Food Gifts: Creamy Vegetable-Lentil Soup Dry Mix

Curious for ideas on savory, non-sweet gifts you could make up easily? Consider this one…which can be presented as a plant-based, minimally processed and vegan friendly gift, always a bonus? I adapted a recipe I saw in the 2012 issue of Better Homes and Garden Food Gifts:


It is one of the thick “magazines” that are more like books, found in stores, near the checkouts or in the magazine aisle. I’d say it was worth the cost, of $10. What had gotten me to pick it up was for packaging ideas, of which it is stellar at. The recipes are well done as well. I did adapt it slightly, to reflect my taste in lentils (called for yellow lentils, I used French Green), varied the vegetables and used my handmade broth mix. I realize most people don’t have containers of dried veggies in their pantry, they should though! They last a long time, are handy in a pinch and in soups work the same as fresh. Buy in bulk and store in mason jars.

I call for a variety of dried vegetables in the recipe, you can of course cheat and use a pre-made mix of dried vegetables, I like making my own though (and I have plenty on hand after this past summers dehydration runs I did – of which I did a number of blog posts here and on my other blog) as the mixes often have way too much onion and parsley to bulk it up. Dried onions and Shiitake Mushrooms are both sold at Costco, onions with the spices, mushrooms are in the produce section.


Creamy Vegetable-Lentil Soup Dry Mix


Also Needed:

  • 1½ cups unsweetened non-dairy milk, non-dairy creamer or dairy milk or half and half or undiluted evaporated milk (see below)


If you have bought dehydrated vegetables they are normally dice size. If you are drying your own vegetables, cut them into dice size or small pieces before drying.

Layer the vegetables in a clean 16 to 20 ounce jar, pressing down to pack.

Mix the broth through garlic, add to a snack size bag, seal tightly and lay on top of vegetables.

Sort the lentils to endure there is no field debris, pack in a sandwich bag, lay on top.

Seal jar, decorate as desired.

Include with jar, printed or written on a pretty card:

To Make Soup –

Remove lentils, rinse and drain. Add all ingredients to a large saucepan with 4 cups water.

Bring to boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Stir in milk or creamer, let heat through for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 1 gift/1 batch soup.


We made our soup mix up and used a 12-ounce can of fat-free evaporated milk. The soup is very thick, it would work well as a sauce over rice as well. Feel free to use 5 cups water at the start if you like it thin. I enjoyed how hearty it was!


PS: I’d consider gifting it with a quick bread or scone mix, also presented in a jar, for a nifty gift. I served our soup with Walnut-Rosemary Bread.


Three Nifty-Giftys in Jars (With Recipes)

I was feeling inspired so made up a few gifts to hand out, accompanied by jars of jams and butters I had made this summer. Having wandered by Whole Foods “Gifts From the Kitchen” I tried a few out. What is neat is each recipe has a printable gift tag with baking directions. The mixes are designed to fit in a 1 quart mason jar (wide mouth works best). Click on the title of each recipe to see the Whole Foods recipe, plus to get access to the tag. Two cookies and a savory quick bread (to counter act all that sugar!)

And yes, these are not health food. They are tasty though….


For a vegan cookie, use melted Earth Balance Buttery Stick (or favorite vegan margarine) and 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water for the egg.

Gingersnap Cookie Mix


  • 1¼ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1¾ tsp ground ginger
  • 1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

Also –

  • 1½ sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg



Add the brown sugar to a clean 1 quart (wide-mouth) mason jar. Press down firmly to pack (a potato masher helps). Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, pour over sugar (a canning funnel helps), rap jar gently on counter to settle. Sprinkle ginger, cinnamon and cloves on top, seal jar. Decorate as desired and tie a gift tag on.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°, line tow baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add butter and eggs, beating in with a hand mixer.

Make balls, a 1 Tablespoon Disher helps, rolling hands to compact. Bake 12 to a sheet, for about 14 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 1 quart jar to give away, and about 3 dozen cookies.


For a vegan cookie, use melted Earth Balance Buttery Stick (or favorite vegan margarine), vegan-friendly chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water for the egg.

Oatmeal Cookie Mix


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup Dried Cranberries
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Also –

  • 1 stick + 2 Tbsp (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg



Whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Pour into a clean 1 quart mason jar (wide-mouth), using a canning funnel. Rap jar gently to settle the flour.

Add remaining mix ingredients in layers, pressing down after each layer (a potato masher helps). Seal jar and decorate as desired, attaching a gift tag.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Add the dry mix to a large mixing bowl, beat butter and egg in with a hand mixer.

Drop by Tablespoon balls on the sheets. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden, 10 to 14 minutes.

Make 1 quart jar, and about 2 dozen cookies.


This savory quick bread can be made vegan easily. Use an unsweetened almond, rice or soy milk for the dairy milk. I made my loaf with unsweetened almond milk and palm sugar.

Walnut-Rosemary Oat Quick Bread


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp dried crumbled rosemary
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • ¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped

Also –

  • 1½ cups milk (dairy or unsweetened non-dairy)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil



Whisk the all-purpose flour, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda. salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add to a clean 1 quart mason jar (wide-mouth) using a canning funnel. Rap jar gently to settle flour, add whole wheat flour, oats and walnuts to the jar in layers, pressing down after each addition (a potato masher helps).

Seal jar, decorate as desired and attach a gift tag.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°, oil a 9×5 bread pan and lightly flour it (shaking out excess).

Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl, stir in milk and oil. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 50 ,minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, turn out on a cooling rack. Let cool fully before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf, store leftovers in a bread bag.


A Hearty Pizza Crust & A Nifty Gifty

On Cyber Monday (can we pleasepleaseplease retire that term?) I caved and bought some goodies online. I am a sucker for gourmet boxes of food that come with free shipping (who isn’t?). I saw the deal via a Mambo Sprouts email. Then I promptly forgot about it till I heard UPS running away the other night. A big box sat outside. Oh wait, was this my goodie goodie box from Cucina Antica Gourmet? Oh yes it was. For $27.95 I got all this shipped to me, shipping included. It was well packaged as well. Frankly I ordered it so I could try the pumpkin sauce…..I had seen their products before at our local natural foods store, PCC, but hadn’t taken the leap to trying it.

If you have anyone to get a gift for, consider this box. It is cool, tasty and ummm…tasty. Fancy-pants too.


In the box was a 16 ounce jar of Pizza Sauce:


Well that meant I “needed” to make pizza. The menfolk of course were thrilled. The sauce is “accidentally” vegan (bonus) and oh-wow-so-good smelling. The kind where you crack open a lid and it smells as fresh as when it was made. This is good stuff. No questionable ingredients, no sugar, just wonderful flavor.

I spread it over two massive pizzas. Leftover pizza is a wonderful thing. At least in our house! The crust I adapted out of my copy of 300 Best Bread Machine Recipes.


Why did I pull my Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme Breadmaker out of the cupboard and use it to make the dough? I couldn’t knead the dough. Why? Because my trainer at the gym worked me so hard I apparently had two useless arms on Tuesday…lol! Kirk normally sees the trainer we both go to 3 times a week, Monday he has a 1 hour workout. This Monday he was slammed with work – he was gone at a conference most of last week – so he said “want to take my place?”. Better that than us losing the money. I hadn’t done a 1 hour workout since spring of 2011. And John, our trainer, doesn’t take it easy on me. He has me back in the gym and his goal is to get me back where I was between babies. Anyhow, the thought of kneading dough wasn’t a pleasant one. So I let Super Machine do 99% of the work for me. Hehe.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust


  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast


Add ingredients in order required for your bread machine (mine is liquids, flours, sugar and salt, yeast on top). Turn on ‘Dough’ setting, let machine do its magic (mine takes 1 hour, 50 minutes).

Lightly flour a work surface, take dough out of bread pan and lay on the flour. Cover with a large mixing bowl, let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare toppings as desired. I like to sauté the vegetables until golden. Preheat oven to 400°.

Divide in half, roll out to size desired (I made ours rectangles, baked on parchment paper lined baking sheets).

Pop the crusts in the oven, bake for 10 minutes, flipping rack position halfway. Take out and top as desired. (Be that traditional or vegan….)

Return to oven, bake for about 20 minutes, changing positions halfway through.

Let rest for a couple of minutes, then slice and serve.

Makes 2 large pizza crusts.


Dark Chocolate Truffles

I’d call this lazy candy making, for really you don’t have to do a lot, no thermometers or boiling pots of sugar are involved and you get luscious bites in the end! Who wouldn’t want a small container fo these to nibble on? And they are simply elegant.

Dark Chocolate Truffles


  • 8 ounces dark chocolate  chips (vegan if desired)
  • ¼ cup organic virgin coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder


Add the chocolate chips, coconut oil, water and salt to a double boiler (or a heat-safe glass bowl over a pot), with a small amount of water in the lower pot. Heat over medium till the chocolate has melted, stirring gently.

Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Scrape into an 8×8″ glass pan, set in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. (Should you say….oh forget about it and come back the next day, take out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften a bit)

Place the cocoa powder in a bowl. Line a plate with parchment paper.

For best results wear food grade gloves. Using a 1 Tablespoon Disher, scrape across the chocolate to scoop up. For smaller truffles a 1.5 Teaspoon Disher, works well. Roll into smooth balls quickly. Gently drop the balls in the cocoa, roll to coat.

Set on the prepared plate, refrigerate to harden, store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Makes about 12.


April Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

I had so much fun in March, I had to do it again – that is I was in Foodie Pen Pals for April! This month I was paired to send a package of goodies to Lisa. I received a package from Crystal, who blogs at Crystal’s Cozy Kitchen. Crystal sent me a lovely package full of tasty treats. The vanilla bean shortbread cookies were the best part – they are made for Walmart but are just what shortbread should be – a short list of ingredients, indulgent and fattening 😉

There was a jar of unsalted cashew butter from Kettle, a box of Kashi TLC cookies and a package of  Blue Diamond Pecan Nut-Thins crackers. The crackers are gluten-free, I have had their almond ones before, the pecan ones are even better. A well enjoyed box of goodies!

Want to join or check it out?

The Lean Green Bean


April Vegan Food Swap Reveal

My friend Cat, who blogs at The Verdant Life, recently started a food swap –  that is a vegan friendly food swap. I sent a package to Carol at Couscouscarol, who I recognized as she does Foodie Pen Pal as well! I received a package from Cheryl at AmazinglyOrganic:

Gluten free cookies from Lucy’s:

Justin’s Nut Butter:

And she wasn’t kidding…the pumpkin butter and rice cakes go together – tasty! The pumpkin butter was my favorite of the box! Kirk recognized the jar, he used to live not far from where it is made. I could eat it on pretty much anything….

The Late July chips were tasty – I didn’t know they made chips before trying these. Crispy, crunchy and yum!

Want to join? Head over to Cat’s website and sign up! Want to see everyone’s “reveals”?


Easy Chocolate Fudge

Note… I wrote this post back in December of 2011 but never published it – with Easter tomorrow I figured it might be a good time to post it finally. Not healthy by any means but ah well!

A second take on the lazy ladies fudge this holiday.

I use Solo Marshmallow Creme as it comes in recipe ready 7 ounce tubs and has no artificial coloring added (Kraft’s has Blue added). I can sometimes find it at Dollar Tree stores so I always check during November/December!

Easy Chocolate Fudge


  • 2½ cups granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk (canned)
  • 1 stick butter (8 Tablespoons)
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 7 ounce tub Solo Marshmallow Creme
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


Have all the ingredients measured out. Line an 8×8″ glass baking dish with parchment paper or foil, set aside.

In a tall and heavy saucepan add the sugar, milk and 1 Tablespoon of the butter. Put over medium-high heat, stirring gently until it boils, bring up to 233°, add the remaining butter (cut up a bit) into the hot mixture (use a spoon to do the transfer so you don’t splash yourself!!), stir till melted and the mixture has come back to a full boil. Turn off the heat, add in the remaining ingredients and stir quickly until the marshmallow is fully incorporated.

Scrape into the prepared dish and knock the dish gently to evenly spread the fudge. Let fully cool down, you can refrigerate to speed it up. Pop out the parchment paper and peel off. Cut with a large smooth knife or pizza cutter into pieces. Store tightly wrapped and refrigerated for best results.


March Foodie Penpal Reveal

I found out about Foodie Penpal from Lori’s blog, Fit n’ Healthy Mama, last month and I had to join up! The concept is simple – you get randomly matched up to one person to send a box to and another person sends you a box. Talk about fun! My FPP who I sent to this month was Mom’s Gotta Run. I sent her a box full of West Coast treats as she lives on the East Coast. I was matched up with We Aren’t Scared Of Sugar for getting a box from. I opened up my goodie box to find:

You know…in all the energy bars I have tried over the years (and I have tried a TON of them) I have seen the Think Thin ones many times and never picked up one. Not sure why either, they are sold in many places!

Homemade Hot Pepper Jelly that her Sister In Law had made:

A jar of Peanut Butter & Co’s The Bees Knees peanut butter. I love their peanut butter but I hadn’t tried the honey one – delicious as the rest!

A recipe for homemade Loaded Oatmeal Cookies – along with a tin of them:

The funny thing was the box of Girl Scout cookies. I rarely buy the cookies and lord knows when I do it is Thin Mints, not Berry Munch – I had never tried that flavor. And? They were about the best tasting Girl Scout cookies I have had! Shocking really. Those disappeared fast…..Thank you for the goodies!

Want to join or check it out? The details are here:

The Lean Green Bean


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