Living the WELL Life

Special Gifts From Your Kitchen

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My mother was incredibly creative when it came to holiday gifts. From home baked treats to fruit preserves, people would pray they made it onto my mother's gift list. Forget about Santa.

Try one of these lovely recipes to give the gift of health and most delicious ways. 


A variation on a traditional New England bread.  Delicately sweet and savory, this bread is laced through with tart cranberries, richly toasted pecans and savory caraway seeds.  The addition of the tart fruit and seeds makes the flour more digestible for us--and the flavor quite unique.  I like to serve this on Thanksgiving morning with a spread of brown rice syrup laced through with grated orange peel. 


3 ounces dried, unsweetened cranberries

½ cup fresh orange juice

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup organic yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/4 cup Olivado avocado oil

1/3 cup Suzanne's Specialties brown rice syrup

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1-1/2 cups unsweetened organic almond or soy milk

½ cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350o and lightly oil and flour a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. 

Mix dried cranberries and orange juice together in a small bowl and soak them for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain, discarding any excess juice.

Mix together dry ingredients.  Mix in oil, syrup and zest.  Slowly add milk until you achieve a thick spoonable batter, but do not over mix.   Fold in pecans and cranberries.  Spoon batter evenly into pie pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until the center of the bread springs back to the touch or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for about 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the rim and slice the bread into wedges.

A trio of pestos packaged in small decorative jars makes for the greatest hostess gift!


Rich, salty and loaded with flavor, this pesto is fabulous on pasta or as a salad dressing. It's strong, so a little goes a long way.


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

10 to 12 oil-cured ripe olives, pitted

1 teaspoon Suzanne's Specialties brown rice syrup

1 cup walnut pieces, lightly pan-toasted

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Warm oil in a small saucepan over low heat 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer oil to a food processor or blender. Add olives, rice syrup, walnuts and vinegar and process until smooth. Slowly add water to achieve a thinner consistency, if desired.

COOK'S TIP: When making pestos, I usually keep the pesto in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator. I add water to thin only to the portion I will be using in a particular recipe. A strong, salty pesto like this one will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. More delicate pestos made with fresh herbs will not keep quite as long.


The signature sauce of summer in our house. Enough said! 


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup pine nuts or walnuts, lightly pan-toasted

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons white miso

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Suzanne's Specialties brown rice syrup

Spring or filtered water

Warm oil in a small saucepan over low heat 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer oil to a food processor or blender. Add basil, nuts, garlic, miso, vinegar and syrup and process until smooth, adding just enough water to achieve desired consistency. Be careful with water; pestos are best when slightly thicker and creamier.


A very distinct pesto that I use when I cook udon or soba noodles with fried tofu or tempeh. It adds a bit of Asian umami that I just love.


1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 onion, diced

¼ teaspoon hot chili powder

6 or 7 sheets nori, shredded

Organic soy sauce

Spring or filtered water

Heat oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add onion and chili powder and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add nori, a dash of soy sauce and enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, uncovered, until all liquid has been absorbed and pesto is creamy, about 20 minutes. You may need to add a bit of water midway through cooking if water evaporates too soon. This is a strong pesto; use just a little.


I love to make applesauce. Simple and delicious, I can't think of a more delicious and more appreciated hostess gift.

8-10 apples, washed well (I like Honey Crisp or Macintosh, but it's your choice)

Suzanne's Specialties brown rice syrup

Ground cinnamon

Pinch sea salt

Prepare the apples by quartering and coring them. Cut into small chunks. You may peel the apples, but I like the texture and flavor (and the nutrients) the skins add, so I don't peel them. Place in a large pot. Add a generous drizzle of brown rice syrup, cinnamon to taste and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and place over medium heat. When you hear the apples sizzling, reduce heat to low and cook until the apples are quite soft, about an hour. Using a potato masher, mash the applesauce to the desired texture. Cool before placing in mason jars or other decorative jars. Kept refrigerated, the applesauce will last about 2 weeks.

(Recipes courtesy of Christina's e-book, Christina Pirello's Wellness 1000...a great holiday gift)


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