Old-fashioned, perhaps, but homemade gifts and treats come from the heart.
These presents mean more — that a friend took extra time to make or bake something just for me. These also make great gifts for party hosts or hostesses.
Last week, my friend Esther Tidwell and I stopped in a Gulfport thrift shop in search of treasures or maybe Christmas plates for cookie gifting. Tidwell is one of those people who can take craft paper, ribbon or the like and turn it into a pretty ornament or decoration.
We must have spent two hours rummaging through dishes, decorations and holiday books. Per usual, she found two Christmas tree plates and decorations that she can rework, plus a pewter tray. While I don’t take the time to do many crafts anymore, I do like to do edible gifts from my kitchen.
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Comfort in the work
Baking is relaxing: mixing and rolling the dough, decorating Christmas breads and cookies and enjoying the pretty or tasty results.
I know not everyone has the time or even wants to make their own gifts, but for parents or grandparents whose kids have multiple school and dance teachers and coaches gifts from the kitchen also saves money.
And who of us does not overspend this season even when we try to stick to the budget. There’s always that one last gift or the friend or guest who shows up with a present. A platter of prettily wrapped cookies is nice to have on hand.
This year I am doing a new gift for three of Lilly’s teachers, a jar of homemade caramel sauce packaged with a red and a green apple and a Christmas spreader, all tied with basket wrap and a pretty bow. If you are all thumbs when it comes to bows, do yourself a favor and buy a Bowdabra. With this gadget available at craft stores, anyone can make beautiful bows, another cost-saving measure.
For some friends who have been a blessing to us this year, I am doing fruit breads, also tied up in pretty packaging. Throw-away baking pans come in festive holiday styles and make it simple to bake and gift in one pan.
Cookie yule logs
Two other new treats I am doing are cookie yule logs colored in red and green and placed in a basket tied with a red and green plaid bow. It looks rustic. Of course, one of this year’s popular woodsy ornaments would be a great addition to the bow. I couldn’t resist a few new ornaments.
Igloo cookies are my second new treat. These look pretty on a white and blue plate or a solid colored-one. The blue and white reminds me of winter. These take a little more time, but not much. Cut marshmallows are used for the igloo door. These would work well for Hannukah, too.
Andrea Yeager can be reached at email@example.com and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.
EASY CARAMEL SAUCE
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream (cream will make It thicker)
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Turn off heat. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.
If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes. – “The Pioneer Woman Cooks”
Note: For gifting, sterilize pint canning jars and pour sauce into hot jars. Refrigerate until gifting.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons rum flavoring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
Red and green colored sugars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rum flavoring, vanilla extract and egg to butter mixture; beat until well combined.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground nutmeg and salt. Combine the flour mixture with the butter mixture; mix until a dough forms.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece of dough to form a log shape, about 3/4-inch thick.
Place the red and green sugars on separate sheets of waxed paper. Roll each dough log in either sugar, covering log completely. Cut dough logs crosswise into 3-inch pieces. Transfer dough logs onto ungreased baking sheets, set about 1 inch apart.
Bake until lightly golden about 14 minutes. Place baking sheets on wire racks, cool about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely. Dip the ends of the cooked cookies into melted chocolate and then into chopped pecans or walnuts. – ‘Great Kitchens Cookie Collection’
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup solid shortening
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 caramel-filled chocolate covered candies
1 can (12 ounces) whipped vanilla frosting
White nonpareils (to sprinkle on top of frosting for igloos)
In medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder; set aside in a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium, beat sugar, shortening and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each; stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until a dough forms.
Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap; form into a log about 12-inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap dough and slice into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Place a candy in the center of each round; press dough to completely cover candy and form into a ball.
Place candy-filled dough balls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake cookies until just firm, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely.
Spread frosting over top and sides of cookies.
Cut marshmallows in half horizontally; cut each in half again crosswise.
Press a cut marshmallow into each frosted cookie for doors. Sprinkle frosted cookies with nonpareils. Let frosting set.
Variation: For a more sophisticated touch, leave off the marshmallows and pour blue frosting over the tops; pipe snowflake designs on tops.
‘Great Kitchens Cookie Collection’