Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Clients + Tips

Iced Christmas cookies in a tin box.The holidays are a nice time to give a gift of thanks to those people responsible for your pay check – your clients.  It can, however, be hard to think of the perfect holiday gift to give. You want the gift to be special but at the same time you don’t want it to be so over-the-top that it comes across as inappropriate.

The best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful. A thoughtful gift is one that…

• Fulfills a desire your clients mentioned in passing

• Relates to the work you are doing for them

• Helps them with some everyday task

You should only give gifts to current clients with whom you have an established relationship (not necessarily ones you have just recently met and definitely not ones you are currently negotiating with). You don’t want your gift to appear as a bribe.

Be sure good past clients who you haven’t touched base with in a year are on your list.  You don’t, of course, want to give anything to former clients who ended their relationship with you on bad terms.

And don’t leave out the people who refer lots of clients to you and with whom you have a good and ongoing relationship.

If you are still struggling to think of the perfect gift to give, here are some ideas…

The Gift of Food

Gifts in a Jar

There are all kinds of layered mixes for soups, cookies, cakes, Chai tea and anything else you can dream up. Layer the ingredients in a mason or canning jar. Make a decorative label with instructions. These gifts are fun, decorative and personal.

Vanilla Extract

It tastes so much better than store-bought and all you need is a good vodka (or rum), vanilla beans, and a jar. The beans need to be split in half and you should use about 3 vanilla beans for each cup of vodka. Store in a dark cabinet, shake every few weeks and in about 8 weeks you’ll have vanilla extract. You can either leave the beans in or take them out. If you leave them in the flavor will continue to mature.

What’s nice about making your own is you can experiment with all the different vanilla varieties and even come up with your own special, signature vanilla blend.

Spice Rubs

These would be a welcome treat and make seasoning meat and fish so much easier for your clients on the days you don’t cook for them.

Pickled Vegetables from Your Summer Garden

And if you don’t have a garden, you can pick up some vegetables from your local farmer’s market. All kinds of vegetables pickle well including carrots, radishes, cucumbers, onions and more.

Spiced Nuts

There are so many different spice combinations you can use. Experiment and make your own recipe. Spiced nuts often have a combination of the following kinds of spices and flavors:

Hot and Savory Spices: Tabasco, chili powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, rosemary
Sweet: Maple syrup, honey, sugar
Salty: Sea salt, soy sauce

Marketing Tip:
Double whatever you give to your clients so they have an easy gift to give to someone else if they want to. You will make your client’s life easier and you end up promoting yourself and your business too as long as you include a label or tag with your contact information.

Always package whatever you do in a creative, decorative, fun way. Special packaging will make your gift all the more special.

The Gift of an Experience

Instead of giving a homemade food gift, consider giving some kind of experience since experiences are known to give more satisfaction than things. Perhaps give a free pass to your clients to attend one of your upcoming cooking classes. Or maybe host a holiday party for your clients and tell them they can bring a friend. This way you are treating your clients to something special, but you are also getting a chance to introduce yourself to their friends who may become future clients.

Keep your receipts. Gifts for clients are tax deductible. You are allowed to deduct up to $25 worth in gifts for one individual per year.

Want more ideas? Below are some links to websites with all kinds of holiday food gift ideas along with decorative packaging concepts.

What gifts are you giving your clients this year? Please share in the comment section below.

Are You Familiar with This Tasty Vegetable?

baby turnipsHakurei turnips are a completely new vegetable for me, and I LOVE them!

I am surprised that I haven’t eaten them before since I eat and am familiar with so many different kinds of vegetables.  I am not sure how I missed out on this particular one.  Anyway, I was introduced to them last year when I was checking out a local farmer’s market in my area.

Sometimes called a Japanese turnip or salad turnip, the Hakurei turnip is very different tasting from a regular turnip. It is crisp, sweet and delicious eaten raw – a very welcome addition to any salad.

Recently, I grated them with raw carrots and mixed in a creamy curried almond dressing, and it tasted delicious, but you can just as easily eat them without any seasoning or accompaniment, and you will still thoroughly enjoy this vegetable.

So this year, my husband and I planted some in our garden. They turned out to be really easy to grow, and although I have read that they should be harvested when they are about the size of a golf ball, I have found they taste just as good when they are large. They don’t become bitter, woody or pithy as they grow.

Other reasons I love this vegetable are that you don’t have to peel the skin prior to eating them, and they store well in the refrigerator crisper for days.

This weekend I tried cooking and mashing them like a potato.  I seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and horseradish mustard.  They tasted good, but their consistency wasn’t as nice as a potato’s in my opinion, but perhaps I didn’t cook them long enough.

While turnips have gone out of favor in recent years, they were once considered a vegetable for the European nobility. Perhaps the Hakurei turnip which was developed in Japan in the 1950’s will help to bring the turnip back into favor.

How about you?  Have you tried these turnips?  What do you think?  How do you prepare them? Do you have a favorite recipe you make for your clients?  As always, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to post your comments below.

Best Ways to Sweeten When Clients Don’t Want Sugar

muffin muffins truskawki stokrotki ciasto czekolada ciastkaWhen I was studying to become a Health Coach, I learned about many different sweet alternatives to refined white sugar and experimented with them in both cooking and baking.

I was looking for ways to get my intense sugar cravings under control in a healthy way without giving up sweets completely.  In addition, I wanted to show my clients that you really could have sweets (at least once in a while) that were delicious and not utterly bad for you healthwise.

What I discovered is that there are basically three main factors to consider when deciding whether a sweetener is more or less healthy…

  1. How much nutritional value does the sweetener have?
  2. How much does the sweetener raise blood sugar (glucose) levels?
  3. How much fructose does the sweetener contain?

Ideally, a healthy sweetener has lots of nutritional value, doesn’t raise blood sugar much or at all, and contains very little fructose.

Once you take a look at sweeteners from this angle, not many sweeteners make the grade but there are still a few that stand out from the crowd as you will see below…

Stevia:  This sweetener comes from the leaf of the stevia plant.  I use it a lot in the liquid extract form to sweeten a salad dressing, sauce, tea or smoothie.  Most experts believe this sweetener is safe for diabetics because it may actually lower blood sugar levels.  Try different brands of stevia to find out which one you like best because some brands leave a bitter aftertaste.  In my opinion, this is one of the healthiest (or least harmful) sweeteners on the market.

Date Sugar:  I enjoy using date sugar when baking cookies and cakes.  Date sugar is made from dried dates that are pulverized.  What’s great about date sugar is that you can use it to replace refined, white sugar in cake and cookie recipes, and it is not an empty calorie like refined, white sugar.  Date sugar is packed full of all the vitamins, minerals and fiber that are in the date itself.

A word of caution:  Eat date sugar in moderation.  Just two medium dates contain about 7.7 grams of fructose and on any given day you don’t want to ingest more than 15 grams of fructose from all sources (many Americans consume about 50 grams per day).  A growing amount of research suggests that consuming high levels of fructose from any source (even from fresh, whole fruits) is linked to such conditions as insulin resistance and weight gain.

Whole Fruit:  The favorite whole fruits I use to sweeten desserts are apples and bananas.  Both of these fruits are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  From a fructose perspective one medium apple contains about 9.5 grams and 1 medium banana contains about 7.1 grams so like with date sugar just be careful how much you eat so that you don’t eat too much fructose on any given day.  What’s nice about both date sugar and whole fruit a little can sweeten quite a bit.

Natural Maple Syrup:  While maple syrup spikes blood sugar levels much like refined, white sugar, it does contain trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.  In addition, maple syrup contains very little fructose.  I use a very small amount of maple syrup to sweeten the cooked, whole grain cereals I eat in the morning.  It goes without saying that you should stay away from most processed store brands of maple syrup because high fructose corn syrup is typically added.

I used to use agave nectar because it is a low glycemic sweetener and will spike blood sugar levels less than refined, white sugar and many other natural sweeteners; however, I have since moved away from using it because it contains even more fructose than high fructose corn syrup, and as I mentioned above, too much fructose in the diet is now thought to be harmful by many.

Which sweeteners are you using in your cooking and baking and why?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cooking Gluten Free

Many people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon lately and perhaps you have received more client requests to go gluten free as well.  According to the NPD Group about 30% of all adults in the US claim to be cutting down or avoiding gluten completely.  That is a lot of people.

To help service clients who are interested in reducing or eliminating gluten from their diets, it’s a good idea to be familiar with preparing dishes using gluten-free grains as well as knowing which foods and ingredients to avoid.

And keep in mind that if you claim that the food you cook is gluten free, it better be especially if you are serving someone who has celiac disease versus someone who is gluten sensitive or wanting to avoid gluten just as a preference.  Jamie Oliver, who is known for his TV food shows, cookbooks, restaurants and most recently his mission to get rid of processed food in the schools, had an issue when one of his restaurants served what was said to be gluten-free pasta when it wasn’t.   His restaurant was fined more than $12,000 for this mistake.

So if you aren’t that familiar with some of the gluten-free grains listed below, start experimenting and coming up with recipes that your clients will love that use these grains.  In addition, take a look at the list of grains that you should avoid because they contain gluten as well as the list of frequently overlooked foods that may contain gluten.

Important Gluten-Free Grains

Rice, corn, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, and nut flours

Important Gluten-Containing Grains

Wheat (einkorn, durum, faro, graham, Kamut®, semolina, spelt), rye, barley and triticale

Frequently Overlooked Foods that May Contain Gluten and Need to be Verified:

•    Brown rice syrup
•    Malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar
•    Breading & coating mixes
•    Croutons
•    Energy Bars
•    Flour or cereal products
•    Imitation bacon
•    Imitation seafood
•    Marinades
•    Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
•    Pastas
•    Processed luncheon meats
•    Sauces, gravies
•    Self-basting poultry
•    Soy sauce or soy sauce solids
•    Soup bases
•    Stuffings, dressing
•    Thickeners (Roux)

(The above lists were adapted from the Celiac Disease Foundation’s lists)

Please note that oats in their pure and unprocessed form are gluten free; however, most oats sold in the marketplace contain gluten and you should only use oats that have a label verifying that they are gluten free.

So tell me about your experience.  Are you getting more prospects and clients asking you to cook gluten free?  What’s prompting them to want gluten-free food?  Which gluten-free grains do you enjoy cooking with the most?  Please share your comments about this blog post below in the “Speak Your Mind” section.  I always love hearing from you!

And if you haven’t signed up for a complimentary Client Attraction Phone Consult yet,  let’s talk.  I’m excited to learn more about your business challenges and goals so we can create a plan of action to take your business to the next level.

Which Fats Should You Use When Cooking for Your Clients?

Mmmm…  Yummm…   Fat makes food taste good.  But many of your clients may still be asking for low-fat meals because of concerns about weight and heart health.

Well, here’s the good news.  Not all fats are bad.

It is also a myth that eating fat makes you fat.  For many years we were all told to avoid fat because it was contributing to the obesity epidemic.  So what happened?  Food manufacturers started to make low-fat versions of their products.  People started learning how to cook without any fat at all.  Fat consumption in the US dropped.

And….

As people started eating less and less fat, their waistlines started getting bigger and bigger while the number of people being diagnosed with heart disease didn’t decline!  What was happening here?  When fat was reduced in the diet, people started eating starchy and sugary carbohydrates instead, and it is the starchy and sugary carbohydrates not the fat that is contributing to weight gain and heart disease.

Even better news about fat is that some studies suggest that eating more of it may actually be linked to staying slim.  According to Dr. Walter Willett in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, in country-to-country surveys across Europe, women with the lowest fat intake are the most likely to be obese while those with the highest fat intake are the least likely.

As for heart health, there is now more than one study that shows no correlation between eating a high-fat diet and heart disease.  One well-known and often reported study that found no correlation is the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study which involved over 300,000 women studied over a ten-year period.

All this being said, however, it is still not true that all fats are good.  Take a look below to see how I rank the different fats in terms of how healthy they are for us to eat.

Good Fats:

  • Omega-3 Fats – wild fish, some nuts and seeds like walnuts, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds
  • Monounsaturated Fats – olives, olive oil, almonds and avocados
  • Some Saturated Fats (in moderation) – coconuts; coconut oil; coconut milk; saturated fat from free range, grass-fed, grass-finished organically fed animals
  • Unrefined Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fats (in small amounts):  grapeseed, sunflower, walnut, and sesame oils

Bad Fats:

  • Some Saturated Fats – milk, butter, cream in general because the fat in these dairy products has a more direct effect on raising LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol than other saturated fats and animal fats from grain-fed, not free range animals
  • Refined Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fats: corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils to name a few

Really Bad Fats:

  • Hydrogenated Oils or Trans Fats – often found in margarine, shortening, packaged baked goods and snack foods

Now I realize that if your clients want you to cook low-fat you are going to have to cook low-fat; however, I think you are in a very unique position to educate your clients about the latest in health and nutrition information and trends.  Share with them an article about the role fats play in the diet.  Refer them to a book.  Become more than the person who cooks their meals.  Become a resource for them and a guide.

Which fats do you use when you cook?  Do many of your clients ask for low-fat meals?  Was the information in this blog post helpful to you?  Please share your comments so we can start a dialogue.