Heart healthy gift ideas?

northcarolinaNovember 28, 2012

I am thinking of giving baked goods or homemade candy as Christmas gifts this year. Several of the people on my list (mostly family) are in their 60's/70's, and I know at least one of them has heart trouble. Now I can certainly tailor the gift to the person, but in the interests of cooking in bulk, does anyone have any ideas for suitable from-the-kitchen gifts for people who might not appreciate high levels of fat and salt? (I don't think they need to be totally free of both since these are to be treats, not a whole meal.) It would be easiest for me if whatever I make is shelf-stable at room temp for a couple of weeks.

I was thinking perhaps crackers made with whole wheat and olive oil (if I can find a recipe), chocolate graham crackers, maybe homemade marshmallows, maybe caramel corn or some other flavored popcorn (we use an air popper if that matters). Probably toffee or another candy, but in small doses for the people who might not be able to eat much. Maybe peppermint bark (with dark chocolate?). Is popcorn a weird gift for older folks? Do any of those other things sound like something you all (in general) would like to get?

Thanks for any ideas!

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Biscotti Di Prato

3 3/4 C all purpose flour (stirred till fluffy before measuring)
2 C sugar
1 tsp double acting baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla ( or 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp almond extract if using
1 2/3 c almonds or hazel nuts coarse chopped and lightly toasted.

Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
whisk together eggs, yolks and extracts, add eggs, etc to flour mixture and
stir until a dough forms (looks like it can never happen... but keep
working it...it will. I sometimes add a VERY little sprinkling of water)
add nuts, turn out on a non-stick surface ( I use a marble board or my
formica rolling board) and knead 3 or 4 times. Divide into fourths and
shape each piece into a 11 x 2 in. log ( make it "tall" as they flatten
while baking) Place on buttered and floured baking sheets, brush with egg
wash (egg yolk whisked with 1 T water). Bake at 350 for 35 min and cool 20
min. Slice 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Place on clean baking sheets ( cut side
down) and bake 10 or 12 minutes at 275. turn pieces over and bake another
10 minutes. If you want to make them extra fancy, dip half a slice in
melted chocolate and sprinkle with finely chopped nuts. You can make bigger
'scottis by making two thicker logs, but be sure to leave room for spread.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 2:48PM
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How about meringue cookies/kisses? I used Ina Garten's recipe for meringue shells. I put the meringue in a zip top bag, cut off a corner and piped out small kisses of meringue. Then followed the Ina Garten recipe for baking.

Provided that they are dry through and through, I believe meringues have a pretty long shelf life.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ina Garten Meringues

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 9:18PM
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You will find all kinds of "healtified" recipes at the Live Better America web site. I use a lot of recipes from this web site. -Grainlady

Here is a link that might be useful: Live Better America

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 7:02AM
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Popcorn is, of course, both healthy and low-fat, BUT remember that a lot of older folks have (dignosed or undiagnosed) diverticulosis. If they suffer from that, the hulls can lead to a very uncomfortable, even life-threatening situation, depending upon the severity of their condition. Also popped corn is always best fresh, not held for days or weeks. Sorry--but I'm in that age category and know most of my friends aren't able to eat popped corn these days.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 10:38AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

All my relatives like homemade granola. I don't use a lot of oil either.
No, to the popcorn, mainly because of teeth issues.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Of course, there is more evidence that excess sugar consumption is related to heart disease....metabolic syndrome. So it's hard for me to think of candy and sweets as "heart healthy".

How about making something like muffins with whole wheat and nuts and fruit. You can make cranberry orange scones with whole wheat flour...or blueberry scones. These are lower in sugar than candy for sure.

Or you can make corn bread or ginger bread.

Or if you really want cake, how about a pumpkin bread or a zucchini cake that has vegetables in it and is so moist that it needs no frosting....

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 11:55AM
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Thank you all, these are great ideas! (taking notes)

Good point about the popcorn. I had thought of teeth, but GI issues hadn't occurred to me.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:02PM
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My best received food gift for elderly relatives and friends is a soup sampler. When I'm making homemade soup (at least once a week In our household), I always make extra and pack and label a couple of containers and freeze them.

When I'm visiting and want to take a gift, I'll pack up 3 or 4 different soups with a box of assorted crackers and a quick bread made with dried fruits.

We put the soups right into the freezer for a snowy night.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:32PM
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^^ Like!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 3:45PM
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I'm sorry, but biscotti with 4 eggs and 2 more egg yolks and an egg wash, is not heart healthy. If you replace all the eggs/yolks with Egg Beaters, then yes, they will be heart healthy.

I think Carol_in_California's post on the TG successes and failures thread says a lot about how seriously people take heart healthy foods.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 5:02PM
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And add two cups of sugar to 4 eggs and 2 yolks and then egg wash on top?!!


    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 7:43PM
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I would probably make up basket that includes a variety of homemade low-sugar jams, jellies, or pancake syrups, either plain or spiced mixed nuts, a variety of mini-loaf quickbreads, and fresh fruit. :)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:58PM
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I think soup or a quick bread is a great idea! Your crackers seem like a good idea as well.

I make a spiced pecan recipe that many seem to love. It's easy and if they can eat nuts, the amount of sugar is reasonable.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 12:27AM
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One of my nieces started making some heart healthy treats for my Mom last year. Here is a link to one. She has also made it with pecans.

It does not have eggs. My mom has been told not to have any egg yolks. Egg whites and egg white products are fine however.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Crumb Boss - heart healthy cookies

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 8:16AM
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If you want to make quick breads or muffins, you can substitute apple sauce, or even apple butter, for the oil/fat and Egg Beaters for the eggs. They turn out just as good, actually better, because they are much lighter and less greasy without the oil, and much healthier, too.

My DD makes Ann's apple cake with applesauce and egg whites and it's always a hit, and I make baked apple cider doughnuts doing the same, and they are terrific.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 9:28AM
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And make sure that any foods that you give are noted as fat free or low fat, made without eggs/butter/oil, etc. Otherwise, they might assume they can't, so won't eat the foods.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 9:32AM
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Have you ever made and canned homeade applesauce? My folks are in the "needing heart healthy" treats category and they both love applesauce. I make it in half pint jars so it is good for just one or two servings. I make varieties too, like cranberry applesauce and blueberry applesace, and even strawberry applesauce. You can find gazillions of recipes on the web, I just wing it. To can, just ladle into sterlized canning jars, leave a half inch of air space, top with sterilized canning lids, and then put in a boiling water bath with water covering the tops of the jars over an inch, and boil for ten minutes to create a seal. Let cool for ten minutes more and then take out of the bath.

Applesauce is one of the easiest things to can, because even with or without sugar, it is safe to can in a boiling water bath because apples are an acid fruit. That said, I always add a pinch of orange juice or lemon juice to my applesauce, I like the flavor better that way. I use and swear by golden delicious for applesauce, but I also like Empire and Cortland. Any kind of apple can make good sauce, some are just better than others.

I often go to the "Eating Well" web site for ideas of healthy holiday gifts. I linked it below. You could probably find some applesauce recipes on that site too!

Here is a link that might be useful: Healthy Holiday Gifts Eating Well

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 5:42PM
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If I were on the receiving end of this gift and I am in that age group I would love a mix of the things you mentioned. I could make those things but do not want to make a whole batch just for myself. Caramel corn or the caramel corn made with the puffcorn Chex mix or other cereal mixes there is a good one with Crispx. You can never go wrong with homemade cookies my indulge is Special K bars but I dare not make those. How about fresh peanut brittle or dipped pretzels and my very favorite holiday cookie is a Oreo truffle which is Oreos ground up with cream cheese made into a ball and dipped in chocolate. If you are a canner homemade jam,hot pepper jelly,salsa or sauerkraut. Most of these things I do not make any more but a few are nice they just don't taste the same from the store. If you make it all healthy it is like getting socks from Santa. Patty

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:33AM
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What Patty said! No socks from Santa!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 2:31PM
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I'm chuckling at the socks comment. My mother-in-law has actually given me socks before. ha! (She is in her late 80's so she gets a pass.) Thank you all for the other ideas! Just to update, I asked my mom, who is in her 70's, what she'd like from the kitchen. She is careful about what she eats but has an "everything in moderation" attitude. She said she would love anything I made, and if it was something she couldn't or shouldn't finish in a few days, she'd just freeze some of it. So I tested a homemade toffee recipe on myself -- no no no, I care too much about their teeth for that. lol. I am just going to make cookies, I think. I had thought of making cheese straws as well, but DH says no one in his family eats them [who in the South doesn't like cheese straws? but I digress]. Of course cheese straws are about as heart-unhealthy as it comes, so I suppose it's just as well. My son has decided to make peppermint bark for everyone, so we will have candy covered.

Luckily both our families are very much into small fun token gifts instead of big impressive ones, so this will be OK. :)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:30PM
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NC, cheese straws are one of the basic food groups! What else do you eat with your bloody marys while you are opening gifts? Your DH just hasn't been paying attention!

My mother is elderly and a very sensible eater. She maintains a balanced diet all year. But you better believe at Christmas there are cakes, pies, cookies, candy, and cheese straws abounding. She knows how to indulge and how to be disciplined.

P.S. Socks, especially wild and crazy socks, in your Christmas stocking are a tradition with us. However, in the metaphorical sense, I heartily agree with Patty.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:20AM
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bbstx, I also agree with Patty, metaphorically. However, my Grandma used to buy gifts for all the grandkids and great grandkids with her tiny pension. Everyone got a pair of socks, LOL.

I remember the first year after she died, I was sitting on Christmas morning and thought "Oh, carp, now I have to go out and buy everyone socks". I actually got to like the notion that I was always going to get new socks for Christmas, as were my girls. Yeah, I know, it's nuts. (grin)

Don't discount the savory choices either. You could give something like homemade mustard or salad dressings, baked chips and salsa, or those cheese thumbprints filled with hot pepper jelly.

I know as Dad aged his taste buds seemed to be not as sensitive and he liked stronger flavors.

If all else fails a loaf of homemade bread or quick bread, or an assortment would be nice. Or perhaps a jar of homemade multi-grain pancake mix and a jar of fresh fruit syrup.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 2:11PM
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