December 20, 2010

Lovely & Delicious Homemade Gifts


Here’s some evidence that I’m getting old: randomly, and without any real intention, I didn’t want any of the usual holiday nosh. I started wanting to eat lots of vegetables, hearty soups, and truckloads of tea. It may have begun with that cold of mine that lingered on, but then this desire for healthy, wholesome food just stuck around. And at the high cookie season, to boot.

Then, I started becoming a fan of moderation. Me! The woman who eats chocolate truffles in bed! I could hardly believe it. I only wanted one drink––maybe two. I eased off on seconds at dinner. None of this happened because I was trying to do something drastic, like revolutionize the way I eat. If anything, it might have simply been the result of just being a little more mindful of what this old body of mine seemed to want.

indian-spiced-chickpea-lentil-soupThe other day I had a near catastrophe: I woke up to find we were out of coffee. I bundled up and hustled off to the grocery store first thing (observation: a different breed of folks grocery shop in the morning). A scene nearly as awe-worthy as a babe in a manger awaited me there: I had never seen the pastry display so overflowing with glossy, sugar-coated delights. I treated myself to a chocolate croissant. And then, for the rest of the morning, I felt like crap.

I take this to mean I’m getting old. You know how people talk about not being able to eat the same stuff they used to? Well, it’s happening. For this moment in time, at least, I seem to be embracing the concepts of moderation and mindfulness in eating. I predict, however, that it will not last through the annual Tex-Mex Christmas Eve at my mom’s house.

This is all a long way of saying that I decided I didn’t want my gifts to be part of the make-you-feel-like-crap problem of sugar crashes this year. I feel confident there will be no shortage of decadent treats for any of us, but what we all might need are the makings for a spicy, deeply aromatic chickpea and lentil soup, or a healthier granola made with pumpkin purée.

And I say this all knowing that very soon I will tell you about my recent strike of baking genius: Nutella chocolate chip cookies. Stay tuned.

And in the meantime, if you’ve still got a few gifts to give and you’re feeling a little more festive than lentil soup, I humbly suggest some of favorite sweet treats:


chocolate truffles


salted toffee graham cracker squares


salted chocolate caramel cookie bars

winter holiday bark

winter holiday bark

Indian-Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Soup
from O Magazine
Serves 8

2 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, picked through for stones
1 cup dried red lentils, picked through for stones
1/3 cup dried onion flakes
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 1/2 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

To finish the soup:
3 quarts low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh cauliflower and green beans (optional)
Cilantro and lime wedges , for garnish (optional)

To make dry soup mix: Decoratively layer ingredients in a 1-quart jar; seal.

To make soup: In a large pot, combine dry soup mix and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are just tender, about 2 hours. (The lentils will soften and break apart to thicken the soup.) Uncover, stir in coconut milk, and simmer vigorously over medium heat until chickpeas are tender and soup is thickened, about 30 minutes more. If using vegetables, add about 5 minutes before finishing. Season with salt, garnish with cilantro and lime wedges, and serve.

Brown Sugar and Pumpkin Granola
adapted from O Magazine
makes about 5 cups

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 cup pepitas
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add oats, walnuts, and pepitas. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Stir in raisins and cranberries, is using and continue baking until oats are just crisp, about 15 minutes more. Stir one last time and set aside to cool completely.

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  • lo: Thanks for the pumpkin granola recipe. I’m obsessed with Nutella, so I look forward to the cookie recipe too! And yes, I totally feel ya on the getting old/mindful eating stuff…I just finished recovering from a shortbread cookie binge 😉5 years ago

  • Rebecca: So true… after a very rich meal last summer, it suddenly hit me that I was getting old. Previously, I would have felt sick for about 2 hours, then been fine. It took me two days of eating plain, simple food to recover from the heartburn/indigestion!
    I will still be giving many sweets for Christmas; it is expected by my friends and co-workers now! But I am having to be more judicious about what I eat now.
    I have gone to bed several times in the last month with an achy belly caused by eating too much cookie/cake dough, broken cookies, “test” cookies, etc. Usually, on those nights, I don’t even bother with dinner!
    Hardly a balanced diet… but sweets are my weakness.
    And those salted chocolate caramel cookie bars? I am so making them….5 years ago

  • Tricia A: Those salted toffee graham cracker squares are to die for! I love them and have made them several times for my “girls weekend” get-a-ways. Always a hit! :)5 years ago

  • Sam: Thank you so much for all of these ideas. Plus the granola recipe as a gift idea rocks. I will definitely make some of that up for the hols!5 years ago

  • maddy: I feel your pain, Sarah! It’s started happening to me too.5 years ago

  • barbara: sometimes i curse coming to my senses, especially when i am presented with and enjoying my first ever red velvet cookie! getting older is strange, but also unexpectedly comforting…i think. i do believe my reservations would go right out the window with Tex-Mex Christmas Eve… truly my favorite cuisine. any chance your mother shares recipes?5 years ago

  • fanny | live happy: That all looks AMAZING! I join your old lady club, for reals! After a night of 2 drinks (2!) I usually feel completely craptastic in the morning. It’s awesome.

    And I’m also with you on the weird people in the grocery store in the morning AND that homemade granola is one of the best inventions in the world.

    Happy Holidays lovely lady! xox5 years ago

  • k10: Interesting! Your treats, as always, look decadent and delicious, but re: sugar crashes, check out this helpful story:,0,5464425.story.

    That in mind, it’s less about age/getting older as it is about… well, wait–on second thought, I suppose it IS in part about age; about our bods telling us, after years of abuse (my own bod most certainly included!), that it’s time to lay off the carbs/their harmful effects. (Drat.)5 years ago

  • Jen Cal: Salted Toffee Graham cracker squares soooo yummy. I made them some last week from the Martha Stewart holiday cookie zine and I think I ate more then I actually packaged up for gifting.

    Using sea salt make a huge taste difference and I add a little extra because I adore that salty chocolate contrast.5 years ago

  • outrageandsprinkles: I have learned that I can only start my day with something heavy and sweet like pancakes or donuts if I have nothing to do that day, because I will crash. I much prefer the savory veggie omelet or a bagel and cream cheese (plus lots of coffee!). It’s always good to listen to what your body needs, whatever that may be. I have always been the family sugar addict, but my sister’s favorite goodies this time of year are my mom’s pumpkin soup and smoked turkey!5 years ago

  • geek+nerd: Love the packaging! I agree with your post. I have a huge sweet tooth, and I find the holidays to be overwhelming sometimes. When I was teaching dance classes full time – every year my students would shower me with loads of chocolate and crappy candy. Wasting food pains me, so I would keep it around the house as long as possible, but there is only so many sweets that two people can consume. When one of those students would give me a candle or a tea bread, I would think “THANK GOD!”

    To that end, last year I gave out balls of homemade pizza dough to my brothers, with favorite topping suggestions. I think it went over pretty well!5 years ago

  • Phylls: Several people referred to themselves as getting ‘old’. I refuse to use the word ‘old’ referring to myself as it doesn’t help my mindset. I will be 61 this March 2011 and I look and feel young because I eat healthy and get exercise. Our bodies never were meant to eat junk food, so of course we feel yucky when we do, no matter what age. I have stuff I shouldn’t have sometimes, so I’m not 100% perfect. I don’t give sugar treats during the holidays, or any other time, because I don’t want to promote bad eating habits to anyone.4 years ago

  • Candy: Loving the packaging, do you mind sharing where can I get these cute heart bags?4 years ago

  • Not at all! They were from IKEA’s holiday bounty!4 years ago

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