Gourmet Gifting

To give is to receive, and you can feel especially good when offering a homemade present that is both personal and unique. In this time-pressed day and age, when making traditional gifts like cookies or jam takes too much time, one of my favorites is a generous jar of Chocolate Spiced Chai Mix. Spooned into a mug containing a tea bag, boiling water turns this unique instant mix into an aromatic, heart-warming treat. Combined with hot milk, it makes a lovely, soothing cup of cocoa.

Supermarkets carry everything you need to make this mix. Assembling it requires only measuring the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. And the recipe can be doubled or tripled, making it an easy present for coworkers or everyone in your club, neighborhood, or class.

For packaging, I scoop the mix into one-pint canning jars, or empty jam and mustard jars I saved because of their pleasing shape. To dress up the jar, you can cut out squares of fabric and tie them in place over the cap using a length of ribbon. If you don’t have fabric, use squares of heavy gift paper, pleating them to fit round the cover.

One reason I love this gift is its flexibility. For casual giving, I simply tie a tag with instructions around the neck of the jar. Sometimes I also tie on a few cinnamon sticks to use as stirrers.

For more special recipients, I line a small basket with an inexpensive cloth napkin, and set in the jar of Chai mix plus a box of black tea bags and a bundle of cinnamon sticks. For very special friends, I might take time to bake biscotti, which keep well and whose shape looks nice in the basket. Or, instead of cookies, include a decorative mug or two.

The ingredients in this mix also offer options. If you can spend a bit more on them, try using ground chocolate (sold in a canister and found next to unsweetened cocoa in some stores), which makes an even richer cup of chai. For the powdered milk, those with a larger grain dissolve most smoothly and rapidly.

Three-Ways Hot Cocoa Mix - Makes 2 1/2 cups mix.

1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup dried egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
6” cinnamon sticks (optional) for garnish
Black tea bags

In a mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together the dry milk powder, sugar, cocoa, egg white powder, cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, and black pepper, making sure all the tiny clumps are broken up. Spoon the mixture into a jar, and seal tightly.

This mix is intended to be used with 1 percent milk to make hot chocolate, or a tea bag for making chai. If giving this mix as a gift, include instructions for using 1 to 2 teaspoons, according to taste, per serving.

For chai, brew one tea bag in a cup or mug of hot milk. Remove the tea bag and stir in the mix. Add a cinnamon stick as a stirrer, if desired.

For hot chocolate, place the mix in a mug and gradually stir in hot milk. Add a cinnamon stick as a stirrer, if desired, or 2-3 drops of vanilla extract, or 1 drop of almond extract.

For Hot Mocha, mix 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso into the Hot Chocolate.

Per serving of hot chocolate: 112 calories, 3 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 24 g. carbohydrate, 8 g. protein, less than 1 g. dietary fiber, 129 mg. sodium.

The Author:

"Something Different" is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR's Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at www.aicr.org or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $82 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

Article Posted: December 21, 2004

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