Thursday, December 22, 2011

5 Alternatives to Holiday Cookies

The office is beginning to feel like it might turn into a diabetes clinic. Every day, I think there couldn't possibly be another cookie tray, plate of fudge, or basket of holiday candies, and every day I'm wrong... sometimes twice a day.

I'm guilty of contributing to the problem, though, having wrapped some cookie trays for co-workers as gifts. I saw the problem approaching and had a chance to switch out my boss's cookie plate for a quality bag of coffee instead, but it was too late for the others.

For next year, I've already sworn off giving any kind of sugary gift inside the office.

Here are five alternative food gifts to giving holiday cookies.

1. Good quality coffee. It's a little more expensive than a cookie tray, but the time savings may make up for it. Plus, all coffee drinkers appreciate having high quality beans in their house. It helps to try and found out what kind of coffee pot the person has at home. Tea works, too.

2. Pickles. Earlier this year, I learned a little bit about canning, enough to feel confident making a batch of hot pickled carrots for some friends. Cucumbers aren't the only item worth pickling. Giardiniera (carrots, cauliflower, peppers) is another classic. Another benefit of pickling over baking: you can pickle ahead of time, whereas you would never want to bake more than a few days in advance.

3. Lemon curd. In another canning project, I made a few tiny jars of lemon curd. Sure, it's still a sugary food, but because it's canned, the recipient doesn't have to eat it right away.

4. Savory bread. If you're stuck on baking, consider making a loaf of savory bread, like salty olive bread or even cheese twists.

5. Mixed nuts. If you don't can and you don't bake, you can always mix nuts. Pick a pretty jar or container. Add savory spices, like toasted cumin, a pinch of ground cayenne (red pepper), or even freshly cracked black pepper. Or shake on some cinnamon. Tie a ribbon around the lid and consider yourself done. Be sure to find out if your gift recipients or their family members have any nut allergies.

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