Lately I’ve been thinking about Christmas presents. Dreading actually, the thought of shopping for loved ones near and far, fighting my way through hordes of shoppers, puzzling out the specific gift requirements of precocious ten year-olds and the current consumer fads they desire, and just the general process of spending my hard earned dough.

Luckily Sarah, who writes our other blog Good Food Health, gave me some great ideas for home-made gifts. Not only do pickled onions, pickled green beans, marmalade, pancake mix, cookie mix and many other recipes taste great, they can also make great gifts. These home projects are a wonderful way to give gifts on a budget, as well as being easy to make.

My plan is to make a few healthy cookie mixes, layer them in cool old mason jars I found at the antique store along with a hand written recipe and bestow these upon the sweet-loving members of my family. I’d also like to try my hand at making some jam or marmalade with our satsumas. Since the satsumas are so juicy, I can sub out my apples and pears and sub in satsumas to get enough juice to make a few jars of satsuma vanilla marmalade.

I think when it comes to these homemade projects the jar really matters. That way someone gets something that they can eat and appreciate and use later for something else. Thrift stores and antique stores are a great place to find old canning jars. I thought of giving out jars of kimchi, but figured there wouldn’t be too many takers.

So besides the fruit, basically satsumas and pomegranates, here’s the rest of my list –

Cilantro
Yellow Onions
Bunched Carrots
Sunchokes
Eggplant
Cucumbers
Salad Mix (Cut Greens)
Acorn Squash

The cilantro, carrots and onions make me think of albondigas – a rice meatball soup with Mexican spices – or pozole , a similar soup with hominy. Both of these are family staples and taste great vegetarian, with chicken or pork. Though pork has the most depth and flavor, chicken is often the easiest and one whole organic chicken can make enough stock, meat and soup for quite a few meals.

The sunchokes are one of my favorite winter foods. Last year was the first time I had ever tried any and I had a blast experimenting with various preparations. I think by far my favorite was the sunchoke gnocchi. It took a lot more flour than I remember, but the result was awesome. I’m determined to figure that recipe out this year.

Eggplant says one thing to me, okay, one of two things – baba ganoush or eggplant parmigiano. Seriously, I could eat either for days. I think the last time they were in the box I made baba ganoush, so this time it’s parmigiano! Which means I’ll need to add some Parmigiano-Reggiano to my order. The salad mix will accompany that well, and the cucumbers will fit into that nicely.

I think I may just trade out the acorn squash for another eggplant so I can make a big batch, but squash is so easy to prepare – I just cut them in half, rub with oil, salt and pepper and a variety of spices depending on my mood then toss them into a hot oven until soft and brown. We had some last night with roasted turnips. I finished them both with a little honey and lemon juice, they were great.

So for next week, I’ll either share my recipe for sunchoke gnocchi or my recipe for eggplant parmigiano, complete with my favorite recipe for anchovy based marinara sauce. They are both hearty and delicious and take a little more preparation than some recipes, but are well worth the extra time.

Have a great weekend.

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