Wholesome and delicious holiday gift ideas

Surprise your loved ones by making or buying healthy edible gifts that also convey good health wishes.

Happy holidays everyone. Here we are again, walking through store after store, attempting to find the perfect gifts for relatives, friends, our child’s teacher or coach. Surprise your loved ones by making or buying healthy edible gifts that also convey good health wishes.

For most folks on your list, you can use a more personal approach that will, no doubt, be deeply appreciated. Your offerings can be presented in colorful bags, baskets or transparent jars adorned with ribbons. Here are some ideas to get you started: Fill a gift bag with packets of nuts, dried fruit and a pack of festive holiday-themed paper napkins. For someone who is trying to lose weight, buy a gift card at a health food store and place it with a note in a hand-decorated envelope or opt for a basket of personally handpicked fruit, coupled with nuts and an assortment of herbal teas. A loved one who enjoys baking will appreciate a bag of whole wheat pastry flour (found at health food stores and some supermarkets), nuts, dried apricots and a couple of fun cookie-cutters, all placed in a pretty bag. Best kept secret: whole wheat pastry flour is interchangeable with white flour.

For the special people in your life, make one of these easy, healthy and delicious recipes.

EASY CRANBERRY SAUCE Yield: about 4 cups

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed if frozen

1 cup water

3/4 cup raisins

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste

Pick through cranberries and discard overripe ones and debris. Rinse cranberries in colander under running water. Drain. In medium saucepan, combine the water, raisins, and cranberries. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and cook slowly until most berries have popped (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Mix in cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Cook 2 more minutes. Remove from stove and mix in orange zest and honey. Taste and add more honey if needed. Cool completely and refrigerate in airtight container for at least 24 hours to allow the sauce to congeal.

SCRUMPTOUS GRANOLA CEREAL Yield: 3 cups

2-3/4 cups uncooked Old Fashioned rolled oats (oatmeal)

1/3 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds (optional)

¼ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients, except raisins. Bake uncovered on lightly greased cookie baking sheet 15 to 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from oven, stir in the raisins. Spread mixture onto (second), cool ungreased cookie sheet. Cool completely before refrigerating in airtight container.

CORN BREAD 9 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour for dusting pan

1 cup cornmeal

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

Measure and bring all ingredients to room temperature. Grease baking pan then dust bottom and sides with the 2 tablespoons flour. Place rack in center of oven. Preheat to 425 degrees F. In medium bowl, thoroughly mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In second medium bowl, beat eggs with a whisk for one minute. Add sugar, oil and buttermilk.

Make a well in center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients, and with flexible spatula mix until barely combined, scraping the bottom of bowl as well. The batter should be somewhat lumpy. Pour batter into prepared 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. The bread is ready when top is crisp golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When done, let cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Use a serrated knife to cut the bread, and place the servings on a plate to cool completely.

Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food/health columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor and speaker.

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