Prairie Fare: Ideas for last-minute, practical gifts
“What would you like for Christmas?” I asked my husband as we shopped one evening.
“I just need some new undershirts,” my husband replied. He grabbed a package from a rack and handed it to me.
This was going to be a holly, jolly Christmas. He would have to use his best acting skills to be thrilled when he opened this gift. However, he hasn’t won an Academy Award lately.
“What else would you like?” I asked.
“I will think about it,” he answered.
My husband was being practical because we are sorting and organizing several closets. We have too much stuff.
Maybe you have gift recipients who “have everything” and perhaps are short on storage, too. Can you think of items that are practical, yet thoughtful?
We pondered gift ideas as we each had a mocha coffee at the mall. I glanced at the nutrition information as we sipped our coffee. My eyes widened as I noted that we each had consumed nearly 400 calories. The cost of our treat was surprising, too.
Although they are a nice treat, coffee-type beverages can be quite expensive and also high in calories. Our bodies do not register “satiety” as readily from beverages such as soda pop. In other words, we don’t feel full despite having consumed the same amount of calories in a meal.
However, a plain cup of coffee or tea is virtually calorie-free and much less expensive. Add some skim milk and one packet of sweetener, and you do not have to run around the mall many times to burn the calories.
To trim calories from a “fancy” beverage, skip the whipped topping, request nonfat milk and/or sugar-free syrup, or choose a latte made with nonfat milk.
After our shopping break, I had an idea, perhaps not for my husband but for some other people.
Consider food gifts for the hard-to-buy-for people on your list. How about some homemade beverage mixes or some plain or flavored coffee or tea for the person who enjoys warm beverages? You could assemble a movie night with popcorn and a free movie rental. A coupon for a homemade meal to be delivered later might be welcome, too.
You will find instructions for making beverage, soup, quick bread and cookie mixes, plus additional food gift ideas, in these two handouts:
Beverage Mixes in a Jar at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1625.pdf
Food Mixes in a Jar at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1494.pdf
Here is one of the featured beverage recipes. It is much lower in calories and less expensive than a mocha coffee. If you want a “lift,” try using coffee in place of hot water.
Double Chocolate Peppermint Candy Hot Cocoa Mix
1 c. instant skim milk powder
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. crushed peppermint candy
1/2 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips
Add the skim milk powder, cocoa powder, sugar and salt to a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly mixed. Transfer the mix to a large bowl. Add the crushed peppermint candy and mini semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until distributed throughout the mixture. Store mixture in an airtight, quart-sized container (such as a quart canning jar). Decorate if desired. Mix or shake before making a cup of beverage.
For each serving, place three-fourths of a cup of boiling water in a mug and stir in 3 tablespoons of mix.
Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 3.5 grams (g) of fat, 4 g of protein, 30 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 130 milligrams of sodium.
(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)
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