Consider a theme when creating food gift baskets

December 09, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Consider a theme when creating food gift baskets

Gift baskets of food get an especially warm welcome during the holidays. To create healthful holiday gifts of food, start with nutritious recipes.

Sugary sweet confections and high-sodium, high-fat snacks abound this time of year. However, they don't help much if you are trying to select a healthful food gift for calorie-conscious friends. Select recipes that are high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat. As you pack your holiday food basket and/or gift bag, use the recipe to help create a theme for your gift.

Some theme ideas to start your creativity:

Assemble a pasta basket that includes a jar of prepared pasta sauce, a selection of specialty pastas and a pasta serving utensil. Tuck all the items into a large pasta cooking pot.


Collect chopsticks, rice bowls, fresh ginger root, rice vinegar and a Chinese cookbook. Pack them all into a basket lined with red and gold fabric. Include Fruited-Curry Rice Mix in the basket.

Fruited-Curry Rice Mix

2 cups uncooked brown rice

1 tablespoon dried orange rind

2 teaspoons dried green onion flakes

3 1/2 teaspoons chicken-flavored bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1/2 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

1/2 cup raisins

Combine all ingredients; stir well. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 3 cups mix. When ready to use, bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add 1 cup rice mix. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 to 50 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Yield: 2 1/2 cups (about 134 calories per 1/2 cup serving).

* Team pancake mixes from a specialty shop with a selection of fruit syrups. Arrange the items on a wicker breaker tray.

* Arrange a bag of dry beans, fresh vegetables and your favorite bean soup recipe in a large bean pot.

* Place a fresh-baked loaf of whole-grain bread on a bread board and wrap a colorful checkered napkin with little jars of assorted jams and jellies.

* Make homemade muffins, sweet rolls, dinner rolls and bundt cakes and wrap them in reusable baking pans. Line the new pans with foil and/or plastic liners and place the baked goods in the new pan. Tie with ribbon and wrap in colorful plastic wrap. Include the recipe with the gift.

* Pack an assortment of herbal teas and a tea ball in a brand new teapot.

* Give the traditional fruit basket a new twist by presenting an assortment of dried fruits in a decorative fruit bowl or nut dish.

* Line a basket with cloth napkins and tuck in fresh-baked muffins or scones plus all fruit spread or honey and hot cocoa mix.

* Assemble a selection of specialty coffees and holiday gingerbread on a decorative serving plate.

* Give your friends an assortment of frozen appetizers with directions for baking. You can prepare them to the point of baking and divide them among zip-top storage bags. Then slip them into gift bags along with the directions.

* Select pretty cruets or olive oil bottles, clear bags and attractive tins to put together a selection of salad dressings and toppings. These homemade dressings will add a flavorful change from grocery store choices, while toppings add crunch to tossed salads. Package Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing, seasoned croutons and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese with directions to serve with Romaine lettuce.

Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup egg substitute

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2-ounce can anchovies, undrained

4 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in container of electric blender; process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Cover and store in refrigerator up to one week. Yield: 3 cups.

Note: This dressing contains egg substitute and must be kept chilled.

Seasoned Croutons

2 1/2 cups large French bread cubes

olive oil flavored cooking spray

1 teaspoon finely chopped dried herbs of choice

Coat bread cubes with cooking spray; place bread cubes in a heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag. Add herbs; seal and shake to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet; spray with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for nine minutes or until croutons are browned, stirring occasionally. Yield: 2 1/2 cups.

* A gift of time always is appreciated. Present friends or family with an invitation to your home for a healthful holiday meal you've taken time to prepare for them. They'll be sure to thank you.

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

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