For one serving, combine 1/3 cup mix with 3/4 cup boiling water in a cup or mug. Stir to dissolve mixture. Makes about 9 Cups or 27 small mug servings. (Per Serving: 98 Cal; <1 g Total Fat; 18 g Carb; 3 mg Cholesterol; 85 mg Sodium; 6 g Protein; 1 g Fiber; 14 g Sugars.)

The perfect recipe for the chocolate lovers on your cookie list.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into several pieces
⅔ cup dry, unsweetened cocoa
2 cups firmly packed, light brown sugar
½ cup water
2½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice or cloves
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan with the 1/2 cup water. Heat slowly, stirring, until the mixture resembles a smooth syrup. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and spices. Make a well in the center and pour in the chocolate syrup. Work together, first with a spoon, then with clean hands, to make a stiff batter. Add the almonds and raisins or currants and work in. Form into balls no larger than 1-inch and arrange on cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie tests clean. Yield: about 4 dozen cookies. (Per Cookie: 102 Cal; 4 g Total Fat; 17 g Carb; 00 mg Cholesterol; 43 mg Sodium; 1 g Protein)

These muffins freeze very well and would be perfect to serve on Christmas Morning!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground cloves
½ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) organic, grassfed butter, softened
2 organic eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp grated lemon peel (fresh is best)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
¾ cup ground hazelnuts (filberts)
¼ cup seedless, all fruit raspberry spread (jam)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spray coat twelve 3- x 1-1/4-inch (3.5 to 4-ounce) muffin cup tins. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. In another bowl, cream sugars with butter until light and fluffy; beat in egg whites, lemon peel, and vanilla. Stir in milk. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add butter mixture and stir just enough to combine. Stir in hazelnuts. Spoon half of batter into prepared muffin cups. Place 1 teaspoon jam in center of each portion of batter; do not let jam touch sides of muffin cups. Spoon remaining batter into cups over jam; bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove muffin tin or tins to wire rack. Cool 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 12 Muffins. (Per Muffin: 227 Cal; 9 g Total Fat; 34 g Carb; 2 mg Cholesterol; 244 mg Sodium; 4 g Protein)

This recipe doubles easily for 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup melted butter or coconut oil
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup apple juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 cup chopped pitted dates
¼ cup currants
½ cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9- x 5- x 3-inch loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, spices, and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs together with the oil, syrup, juice and lemon rind. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet mixture. Stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. Stir in the dates, currants, and hazelnuts. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center tests clean. Cool on a rack, then cover tightly with foil to store. Makes 14 (1-slice) servings. (Per Slice:199 Cal; 8 g Total Fat; 31 g Carb; 34 mg Cholesterol; 107 mg Sodium; 3g Protein)


1 (6-oz) package blanched, slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon juice

In a food processor, process the almonds until very finely ground. Turn off the machine and add sugar, egg substitute, almond extract, and lemon juice. Process until the mixture forms a ball, or is well combined. Transfer to a 1-quart or similar microwave-safe shallow casserole or plastic container. Press the marzipan into place. Cover with wax paper and microwave about 4 minutes at 30 percent power, until firm but not dry. Cool. With a sharp knife, cut into 30 squares. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Marzipan will keep for up to 10 days.

Package these fabulous sweet treats in individual mini-muffin paper liners (use colored aluminum foil liners if you can find them) and pack into bakery boxes. Tie with gold ribbon and add a festive holiday ornament or greenery for the final touch.

⅓ cup mint-flavored semisweet chocolate morsels
4 ounces block-style 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¼ cup mint-flavored semisweet chocolate morsels

Place ⅓ cup chocolate morsels in a glass bowl, and microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth; cool. Add cream cheese to melted chocolate, beating at medium speed of an electric mixer until smooth; add powdered sugar, beating until well blended. Press mixture into a 6-inch square on plastic wrap; cover with additional plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap; slice mixture into 48 squares. Roll each square into a ball; place on wax paper. Roll truffles in cocoa. Place ¼ cup chocolate morsels in a heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until soft. Knead bag until smooth. Snip a tiny hole in one corner of bag; drizzle chocolate over balls rolled in cocoa. Serve at room temperature. Yield: 4 dozen (48) truffles. (Per Truffle: 57 Cal; 1 g Total Fat (0.8 g Sat Fat); 11 g Carb; 2 mg Cholesterol; 10 mg Sodium; <1 g Protein)

This delicious combination of baked fruits looks beautiful packed in unusual-shaped jars or containers. Wrap with gold-trimmed ribbon and attach a sparkling tree ornament. Send along a batch of Whole Wheat Scones (recipe in list) to eat with the fruit.

1 (16-oz) can apricot halves in extra-light syrup
1 (16-oz) can peach slices in extra-light syrup
1 (16-oz) can pear slices in extra-light syrup
1 (20-oz) can unsweetened pineapple tidbits
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 (3") stick cinnamon
4 whole cloves
⅛ tsp ground mace

Drain fruit, reserving syrup for other uses. Cut apricot halves in half. Combine fruit in an 8- x 12-inch baking dish. Combine orange juice and remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Pour over fruit. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Cool. Cover and chill for 8 hours. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves before serving. Serve warm or cold. Makes 8 Servings. (Per (1-Cup) Serving: 176 Cal; <1 g Total Fat; 46 g Carb; 00 mg Cholesterol; 13 mg Sodium; 1 g Protein)

Be careful; these sweetened pecan halves are addictive!

1½ Tbs butter
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups pecan halves
½ Tbsp sugar-free pancake syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract

Set out a dinner plate covered with a paper towel. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the pumpkin pie spice. Stir in the pecans and cook, stirring, over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until nuts are sautéed and the flavors are blended. Add the syrup and vanilla and continue to cook, stirring for an additional 1 to 1½ minutes. Transfer the nuts to the plate, spreading them out. Allow to cool Store in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator. Nuts will keep for several weeks. Makes 12 Servings. (Per (6 Nut Halves) Serving: 142 Cal; 15 g Total Fat (2 g Sat Fat); 3 g Carb; 4 mg Cholesterol; 15 mg Sodium; 2 g Protein; 2 g Dietary Fiber; 1 g Sugars)

A yummy variation on the traditional sugar cookie.

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
¾ tsp baking soda
⅓ cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
⅓ cup chopped pitted dates

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat cookie sheets with coconut oil or spray with a non-seed oil cooking spray; set aside. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Combine flour, cornmeal, and baking soda, stirring well. Add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in pecans and dates. Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls onto cooking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes; cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets; cool on wire racks. Yield: 2½ dozen (30) Cookies. (Per Cookie: 72 Cal; 3 g Total Fat (<½ g Sat Fat); 11 g Carb; 7 mg Cholesterol; 41 mg Sodium; 1 g Protein)

A delicious, chewy, quick and easy no-bake cookie. Children love to make these cookies!

½ cup dried apricots
¼ cup dried figs or dates
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup flaked coconut
3 tbs orange liqueur or orange juice
¼ tsp almond flavoring
¼ cup granulated sugar

In a food processor or by hand, finely chop apricots, pecans, figs or dates, raisins and coconut. Add liqueur or orange juice and almond flavoring. Stir until well blended. Roll into 36 balls, about 1-inch, by placing a small amount of the mixture between the palms of your hands. Roll each ball in granulated sugar. Layer in an airtight container, placing waxed paper or plastic wrap between each layer to prevent sticking. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve on a glass plate lined with a paper doily. Yield: 36 cookies. (Per Cookie: 33 Cal; 1gm Fat; 5gm Carb; 00mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium)

Scones can be made up to two weeks in advance. Let cool completely and store, tightly wrapped, in freezer. For variation, cut into different shapes and sizes. Serve with Spice Fruit Compote.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, cold
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup plain or fruit flavored yogurt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles oatmeal. Add egg and yogurt; mix with fork just until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead gently about 8 turns. Roll or pat dough 1-inch thick. Cut out scones, using 1½ inch round cutter. Place ½-inch apart on baking sheets sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Bake scones until puffed and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and let cool several minutes. Cut open scones and serve with topping of choice. Makes 8 Scones. Tip: To reheat frozen scones, wrap in aluminum foil; heat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes or until hot. (Per Scone: 137 Cal; 5 g Total Fat; 19 g Carb; 36 mg Cholesterol; 160 mg Sodium; 5 g Protein)


Sources:, University of Illinois Extension, Peoria County, Fast Breads, by Howard Early & Glenda Morris, ©1986, The Crossing Press, Low-Fat Ways To Cook For The Holidays, ©1998 by Oxmoor House, Inc., Mostly Muffins, by Barbara Albright & Leslie Weiner, ©1984, The Diabetes Snack Munch Nibble Nosh Cookbook, Second Edition, ©2003 by Ruth Glick, Life's Simple Pleasures, Fine Vegetarian Cooking by Karen Mangum, MS, RD, ©1996 by Harvest Press, Vegetarian Celebrations, ©1990 by Nava Atlas, Naturally Sweet, ©1993 by Lynn Bassler & Fran Raboff, published by The Crossing Press.