[The following article, written by Ayelet Connell-Giammatteo, PhD, PT, IMT,C, was recently published in Natural Nutmeg October 2014 issue]
The holiday season is a special time filled with delicious food and family fun. Gift giving is a large part of this special season. The idea of maneuvering through our holiday shopping lists can be exhausting. With plenty of time to prepare, consider creating a new tradition this year—homemade holiday gifts! Whenever I have received a homemade gift from a friend or family member, it has always been treasured. Here are some fun ideas for making these treasures at home.
Honey Roasted Nuts
A dear friend of mine modified this recipe for me. It is delicious!
2 cups raw cashews or other nut blend
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water
2 tsp grape seed oil or olive oil (note: when increasing the recipe, do not increase the oil to more then 4 tsp)
¼ cup maple sugar or palm sugar
½ tsp sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Mix sugar and salt together and set aside
3. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper
4. Spread cashews on cookie sheet in single layer
5. Roast cashews at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes
6. In skillet, heat honey, water, and oil to boiling
7. Add nuts and cook, stirring until syrup is gone and nuts are well coated
8. Pour sugar and salt mixture over nuts and stir until completely coated
9. Return nuts to cookie sheet and let cool and dry
10. Break nuts apart (note: you can store nuts in covered container for up to one month!)
Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Fudge
Fudge is always a fun gift to give. I found this great fudge recipe on a blog: http://blog.meaningfuleats.com/
2 13.5oz cans of coconut milk
½ cup honey
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 ¾ cups dairy-free chocolate chips (can substitute with cocoa powder but may need to modify other ingredients slightly)
¾ cup chopped nuts of choice
1. Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper and set aside
2. Pour coconut milk into medium saucepan. Heat milk over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Whisk in honey and simmer for another 25-30 minutes. Reduce mixture to 2 cups liquid. After about 20 minutes, check to see how much it has reduced by pouring mixture into glass measuring cup.
4. When mixture has reduced to 2 cups liquid, remove from heat. Stir in salt, vanilla, chocolate chips until chocolate is melted. Stir in nuts. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
5. Refrigerate for 2 hours until set. Cut into squares and enjoy. Store fudge in fridge between servings.
Pickling veggies for family and friends can be a lot of fun. There are also so many possibilities with which vegetables to choose from. Here is a standard recipe that can be modified for most vegetables.
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 tbsp maple sugar or palm sugar
Coarse sea salt
Varied pickling spice mixture: coriander, fennel, dill, black peppercorns, dried red pepper
1. Mix salt, sugar, apple cider vinegar and water in pot and bring to boil.
2. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Remove mixture (‘brine’) from heat and allow it to cool slightly.
4. Arrange vegetables in container large enough to hold brine.
5. Place pickling spices among vegetables in jar (i.e. fresh fennel or dill sprigs).
6. Vegetables should fit tightly and come within ½ inch of top of jar.
7. Fill jar with brine to top and cover.
8. Refrigerate unless following canning instructions.
Homemade Lip Balm
In addition to giving foodie treats to our family and friends during the holidays, homemade body products make for a fun kitchen project and can help soothe chapped skin during the cold winter months. Plus, your friend or family member will remember you every time they pull this out of their pocket to use on their lips on a cold day! I found this great recipe for homemade lip balm at: http://jugglingactmama.com/
1-1/2 tbsp beeswax organic pellets (this can be found easily on the internet!)
4 tbsp organic coconut oil
1-1/2 tbsp honey
1. Fill small saucepan with about 3 inches of water and bring to low simmer.
2. Place glass bowl over pot. (This will create a double boiler that will prevent burning of melted ingredients.)
3. Add beeswax pellets, coconut oil and honey.
4. Heat ingredients for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally while pellets and oil melt and meld together with honey.
5. Remove pot from heat, but leave bowl on top so mixture doesn’t harden while you’re filling the tins.
6. Use dropper to carefully fill each tin. Note: Do not handle tins while mixture is hot or you’ll burn your fingers. The balm will harden in about 5-6 minutes, but wait about 30 minutes for them to cool completely before handling.
Homemade Bath Salts
Here’s another fun gift to give! This recipe was found on: http://soletshangout.com/
2 cups Epsom salt
2 tbsp baking soda
2 drops natural food coloring (you can easily find these on amazon.com)
4 drops of essential oil (i.e. rosemary)
1 pint Mason jar or other container
1. Measure out salt and baking soda and dump into mixing bowl.
2. Add in essential oil(s) and food coloring.
3. Mix together until color is evenly distributed throughout salts.
4. Funnel bath salts into Mason jar.