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.

Why Fruitcake Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Why Fruitcake Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Fruitcake is an unjustly maligned holiday treat, in my opinion. I love fruitcake!
Of course, you might say ‘you are what you eat‘ but that’s not very kind now is it?
Fruitcake
Here are some reasons why fruitcake is awesome:

  • Variety. Despite Johnny Carson’s joke that there is only one fruitcake in the world and people just keep passing it around, there are tons of fruitcakes available on the market. There are gluten free and organic fruitcakes available to those who are health conscious. There are sugar-free fruitcakes for those who are diabetic (don’t ask me how that works, but I have seen them advertised). There are inexpensive dollar store fruitcake slices and there are high end fruitcakes that are lovingly festooned with the finest fruits and nuts and soaked in the most decadent booze. There are fruitcakes for every taste and need!
  • Fruitcake has a long and illustrious history. Fruitcakes have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs! Since they kept well and were tasty, the Roman legions carried them on long campaigns of conquest. In the Middle Ages, the fruitcake got an upgrade. Spices, honey and preserved fruit were added but the portability of the cake remained. This made it popular as a campaign staple among the Crusaders. In the colonial period, they added nuts and sugar to make it even more tasty. To top it off, the Victorians added a dash of alcohol to give it a little kick. Fruitcake has even been to space! A slice of the fruitcake that was prepared for the Apollo 11 mission is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
  • Fruitcake can save your life! Due to the preservatives (alcohol) in the cake, it can be prepared months in advance and stored as a foodstuff for the bleak midwinter when the harvest is months in the future. In fact, proper fruitcake ages like a fine wine and must sit at least a month before being fully enjoyed. If properly perserved and stored in an airtight container, fruitcake can last up to 25 years! What’s more, because it is so dense, moist and heavy you can even use it as a weapon if the need arises. According to Harper’s Index, the average fruitcake is as dense as mahogany wood!
  • Fruitcake has supernatural powers! If you are a woman, put a piece of fruitcake under your pillow after attending a wedding and you will dream about your future husband! If you’re a guy, you’ll just have a quick bit of breakfast in bed. Nut growers used to make a fruitcake at the end of a harvest and then save it until the end of the following harvest as a good luck charm. Fruitcake can be brought back from the dead! If your fruitcake has gone stale due to improper storage, you can resurrect this delectable treat by steaming it.
  • Because it’s Christmas! Fruitcake is the gift that keeps on giving because you can either eat it or regift it. Personally, I’m in the eat it camp. I’m surely not the only one because in Berryville, Virginia at the Holy Cross Abbey, the monks sell 10,000 fruitcakes each year. Somebody must be eating them, right?

So, that’s the skinny on why fruitcake is so absolutely holiday fabulicious. If you’re one of those who is skeptical of this much denounced treat, I encourage you to give it a try this year. You don’t know what you’re missing!

Get your Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake 3lb in a Gift Box from Amazon.com today!

Get your Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake 3lb in a Gift Box from Amazon.com today!

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day and National Fruitcake Day

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day and National Fruitcake Day

Winter’s off to a quick start and we’re going to help things along with some cutout snowflakes. After a fun time crafting our own snowflakes, it’s only fitting to sit down to a piece of rich, delicious fruitcake. Let’s get celebrating!

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day

Some of us get enough of the real things and may even have a yard full of them at this point. Just the same, it’s a fun holiday craft to engage in. Kids love to cut wonderful shapes and watch with wonder as the snowflakes unfold into individual works of art.

So, whether you live someplace where it snows or not, you can have a Winter Wonderland indoors with just a few creative clips.

National Fruitcake Day

I know, I’m one of the few people who actually likes fruitcake. Apparently, I’m not the only one since they’ve designated a national day for it. Wahoo! Makes my day.

First references to fruitcake date back to Roman times. Many would joke that the same fruitcakes have been passed back and forth as gifts since that time, but with proper preservatives and airtight packaging a good fruitcake will only last 25 years.

Two towns have long been battling for the title of Fruitcake Capitol of the World. Corsicana, Texas, is home to the Collin Street Bakery while Claxton, Georgia, is the home to two major fruitcake bakeries: the Claxton Bakery and the Georgia Fruitcake Company. While it hasn’t yet been finally decided, Claxton has claimed the title on their water tower.

Today is the Third Day of Christmas! Here are 3 French Hens
 

Three French Hens

Look for an Evergreen Day and Oatmeal Muffin Day

Look for an Evergreen Day and Oatmeal Muffin Day

Today, we’re on the hunt for the perfect natural tree and we’re going to fortify ourselves for the search with a hearty oatmeal muffin!

Look for an Evergreen Day

The Perfect Tree Many people enjoy the scent of a natural Christmas tree and have made a family tradition of finding just the right one.

The evergreen tree is a symbol of everlasting life. In the midst of stark winter landscapes, the evergreen tree remains a beacon of hope.

The tradition of decorating evergreen trees began in Germany in the 16th Century and became part of English tradition when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized German ways of celebrating the season in the 1840s. The first reports of Christmas trees in America were in the homes of German immigrants in the 1830s.

Oatmeal Muffin Day

Oatmeal is a classic cold weather comfort food. Who doesn’t remember starting the day with a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal topped with brown sugar, honey or fruit? Oatmeal also makes a wonderful batch of cookies. One of my favorite with or without the raisins.

Oatmeal contains calcium, potassium and soluble fiber that provides heart health benefits and can reduce blood pressure. Oatmeal also contains a compound called β-glucan that can help to reduce appetite.

Blueberry Oat Muffins - Click through for the recipe to these wonderful muffins

Click through for the recipe to these wonderful muffins. Image courtesy of elegantemily at allrecipes.com

Poinsettia Day and National Cocoa Day and Gingerbread House Day

Poinsettia Day and National Cocoa Day and Gingerbread House Day

Alright, yesterday was a bit of a disappointment as far as picking from pre-defined holidays goes, but we made the best of it. Today, we’ve got more holidays than we can shake a stick at. What awesome Christmasy holidays they are, too!

Poinsettia Day

littleangel This festive plant was brought to the United States from Mexico by our first ambassador to that country, Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was an avid botanist and Poinsettia Day marks the day that Mr. Poinsett passed on in 1851. With its festive red brachts and the deep green leaves beneath, this plant is a natural choice for holiday decorating.

There is a persistent rumor that a poinsettia is poisonous, but a 50 pound child would have to eat over 500 leaves to see any harm and there’s no way they’d get more than one down since they taste horrible. The plant has a sap that can induce allergic reactions to those who are sensitive to latex. Just the same, you’ll want to keep the pets away from it because the leaves can induce vomiting. That’s not very festive at all.

Poinsettias in their native environment are a perennial shrub that can grow 10 to 15 feet high. The vast majority of poinsettias grown for sale in the United States now come from a ranch in California rather than directly from Mexico. The Paul Ecke Ranch accounts for 70% of domestic sales and 50% of the worldwide market of these beautiful plants.

National Cocoa Day

Cocoa was first consumed by the Mayans. Cacao trees only grow within 20° latitude of the Equator. The Aztecs drank a chocolate beverage called Xocolatl. They felt it increased endurance, fought fatigue and permitted a man to walk a whole day without food. I think that might be stretching things a bit, but I know there are days I’ve had a chocolate-only diet and I’m still here to tell the tale.

The Spanish sat on their discovery for almost a century before exporting it throughout Europe. During that time, they got the idea to start adding sugar, vanilla and other flavors to improve the taste.

The Aztecs valued cocoa beans more than gold and jewels and who can blame them? You can’t eat jewelry. Incidentally, it takes 4 cacao seeds to make an ounce of milk chocolate or 12 seeds to make an ounce of dark chocolate. A cacao seed pod is about the size of a pineapple and holds enough seeds to make seven chocolate bars or two dark chocolate bars. Cocoa now comes primarily from West Africa, where they process every step by hand to ensure quality. If you wonder why fine chocolates are so expensive, it’s the limited supply and the labor intensive processing. Cacao trees can blossom all year round, but the flowers die if they are not pollinated within 24 hours of blooming. There’s a lot that goes into your candy bar or mug of hot chocolate!

Chocolate first came to the United States in 1765 with Irish chocolatier John Hanan. He partnered with Dr. James Baker to refine the beans imported from the West Indies. The business they founded is now the Baker’s Chocolate brand you still see today. I am rather glad they did. I can’t imagine facing the long winter months ahead without a hot, creamy mug of cocoa to look forward to. How about you?

Hot Chocolate

Gingerbread House Day

While gingerbread itself has been around for quite some time in its cake and biscuit form, the gingerbread house gained popularity in the 19th Century after the publication of Hansel and Gretel in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Since 1991, the city of Bergen in Norway has created a gingerbread city they call Pepperkakebyen. Any child under 12 can build and contribute a gingerbread house to the display. This has spurred cities throughout the US to make their own. The Gingertown projects are constructed by architects in Washington DC, Nashville, Dallas and Atlanta. The finished products are displayed at hospitals and community support service locations throughout their communities. Charitable donations are collected and distributed through the Gingertown collaborations.

The Guinness World Record for largest gingerbread house was most recently broken in 2013. A team from Bryan, Texas, made a 2520 square foot house with edible walls. Jon Lovitch, the executive sous chef of the New York Marriott Marquis hotel just broke the Guinness World Record for largest gingerbread village last month! Just for a giggle, I’m going to mention that in 2011 the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a gingerbread man was broken by David Smith of the UK with a marathon time of 3 hours, 42 minutes and 20 seconds.

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

National Brownie Day

National Brownie Day

A joy at any time of the year, brownies are a marvelous comfort food to share with your family. Making brownies with your kids is a great opportunity to build some holiday memories. Play some Christmas music and make these sumptuous treats.

Here is the recipe for the brownies in the video you see above courtesy of the The Frugal Chef:
Ingredients (Makes 16 brownies)

4 eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup melted unsalted butter — cooled down
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa –sifted
½ cup flour — sifted
1 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 300 degrees F and prep a square brownie pan by buttering and flouring it.

Mix the sifted flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

Place the eggs in a bowl and beat until they are pale — about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and mix. Add the vanilla and butter and mix. Do not over beat, just mix it. Add the flour and cocoa and mix. Again, do not over beat, just mix it.

Pour the batter into the pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool down completely — about 3 hours.

Once the brownies are completely cooled, cut them into squares.

Serve and enjoy!

CALORIES 247.95; FAT 13.48 grs (sat 8.11; mono 3.77; poly 0.64); PROTEIN 3.42 grs ; FIBER 2.34 grs; CARBS 32.26 grs; CHOLESTEROL 74.28 mg; IRON 1.35 mg; SODIUM 166.19 mg; CALCIUM 19.65 mg

Sacher Torte & 21st Amendment Cocktails

Chocolate Cake

Sacher Torte & 21st Amendment Cocktails

So, yesterday we talked about kids’ stuff. Christmas is really all about the kids anyway, but that doesn’t mean that the grown ups can’t have some refined treats of their own.

National Sacher Torte Day



Today is National Sacher Torte Day in celebration of a chocolate cake that is fit for a prince, literally. Chef in training, Franz Sacher, was called upon by his employer Prince Metternich of Austria to provide a dessert suitable for his guests in 1832. The head chef had taken ill and it was on Franz’s shoulders to fill in. The cake was not a disappointment, but it did not become instantly famous. The son of Franz Sacher, Eduard, became a chef in his own right and perfected his father’s recipe. You can enjoy this regal dessert from Vienna or have a go at preparing it yourself.

Celebrate the 21st Amendment

On December 5th, 1933, we closed a chapter of American history that began with the best intentions but led to some of the worst results. Prohibition was a period of time that was meant to improve the human condition by removing the troublesome influence of alcohol, but the actual outcome was one of rampant lawlessness and a decrease of civil liberties. Learn more at the Repeal Day site. Since we’re free to imbibe again, I’ve located a couple of festive cocktails that you can serve to add a dash of holiday flair to your get-togethers.

Fritters & Mutts

Fritters & Mutts

Today we’re going to fill your belly and your heart. December 2nd is National Fritter Day and it is National Mutt Day.

National Fritter Day

To celebrate today as National Fritter Day, we’re going to hook you up with breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Fritters are any sort of cake or pastry with fruit or meat inside and are a classic comfort food in many regions of the country.

Breakfast: Cheesy Bacon Fritters

This image courtesy of cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com

This image courtesy of cinnamon spice and everything nice.com

I just love the smell of bacon in the morning! My mouth is watering just thinking about these bad boys.

If you like the extra zing, the recipe includes a ration of jalapeños. Click through to get yours sizzling.

Lunch: Easy Zucchini Fritters

This is going to make a really tasty lunch for you today. I love zucchini in casseroles, stir fry, as a side or even in cookies! Click here to see how to have these for lunch.

This image courtesy of laurenslatest.com

This image courtesy of laurens latest.com

Dinner: Indonesian Corn Shrimp Fritters

Bakwan (seafood cake with whole shrimp).jpg

This image courtesy of Garrett Ziegler. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Also known as Bakwan Udang, this savory shrimp dish brings an exotic set of spices to your holiday table.

Click here to learn the secrets of this Eastern dish.

Dessert: Easy Glazed Apple Fritters

Is there anything as tasty as an apple fritter with a generous layer of glaze?

Click here to find out how to make this tasty treat for dessert tonight.

This image courtesy of cinnamon spice and everything nice.com

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National Mutt Day

We were watching the highlights of the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day and it’s neat to see all the exotic breeds, but not everyone has the cash for a purebred or the medical problems that are inherent in some of the breeds. A lot of people just want a furry friend who is going to live a long healthy life without the cost and drama of a pedigree. If you have room in your home and your heart for a fuzzy family member, today is specially designated for the rest of the canine community.

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.