veronica hendrix

Veronica Hendrix

*Christmas and Kwanza are upon us and if you feel like there are more gifts you’d like to give than there is money to purchase them, you are not alone.

This past week I watched a segment on CNN about gift giving. The segment expert said that we needlessly agonize about buying gifts far too much. He emphasized that the best approach to memorable gift giving is to keep it simple and heartfelt.

Some of the most appreciated and memorable gifts I have ever given have been those made from my home and my heart. Years ago when I was first married money was tight. At Christmas time I made an array of baked goods such chocolate chip pound cake,  almond crescent cookies, pecan balls, 7up cake, deep dish sweet potato pie with crumb topping, hello dolly bars and coconut cake. I’d package these baked goods in fancy china boxes decorated with bows and give this dessert assortment as gifts. When times got better, I asked my family and friends what they wanted for Christmas now that we had a little cash to spend and their response was overwhelmingly the same: “I want that box of baked goods you gave me last year.”

The gift giving segment on CNN got me thinking about what I might offer in terms of a Christmas gift to you that might be useful in helping you check off a few last minute gifts for that special someone who has everything or to help you if your funds are slim yet you want to show someone in your life that you appreciate them. Well here are a few simple holiday home made gift suggestions from your kitchen that you can make quick, fast and in a hurry.

Carefree Cupcakes

I call them carefree simply because they taste decadent but they are made with calorie friendly ingredients. They are easy to make, low in fat and  cholesterol because they are made without eggs or oil. Be conservative in frosting them with cream cheese frosting because it’s loaded with fat; but be liberal in topping them with chopped almonds, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, mini chocolate chips or crushed peppermint candy. They make great gifts; package them in a bakery box you can purchase from your local bakery.


1 white cake mix

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup sparking water

½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 16oz carton of cream cheese frosting

Place cake mix in a bowl. Add applesauce and sparkling water. Mix according to directions on box. Fill lined cupcake pan with ¼ cup of cake batter. Bake according to box directions. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting and decorate cupcakes with a heaping tablespoon on cream cheese frosting and decorate with a variety of your favorite toppings. Makes 14 cupcakes.

Dry Bean Gift Mix

I love this recipe. It’s nutritious, tasty and satisfying especially during these cold, winter days. The seasoning package you make gives it lots of favor. The ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find in just about any grocery store. Make the packaging as festive was you want with bows, ribbons and personalized labels.


2 ½ cups of your favorite  dry beans (½ cup black, ½ cup pinto, ½  cup kidney, ½  cup navy, ½ cup black-eyed peas)

Seasoning package (combine ingredients in snack size sip lock bag)

  • 1 package onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf broken into pieces

Place beans and seasoning package in a Mason jar or plastic bag with twist tie. Print cooking instructions on separate insert and place inside Mason jar or in plastic twist tie bag. Decorate with bows or ribbon.

Cooking instructions for insert

Place the beans in a large Dutch Oven pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Drain water then  add spice package and 4 cans of chicken, beef, vegetable stock or water.

Bring to a boil, cover, and adjust the heat so the soup cooks at a gentle simmer. Cook until the beans are completely tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Optional:  add 1 lb of cooked smoked sausage (turkey, pork, beef Andouille or linguiça sausage cut ½ inch thick) during last 30 minutes of cooking. Add 1/3  cup fresh chopped parsley when done. Serve with rice.

Merry Christmas and may you have a warm and beautiful holiday season with your family and friends.

Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit for more information.  For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].