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From My Kitchen to Yours: Healthy Holiday Gifts

This article was originally published on November 1, 2010 and expired on December 23, 2010. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

The holiday season often brings scrumptious cookies, pies and holiday treats—often in the unhealthiest of forms. So why not give your loved ones a healthier food gift that does not have a ton of calories, fat and guilt attached?

Jenna Hogan, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator, Springfield Center, offers many personalized food gift ideas that are both healthy and tasty. Many people love to receive soups in a jar because of their easy meal planning and preparation. Simply layer dried beans and peas with sodium free dried bouillon granules, onion flakes and herbs in a mason jar. Attach a recipe with a pretty bow and you are finished!

You can also try making vegetable dip mixes or even dry rubs by combining various herbs and spices. Make a gift card for directions on making the dip or ideas for using the rub. Trail mix and granola are also easy but colorful ideas. Add peanuts, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, pretzels, whole grain cereal, candy coated chocolate or other items and package them in a festive airtight plastic bag. You can also package homemade seasoned pecans, hot cocoa mix and a book or magazine in a basket for that special someone.

"Making a holiday gift is not only unique and personable, it can be money saving," says Hogan. In times of tighter budgets, gifts from your kitchen are the way to go. Just remember to think about food safety. Foods that do not have to be refrigerated or will not perish too quickly work best. Package foods in mason jars, plastic containers or other decorative bags, but make sure these are food-grade containers.

A food-grade container is one that will not transfer non-food chemicals into the food and contains no chemicals that would be hazardous to human health. Have a safe holiday year, and enjoy the gift of gift giving!

Caramelized Pecans

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons cold water

2 pounds pecan halves

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk egg whites and cold water together in a large bowl. Add pecans and toss until well coated. In a small separate bowl, mix together brown sugar and salt. Add to the pecan mixture, and toss until well coated. Place nuts on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour at 225 degrees F, stirring every 15 minutes. Let completely cool before packaging.

Nutrient Analysis per 1/4 cup serving: 200 calories, 19 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams protein, 35 milligrams sodium, 0 milligrams cholesterol.

Source: Jenna Smith, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, jesmith6@illinois.edu

Pull date: December 23, 2010

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