Gift Idea – Special Diet

Gift Idea – Special Dietno no no

At Christmastime, a lot of us take for granted that cookies, pies and cakes are going to be on the menu for the duration. Unfortunately, not all of us are
in a position to enjoy the traditional treats that so many of us enjoy, but as the angels say “Fear Not” because there are fun alternatives for those with special dietary concerns.

Gluten Free

Do you have a loved one or special friend on your Christmas list who is on a Gluten free diet? There are many people going on this now, even though it was originally used as a treatment for Celiac Disease. Now, people are using it as a way to treat autism, to lose weight, and to ease digestive discomfort.

gluten freeLuckily, there are many gluten-free food gifts you can buy online. The Gifting Group makes a Gluten Free Gourmet Festive Twig Gift Basket with Cheese Knife that’s packed with olive oil sea salt crackers, cashews, olives, Busseto salami and Napa Valley Whole Grain Mustard – all free of gluten for that special someone in your life!

Then there’s the Holiday Delight Gluten Free Gift Tower by Gluten Free Palace. This gift includes chocolate chip biscotti, raspberry linzer cookies, black and white cookies, packages of dried fruit, pocorners and jelly bellies that are not only gluten free but are also certified kosher!

Know someone who has a sweet tooth but can’t eat gluten? Try the Gluten Free Cookies Gallon by Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company. This gift is a 1-gallon can filled with delicious fresh baked gluten free chocolate chip cookies. When the mini crunchy cookies are gone the can turns into a coin bank.

Another idea is to make a gift basket on your own! You can find lots of gluten free baking items online or in local grocery stores, and package them into a basket that you buy at an arts and crafts store.

Sugar Free

The holidays can be hard on those who are on a strict sugar-free diet. Whether they’re diabetic or just giving up sugar for some other reason, you can give a Christmas gift that satisfies their sweet tooth.

The Gift Basket Dropshipping company makes the Simply Sugar Free Gift Basket, which includes sugar free chocolates, jelly beans, fruit candies, andsugar free a variety of snacks like crackers, pretzel sticks, cheese dip, popcorn, and coffee – all in a lovely wicker basket.

There are a number of wonderful treats that you can put together to create your own sugar free gift basket such as Gimbal’s Sugar Free Scottie Dogs, miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the Go Lightly “Just Chocolates” variety, Werther’s hard caramels, Swiss Miss sensible sweets light cocoa mix and Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bars. To add some sugar free baked goods, check out the marvelous recipes in Terry Smith’s book Sugar Free Baking Recipes: Delicious Baking Recipes With No Added Sugar. When you put these treats together with creativity, your loved ones will really appreciate the care you’ve shown.

It’s no fun having to feel deprived around the holidays, so if you do know someone who’s on a sugar-restrictive diet, this kind of gift would perk them up through the Christmas season.

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Like the wise men of old, we have finally arrived at our destination. Here we are at the official end of the holiday season. I hope you enjoyed the ride!

Epiphany

Epiphany It’s generally held that the magi didn’t arrive until Jesus was about two, but that would make for a really long holiday season (fine by me). We’d also have to wait another thirty years or so for Easter to come around, so it’s nice to be able to condense it down to meaningful liturgical seasons.

Another thing that I’m pretty adamant about (given that I created a site on the topic) is keeping the season in the season. I’ve seen a number of things over the years that try to drag the symbolism of Easter into the season of Christmas.

STOP IT!

There’s a reason why the seasons are separate. If you want foreshadowing, you only need to look at the lyrics of We Three Kings.

I guess I’m one of those guys who likes to keep his carrots from touching his mashed potatoes on the plate, but fair’s fair. Let Christmas be Christmas and let Easter be Easter.

National Shortbread Day

Is there anything more tasty than a rich Scottish shortbread? You can get so many variations of this classic treat online and from the stores, but you can go old school and make it yourself:

  1. 1 part white sugar
  2. 2 parts butter
  3. 3 parts flour

That’s the simple formula for a tremendous holiday treat that you can enjoy anytime.

Shortbread Day

Festivus and National Pfeffernusse Day

Festivus and National Pfeffernusse Day

We’ve got pfeffernusse cookies today to help us celebrate Festivus. Frank Costanza may not have approved of tinsel, but we approve of cookies covered with confectioner’s sugar!

Festivus

A Festivus for the rest of us! This is a silly holiday that was invented by Frank Costanza on the Seinfeld TV show. As it turns out, it was actually invented by the father of Dan O’Keefe who wrote the episode. His experiences were filtered through the lens of the Seinfeld characters and made even more comical.

Aspects of the holiday are the unadorned aluminum pole, the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. Click the image of the book to learn more about this anti-commercial, non-religious, totally hilarious holiday.

National Pfeffernusse Day

This spicy cookie has roots and variations throughout Northern Europe. German immigrants brought it to America with them as a holiday tradition some time in the 1850s.

Traditional homemade pfeffernusse are a small hard biscuit that you may wish to dip in your tea, coffee or milk. Typically, the store bought cookies are baked to be soft and able to be eaten without dunking.

Pfeffernusse Cookies

Click on the cookies to see the recipe
Image courtesy of Jenn at allrecipes.com

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

As we close in on Christmas day, the celebrations get more and more awesome. Ugly sweaters, suckling pigs and cookies are on the docket today. It’s the Friday before Christmas, so kick off a wonderful weekend with some classic holiday treats!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day


Admit it. You know you want one.
National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is celebrated on the third Friday of December each year to add some lighthearted fun to an already awesome holiday season.

What’s involved in celebrating this zany holiday? Just buy yourself the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find and wear it all day. Don’t forget to dare your friends to try to top you. It’s not a party if you’re the only one wearing one!

Want to add some meaning to the fun? Make a donation to Save the Children and their Make The World Better With A Sweater campaign.

Make The World Better With A Sweater

National Roast Suckling Pig Day

National Suckling Pig Day is a chance to have a super-retro medieval holiday dinner. A suckling pig is technically one that hasn’t been weaned from its mother’s milk, causing the meat to be extremely tender. Not everybody has the right kitchen or even the time and patience to prepare such a sumptuous meal, but some people are all about the BBQ pit. If you’ve got the time and the tools, this is a feast not to be missed. If you’d like to know how, ask Julia Child. National Suckling Pig Day

Bake Cookies Day

Sure, this is technically cheating, but boy do these look tasty!!! I’ve always wondered why if you bake cookies, you don’t call them bakies. Well, it turns out that the word cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje which means “little cake”.

It turns out that Dutch bakers used to check the temperature of their ovens by dropping a little cake batter in rather than risk losing the whole cake on an oven that wasn’t hot enough. Waste not, want not.

There are so many kinds of cookies and ways to make them. Since Christmas is next Friday, it’s time to get those batches cooking. Whether you make them from scratch with old family recipes or whether you just buy logs of pre-made dough at the store, baking cookies is a great family activity and makes a wonderful homemade gift for friends and relatives.

Dewey Decimal System Day and Gingerbread Decorating Day

Dewey Decimal System Day and Gingerbread Decorating Day

Today we’re looking at books and gingerbread. I happen to love both for different reasons. I have a hard time passing up a library sale. There is something magical about an old library book, particularly if it’s about Christmas. Gingerbread, on the other hand, is a phenomenal food. You can roll it thin and bake it into cookies, cutouts and houses or you can bake it soft in cake form. In either form, it’s really fun to decorate.

Dewey Decimal System Day

Melvil_Dewey_1891 Today is the birthday of Melvil Dewey who designed the numerical system by which library books are organized. To find books about Christmas customs, go to the shelves where 394.266 is found. 300 is Social Sciences. 390 is Customs, etiquette and folklore. 394 is General customs. Dewey devised the system that was adopted in 1876 for the logical and consistent organization of libraries. The system has been updated 23 times, most recently in 2011.

So, when you’re in a library looking for a particular nonfiction book and you’re able to find it and all the others on the same topic; you’ve got Mr Dewey to thank for this system.

Gingerbread Decorating Day

There are so many wonderful techniques for decorating gingerbread men and other gingerbread cutouts. The classic approaches involve icing and raisins, but here are some awesome ideas to really kick it up a notch:

  • Use jelly beans or sliced mini marshmallows to create accessories or jewelry
  • Smash gumdrops with a rolling pin to make sheets that can be cut into clothing or use fruit leather
  • Smash mints or hard candy into tiny pieces or powder to create a sequin effect
  • Cut shapes out of your gingerbread people and fill with smashed hard candy and then bake to create a stained glass effect

Use your imagination and make some brand new, avant-garde gingerbread creations this year!

Decorating Gingerbread

Santa’s List & Cookies

Santa’s List & Cookies

A lot of kids have already penned their letters to Santa by now, but if yours haven’t it’s not too late. Today is the day when Santa finalizes his Naughty and Nice lists. Most likely, your kids are on the Nice list. Santa is pretty lenient, but he wasn’t always so mellow.

In earlier years, the various versions of Santa found throughout Europe had a sidekick who dished out his own version of Christmas cheer. Known by a variety of names such as Knecht Ruprecht, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) or even the diabolical Krampus, this fellow carried a bundle of switches to beat the bad children. Fortunately, Santa has moved beyond the good cop / bad cop paradigm and settles for a Naughty List.

santa49ani

If you’d like to give your kids a little taste of the Naughty List, you can go to Portable North Pole and create a customized video where Santa calls your child by name and lets them know where they stand. It’s also fun for the grown ups.

My kids recently handed me their lists for Santa. It’s a special time of the year when your kids think hard about what they’d like to see under the Christmas tree. I remember my own childhood when I’d scour the pages of the Sears catalog looking through all the exciting things they had in stock.

Another great way to touch base with Santa is to go see him at the mall or a big department store. If you’re lucky, there is even a Santa who can come to your home like my friend Santa D. A professional Santa like Santa Dwight will provide a truly magical experience for your whole family.

So, once you’ve cleared the Naughty or Nice threshold and gotten your wish list off to Santa, there’s one more detail to consider: Cookies!

Santa does a lot of work on Christmas Eve delivering all those toys and he needs his cookies and milk to keep him going. Since it’s National Cookie Day, it’s only right to think about getting some practice on those cookies. I’ve found a playlist with 27 different types of cookies that you can try your hand on.

I’ve always been a fan of chocolate chip cookies, particularly when they’re fresh out of the oven. I’m also crazy about Italian Rainbow Cookies and Pizzelles. I love the wonderful flavors of the holiday season and cookies are a great way to get in the spirit of things. Another benefit of Christmas Cookies is explained in this song by George Strait, performed by Scotty McCreery. Enjoy!

Christmas Shopping Alternatives

Christmas Shopping Alternatives

by the Elf Queen

Alternatives to shopping, what a crazy idea. But, Christmas shopping is so overrated. People running hither and thither to find just the right gift. Time spent worrying and fretting about whether they’ve spent enough money, or too much money, or did they buy evenly for the kids, or did they get a grandiose enough gift for the new in-laws.

An idea to this stress might be found in baking cookies and cakes for a home-made gift. Making candles or soap or knitting a cap are examples of time intensive gifts, but what is more valuable to the receiver than your time and thoughtfulness.

Perhaps instead of making candles or soap, your family could exchange names and buy a Secret Santa gift for one another. Our extended family did this a few years ago and it was fun to figure out who had your name, if you could. It is sometimes called a “pollyanna”. It is fun for the kids to yell “I knew it was you all the time!” after their Secret Santa comes forward.

A book of coupons for time spent together is another good alternative to the shopping trip. Coupons for yard work or a birdwatching walk or even breakfast in bed are great to have and can be redeemed through out the year. They coupons themselves could be a work of art.

Another idea for through-the-year gift is a homemade calendar. Calendar forms can be bought cheaply at local craft stores or you could even print blank months off the computer. Kids will love to get special calendars made by mom or dad just for them. Calendars made for parents or grandparents by children become special keepsakes in years to come.

More time to spend together can be experienced at a local dance class, or art class, or even a cooking class. What excitement to look forward to after a hard day at work, time spent learning something with a loved one.

You could mix a CD or MP3 of your family’s favorite music, listening to it in the car will be a great way to spend a drive. We made several CDs for a trip to North Carolina and the kids enjoyed listening to music without commercials!

When our daughter was younger we made her wooden blocks from downed trees in the back yard. A bit of sawing and sanding and voilà, terrific, fun blocks. No, they were not all the same size, but that was okay-much more imaginative play that way. We also made sewing cards for her that we still have. Another idea for younger children might be a photo book of familiar people and places-babies and toddlers love to look at books filled with loved ones.

There are endless possibilities for home-made and low cost alternatives to the Christmas shopping trip. The above are just a few ideas. I’m sure if you take a few moments, you’ll think of some fantastic ones of your own.

Email them to us, we’d love to read about them and incorporate them into our family’s treasure box of alternatives.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

by the Elf Queen

Christmas cookies are fat free! Christmas cookies look slimming on you! Christmas cookies good for curing the common cold!

Oh, if only these statements were true! But, alas, they are not. Christmas cookies are tasty and delicious, but unfortunately, your love handles only get larger as you eat them.

There are so many different types of Christmas cookies. The Christmas cookie started in ancient times and continues today, in all types of countries. According to our research, gingerbread and sugar cookies were ‘invented’ first followed by tons more. Did you know animal crackers were once used as decorations? Americans have made Fig Newtons since 1892, but the lovely, tasty most wonderful Christmas cookie-the Chocolate Chip cookie has only been officially made since 1937!! (did you read our bias in that sentence)

Once people started making cookies, the cookie exchange began. This is a great idea for a party and can be an inexpensive alternative Christmas gift. People can bring ingredients to make the cookies at the party, or just bring several dozen of one type of cookie to exchange with one another. Either way, fun will be had.

Making Christmas cookies is a tradition shared in many families. I remember making cookies with my grandmother. The extra table would be assembled and the cookies laid upon it for display. Then, the joy of tasting samples or eating imperfect cookies before Christmas would commence. Of course, once the baking and tasting were done,the cookies were packed away and saved for that most special of times-Christmas Dinner Dessert.

Sometimes Christmas cookie making can be considered torturous. For example, making molasses cookies for the first time for me was torturous. How about when your cookies turn too brown for even a dog, that would be torturous. (but truly, that’s never happened, right?) Or how about when your husband sees flames in the oven from your daughter trying to bake cookies and he decides to use the fire extinguisher on them? Ack, what a mess! Actually, those weren’t Christmas cookies, but the idea is the same.

A fun recipe to make with children is gingerbread people. They can help by mixing the ingredients or just with the decorations, either way it is a memory builder. Remember to take lots of photographs! Gingerbread villages are fun to do, not just a house, but an entire village. The creativity and love will be endless. Gingerbread house making also makes for a good party. It would be fun to have one’s Sunday School make a gingerbread version of your church (maybe rice crispy treats would be easier for this).

There are many, many recipes for Christmas cookies. Ask your relatives for their favorites or check out www.tasteofhome.com or www.food.com for some ideas.

Here’s a snappy little tune to go with your ginger snaps!

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