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Published December 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Expand gift-giving dollar with creative ideas

“Mom, I saw the light on. I can’t sleep, either. Black Friday starts in 23 minutes!” my 8-year-old daughter announced. I glanced at the clock, and sure enough, it was 11:37 p.m. Evidently, all the TV ads had resonated with my daughter. She was ready to change from pajamas to jeans and hit the road to grab some bargains on the day after Thanksgiving.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Mom, I saw the light on. I can’t sleep, either. Black Friday starts in 23 minutes!” my 8-year-old daughter announced.

I glanced at the clock, and sure enough, it was 11:37 p.m. Evidently, all the TV ads had resonated with my daughter. She was ready to change from pajamas to jeans and hit the road to grab some bargains on the day after Thanksgiving.

“I’m kind of tired to go shopping. Do you want to watch TV with me for a while?” I replied.

“How many Black Fridays are there, anyway?” she asked as she settled in beside me.

“Just one, but lots of stores are having sales. Some stores are open all night,” I answered.

We were not midnight shoppers this year, but we did grab a few bargains the next day.

At this time of year, we are bombarded with marketing information in catalogs, TV ads and newspaper inserts. In fact, according to the Chicago-based retail tracker ShopperTrak, sales were up by 6.6 percent on Black Friday.

Even with bargains galore, many family budgets become strained during the holidays. With a long list of family and friends, finding enough money to go around may be challenging. To help reduce the stress of the holiday season, consider these fun and economical homemade gift ideas:

- Create gift baskets. For the family member who loves movies, make a “night-in” basket. Get a large plastic bowl for popcorn to use as the container. Add packaged popcorn and a coupon for a free movie rental. Gardening, sports or any other themed baskets also work.

- For parents with young children, provide a homemade coupon good for free baby- sitting. Other ideas include coupons for helping walk the dog, painting or cleaning.

- Create a recipe booklet with favorite holiday recipes. Copy the recipes onto festive recipe cards, punch a hole in the corner of the cards and tie them together with a red ribbon. Holiday photo albums also can be used to hold recipes. Many healthful recipes are available at www.ndsu.edu/

eatsmart.

- Fill a holiday mug with packets of flavored tea, hot cocoa or coffee for those who enjoy warm beverages.

- Tie a packet of soup mix to a large wooden spoon. Include a bowl and package of biscuit mix for a complete gift.

- If you are computer savvy, create homemade calendars for family members. These could include highlighted birthday and anniversary dates. Try adding family photos for a personal touch.

- Repurpose old tins, filling them with cookies, muffins or other holiday goodies. A gift like this will be a delight to anybody who has little time for baking.

- Make homemade mixes in a jar. Mixes for soup, bread or cookies are popular gift items that are fairly inexpensive to make. The gift recipient will appreciate the attractive and thoughtful gift and also will value the convenience.

In addition to the following recipe, you will find three more “food mix in a jar” recipes in the NDSU Extension publication “Mix It Up to Expand Your Gift- giving Dollar” available at http://goo.gl/UqCri. It includes printable recipe cards to attach to the gifts.

Country Chili Mix features dry edible beans, which are a good source of protein, fiber and the B vitamin folate. You can include a variety of beans in the soup mix (navy, black beans, pinto).


Country Chili Mix

1 pound kidney beans (or assorted dry edible beans)

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons dehydrated onions

1 tablespoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon oregano

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

- To reduce sodium, substitute garlic powder for some of the garlic salt. Pour the kidney beans into a clean quart-sized jar. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into a clear sandwich bag and place it on top of the beans. Cover the jar tightly with a lid, decorate and attach a copy of the recipe card.


Country Chili Recipe Card

1 container Country Chili Mix

Additional ingredients:

10 cups water (for soaking beans)

1 (8-ounce) can reduced-sodium tomato sauce

1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound ground beef or turkey

6 cups water (for cooking beans)

Remove bag of seasoning from jar and rinse beans. In a stockpot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add beans and return to a boil for two to three minutes.

Cover and set aside at room temperature for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans.

Fill a pot with 6 cups of water and add the beans. Cook beans until soft, about one hour. Simmer gently with lid tilted. Brown meat; drain and add to the beans with tomatoes and sauce. Add in seasonings, stir and simmer, covered, for one hour. Add a little more water if needed to thin the broth. For best flavor, use mix within one year.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 240 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate and 290 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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