Giving Great Gifts

Giving Great Gifts
January 1, 2015 Katherine Matina

Some people have a gift when it comes to gifts. Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, baby shower, Christmas, Hanukah, or some other occasion, they always seem to find just the right thing for each person. If you’re not an insightful gift giver, here is an idea which may help. This present is not easy to create. It will take time, thought, and patience, but it’s likely the people who receive it will treasure it. Best of all, you can add to it each year.

So, what is this great idea? It’s a recipe book; an updated and highly personalized cookbook. You may decide to write recipes on cards, like your mother or grandmother did, because there is something wonderful about seeing a recipe in the handwriting of a person you loved who is no longer around. You may decide to document the recipes electronically so they can be printed, laminated, and kept in a notebook. You may decide to deliver your gift on a portable hard drive or flash drive so recipes can be pulled up on a kitchen computer or tablet.

No matter what form the gift takes, you’ll be providing a slice of your family’s history or the history of a friendship to the people who receive your gift. You may decide to create a drinks recipe book for your best girlfriends, a family recipe book for your children, a tailgating recipe book for your sports-minded friends, or a baby food recipe book for a pregnant friend, daughter, or daughter-in-law. The possibilities are endless.

There are a variety of ways to make your recipe book more meaningful. You may want to include:

  • Was this recipe someone’s favorite? Why was it liked (or disliked)? Was it always served on a specific holiday? Was it part of a memorable kitchen disaster? Did it evolve through the generations? Was it always served in a particular dish?
  • Include pictures of family or friends. Scan photos of your children when they were young (enlist the help of someone who knows how to use a scanner, if necessary.) You may want to have pictures of someone cooking the dish.
  • Cooking is at risk of becoming a lost art. Include valuable information such as which recipes are good for entertaining, which are gluten-free, and so on. You can include this in the table of contents or on the recipe.
  • Remember to include tables of equivalent measures, ingredient substitutes, cuts of meat, and other essential cooking data.

The possibilities for your recipe book are endless. If you’re seeking additional inspiration, go online and google some more ideas.


When Do You Eat Miso Soup?

If you’re eating Miso soup in Japan, you’re probably having breakfast. If you’re enjoying Miso soup at lunch or dinnertime, then you’re probably in the United States. If you have never eaten Miso soup, you’re missing out on something delicious. Here’s a recipe you can try:


Miso Soup

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms (or a 3-ounce package)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 6 green onions, sliced thin, separate white and green
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup medium diced silken tofu
  • 5 tablespoons miso (preferably red or brown)

Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dried mushrooms. When the mushrooms are rehydrated, remove them from the liquid, let them cool a bit, and chop them. Save the liquid for later. (If you don’t like the texture of mushrooms you don’t have to add them to the soup.

Heat sesame oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add scallion whites, ginger, and garlic. Cook for one minute. Add 4 cups water and 4 cups reserved liquid. Add the mushrooms, baby spinach, tofu, and miso. Bring to a simmer. Serve in bowls and garnish with scallion greens. You can top off the soup with cooked chicken or salmon, if you prefer.


What Do You Know About Chinese New Year?[1]


1.     Why are firecrackers set off during Chinese New Year?

a.     To scare away monsters

b.     To wake the gods

c.     To provide light

d.     To thrill family members


2.     What should you not do on Chinese New Year?

a.     Leave the house

b.     Eat fish

c.     Sweep the house

d.     Speak the names of the dead


3.     What color should you wear for good luck?

a.     Yellow

b.     Red

c.     White

d.     Black


4.    What fruit is traditionally distributed?

a.     Pineapple

b.     Tangerines

c.     Papaya

d.     Dragon fruit


The Best of What’s New

If you’re a fan of the television series Parks and Recreation, you may have witnessed the scene in which Park Commissioner Ron Swanson makes wedding rings from a wall sconce and says, “Any moron with a crucible, an acetylene torch, and a cast iron waffle maker could have done the same. The whole thing only took me about 20 minutes.”[2]

It’s a pretty fair bet all the inventions recognized by Popular Science during its 8th Annual Inventions Awards took more than 20 minutes to create. On the list were a way to regulate old boiler systems with new technology, a means of charging electronic devices while hiking, and a personal electric airplane that lands vertically. Other award recipients were:[3]

  • A powerful robotic exoskeleton. An affordable (about $2,000) device that augments the strength of patients who are trying to recover from debilitating injuries.
  • A collapsible bike helmet. Let’s face it, bike helmets are essential but they’re also inconvenient. What do you do when you’ve reached your destination? This helmet folds up for storage in a pack or briefcase.
  • A pocket-sized way to seal wounds. Stopping blood loss saves lives in war zones. This polycarbonate syringe slides into a wound and deposits dozens of pill-sized sponges that swell to help clot blood and fight infection.

If you would like to learn more about any of these amazing inventions, visit


Quiz Answers:

1.     A – To scare away monsters


2.     C – Sweep the house (you may sweep away your fortune)


3.     B – Red: wards off evil spirits (children receive red envelopes of money)


4.     B – Tangerines


Best regards,




* The above material was prepared by PEAK for clients of Dean, Jacobson Financial Services.