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Baskets of good health

“Today” show food expert PhilLempert has recommendations for some great gifts that are also good for you.
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It’s that time of year once again. Shoppers are frantically looking for the “perfect” gift. Another fruitcake with your name on it is on the way and you want to run and hide! Imagine your guests respecting the fact that you are watching your weight or that you are a vegetarian. Or maybe they just want to bring you something aside from the typical wines and chocolates. What to do? Try a food basket.

FOOD BASKETS have become an American classic, so here are some of the most special and interesting trends for this year’s holiday season — keeping in mind that a healthy New Year is the most important!

(Individual Web addresses and phone numbers for all these companies are available on There is a link at the bottom of this article to bring you right to it.)

From Frieda’s Finest:

Frieda’s Fruitful Delights basket

Delight the fruit lover and cook in your family with Frieda’s Fruitful Delights Basket. It is their best basket yet and it’s perfect for this time of the year. Feast your eyes upon the beautifully colored assortment of fruits, such as Kiwano®, Asian pear, quince, crab apple, tamarillo, cherimoya, kiwifruit and kumquats with an added bonus of a stainless steel fruit peeler. Also included in the basket is a copy of Frieda’s new Purple Kiwi Cookbook — a collection of over 120 original recipes. Retail price (includes UPS 2nd Day Air shipping): $65 (12 lb ship wt)

Frieda’s Asian basket

Ready, set, WOK! Frieda’s Asian basket is the perfect combination of flavors from the Orient. Experience good fortune with these savory Asian-influenced items: almond cookies, dried chile de arbol, fresh ginger, Kabocha squash, dried Shiitake mushrooms, crispy noodles and fortune cookies. These Oriental favorites are the perfect medley to cook up great recipes for stir-frys, salads, sauces and desserts. Add a little spice to your meal or order one for a friend. Frieda’s Asian Basket is a great gift. Retail price (includes UPS 2nd Day Air shipping): $65. (4 lb ship wt.)

Frieda’s Seasoning basket

Add zest to any meal with this incredible assortment of seasonings. Go beyond salt and pepper with dehydrated herbs like poultry blend, Mexican blend, and Italian blend. Or add rich flavors using shallots, roasted red peppers, mild marinated garlic, and tomato pesto. And finally, try some cinnamon sticks to flavor desserts or hot and cold beverages. All items are individually packaged with handling instructions. Retail price (includes UPS 2nd Day Air shipping): $60. (4.5 lb ship wt.)

Frieda’s Southwest basket

From the land of towering cactus and clay red skies comes an earthy basket of indigenous chiles, fruits, and vegetables. Create your own tamales with natural corn husks, or spice up any dish with an assortment of chiles, including dried ancho mulato, dried guajillo, and dried habaneros. Then cool your tongue with some mellow chayote squash. Also includes: cactus pads, elephant garlic, burro bananas, jicama, and tomatillos.

Retail price (includes UPS 2nd Day Air shipping): $60. (9 lb ship wt.)

From Turtle Island Foods

Tofurky Jurky

On sale online at 15 percent off for a case of six packs of Original Tofurky Jurky (2 oz. Green packs) and 6 packs of Peppered Tofurky Jurky (2 oz. Red packs). This special is available on their Web site. Tofurky Jurky makes an excellent gift or stocking stuffer for the vegetarian in your life.

Vegetarian gift basket

Available from the mail order catalog — look under “Sample Packs and Starter Kits” which has an array of low fat vegetarian products including Tofurky, vegetarian pate, soy nuts and other items. These are available in large ($45.99) and small ($27.99) sizes.

Tofurky Vegetarian Feast

For those who want a bird-free holiday, but with all the flavor and trimmings you’ve always enjoyed. A complete 26 oz. tofu roast (made with organic non-GMO soybeans), stuffed with herbed brown and wild rice stuffing, with Tofurky giblet gravy, 4 Tempeh Drumettes, and a Tofurky Jerky Wishstix: the vegetarian wishbone replacement. Serves 4. Tofurky Feast 3 1/2 lbs $45.95

From Tofutti

More than 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America and more than 50 percent of Americans have cholesterol levels considered too high by the American Heart Association.

All Tofutti products are soy based — soy protein is known to lower blood cholesterol and has been found to significantly reduce the rates of coronary diseases, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancers, as well as diminish menopausal symptoms.

The Tofutti Gift Basket contains:

Tofiggy fig bars, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, cocoa powdered coffee soybeans, chocolate dipped roasted soybeans, honey roasted soybeans, homestyle roasted soybeans, Smoochies, milk free chocolate bar, and milk free chocolate with crisp rice bar.

The Tofutti Holiday Stocking contains:

Smoochies, chocolate dipped roasted soybeans, homestyle roasted soybeans, honey roasted soybeans, cocoa powdered coffee soybeans, milk free chocolate bar, and milk free chocolate with crisp rice bar

Mediterranean Diet gift baskets:

Lucini Italia

World Class Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made from estate-grown olives that are hand-picked and pressed within 24 hours to capture the fruit’s peak flavor; Gran Riserva Balsamico Vinegar, made from hand-harvested Trebbiano grapes and aged for a decade; and, the first ever Pinot Grigio White Wine Vinegar — all beautifully packaged for holiday gift giving.

Gourmet Delights From Spain

Two 750 ml bottles of extra virgin Spanish olive oils (robust, all-purpose Ybarra and delicate Unio), 375 ml bottle of elegant Miguel and Valentino sherry vinegar, aged in oak casks for 30 years, Calasparra rice, an ancient strain of rice grown in the mountains of Murcia in Spain, where it enjoys natural pure mountain water and a leisurely maturation process, resulting in rice grains which will absorb even more of the tasty sauces and flavors of Mediterranean recipes (2.2 lb. bag); a selection of preserved vegetables and seafood all packed in glass jars: Spain’s famed white asparagus spears, extra thick and tender (19oz.), sweet and mild crunchy white garlic (300g), premium bonito tuna packed in olive oil (220g), and last, but not least, all-natural artisan membrillo (quince paste) in a wooden box, a traditional Christmas gift in Spain. Often partnered with cheese for dessert, membrillo is also a delicious substitute for sugary jams and jellies on toast (14 oz.). Price: $78.65

The Ultimate Paella Gift Basket

This selection of premium products has all the tools you need to start cooking. This is a very special gift basket for lovers of classic paella from Spain. Tienda’s Paella set includes: BOMBA Rice from Calasparra D.O. (2.2 lbs.) — the ultimate rice for paella; hand-picked La Mancha Saffron (0.035 oz); La Chinata smoked paprika D.O. (2.47 oz); fish bouillon, which adds depth to broth; all-natural, wood-fire roasted Piquillo Pimientos (7.9 oz) from Lodosa — scarce as they are flavorful; and 6. 500ml of premium Hojiblanca olive oil. All of these ingredients are placed within a premium quality traditional 13-inch paella pan made of steel with riveted handles that serves about 4 people, and packed in a sturdy wicker basket for a perfect gift. Price: $59.50

From Frontier Soups

Various baskets of packaged, all natural, dry ingredients to make soups (like New Orleans Jambalaya, Illinois Prairie Corn Chowder, and Texas Wrangler Black Bean to name a few) pasta salads (Country French, Mediterranean, Oriental and Pesto Italian), also a Breakfast Treats Baskets with Streusel Oatmeal and Cornbread Mixes. Gift baskets range from $12-$89.

An assortment of sugar-free chocolate truffles in 4 different flavors: Cherry Burst, Banana Phewsion, Raspberry Rapture and Simply Chocolate — 3 different-sized gift boxes:

4 truffle sampler box

1/2 lb. (12pcs)

1 lb. (24pcs)

Also, Sugar Free Truffle Sauce is available in all four flavors.

The Ultimate Basket

The Ultimate “Healthy” Basket — Rubino’s dried fruit, spice cookies, holiday mixed nuts, Wisecrackers, Harvest Moon sparkling apple juice, dried cranberries, Oblaten (cinnamon wafers), cowboy caviar (vegetarian caviar), organic coffee sampler, Twinings Lady Grey Tea in gold basket. Cost: $100.

Pelindaba Lavender

Wonderful sugars and seasonings made from organic lavender. Lavender pepper, lavender sugar, lavender honey in culinary gift packs for holiday giving.

One of the reasons that gift baskets have become so popular is that typically they make an impressive presentation and offer hard-to-find and fun foods. Most of these companies will also custom-make a basket to your particular taste. It’s truly one of those industries that still believes in customization without having to pay a premium for the service. But just remember, just because it’s holiday time doesn’t mean you should forget about counting those calories and grams of fat!

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy and Safe 2002!

Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru®, analyzes the food marketing industry to keep consumers up-to-date about cutting-edge marketing trends. He is a regular “Today” show contributor, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and host of Shopping Smart of the WOR Radio Network. For more food and health information, you can check out Phil’s Web site at: