Neighborhood Gifting with a Little Less Sweet

'Tis the season when plates of goodies arrive at your doorstep! I love this time of year when neighbors and friends are immersed in the spirit of giving. Whether the gifts are homemade or store-bought, edible or not, it truly is the thought that counts.

I have been blessed with countless deliveries of cookies, candies, fudge and other tasty treats at Christmas time. Although I love and welcome sweet treats at Christmas, sometimes we have more sugar than we know what to do with!

I'll never forget a neighborhood gift that arrived at my parent's house several years ago. The doorbell rang and as we opened the door we saw a family from up the street dressed in sombreros and sarapes. They favored us with a delightful rendition of “Feliz Navidad” (complete with maracas) and then handed us a jar of fresh salsa and a bag of chips. What a great gift and a clever way to deliver it! In another neighborhood I lived in, I remember a particularly snowy Christmas when a neighbor trudged through the snow and ice to bring us a loaf of warm, freshly baked bread. It was the perfect accompaniment to our dinner that night and I've never forgotten how tasty it was. My mom is famous for her homemade pesto gift jars. Each year, she grows an herb garden with lots of fresh basil and then uses it in her homemade pesto recipe. She prepares the pesto months ahead of time and freezes it in small jars to hand out at Christmas time. What do all of these stories have in common? They represent delicious food gifts that aren't packed with sugar.

Just in case you might want to try making something a little less sweet this year, here are some other ideas.

Fresh Fruits and Veggies – Who wouldn't welcome a fruit basket on their doorstep? Or how about a veggie tray? If you're looking for something more budget-friendly, you could gift a small bag of clementines or a nicely wrapped pomegranate. These are some of my favorite food gifts!

Snack Mixes - When my husband and I were first married, we made several batches of Chex mix to hand out to the neighbors. They loved it and it was easy for us to make. If you do an Internet search on snack mix recipes, you can find a lot of clever ideas.

Muffin, Pancake, or Bread Mixes – One year we handed out muffin mixes with a tag that said, “You're getting 'muffin' for Christmas.” The tag may have been a bit cheesy, but the gift was well-received. Personally, I really enjoy getting baked goods in the form of mixes. It gives me the freedom to make them whenever I'm ready to eat them.

Spice Mixes – You can gift a small package of spice or seasoning mix with a recipe attached. Fajita seasoning, chili seasoning, barbecue rub, Italian seasoning, Cajun spice mix...the possibilities are endless!

Playdough – Okay, so technically this is not a food gift since it isn't edible, but what a great gift for a family with young children. Playdough can keep kids occupied for a long time and mothers really need gifts like this at Christmas time! There are hundreds of playdough recipes on the Internet. You could go with a holiday-themed playdough like gingerbread playdough or peppermint playdough. Attaching a cookie cutter to the package adds a nice touch.

Oatmeal or Granola – Most of us enjoy a warm breakfast in the winter. So why not gift a package of flavored oatmeal? Granola can been served warm or cold, but either way it is a tasty treat.

Soups – A can or package of soup mix makes a great gift. If you're going for homemade, you might want to consider a soup mix in a jar. This “Creamy Potato Soup Mix” recipe is especially easy to prepare.

Happy gifting!

    Cristina Duke
    Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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