Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update

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Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions

Volume X, Number 1     Winter 2001/2002

Gift Baskets from the Kitchen

Gift baskets are fun to give and great to receive. Many caterers, natural food store owners, and other organizations like to assemble baskets for special occasions, for raffles, and for congratulatory compli-ments. They can be great money makers and a good promotional tool. You can't go wrong with a basket heaped with fresh and dried fruit, and nuts. But what if you want to go beyond fruit and nuts for an exceptional vegan basket of good cheer?

You can explore the web and your local natural food store for treats, such as vegan chocolate or fruit "leather" (made from dried fruit), biscotti, cookies, crackers, and other delicacies. Check out local farmers' markets for strings of dried chilis or garlic and dried herbs made into wreaths or bouquets. Several companies offer non-refrigerated hummus and cracker combinations, powdered vegetarian beverage mixes, nut butters, and dried soup mixes. Vegan wine, beer, and vinegars can add "heft" to the basket and are welcomed by the veggie gourmet. Dried herbs and spices can also add color. Be sure to read labels to make sure that your packaged items are shelf stable (don't need refrigeration) and are truly vegetarian.

If you have time, space, and staff, you can make some of your own vegan "basket stuffers." Olive oil can be flavored with garlic and herbs. Purchase four attractive, sealable glass bottles or jars. To make about a quart of flavored olive oil, divide the following ingredients between your bottles: 4 teaspoons dried mushroom powder, 16 whole peppercorns, 4 peeled, washed garlic cloves, four 2-inch sprigs of dried thyme, four 2-inch sprigs of dried rosemary, and 4 bay leaves. Pour 1 cup of olive oil into each bottle and seal tightly. This tastes best if allowed to "age" in a cool, dry place for about 3 weeks. If you can't find mushroom powder, simply grind some dried mushrooms into a powder. You can season olive oil with the spice blend of your choice. If possible, avoid using fresh herbs, since they may contain some bacteria that can survive in oil.

Prepared mustard can be flavored to make it a signature creation. Try blending mild, prepared mustard with cumin, coriander, and ground cloves or green, white, and black ground peppercorns. You can roast fresh chilies or peppers, peel, deseed, and chop them and mix them into mustard for a fiery gift (you might want to add a warning label).

Vinegar is easily flavored. To make a quart of cranberry vinegar, chop 4 cups of fresh cranberries and put them in a sauce pan. Add vinegar and allow mixture to simmer. Strain into a glass or plastic bowl, cover, and allow to sit in a cool, dark place for 12 hours. Divide vinegar into 4 bottles or jars. Add 1 teaspoon of dried orange peel to each bottle, seal, and allow to sit for at least 1 week before using.

Dried apricots, peaches, or nectarines can be steeped in warm tea (such as orange pekoe or an herb blend) mixed with raisins, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice for 6 hours. They can then be bottled and sealed. If you are doing the bottling, be sure to brush up on your sanitation techniques. Books like Joy of Cooking have explanations of how to bottle food properly.

Poll your staff for their favorite chutney or salsa recipe and for their "family secrets" for ginger-bread, holiday cookies, and fruit and nut breads. Wrapped and tied with a ribbon, these can add warmth to a gift basket.

Whether for a special event, a holiday, or just as an expression of friendship and caring, vegetarian gift baskets are timely items that will be greatly appreciated.

Excerpts from the Winter 2001/2002 Issue:

Click here to go to the main foodservice page (Vegetarian Journal's FoodService Update and Quantity Cooking Information with links to each issue).

For the complete issue, please subscribe to the magazine. To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update, click here and check "Add 1 year Foodservice Update for $10 more" on whatever subscription form you choose.

Converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler.

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