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Mixing Up Gifts in the Kitchen

Bring the kitchen to your holiday gifts this season. Festive and personalized food and drink mixes make easy gifts that your guests, friends, and family members will enjoy.

While cookie, brownie, and soup mixes in jars are popular, create other sweet or savory mixes that share your personal recipes for a special touch. How about flavored hot cocoa mix, whole-grain pancake and waffle mixes, seasoned rice pilaf, or granola? (And be sure to try the chocolate oatmeal mix in this post.)

Mixes can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them, but consider these tips for those you make yourself:

  • Use sealable glass or plastic jars. Cork tops or jars with lids that sit loosely on top may spill. Wide-mouth jars may be easier to fill (and empty) than jars with tapered openings.
  • Use clear jars to allow your gift to be seen. While colored or textured jars are fun, your ingredients might look less appetizing.  While you can pre-mix ingredients in the jar, layering the ingredients will grab more attention.
  • Fill up your jars. Pick a size of jar that fits your recipe. Small jars are great for spice mixes. Remember, the larger the jar, the heavier it will be once it is full.
  • Decorate. For a more appealing look, cover lids with designed or patterned cloth, bows, and ribbons.
  • Include a recipe name, instructions, and date. A beautiful jar is useless without a way to cook or prepare the recipe inside. Include the name of the mix and written instructions on the jar or attached on a tag. Since mixes will not last forever, write in the date it was put together.

With any food-based gift, make sure it is safe to give away.  See WEB HIGHLIGHTS 1 and 2 below for more on keeping gift mixes food safe.

  • Trying to "can" or "seal" jars is not safe without a reliable, tested recipe and procedure. Recipes for "canned" bread or dessert sauces or creating a vacuum seal on the jar do not preserve the recipe, and can allow for bacteria and other microorganisms to grow and make anyone eating the contents of the jar very sick.
  • Only include non-perishable ingredients in jars. Mixes do not need to have every ingredient in the jar, but be sure to mention any extras in the instructions. Often you need to add an egg or another ingredient that needs to be kept separately in cold storage for safety.

Resource: Julie Garden-Robinson. Beverage Mixes in a Jar. 2012. North Dakota State University Extension.
Resource: Julie Garden-Robinson. Food Mixes in a Jar. 2012. North Dakota State University Extension.

Recipe Corner

Spiced Cocoa Oatmeal Mix (Serves 2)

In the cold weather, warm up with this easy spiced oatmeal. Use mix within 2 months.

1 cup quick-cooking (1-minute) oats
1/4 cup chopped nuts (such as walnuts or pecans)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. In a wide-mouth Mason jar, layer oats, nuts, cocoa, sugar, and spices. Close lid and decorate as desired.

To prepare on stovetop:
1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 cups water to boiling.
2. Stir in jar of oatmeal mix.
3. Cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute or until oatmeal is cooked and liquid is absorbed. If mixture is too thick, add more water.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 320 calories, 13g fat, 5mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 9g protein

Recipe adapted from: Spicy Oatmeal Cereal, Illinois Nutrition Education Programs recipes

"Read More" Resources

WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Learn about mailing food gifts from University of Minnesota Extension.

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: What about glass and jar food gifts? Learn about safety of these gifts from fellow Educator, Jenna Smith, with her post From My Kitchen to Yours: Giving the Gift of Food.

WEB HIGHLIGHT 3: Try these soup mix gifts from Utah State University Extension.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

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