Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Myth: Food gifts are all so expensive!

Answer: You’re right and many are unhealthy too.

Here are some easy, low-cost and healthy food gifts to give this holiday season:
  • Trail mix doesn't require a recipe - you can choose ingredients that you or your recipient would enjoy and make your own mix. Try dried cherries, cranberries or apricots mixed with nuts, whole wheat cereal or whole wheat pretzels. Mix it all together and put it into a lovely container. Attach a tag with the mix recipe so your recipient can make it again.
  • Roasted chickpeas are a good alternative to nuts if your recipient is allergic. To roast chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans): Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drain and blot chickpeas so they are dry. In a bowl, toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil and seasoning (examples are garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon). Make sure they are well coated. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes. Open oven and shake chickpeas every 10 minutes or so to avoid burning.
  • Popcorn kernels and some spices or herbs from the bulk food section of the grocery store - put these in a holiday container or wide mouth jar and you have an easy gift. The recipient of your healthy popcorn gift can use these seasonings instead of salt. Some examples? Curry, garlic powder, black pepper or chipotle pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.
  • Tea bags or tea leaves in a decorated container or mug make a nice seasonal gift especially in the winter.
  • Ingredients for pumpkin butter in a container or decorated jar – 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Pack these ingredients with a 15-ounce can of 100% pumpkin puree and this recipe: Combine all ingredients except pumpkin and 1/4 cup water in microwaveable quart bowl. Mix. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Mix in pumpkin puree and stir well. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. This keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.
  • A good bottle of balsamic vinegar is a great gift if you have a little more to spend (about $12-$20). Balsamic vinegar is a low calorie way to add flavor to salads. You can also drizzle it on fresh fruits for a new flavor. Balsamic vinegar comes in fruit-infused flavors like cherry, raspberry, fig and others.

Visit the MissouriFamilies website for more information about nutrition and health.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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