by Barb Moody

Did you know that more candy is sold at Christmas than at any other time of the year including Easter and Halloween? That can make for hyperactive children and cases of the "holiday blues". This year make the holiday season a little healthier and happier by having on hand a good supply of nutritious treats, dried fruit, and nuts. You can also help avoid those unwanted calories by substituting party treats such as potato chips with dried zucchini "chips". They taste great and are good dippers.

Dried Fruit Makes a Loving Gift

You can make dried fruit gift packs that rival any that you see in stores or catalogues.

Start with a nice plate, flat basket, or even a piece of foil-wrapped cardboard.

Next, gather together all your dried fruit such as apple slices, pear slices, blueberries, strawberries, banana slices, and pineapple pieces. In addition to our own dried fruit, we like to add fancy dates, prunes, and shelled whole almonds.

Once you have all your fruit laid out, you can begin to assemble your trays. Arrange the fruit artistically taking advantage of different shapes, colors and textures. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and tie with a red ribbon, a bow, and a sprig of holly or cedar. You now have a beautiful, thoughtful gift you've made with love.

Fruit In A Jar

Another gift idea is to use a decorative glass jar or canister. Layer fruit such as strawberry slices, blueberries, or black cherries with nuts such as almonds. Tip the jar slightly as you fill each layer to create a decorative look. Finally, tie with a red ribbon, bow and a sprig of holly. This makes a wonderful hostess gift.

Hot Mulled Cranberry Juice

Puree dried cranberries in blender with 1 cup apple juice. In a saucepan, mix remaining 3 cups apple juice with all other ingredients except cinnamon sticks. Heat to 190 ° or almost to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into 4 mugs using cinnamon sticks as stirrers.
(From "Food Drying At Home" by Bee Beyer)