December Blog Posts

Easy Homemade Holiday Gifts!

Happy Holidays, my #giantfoodies! If you’re like me, you’re often struggling to find the perfect gift for the people in your life. My solution—food! Everyone loves food, right? But here’s the catch: During the holiday season, a lot of us struggle with overconsumption and overindulgence. Did you know that the average American gains about 1-2 pounds during the holiday season and doesn’t lose it? After a decade, you could be looking at an extra 20 pounds when you step onto the scale. Of course, it’s not all about the weight. But this weight gain is often coming from food sources that lack nutrition and can be loaded with added sugar—eek!

So a food gift might not be super helpful since food gifts tend to be something that doesn’t fit onto MyPlate, right? Wrong! As a dietitian who loves to both bake and give food as gifts, finding better-for-you options is my jam (pun intended)! Check out these homemade holiday gifts that I’ll be making and giving this year (family or friends reading this, you might want to stop now).

Having a crazy, crawly baby will force you to find simple and easy ideas! That's why I chose this Homemade Gingerbread Granola —it’s delicious, nutritious, and so easy to make.

Granola is a great, versatile food gift. It can be added to yogurt, trail mix, or eaten as-is! It’s full of protein and fiber from whole grains, and the spices make it a delicious, low-sodium treat. Want to make it an even better gift? Package it in mason jars—they’re a gift in itself! And of course, omit the nuts if food allergies are a concern—it’ll still be nutritious without it.

Homemade Gingerbread Granola



Apple Cinnamon Popcorn



As you can tell, I’m highlighting whole grains. Grains tend to be the star of food gifts (think cookies, loaves of bread, and crackers), so why not make them whole grains? Not only does this recipe feature a whole grain, but it also contains less sugar and fat than your typical caramel corn. Make this recipe even faster with pre-popped popcorn such as Nature’s Promise Lightly Salted Popcorn.

These are only a few of my favorite recipes. For more great kitchen-made gifts, check out this month's Savory Magazine!

Another thing featured in the magazine this month are homemade self-care gifts, like salt scrubs and bath salts. So if you don’t feel like gifting food, consider self-care gifts—another gift that everyone will love!

If DIY is not your thing or you're short on time, check out Biggs and Featherbelle, a Maryland-based natural beauty line available at Giant! You can make any gift look DIY by making a little basket filled with other self-care essentials like I did (I wish you could smell these soaps through the screen... they smell AMAZING).



I hope I've given you some holiday inspiration and helped make your homemade holiday gifts easy this year!

Thu is a Registered Dietitian and In-Store Nutritionist for Giant Food. A proud millennial mommy, Thu loves good food made easy—saving time for cold brew mornings and evening wine downs. So if you’re looking for simple, fun, and better-for-you options, Thu has them! In her series, Thu will serve up creative recipes and uses for trending foods, all of which can be found in-store at Giant Food.




Throw a Festive Mocktail Party for 12—For Under $100

Potlucks are one of the easiest and least expensive ways to host a holiday party, but there's something to be said for inviting your friends over for something a bit fancier. The tricks to staying on a budget are presentation and grocery store selection.

Here's how I took this:

Produce

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ pounds of grapes (red and green)
  • 16 oz strawberries
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 large red onion
  • 3 peppers (red and green)
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
  • 3 limes
  • 4 pears, ripe
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 10 cups spinach

Meat and Seafood

  • 24 large shrimp (fresh, uncooked)
  • 12 oz Giant turkey sausage

In the Aisles

  • 1 pack McCormick® One Sheet Seasoning, New Orleans flavor
  • 100 pack party picks
  • 1 Giant honey mustard dressing & dip sauce
  • 1 Taste of Inspirations Strawberry Champagne salad dressing
  • 1 Giant chili sauce, 12 oz
  • 1 Giant grape jelly, 12 oz
  • 1 Nature’s Promise® pizza sauce
  • 1 pack Flipz® milk chocolate covered pretzels
  • 1 pack Pepperidge Farm® strawberry cookies
  • 1 pack Giant starlight mints candy
  • 64 oz Nature's Promise Lower Sugar Cranberry Juice
  • 67 oz Giant Cranberry Lime Seltzer

Frozen

  • 2 bags Cooked Perfect® turkey meatballs, 24 pieces

Deli

  • 1 Flatout® Artisan Thin Pizza Crust, 6 pack
  • 6 oz Giant Feta Cheese
  • 1 Tribe® dark chocolate hummus

Dairy:

  • 16 oz Giant mozzarella shredded cheese

Total Cost $96.92

To this:



First, appetizers.

Even though this won't be a traditional sit-down dinner, I still try to make sure my offerings fit into MyPlate standards (www.myplate.gov). So, the goal is to serve plenty of plant-based foods with lean proteins. I also try to consider the dietary needs of my guests so that there is something for everyone. One of my besties doesn’t eat dairy or nuts, so I keep that in mind. And finally, I think about how much time I want to spend in the kitchen—I’m having people over, after all.

Here's my final menu and a few budget-friendly options to consider:

Smoky Cajun Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers

(Inspired by this recipe)

Preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Skewer the shrimp, tucking slices of sausage in the inside curl of the shrimp. Spray the hot cast iron pan with non-stick spray. Season the skewers with Cajun seasoning. Sear the skewers in pan for 2-3 minutes per side; flip and repeat. Squeeze lemon over shrimp. Serve with honey mustard sauce.

Total Cost: 24 pieces for $25.37

Note: I opted for turkey sausage and a premade honey mustard sauce but you can use chicken or even Beyond Meat (plant-based) sausage!

Sweet and Tangy Meatballs

(Inspired by this recipe)

In the bowl of your slow cooker, whisk together the jelly and chili sauce until smooth. Add the meatballs and toss to evenly combine and coat meatballs. Cover with lid and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with sliced scallions.

Total Cost: 48 pieces for $12.85

Rustic Veggie Flatbread Pizza

(Inspired by this recipe)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange the flatbreads on a baking sheet. Top each flatbread with ¼ cup marinara, shredded cheese, and roasted vegetables. Bake 10 minutes or until flatbreads are golden brown on the bottom. Cut into wedges and serve hot or at room temperature.

Total Cost: 6 flatbreads for $17.81

Note: New to roasting veggies? It's easy. Chop your favorite vegetables to a consistent size—they have to cook evenly—then toss with olive oil and spread them on large rimmed baking sheets. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425° for about 55 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until the vegetables are tender and golden.

Winter Spinach Salad

(Inspired by this recipe)

Toss all of your ingredients together with desired amount of dressing and serve!

Total Cost: 12 servings for $17.15

Check out this month's Savory Magazine for even more ideas or try these favorites:
Cantaloupe Ricotta Crostini
Citrus Pomegranate Ball
Chicken Potstickers
Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Next, beverages.

Since this is a mocktail party, I suggest a signature drink or two. I prefer using seltzer as the base of any nonalcoholic drink—it gives you all the fizz of a drink with very few calories. And it’s a great base if you want to add an "adult" touch like vodka. Make it festive with a cranberry garnish and sugar rim. And if you guests want to bring something, suggest wine or spirits!

Pomegranate-Cranberry Spritzer:

(Inspired by this recipe)

Mix juice and seltzer with the juice of three limes together in a pitcher. Float lime slices and frozen cranberries.

Total Cost: 24 servings for $8.19

Finally, dessert!

Every fancy party has a savory charcuterie board, but why not have a sweet one instead? Fancy meats and cheeses can hit your budget hard, but sweets and treats? Not so much. Best of all, you probably already have a bunch of options in your kitchen, so you probably just need to purchase a few things to fill it in—I already had cookies and candies on hand, so I added strawberries, grapes, white chocolate pretzels, dessert hummus, and strawberry cookies.

Great choices include green and red fruits (fresh or dried), nuts, chutneys or jam, holiday cookies or breads, and (of course) sweets like candy canes, kisses, and chocolate coated pretzels. You can even throw in a dessert hummus, like I did! Just search your kitchen for the basics, grab a plate or board, and assemble.

Total Cost: 12 servings for $15.55



This season, here’s to good friends, good food, and parties made easy AND on a budget. Don’t forget to tag us with your pictures #NutritionMadeEasy

Mandy is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is passionate about showing people how to eat healthy (and deliciously) on a budget. As a mom of two teenage boys, she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to stay on budget, keep it interesting, AND keep it healthy-ish. Let Mandy check prices and create a plan that will satisfy your taste buds, wallet, and schedule. In her series “Healthy on a Budget,” she will convince you that it’s NOT “too expensive” to eat healthy.




Here’s how we’re celebrating the holidays around the world!

Happy Holidays, #giantfoodies! ‘Tis the season for celebrations galore with family and friends! Coming together to share a special meal is central to holidays around the world. It not only creates meaningful connections while “breaking bread,” but also the passing of traditions (like recipes) from one generation to the next.

You’ve heard of Christmas and Hanukkah. Here are two more holidays being celebrated around the world at this time—perhaps you’d like to take a recipe and add to the festivities in your home!

Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1, with each of the seven days dedicated to a specific principle known as the Nguzo Saba. Did you know that this holiday has only been in existence for a little over five decades? It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Africana Studies at California State University Long Beach. He created the holiday to celebrate people of African heritage and build unity and collectivism in Black communities. It's a perfect example of starting a new tradition to honor! Kwanzaa is not associated with a religion—the name is derived from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits of the harvest." Of course, with a name like that, food is a key part of festivities! The big feast called Karamu is celebrated on New Year’s Eve.

The food served during Kwanzaa is as eclectic as the African continent, with American soul food dishes appearing as well. Depending on a family’s traditions, the menu ranges from soul food staples like black-eyed peas, yams, collard greens, and okra to Nigerian jollof rice and West African peanut stew. And yes, Giant carries all the ingredients needed to make seven days of Kwanzaa favorites, and our Savory Recipe Center has plenty of ideas.

Here's a slow cooker Hoppin' John recipe that is A) quick to throw together and B) perfect for these cold winter months.

Next is the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American tradition celebrated on Christmas Eve. Families gather around a feast of seven different seafood dishes (or one or two types of fish prepared seven different ways). Sounds like heaven to me! The ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates back to the Roman Catholic custom of abstaining from meat and dairy products on certain holy days. The number seven is an ancient number and is found throughout Catholic beliefs. In the early 1900s, Italian-Americans rekindled this tradition to make them feel close to their homes and celebrate the sea. My good friend Fred shared that his mother prepares seven different types of seafood dishes from scratch, and they range from antipasto and salad to pasta and main courses. I might have to make time to visit.

Don't have time to make pasta from scratch like Fred's mama D'Agata? You and I both! So here are a couple of very simple favorites of mine: mussels marinara and salmon and veggies over linguini. Did you know mussels are a great source of zinc, a mineral that can boost the immune system? It’s perfect for this time of year!



I'm also looking forward to trying some of the easy seafood recipes in this month's Savory, like Tilapia Livornese, a flavorful dish from Livorno on the Western coast of Tuscany.

As a nutritionist, I particularly appreciate this tradition since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least two servings of seafood every week to benefit heart and brain health. Look for those with the most omega-3s, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring, trout, and tuna.

I know how easy it is to stick to what we’re used to since we’re such creatures of habit! But during this holiday season, break out and surprise your family and friends with something different—maybe from a different tradition than your own. For more inspiration, check out our podcast "Holiday Traditions from our Family Table" to see how some members of our Giant family celebrate!

Until next time, eat well and try something new!

Min is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about adventures through traveling and exploring off the beaten path. She has a passion for cuisines of the world and their beneficial ingredients. In her series “International Foodie,” she takes you on culinary journeys through distant lands and shows how you can create some of those special experiences right here at home.




Holiday breakfasts for 0500—or way later

Guys, one of the best things about the holidays is being together. The kids are out of school, you finally catch a break from work, and the extended family is in town. This is time that matters. And breakfast also matters! At my house, Christmas morning is when Dad cooks the first meal of the day. You know what that means—a hearty breakfast to throw in the oven when the kids pull you out of bed. With a casserole, you can spend that valuable time on what matters the most: your family.

Breakfast casseroles are quick and easy. You can throw it together in minutes on the morning of, or if you have to stay up late putting together presents, make it in advance before you hit the sack. Although my kids are older and will eat almost anything (I’m lucky, I know), there are a lot of families with picky eaters. With that in mind, always start with the basics: eggs or French toast.

One of our family favorites is a hash brown and sausage breakfast casserole, like this one in Savory. It’s delicious, easy to make, and full of fan favorites for even the pickiest eaters.

Being me, I had to add tri-colored peppers and swap turkey sausage for the pork sausage. Don’t worry—kids won’t even notice the extra nutrition in the cheesy goodness.



This is great right out of the oven or reheated for a teenager who sleeps in. If French toast is more your style, check out Praline French Toast Casserole.

There are so many great casseroles online! Take a few minutes now, before everyone’s at your house, to find one that suits your family. I have these on my list:

Everything Bagel Breakfast Bake

Smoked Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

On a busier holiday morning, consider having grab-and-go breakfast foods available too! Stock up on Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and high protein oatmeal cups for a great start to the day.

George Baldwin is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about showing guys how to fall in line when it comes to cooking and their health. As a father of three and former paratrooper, he knows the tricks to inspiring men to cook easy, hearty, and secretly healthy. George will show you the basics on how to train your loved ones to come to the table hungry, whether it’s 0700 or 1900.