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Chew It Over: giving the gift of health

by Melanie Lieberman / Beacon Staff • December 5, 2012

The holiday season is upon us again, and that means wallets are rapidly emptying and there’s a Christmas-colored candy dish on every countertop.  Because I always find the temptation of seasonal treats too much to resist, I’m constantly searching for affordable, healthy ways to indulge in the seasonal celebrations.

That’s why this year, I’m pulling together mixes in a jar for my friends and family.  These sweet blends — the foundation for a number of delicious recipes — are the perfect way to pull together inexpensive gifts that are not only healthy and delicious, but also fun for the lucky recipients. Simply prepare the dry ingredients, fill a mason jar with the mixture, and tie the recipe around the lid with a ribbon. Save money by gifting in bulk and selecting recipes with shared ingredients.

These easy-to-make mixes can transform pancakes, hot chocolate, and, of course, cookies with a touch of seasonal flavor. They are more than just low in fat and calories — each contains a nutrient-rich ingredient to boost holiday health.

All of these treats, when prepared, are 100 calories or fewer per serving, and $45 buys all of the dry ingredients and jars.  That’s enough for 12 gifts, and means spending less than $5 for everyone on your Christmas, Hanukkah, office party, and Secret Santa lists.  Stir up merry memories with these modern versions of classic cold-weather favorites.

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate:

Everyone loves to relax on a cold night with a hot beverage. A touch of cinnamon can regulate blood-sugar, which has been shown to help with weight loss.  Friends will appreciate this indulgent treat during winter feasts when you give them cinnamon hot chocolate.  Simply mix together:

1 cup nonfat dry milk

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon powdered Stevia

On your recipe card, tell the recipient to add 1/3 cup of this dry mix to 3/4 cup of boiling water.  Use a whisk to increase frothiness of the drink.

Eggnog Pancakes:

Start your winter mornings right with festive breakfast bites.  These eggnog pancakes are packed with extra protein, and eggs are one of the only foods naturally containing Vitamin D. Kick start the batter by mixing together: 

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon powdered Stevia

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

This recipe calls for one cup of eggnog; make sure to indicate either a sugar-free or fat-free version on your recipe card; regular eggnog has almost three times as many calories. Recipients will also need to add 1/2 cup of egg whites.  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry before laying the batter on the griddle.

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies:

A holiday dinner should always end with dessert. The big flavor-player in these cookies, ginger, has been credited with anti-viral qualities, which can help to both prevent and kill viruses.  Give protection from the common winter cold with chewy gingerbread cookies. Start by mixing together:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon powdered Stevia

Incorporating 1/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup low-calorie butter, and 2 tablespoons of egg beaters will yield approximately 25 delicious cookies. Before baking, dough should be refrigerated for at least an hour, then rolled until 1/8 inch thick.  Cut into your favorite holiday shapes and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes

If you’ve fallen into the bad habit of gifting sample products from beauty stores, or whipping up mass batches of Pillsbury sugar cookies every year for the holidays, now’s the time to redo how you tackle the season. Lace up your elf shoes, tie on your apron, and get crafty this year. If you’re lucky, your friends and family will be so eager to try out your jar mixes, they’ll make them right away.  That way, you can enjoy the finished product.