Friday, December 3, 2010

Handmade Christmas Gifts

Christmas is consuming my every thought lately; even if I am late putting the tree up! (Trying to get to that this weekend) Ive been to every store in town and I cant find the gifts I want to give or maybe I don't know what I want to give.

Yours truly - circa 1983 or 1984! 
Santa looks thrilled doesn't he?

My family is a breeze to shop for, I could get that done in no time. But with addition of Mark's family it presents a problem. What do I give them? He's not much of a shopper so I cant leave it up to him. And then a thought popped into my head to give them a gift basket with homemade goodies. I'm hoping they would enjoy something like that.

In the arts and crafts community its always preached to give handmade/homemade because people enjoy it more than a store bought gift. But is that really true? Ive never actually given a handmade Christmas gift...other than the odd picture frame I covered here and there. It always seems like when I make something I tend to keep it for myself.

What do you think? Would you enjoy receiving a basket of homemade goodies?

Here are the recipes I'm considering:

Christmas Cookie Mix in a Jar

The Mix
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup regular oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp.Kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)

To make cookies, mix jar contents with 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Drop by 2 tablespoons on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 350°.

(makes about 2 dozen cookies)


Layer in a 1 quart jar
1. Mix flour, salt & baking soda, place in bottom of jar
2. Oats
3. M&Ms
4. Brown Sugar (press down firmly)
5. Sugar
Screw lid on tightly, add ribbon and the label.


Peppermint Patties

2 cups powdered sugar
1.5 tbsp softened butter
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cream
8 ounces (about 1-1/3 cup) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable shortening


Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or a silpat. In a blender, cream together the sugar, butter, extracts, and cream on low speed. After the ingredients are combined, raise the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes until mixture holds together very well and is creamy, not powdery.

Using a teaspoon, roll the candy into small balls and flatten them on the wax paper or silpat with the palm of your hand into patty shapes. When done, put them in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chopped chocolate and the shortening in the microwave or over a double boiler.

Using dipping tools or two dinner forks, dip the patties into the chocolate one by one. Drag them across the lip of the bowl to remove any excess chocolate. Return them to the wax paper or silpat, and place back in the refrigerator to set the candies. They should be ready to eat in a few hours.

Due to the dairy ingredient, these need to be kept in the refrigerator. Layer the patties between sheets of parchment in an airtight container. They'll last for a month.


Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce

Yields 4 cups

2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. Kosher salt
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 t. peppermint extract (substitute vanilla, if you don’t want the mint flavor)

Directions: In a double boiler over medium heat stir in cocoa, sugars and salt. Add the cream and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter is melted and the sauce comes together and is smooth and glossy. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Then, remove the bowl from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the peppermint extract. Store in the fridge and re-heat when ready to use.

Storage notes: This sauce is great to packages in glass jars for gifts. When pouring the sauce from the bowl into the jar it is helpful to use a kitchen funnel if you have one available. This sauce will stay in the fridge for up to two weeks or more.

Serving ideas: In addition to ice-cream, this sauce is excellent drizzled over slices of pound cake, cheesecake or a meringue. The version made with vanilla extract is also delicious served with poached fruit

Homemade Granola

6 cups of oatmeal
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup coconut (flaked)
1/2 dark brown sugar ( I use a little more)
1/2 cup non flavored vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS vanilla
1-2 cups assorted dried fruit (I use dried cherries)
1-2 cups of add-in (mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, cereals)

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Mix all ingredients except dried fruit and add-ins in a large bowl. Mix well to coat evenly. Distribute on 2 large rimmed baking sheets.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely.

And possible a few more things....... what do you think? Do you have any creative suggestions on how to package it all?