Nutrition Corner: Gifts from the kitchen for under $5

December 1st, 2015 12:50 pm

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us. In our hearts, we feel as though we need to buy expensive gifts. But our wallets realize that may not be the best for our budget. Gifts from the kitchen can cost under $5 and are often welcomed.

Most people think of cookies and homemade candies when thinking of gifts from the kitchen. These may work for some, but what if you don’t bake or make candy?

Gifts in a jar are easy to make and are usually reasonably priced. Begin with a jar or holiday container. It can be a recycled jar or a new decorative jar. Then, choose the recipes. Below are three very different suggestions: Chai tea, ginger muffins and spice rub. You can be creative and choose a family favorite recipe (if you wish to share). Just package the dry ingredients and include a recipe card with the other ingredients.

Here are some hints to make your jar the best gift ever. If appropriate, layer the ingredients in the jar like sand art. Wrap the entire jar in tulle or fabric. Simply write the name of the food on a card along with any directions, whole punch the card and attach with a ribbon. If you want to add an additional touch, place in a new reusable grocery tote.

A recent article on Chai tea reminded me of the wonderful smell of spices simmering on the stove. Chai is a popular drink today and can also be one of those gifts from the kitchen.

Chai originates from India and is thought to have healing qualities. It traditionally was made with Buffalo milk, but today skim milk can be a healthy alternative. The gift part would be the tea and spices along with the recipe.

Chai tea

Prepare individual chai tea bags

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dash of cloves and cinnamon

1 Tablespoon of loose decaffeinated black tea

Place ingredients in a square cut of food grade plastic wrap and tie with a red ribbon. Fill the jar with individual bags and attach the directions to make chai tea.

Jar tag: Chai tea

1/3 cup water

3 teaspoons sugar or honey

1 individual chai tea bag

2 cups low-fat milk

Place water and honey (or sugar) in small sauce pan. Raise the heat to medium and bring the liquid to a boil. Add individual chai tea bag. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add the milk, stir and bring just to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes.

Ginger Spice Muffin Mix

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup of whole grain flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Fill jar with ingredients.

Jar Tag: Ginger Spice Muffins

Makes 1 dozen

1 pkg. Ginger Spice Muffin Mix

1/4 cup canola oil

1 egg or 2 egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup skim milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and spray 12 muffin tins with nonfat cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the muffin mix with the oil, egg, vanilla and milk. Stir the mixture until the ingredients are blended. Do not overmix. The batter will be lumpy. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full, and bake for 15 minutes.

Spicy Grilling Rub

8 T. paprika

3 T. cayenne pepper

5 T. fresh ground pepper

6 T. garlic powder

3 T. onion powder

4 T. Coarse Salt or eliminate entirely if you wish

3 T. dried oregano

3 T. dried thyme

Fill jar with ingredients. Attach this jar tag to the jar.

Jar tag: Spicy Grilling Rub

Use in soups, dips or on grilled meats

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at