Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making the Best of Conventional Food Gifts

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During the holidays, including Valentines Day, many of us get a boatload of food gifts. Gift baskets loaded with cheese, crackers, chocolate, fruit and all sorts of other goodies. So tempting.............

I try very hard to ignore the items that really are not my favorite foods, but sometimes that's not enough. Today, after sampling some of my husband's Valentines goodies, I realized I need some strategies, short of regifting these goodies in new baskets. It was brain storming time:

  • Out of sight, out of mind works well for me, so I'll start by putting those tempting goodies in the back of the pantry.
  • When gift baskets are received, there are always a few stowaways that won't get eaten. These make perfect perks to other gifts that I'm preparing, so I often tuck a few chocolates in with a bag of muffins or add a summer sausage to my mother's doggie bag after Christmas dinner. You get the idea.  Did I say "re-gift?" Of course not!
  • One gift basket included a packaged pumpkin muffin mix. I've been staring at it for nearly 2 months, and today it occurred to me. Use it, silly! I got past the fact that it had some artificial flavoring in it, and doctored it up to make it healthier. After adding the eggs, oil, and milk in organic form, I added nearly a whole can of organic cooked pumpkin. The result is muffins that really are PUMPKIN muffins, not just flavored that way. 
  • Did you receive a bottle of wine that you won't ever think of drinking? A common problem with an easy out--use it for cooking. Add a 1/2 bottle of white wine and Italian salad dressing to a container of cubed chicken, and skewer them up for the grill this weekend. You say you received red wine? Do the same with beef cubes or flank steak for a dinner fit for a king in three days time.
  • Did you receive a full sized ham the day after your company left? It freezes great, and can be made to go a long way, IF you section it and freeze them separately. Frozen ham is great with scalloped potatoes, ham and eggs, bean soup, and the list goes on....
  • Here's one I have often encountered--multiple packages of processed cheeses in various gift baskets add up to a great cheese ball. Take stock of the cheeses you have on hand and you'll find recipes online to suit your selection. Cheese balls freeze well and can be used for your next party. You can even roll it in cracker crumbs, made from the crackers that came in the same gift basket. Cha-ching!
  • Here's another interesting one: little bags of nuts and salty, snack items scattered throughout your gift baskets. Dump them all into a bowl, add seasoned salt and pour melted butter on top. Stir and bake on a cookie sheet to create a unique snack mix all your own. You can even have fun naming it.
  • If you, like me, receive fruit baskets from some of your far away family or co-workers, you'll need to be sure you don't let that fruit go to waste. If you don't eat it while it is at its peak, cook with it or juice it. This way you can freeze the juice and make a punch later, using a variety of juices. Frozen juice also makes great sorbet, when run through the juicer again, leaving the plate on to funnel it all out of one port. Have fun mixing flavors when you serve it.
I hope these ideas will put you on the road to using--as opposed to wasting--those food gifts that you may not be able to eat right out of the gift baskets. Think of all the money you will be saving. A little doctoring up and you won't even recognize their original state. Enjoy!


Bob Monk said...

Get Well Gift Baskets are the best way to show that you care and wishing Get Well to some one recovering. If a family member, friend, a client or business associate is recuperating there is no better way to wish them. Visit here:

Carrie J. Boyko said...

I totally agree, Bob, and thanks for your comment. I do wish the gift basket industry would come on board with organic offerings. Perhaps there is a new niche for you there, huh?

Your offerings include Kosher, international and even a small healthy selection, which does include a couple of organic products. I would definitely consider ordering a totally organic basket, if the basket itself was also reusable or make of sustainable material (bamboo would be great). Get back in touch when you have something like this to offer, and I'll be happy to do a review here on the blog. Hope to hear from you.

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