As soon as the first flakes of snow fall (and they did last week) I start thinking about holiday giving. And by that I mean, edible holiday gifts. An Organic Conversation invited me on their radio show to talk about just that. The podcast on their site should be up sometime this week. (If you are in the car you can listen to it on Stitcher.) The whole exercise made me revisit some of my ideas, and ways I have streamlined the process over the years to make it more enjoyable.
Let’s face it, for some people an evening at home puttering around the kitchen is much more satisfying and far less stressful than traipsing through a mall with a gift list. Even if cooking or baking is a challenge, you can reacquaint yourself with your kitchen and avoid the crowds, parking stress, and gift anxiety. There are still many simple gifts you can make that don’t require an oven. So turn up the music and give yourself the gift of a night at home away from the shopping madness.
FIVE TIPS AND STRATEGIES FOR MAKING EDIBLE GIFTS
1. Plan now: The gift. Before you decide what you will prepare, make a list of your recipients and look for a common thread. What would all of them like to receive? If you have a friend struggling with her weight or someone with food allergies, certain gifts may not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Narrow your recipe choices to one that everyone on your list could enjoy. If you really, really want to make chocolate truffles and they wouldn’t suit everyone on your list, decide to make a second, simple gift like chai mix or preserved lemons for those with food allergies or health concerns.
2. Plan now: The wrapping. The packaging has to be as delicious and inviting as the food itself. Once you have decided on a gift, how are you going to package it? Will you need jars? Cellophane bags? Ribbon? Gift tags or labels? When you are out and about, notice how gifts are packaged in places like Williams Sonoma or department stores. Adapt those ideas to your style (Rustic? Glitzy? Minimalist?) Order supplies online now, or identify where you need to go locally to buy what you need.
3. Plan now: The shopping. Create a shopping list and pick up ingredients on your usual trip to the grocery store. On the same trip, swing by a craft store, paper store or hardware store to get wrapping supplies.
4. Schedule. Pick a day or evening when you want to make your gifts. Then pick another day to package them. The idea is to have fun, not to exhaust yourself, so spread it out. If you are making cookies, for instance, make the dough one night, bake them on another night, and wrap them on still another night
5. Give yourself the gift of friendship. If you want to blast through a cookie project in a day, consider inviting a friend or two over and do a cookie bake-off together (each person can bring some dough). While the cookies cool, pour a glass of wine and sit down to a simple spaghetti dinner. Then back to wrapping. Girls’ night in, anyone? It’s a wonderful way to share some coveted time with close friends.
Cake and cookie boxes
(also cool ribbon and trim)
Jars, cookie boxes and bags, ribbon, cellophane bags,
Clear cellophane bags, candy foil, pastry boxes, and more
Of course Martha has a great selection of STUFF
Paper (disposable bundt pans, Weck canning jars
Other places to look:
Hardware stores: canning jars, brown paper, key tags, labels, natural and cotton string
Staples or office supply stores: labels, markers, key tags (round white paper with aluminum rims)
Five and ten stores, Target: cookie tins, gift tags
Ikea: if you want to brave this mega store, you will find some unusual Scandinavian decorations and wraps, like pretty paper cones, that you can use for your presentation
Second hand, “antique” stores: Sometimes you will find pretty mugs, plates, jars or glasses to hold cookies or cakes or….
TEN NO-BAKE RECIPE IDEAS
1. Chai Mix
(give with a box of tea)
3. Pancake mix: Fill a jar with the dry ingredients of your favorite “from scratch” pancake mix. Write directions on a tag attached with a ribbon.
4. Muffin mix: Fill a jar with the dry ingredients of your favorite “from scratch” pancake mix. Write directions on a tag attached with a ribbon. For example:
5. Spiced cocoa: In a pretty jar, Layer your favorite unsweetened cocoa powder with sugar, bury a vanilla bean and/or some cinnamon sticks in the mix, or add some chili powder or more ground cinnamon if you like. Write directions on a tag attached with a ribbon.
6. Cookie mix: Another welcome time saver! Layer ingredients in a jar. For example, oatmeal chocolate cookies: Layer the chocolate chips, oats, sugar, and thoroughly mixed dry ingredients in a jar. Write directions on a tag attached with a ribbon.
9. Flavored sugars: Vanilla sugar: Bury a split vanilla bean in a 2-cup jar of sugar. Leave to infuse for 1-2 weeks. Give to the baker on your list with a few spare vanilla beans. Lavender sugar. In a food processor, pulse 2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers until mixed. Store in a jar for 1 to 2 weeks. Sift through a fine-meshed strainer.
10. Homemade nutella
Coming soon: Greek honey cookies!