University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

Healthy Holiday Food Gifts That Kids Will Love Creating

Burlington--Making homemade food gifts for family, friends and favorite teachers or coaches is a popular family project that's not only fun to do but a great way to instill the spirit of giving in kids.

"Canning jar mixes are a popular gift idea," says Whitney Emke, a University of Vermont Extension 4-H Afterschool Program Coordinator based in Middlebury. "These are easy to make, healthy, cost-effective and more personal and intimate than store-bought gifts."

For supplies you will need the food ingredients as well as canning jars with lids and rings. Use quilted jelly jars or hand-paint the outside of standard canning jars with festive holiday designs using acrylic paint.

Once the jars are filled, place the metal inner seal on top of the jar, cover with a festive holiday-print fabric square, screw the ring into place and tie a piece of ribbon around the lid. Then add a homemade gift tag with instructions for use.

Here are two ideas for mix-in-a-jar gifts that kids can make, either with the help of a parent or on their own, depending on their age.


Makes 2 12-oz. jars
1 cup low-fat powdered milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup peppermint candy, crushed
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 12-oz. canning jars

Wash, rinse and dry the canning jars. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients, mixing well. Fill the jars by alternating layers of the cocoa mix with crushed peppermint candy. Top off with a layer of miniature marshmallows. Place the lids on the jars. Attach a handmade label with instructions to combine 1/3 cup of cocoa mix with 1 cup boiling water for each serving.



Makes 4 12-oz. jars
2 cups unsalted, raw or dry-roasted nuts (peanuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts)
2 cups dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, mango, banana)
2 cups of "crunch" (whole grain cereal, mini pretzels, air-popped popcorn)
1 cup sweet ingredients (dark or white chocolate chips, granola, toasted coconut, raisins)
4 12-oz. canning jars with lids and rings

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Scoop mix evenly into clean jars and add lids.   Create a handmade label listing ingredients. Include on the label that the trail mix will last for up to one month in a sealed, air-tight container.

Need some ideas? Here are some combinations to try:

--Raw almonds, dried apricots and mini-sized shredded wheat cereal
--Cashews, dried cranberries, puffed rice and toasted coconut
--Walnuts, raisins, mini pretzels and dark chocolate chips
--Almonds, dried blueberries and oat cereal

"Make your holidays even sweeter this year by making your own edible gifts with your kids," Emke says.

For another canning jar mix gift idea, consider confetti bean soup, the perfect dinner on a cold, wintry night. For this recipe, any combination of dried peas, beans and lentils will work including pink beans, black beans, baby lima beans, lentils, red lentils, black-eyed peas, red kidney beans, pinto beans, split peas, great northern beans, small red beans and white beans.


Makes 3 12-oz. jars

Approximately 4 pounds assorted dried peas, beans and lentils
3 low-sodium, vegetable-flavored broth granules packets
3 bay leaves
3 wide-mouth 12-oz.canning jars with lids and rings

Wash canning jars in hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry. Fill jars by layering peas, beans and lentils, using about 1/4 cup for each layer. Place 1 bay leaf and 1 low-sodium, vegetable-flavored broth granules packet on top before sealing the jar. Attach a handmade label or gift tag with the following recipe instructions.


Set aside broth granules packet and bay leaf. Soak beans.

Quick soak: Rinse and sort beans in a large pot. Add 6 to 8 cups of hot water. Bring to a rapid boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.

Overnight soak: Rinse and sort beans in a large pot. Add 6 to 8 cups cold water. Let stand 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.

To cook, place beans in a large pot. Add 6 cups water, 1 can (14 oz.) chopped tomatoes in juice; 1 cup chopped carrots; bay leaf and low-sodium, vegetable-flavored broth granules packet. Simmer gently until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

For more edible homemade gift ideas, call (802) 388-4969, ext. 348, or send an e-mail to