In the present day world of discount mega stores and Black Friday deals, a handcrafted gift has indeed become a rare and cherished item.
Consider making some homemade treats from the kitchen this year in lieu of a scented candle or monogramed guest towels. The recipient will - no doubt - appreciate the time, effort, and gratification of your thoughtful gift.
I’ve come up with a few ideas to help you get started on this quest.
Think you don’t have the time? Most of these will take you less time than driving to the mall and back. Enlist your kids help, and you have now just created a new holiday memory for your family.
White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Rods
This one is incredibly easy and fun for even young children to make. If you don't like peppermint, consider using fruit-flavored candy canes, festive sprinkles or holiday-colored M&M's.
1 box peppermint candy canes
white chocolate chips
Unwrap the candy canes and place in a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag. Close tightly and hammer the candy with a meat tenderizer or a heavy skillet, breaking them into small pieces.
Fill up a coffee mug with white chocolate chips. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Mine were smoothly melted after one minute and 30 seconds.
Dip the pretzels into the melted chocolate, holding the mug at a slight angle in order to coat them up the 2/3rds the length of the rod. If you have toddlers, you might want to consider using pretzel knots rather than rods so that it is easier for them to dip.
Sprinkle the crushed candy over the chocolate-coated pretzels. Place on a wire rack and allow to set for a couple hours to overnight before packaging.
Sweet and Spicy Nuts
These will disappear quickly!
1 pound raw cashews
1 pound raw pecans
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the sugars, spices and salt together and set aside. Beat the egg whites and water in a large bowl until very frothy.
Add the nuts to the egg mixture and mix to coat well. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and quickly mix to coat evenly. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a parchment covered baking sheet pan -- you may need to use two pans depending on the size of your pans in order to get the nuts in a single layer.
Bake until golden brown for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and continue stirring the nuts as they cool in order to separate them. When they are completely cooled, you can package them as desired.
Cranberry Spice Granola
4 cups oats
2 cups shredded coconut
2 cups raw nuts such as cashews or pistachios
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all the ingredients, except the cranberries, in a large bowl. Spread onto a parchment covered baking sheet pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the granola is golden brown. Allow to cool. Mix in the cranberries.
I make chocolate pistachio toffee every year. It is an easy way to make delicious candy in bulk, so it’s perfect for cookie swap parties as well as gifts.
For the recipe and an instructional video, check out that ran on Patch last December.
Packaging and labeling your gifts
This year I ordered beautifully illustrated baker's and cook's labels online from Felix Doolittle, a fine stationery company located in Massachusetts. They are currently offering 20% off the labels. I had such a difficult time picking one illustration, that I happily ordered three designs—I can always save them for next year if they don't get used this year.
I wrapped my edible gifts in biodegrable cellophane bags and kraft paper boxes which I ordered online from Nashville Wraps. I also ordered eco-friendly hemp twine ribbon -from the same company - in shades of leaf green and chocolate, to tie up my packages.
I found some small silver tin cups in the dollar section of Target, so I bought several to package up my Sweet and Spicy Nuts. This makes a great hostess gift to bring to a holiday party.
I also found small festively-colored tins in the same area of Target. Add your "Homemade by..." label and a beautiful ribbon and you have a professional-looking handcrafted gift.
For an extra special gift, make any of the above recipes or your signature holiday recipe and place on an antique platter or bowl. Wrap in cellophane and tie with a beautiful velvet ribbon. And don't forget to add a beautiful label so the recipient knows who presented them with such a stunning gift!