Gift of Food: Theme Baskets

December 16th, 2008

In an attempt to practice what I post, I created a theme basket as a present for a Christmas party. The spending limit was $15 and needed to be a gift anyone could enjoy. At a trip to the grocery store, I was inspired by the “world cuisine” aisle and put together this gift:

Pasta Dinner:
1 box of spaghetti
1 box of fettuccine
1 jar of traditional tomato basil sauce
1 jar of Alfredo sauce
1 bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle of basil pesto

Combine these items with a plain brown paper bag and some festive tissue paper, and a gift was crafted!

Other ideas for theme baskets:

Cup of Comfort: oversized mug, hot cocoa mix, and marshmallows
Curry Delight: Jasmine rice, curry sauces, and fortune cookies
Tea Time: tea bags, honey, and shortbread cookies
Heart Healthy Romance: candles, red wine, and dark chocolate
Coffee Lovers: dark roast, flavored creamer, and cinnamon
Soup’s On: soup, gourmet crackers, and soup bowls
PB&J Snacks: natural peanut butter, fruit preserves, and artisan bread

New Category: Gift of Food

December 15th, 2008

Well, my new Special Project Soupified is off to a bit of a slow start, so in the meantime I have launched a new category “Gift of Food,” to piggyback on my Holiday Manifesto. Some of my recent posts have featured ideas on giving food as gifts from sites such as MyRecipes and Slashfood, as well as some of my own homemade mixes for DIY gifts.

If you are looking for more easy ideas for unique gift-giving, check out Mix in a Jar Recipes, which has ideas for soup, baking, bread, and other mixes that can be stored in jars and given as gifts. There are also tips on making recipe cards, jar decorations, gift tags, and other tips on creating jars for gifts.

As I see more great ideas online, I will continue to post throughout the holiday season. Come back soon!

Slashfood’s Gift of the Day

December 14th, 2008

The Gift-of-the-Day countdown continues at Slashfood, included today’s gift idea: pancake mix. The author shares her family recipe, which includes several grains such as wheat flour, pastry flour, honey wheat germ, and cornmeal. Gift receivers needs only add milk, egg, and oil to make great pancakes and waffles.

Slashfood will continuing posting gifts, so check back for more unique ideas for holiday gift-giving.

Still looking for DIY gift ideas? Here are some of my favorite give-aways from previous posts:

Jenn’s Mocha Mocha Mix:
1 pkg (about 1 1/3 cups) dry instant non fat milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup instant espresso (or 2/3 cup instant coffee)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine, or whisk together in a large bowl. For gifts: Use canning jars or other pretty containers and fill with mix. Add a ribbon and a stick with directions:

To make a mocha: Combine 1/4 cup mix with 1 cup hot water (not boiling). Stir and enjoy!

Homemade Cocoa Mix:
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
3 cups instant nonfat dry milk (powdered milk)
1/4 tsp salt

Sift ingredients together, or combine in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine. For gifts: Fill large or individual jars with cocoa mix. Top container with marshmallows for an extra treat. Add instructions:

Use 1/4 cup mix with every 1 cup hot water (not boiling). Top with marshmallows, cinnamon, or whipped cream as desired. Goes great with a candy cane!

Homemade Chai Mix:
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients in a small dish with cover. Must be refrigerated! Mix will last 2-3 weeks if properly chilled, make the day before if giving as a gift and refrigerate overnight. For gifts: Fill a small glass jar or bottle with chai mix, give as a gift with a box of strong, black tea such as Assam. Add instructions:

Brew a cup of black tea using 2 teabags for every 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Steep about 5 minutes and remove teabags. Stir in 2-3 spoonfuls of chai mix. To make chocolate chai: stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup after chai mix is added.

Gingered Vanilla Chai Mix:
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

A variation on the previous recipe, use above instructions for preparation and gift-giving. Must also be refrigerated.


How to Eat a Pomegranate

December 10th, 2008

Pomegranates are the pinnacle of holiday fruit, mostly because their short growing season only allows them to be available late fall and early winter, but also because of their festive red color and rich taste. As delicious as they are, however, they are also a bit difficult and messy to prepare. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to de-seed a pomegranate found on wikiHow with my own photo-documentation.


Once you crack open your first pomegranate, be prepared to become addicted! I bought one as an experiment after reading this post on Vanilla Garlic, then quickly returned to the store for 3 more. The seeds were gone by the end of the next day.

First, you will need a sharp knife and cutting board. Rinse and dry the pomegranate, then slice of the top crown (the pointy end).


Next, score the rind several times around the pomegranate, avoiding slicing all the way through to avoid a juicy mess.


Soak the pomegranate, cut-side down, in a bowl of cold water for 5-10 minutes. This softens the rind, making it easier to extract the seeds.


Break the pomegranate apart. Using your fingers, separate the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the inedible membrane will float to the top.


Using a slotted spoon or sieve, remove the membrane and rind from the bowl and discard.


Drain the water using a colander. Shake excess water off of the seeds and return to the bowl or an airtight container for storage. Seeds can be stored in the refrigerate for  2 to 3 days (if they last that long!).