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Gluten-Free Gift Baskets, Premade Meals Make Season Bright

Food-related presents can be a treat this holiday for those who have special diets; we've made it easy for you by providing recipes and cooking instructions to attach to jars filled with ingredients.

It's the giving season and many of us are baking and making food gifts for teachers, friends and family. If there is someone on your list who has a special diet, don't back away from the challenge! There are plenty of food-related gifts to whip up for the holidays.

Some suggestions:

  • Package a special diet snack or meal. I scanned the bulk section of Ferndale's Natural Food Patch the other day and picked up bags of colored popcorn, dried beans, rice, nuts and lentils. Simply measure out the dried ingredients, add some spices, attach a recipe and layer it in a glass jar. Wrap a ribbon on it and you can give someone the gift of a meal or snack, without the planning! A good place for dry spices is Penzey's in Beverly Hills, which offers a variety of mixes free of gluten. Check out recipes below for some ideas!
  • Udi’s Gluten Free Foods is launching a program today where you can give a friend a virtual gift on Facebook. And, if you are lucky, this electronic gift can turn into very real, very free food. The recipient simply has to “Like” Udi’s Gluten Free Foods on Facebook, click the ribbon that says “Send Free Udi’s” and fill out a short form. Udi’s then will mail one of four different gift bundles valued at $15 each, containing breakfast goodies, snacks, breads or dinner items. They’re giving away 10,000 of these bundles, and once they run out, they’ll send a coupon for one free item. When I did this, I was given a message that coupons were given out, so maybe they are out of the bundles already. But giving away coupons for free Udi's is a nice gesture, especially since gluten-free items can be so expensive.
  • Make a breakfast and baked goods basket. I would recommend ordering baked goods or purchasing pre-made items if your kitchen is not allergen-free to be on the safe side! My top two choices are from and Pure NRG. To order from Motown Freedom Bakery, call 248-595-5378 or email motownfreedombakery@gmail.com. Shipping is free in Metro Detroit. Check out Motown Freedom Bakery on Facebook. Or, order protein bars, muffins and cupcakes from Pure NRG. CEO Robyn Milewski says: “We are a wholesale baking company, and we manufacture at the Bakery (in Ferndale, ). We make our products and distribute throughout Michigan and the Midwest, mostly to Westborn, , , , etc.” I was not disappointed with the cinnamon cupcakes, mini-coffee cakes and chocolate protein bars I ordered. Soft, sweet and a healthy breakfast option for my little special dieter on the go, these little numbers were delivered to my door quickly. Milewski said she is passionate about offering products with healthful ingredients.
  • Coffee and biscotti: Another gift idea is to package little one-pot bags of coffee, Keurig cartriges or tea bags with special diet-friendly treats. I suggest Lynne's Candy Jar: Lynne Dieterle is a physician assistant at Beaumont's gastroenterology division. She also is a busy working mom and founder of a handmade candy, biscotti and snack mix business, Lynne's Candy Jar. Gluten-free and dairy free treats are made at Celiac Specialites in Rochester Hills, a gluten- and nut-free kitchen facility. She sells them at the shop, at Vince and Joe's and soon at the Novi Celiac Specialties store.

Mediterranean Chickpea Rice

I made this jar of rice and spice one year and handed them out with jars of chickpeas. Delicious, especially with the feta!

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 tspn. cumin, dried oregano, powdered garlic
  • 1 tblspn. dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tspns. cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/2 tspn. should do it)

Cooking instructions to attach: Combine dry ingredients with 3 cups water and one 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbonzo beans). Bring to boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in one cup feta cheese, cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Red Lentil Soup

This recipe would be great attached to a cup-sized jar filled with lentils (red, green or whatever color works best!). Add 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic in lieu of cloves, salt, pepper, cayenne and dried cumin for an easy go-to soup mix.

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • Pinch of cumin and a pinch of cayenne, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes or 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 qt. vegetable broth
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • Sour cream or feta cheese for topping (optional)

Cooking instructions to attach: In large stock pot, heat oil and add onion, celery, garlic and carrots and saute for about four minutes. Stir in spices and add broth, tomatoes, water and lentils. Bring soup to boil and reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes, covered. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Whisk in tomato paste and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree about half of the soup with an immersion blender or food processor. Soup will be a little chunky. Top with sour cream or feta and enjoy! Makes about five servings.

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