12-Days

Homemade Christmas gifts are a great way to add a very personal touch to your gift giving during the holiday season. We have all heard this sentiment that “the best present is a homemade, personalized gift”. With homemade gifts, you don’t have to pay for the advertising, packaging and transportation costs of items you purchase from stores or online. Instead, you have better control of the gift budget, since you can readily choose materials or components for making gifts that are well within your budget.

Many of the mass-produced gift items are things that your gift recipients actually do not need. How many times have you received off-the-shelf Christmas gifts that you simply stash away in a corner of your closet after the festive season is over? With homemade Christmas gifts, you get to customize your gifts to what your gift recipients might like or use. Though it may sound troublesome, it is actually this preparation that makes the gift really special, and it helps build up the excitement to Christmas when the gift is ready.

Another great item you can find in your garden or at the farmer’s market for homemade Christmas gift ideas is dried herbs. Such herbs gifts are especially great for those who love to cook. You can reuse a small or medium fancy jar, or buy one anytime throughout the year when they are on sale, and prepare this unique gift for your loved ones as Christmas gifts. Include tags that suggest a recipe for each herb on the jar. You could even include personalized labels on the jars, such as a reminder to give thanks, smell the roses and smile. These personalized messages are bound to help bring smiles to your gift recipient as he or she cooks.

I really appreciate gift containers of pancake or cocoa mix on a busy morning, so I have put together some suggestions for gifts that you can make in your kitchen. I am sure you can think of many more.  Happy Gift Giving.

1. Marinated Olives With Rosemary And Orange Peel                                                                              

Makes 1 pint

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to fill as many pint jars as needed. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Package for gift giving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (5.3 ounces) jars black or green olives, with pits (scant 2 cups)
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Zest of 1/2 orange, removed in thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together olives, rosemary, zest and pepper flakes, and then pack mixture into a 1-pint glass jar. Pour in enough oil to just cover the olives (about 1/2 cup), and then seal tightly and chill for 1 to 3 days.

2. Homemade Mustard Sauce                                                                            

Makes 2 cups

  • 2 ounces yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 2 the lemons, juice and zest of
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  •  2 pint sized jars

Using a coffee grinder, grind the yellow mustard seeds until they are powdery and resemble coarse meal.

Place in a food processor and add the remaining ingredients.

Process until very smooth. Spoon into 2 pint sized, sterilized jars. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: This mustard improves dramatically over time. Its flavors will mellow, becoming milder and less sharp.

3. Pickled Peppers with Shallots and Thyme                                                                                           

These pickled peppers are great as a pizza topping or served with bread and cheese.

MAKES 1 QUART

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sweet or mild mini bell peppers, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, seeded
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced, separated into rings
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of coarse kosher salt

Directions:

Place peppers and shallots in medium bowl.

Mix vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove brine from heat; carefully pour over peppers and shallots. Cover bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Uncover; cool to room temperature. Transfer to pint-sized jars, pressing peppers into brine. Cover; chill at least 4 hours and up to 10 days.

4. Wild Mushroom, Bean and Barley Soup Mix                                                                                  

This mix makes 6 (1-pint) jars or 12 (1/2 pint-1-cup) jars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
  • 6 whole bay leaves
  • 3 cups pearled barley
  • 1 1/2 cups dried porcini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups dried yellow split peas
  • 3/4 cup mixed dried vegetables for soup, such as Just Veggies
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill weed

Place ½ teaspoon black pepper in the bottom of 6 (1-pint) jars. (If making in 8-ounce jars, half all ingredients.) Pour ¼ cup red lentils into each jar.

Place one bay leaf in each jar, vertically against the inside of the glass, anchoring the tip in the lentils. Pour ½ cup barley into each jar, holding bay leaf against jar until the barley keeps it in place.

Place ¼ cup mushrooms in each jar. Press down to eliminate air pockets.

Pour ¼ cup split yellow peas in each jar, followed by a heaping 2 tablespoons of vegetables in each jar (see picture of dried vegetables).

Top each jar with 1 teaspoon dill weed, and place lids tightly on jars. Makes 6 (1-pint) jars, each jar serves 8.

Attach to jars: Directions for making the soup:

Combine 1 pint soup mix, 4 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Stir well, cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in 2 more cups vegetable broth and 1 teaspoon salt.

Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 40 to 50 minutes, until barley and peas are tender.

5. Holiday Trail Mix                                                        

Makes 8 cups, enough for about 16 servings

This healthful, colorful trail mix is ideal for gift giving. You can use raw green pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) or choose roasted salted nuts for a light salty note in your mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup cinnamon cereal squares (such as Puffins) or other cereal
  • 1 1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup date pieces
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Divide mixture between gift bags or jars and package for gift giving.

6. Cranberry and Orange Granola                                                                      

Makes 4 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup candied orange peel, sliced into long, thin strips

Note: Candied orange peel can be found seasonally at most supermarkets and purchased year-round online.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Spread oats on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl; add almonds and let cool slightly. Coat same baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk maple syrup, butter, and hazelnut oil in a small bowl to blend. Pour syrup mixture over oats; stir thoroughly to coat. Spread mixture on prepared sheet.

Bake granola, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and raisins; bake for 10 minutes longer. Remove granola from oven and let cool slightly. Stir in the orange peel. Let cool completely, then break into pieces.

DO AHEAD: Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

7. Better Than Nutella (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread)                                

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Four clean 8-ounce jars

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet. Roast, shaking sheet once for even toasting, until deep brown, 13-15 minutes. Let cool completely. (If nuts have skins, rub them in a kitchen towel to remove.)

Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

Place chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water; stir often until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over saucepan; add butter and whisk until completely incorporated. Whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste. You can also use a double boiler.

Pour sauce (called gianduja in Italian) into jars, dividing equally. Let cool. (Gianduja will thicken and become soft and peanut butter-like as it cools.) Screw on lids.

DO AHEAD Gianduja can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.

8. Candied Espresso Walnuts                                                                                             

Serve dinner with coffee.

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee beans
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 cups walnut halves (about 12 ounces)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk sugar and next 4 ingredients in small bowl. Whisk egg white in a separate large bowl until frothy. Add walnuts; toss to coat. Sprinkle walnuts with espresso mixture and toss to coat. Spread coated walnuts on prepared sheet in single layer.

Bake 5 minutes. Slide spatula under walnuts to loosen from baking sheet and stir, rearranging in single layer. Bake until walnuts are dry to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Loosen walnuts from sheet again; cool on sheet.

DO AHEAD Candied walnuts can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

9. Chocolate Sauce                                                                           

About 2 cups 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 (15-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Whisk brown sugar and cocoa powder in a large heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until a smooth paste forms. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking constantly, for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate; stir until melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour into pint or half pint sterilized jars. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator. Should be heated before serving.

10. Chocolate-Walnut Cookie Mix                                                                 

Yield: 36 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 wide-mouth Mason jar (1 quart)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Dry Mix:

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. Spoon flour mixture into bottom of the jar and press down hard to compact (a small spice jar works well for compacting). It needs to be at about the 1-1/4-cup mark on the jar to insure that there is enough room for all ingredients. Continue layering with cocoa powder and granulated sugar compacting each layer. Add chips and nuts. Close jar tightly. Store up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

3. Write the following recipe on a gift card and attach it to the jar with ribbon.

4. Decorate lid of jar with fabric and tie with ribbon and bows. Makes 36 cookies.

Chocolate-Walnut Cookies Directions

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup cooled, melted butter with 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in contents of this jar until just mixed. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Drop by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes or until firm. Cool on baking sheet for 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

11. Cinnamon Pancake Mix In A Jar                                     

Makes enough for 2 or 3 gifts

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use a whisk to incorporate the ingredients evenly. Divide in half or thirds and package for gift giving.

Directions for Making Pancakes

  • 1 cup Cinnamon Pancake Mix above
  • 3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 large egg whites or egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Whisk pancake mix with cottage cheese, milk, eggs, almond extract and butter. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush lightly with oil. Drop 1/4 cup batter onto skillet. Cook until pancakes until bubbles appear. Flip and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. Repeat with remaining batter.

homemade-gifts-hot-chocolate

12. Hot-Chocolate Mix      

  • 3/4 cups Quality Unsweetened Cocoa, such as Valrhona
  • 6 ounces Quality Semisweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoons Ground Clove

Make the mix:

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process just until mixture is powdery — about 30 seconds. Be careful not to over process. Store in an airtight container.

Directions for a gift: Fill jars with the mixture, cover the lids with a festive swath of fabric, and include peppermint “stirring” sticks for added flavor and color.

To make hot chocolate, combine 1 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of this mix in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is incorporated and mixture is warmed through. Serve immediately.

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