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.
The 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:
Indian-Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Soup
from O Magazine
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.