During this holiday season, I find that the most difficult gifts to find are the ones for neighbors, teachers or someone who provides you a regular service, like your hair stylist. You want it to be something inexpensive, but you also want it to be nice and mean something, which is usually a challenging task.
This is why I like to turn to food gifts with a homemade twist. To start, everyone likes to eat and putting a homemade touch on the gift shows you gave it some thought. A popular choice is to put together a homemade snack mix in a decorative jar and dress it up with ribbon. You can even include the recipe so the recipient can make his or her own mix when the gift is gone.
Homemade granola mix
Maybe your gift recipient likes to cook, two ideas that would be well received are flavored vinegars/oils or special seasoning mixes. Dress up the containers and you’ve got the perfect gift idea for any chef.
If you’re not the cooking type or maybe you just don’t have the time to put together a recipe yourself, here’s an idea that doesn’t include cooking, but still incorporates that “homemade” feel. Let’s say your recipient is a coffee lover. Buy a small basket, a beautiful mug, pound of good coffee, special coffee syrups and decorate with a big bow. You can do the same for a tea drinker or even an ice cream lover like you see in the image below. Just get creative. People will love the effort and interesting gift your giving them.
Have any other creative gift ideas? Use the comments section below to share!
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We’ve officially entered the holiday season and that means your weeknights have gotten a little more hectic. Added into the usual after work/after school frenzy is holiday shopping, holiday parties and gift wrapping. Instead of being tempted to reach for the take-out menu, I’ve got a terrific one-pot recipe that is perfect for the season! Meatball Minestrone is ideal for a chilly December evening and what’s even better is that you can throw this meal together in a snap. Another thing I love about it is that it incorporates all forms of vegetables, making it very budget-friendly.
Try this healthy meal–even my two teens love it. Just add a loaf of crusty Italian bread and a side salad and you’ve got yourself a healthy dinner. I’m sharing my version of the recipe, but I encourage you to add your own favorite veggie ingredients to make it your own healthy version.
10 cups of vegetable, chicken or beef broth
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 can petit diced tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 cup dried pasta (I use mini shells or ditalini)
24 cocktail size, cooked turkey meatballs
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot bring the broth with the onion, carrots, celery, basil and bay leaf to a boil. Simmer until the veggies are crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and bring back to a boil. Add pasta and when pasta is tender, add garbanzo beans, meatballs and frozen peas. Heat through about 10-15 minutes and serve. Makes 10-12 servings.
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If you’re like most of the nation, you’ll be spending part of the week prepping for the BIG feast this Thursday. I know for many of us, this includes the traditional side dishes like mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole to name a few. All that is fine, but if you’re looking to add more veggies to your holiday table or maybe put a different spin on the old favorites, I’ve got a few ideas for you.
I did some research on my favorite recipe spot, Pinterest, and came up with some great suggestions that keep in line with those tried and true side dishes we all love, but freshen them up a bit. Let’s start with a backbone of any Thanksgiving feast–potatoes. I know I typically serve mashed potatoes at my house, but take a look at this recipe for Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Shallots
. It’s hard to pass this up with the crispy skins from roasting, plus the flavor from the shallots. I’m betting this goes perfectly with the roasted turkey.
Another tradition is sweet potato casserole–the typical mashed sweet potatoes that are topped with marshmallows. I’m not knocking this dish, but check out these Hasselback Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
. You still get that savory-sweet flavor, but I love this presentation! Plus, the addition of the apples, pecans and cranberries really adds to the flavor and texture.
Speaking of casseroles, I know a lot of folks serve the traditional green bean casserole this time of year. In place of this, why not try this recipe for Green Beans in Mushroom Sauce
? This is a healthier version and you’ll get the added bonus of all those delicious mushrooms!
Another delicious side dish to serve that is as festive looking as it is tasty, is Squash with Pecans and Cranberries
from Fruits and Veggies–More Matters. This recipe incorporates a blend of winter squash (including pumpkin), dried cranberries and pecans for a flavorful dish that will impress your guests.
I encourage you to experiment a bit this Thanksgiving and try something different with your side dishes. You might be surprised at the response you get and may even start some new family traditions! Enjoy your holiday.