Edible Gifts: Homemade and lovingly purchased

You won’t be surprised to learn that I love giving food gifts any time of year and especially for the holidays. Food = abundance, nurturing, love. What a great message to send to friends and family.

Instead of sugary cakes, cookies or candy, how about something sublimely healthy?

Tops on my list: high quality olive oil. I happen to be very partial to the new oil that’s freshly pressed each year after the harvest. (Did you know about this delightful custom?) Olive oil purveyors sometimes bottle just a few barrels of their first fresh, fragrant pressings. They are quickly sold out, and they’re meant to be enjoyed right away, with gusto! I love sharing this with friends, colleagues & family, who’ve come to anticipate this golden elixir -- a lovely tradition. This is a gift coveted by cooks, if there are any on your list, and I recommend stashing one away for yourself, too. Fine quality olive oil of any kind is also appreciated.

Another special gift I give are Meyer lemons, which I pick from my own tree. I have to say sometimes it’s hard for me to part with them! But for a few special people on my list, like my literary agent who lives on the east coast and feels Meyer Lemon deprived, I mail a be-ribboned bag. You would think it was a pot of gold.

My friend and dear colleague Jeanne Wallace once sent me the most amazing jug of artisan maple syrup, knowing I love a drape of mape on just about everything.

A nice crate of clementines with a pretty ribbon are always a hit! They’ll be eaten. They fill in the cracks, with family and friends in and out of the house over the holidays. Or a really nice sea salt, like fleur de sel (the “flower of salt” in French) -- a finishing salt. A treat, that lasts.

If you are a soup maker, a large jar of soup or a pair of soups in mason jars with their necks tied in ribbons are an inspiring site to someone who would appreciate the thought, the flavor, and the ease of preparing a holiday meal with such a leg up. I’m fond of giving one jar of Magic Mineral Broth (to be used as the recipient’s own soup stock, or to ward off seasonal colds that may crop up over the holidays) together with a jar of one my cashmere soup recipes, such as Curried Butternut Squash Soup or my nearly legendary Sweet Potato Coconut Soup. And there are lots more delightful options in my Recipe Box. You might like to try the Rosemary and Pear Muffins (they are mini, and would be darling and welcome in a tin) or Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles, rolled in a little curry powder and coconut and sure to enchant -- and they’re excellent for brain health!

One of the best gifts EVER!

One of the best holiday gifts I’ve ever gotten was from my dear friend Catherine McConkie, who is not only my dear friend but a beloved colleague and the most amazing, nourishing cook. And she also has the most gifted tastebuds on the planet, and has contributed recipes and recipe tested the hundreds of recipes that have gone into the making of my books. You can therefore imagine how thrilled I was when she came over and surprised me with a large gift basket full of -- ta-da! -- the makings of a meal.

She included a recipe she developed for The Healthy Mind Cookbook, a turkey meatloaf with her secret sauce (see below). And not just the meatloaf: the entire meal was prepped out -- all I had to do was pop it in the oven, roast some broccoli, and not think about it. She made two mini meatloafs (there’s just me and my husband) -- one to freeze, one to have. Better than a pair of Manolo Blahniks! Beyond coveted. And I can’t walk in high heels anymore anyway. And I was SO incredibly touched. The reason why she did this is she knows that even though I’m a cookbook author, I angst about what to have for dinner. On this one night, courtesy Catherine, I did not have to worry about it. I felt so nourished! We enjoyed every last morsel.

I’m still talking about it a year later! How many gifts do you get that you’re still actually talking about! I love Catherine.

You can have this delicious, cozy meal, too. Or, make one for you, and one for a friend