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The makings for Wintery Curried Lentil Soup is a tasty gift. Julie Cross/Courtesy photo

Food & Drink

Last-minute food gifts are easy and delicious

By From page A8 | December 18, 2013

It’s one week before Christmas, and there’s a decent chance that sometime in the next seven days you’re going to need one more present than you counted on.

You could brave the stores to pick up something, or you could step into the kitchen and manufacture one of these very quick and easy gifts. You might actually have everything you need for one or more of these items. Even if you don’t, it’s certain that the grocery store is much calmer than the mall!

We like to package our edible gifts in the ubiquitous canning jar. They’re useful in and of themselves, they match every décor and they’re easy to decorate with ribbons and stickers. If you’d like to get fancy, a cupcake paper (or even a coffee filter!) adds a pretty ruffle — put the lid on, put the cupcake paper over it and screw on the ring. You also can go with packaging that matches the gift: cocoa mix packaged in a mug, chocolate chip pancake mix in a mixing bowl or glass measuring cup.

However you package it, don’t forget to label it and add instructions.

If you’re an infrequent chef, do check the quality of open ingredients before you start mixing. If your flour has an “off” smell or your sugar is hard as a rock, discard it and start fresh. Baking powder can be checked for freshness by putting a small spoonful in a large bowl and adding boiling water — if it fizzes up, it’s still good to go.

The recipes

Note: Recipes are courtesy of Julie Loke of the Davis Food Co-op Teaching Kitchen.

Sand Art Brownie Mix
Super fudgy and rich recipe!

The ingredients:
1 wide-mouth quart (4-cup) canning jar
2⁄3 teaspoons salt
1 1⁄8 cup sifted flour, all-purpose, divided
1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
2⁄3 cups brown sugar
2⁄3 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup white chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup walnuts or pecans

Putting it together:
Wash, rinse and dry canning jars.

Sift flour before measuring. Layer ingredients as follows:

2/3 teaspoon salt
5/8 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts

Close jars with lids and rings. Decorate and make a tag with ingredients and baking instructions.

Directions for baking, to be included on tag:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9×9 baking pan.
Pour the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix well.
Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup vegetable oil and 3 eggs. Beat until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared 9×9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix
The ingredients:

1-pint mason jar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Putting it together:
Wash, rinse and dry canning jars.

Mix the dry ingredients together and put them in a jar.

Directions for baking, to be included on tag:
When you want pancakes, empty the jar into a mixing bowl. Mix together in a bowl:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
2 teaspoons oil

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until they are mixed. Don’t stir too much!

Heat up a pan or griddle. Put a little oil on it. Put 1/3 cup of batter on the griddle. Let it cook until one side is brown, about 3 minutes. Flip it and cook the other side. Put fruit, butter, syrup or powdered sugar on top and eat it up.
Hot Cocoa Mix

The ingredients:
5 1-pint mason jars
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-process recommended)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper
3 cups nonfat dry milk powder

Putting it together:
Add sugar and cocoa to food processor. Pulse until well-mixed. (Or, combine ingredients in large bowl and whisk until well mixed.) Add salt, cornstarch and cayenne; pulse until mixed. Add powdered milk; process for 20-30 seconds until well mixed. Transfer to jars.

Directions to be included on tag:
Fill 1/3 to 1/2 of mug with cocoa mix. Add hot water or milk and stir until mix is dissolved.
Special Popcorn Yum Topping!

The ingredients:
1 half-pint mason jar
1/4 cup salt (try kosher, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or Maldon salt)
1/4 cup sugar (try superfine, maple, coconut or brown)
1 to 2 teaspoons spices (try pumpkin pie spice, curry powder or chili powder)

Putting it together:
Mix together in a jar.

Directions to be included on tag:
When you want popcorn, pop it up and top it with butter, coconut or olive oil and some Popcorn Yum. We like to shake ours up in a paper bag so every single piece gets YUMMED!
Wintry Curried Lentil Soup Mix

The ingredients:
1-quart mason jar
1 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup yellow lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into slices
1 tablespoon of your favorite curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 dried Indian chili pepper
2 bay leaves

Putting it together:
Make sure to thoroughly sort over all of the lentils, remove any clumps of dirt or rocks. Place the curry powder and the turmeric into a small zip-top bag and seal-up.

Using a canning funnel to create layers, pour all your brown lentils, then your red lentils, then your yellow lentils. Place the sun-dried tomatoes and bag of spices on the next layer. Then add the dried chili pepper and top with the two bay leaves. Seal it up, decorate the jar if you would like and include the following recipe.

Directions to be included on tag:
Heat 3 tablespoons of butter or vegetable oil in a large stock pot over a medium high heat. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and one small chopped, medium size red or yellow onion. Sauté until the onions begin to caramelize. Then add the contents of the spice bag, the bay leaves and the chili pepper from the soup mix and cook about 3 minutes. Add the remaining soup mix and 8 cups of water, and simmer until the lentils are soft, about an hour. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each bowl with a little bit of sour cream, diced avocado and chopped fresh cilantro. Serves 8.
Homemade granola

The ingredients:
3 1-pint jars, or 1 to 2 large quart jars
5 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
1 cup unsalted, raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins, or favorite dried fruit —  cherries, currants, chopped apricot

Putting it together:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, spices and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed. Once completely cool, fill up jars and decorate!

Julie Cross

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