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Vail Daily column: Go nuts, be fruity

Cassie Pence
Greener Pastures
Vail, CO Colorado

It’s hard to imagine why anything dense and rich in candied fruit and nuts – not to mention holiday cheer – could garner a bad rap. But the fruitcake, at least in America, is the quintessential groaner gift.

Manitou Springs answers the age-old question “how do I get rid of this stupid fruitcake?” by hosting the Great Fruitcake Toss every winter. The fruitcake toss record is 1,420 feet, set in January 2007, by a group of eight Boeing engineers who built the Omega 380, a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike.

Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” used to joke that there really is only one fruitcake in the whole world, passed from family to family.



The poor fruitcake’s reputation is smeared because of the mail order variety. Anyone who has actually tasted a fresh (being the keyword here) and homemade fruitcake knows it’s actually not that bad. My point is this: Maybe the catalogue confectionary is not your thing, but don’t let it deter you from giving other types of food as gifts this holiday season.

There is nothing more meaningful than presenting your dear friends and family members with homemade bread, cookies, cakes or jams. You can literally taste the love in a carefully prepared treat. It’s extra special to those who don’t have time to bake. Use organic ingredients, reserve your edibles for hand delivery, and it’s a sustainable gift to boot.



I know it’s not polite to think of the “return” on a gift, but as the baker, you’ve successfully stepped off the consumerism train. Happiness and meaning begin to fill your holiday season when you make gifts by hand.

With an excess of cranberries in my freezer leftover from Thanksgiving, I plan on making cranberry jam. I’ll package it in a cute little Ball jar, attaching the recipe with a red cloth ribbon. Include a loaf of either homemade or store bought walnut bread and gruyere cheese, and it’s a perfect gift for friends or family who are entertaining over the holidays. If time abides, I’ll also include a holiday mix CD, assembled from my personal collection of Christmas music.

People who I want to ship gifts to will receive special zuchinni bread, since I shredded and froze a ton of Colorado zuchinni at the end of summer. Quick breads are perfect to mail because they stay moist and their taste improves with age.



In addition to the cranberry jam and zucchini bread, I’ll also bake cookies. Favorite childhood recipes like Mexican wedding cakes, Hershey Kiss cookies, gingersnaps and thumbprints will fill platters, but I’ll reserve these treats for my husband and people who stop by over the next couple of weeks.

Looking over my “nice list” I have some pretty ambitious days in the kitchen ahead of me. But as the heat from my stove warms my home, and the rewarding gesture of baking warms my heart, I know the time spent in front of my Kitchen Aid mixer will be worth it in the end. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a rum cake under the tree for me.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. In her next holiday column, she would like feature local and Colorado products. Do you make something that would be a knock out gift? Contact her at cassie@organichousekeepers.com.


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