Thursday, December 15, 2011

a homemade holiday

Last year's cookie tins!

To be honest, the husband and I have spent a small fortune on Christmas presents this
And it's ok! Really.
We love to buy presents. There's nothing better than buying someone you love a really great present you know they will enjoy.
But at the same time, these aren't exactly the best of times.
And before you go into a panic about how you haven't even started your Christmas shopping yet, let me remind you that it doesn't have to be synonymous with copious amounts of debt.
For most of my presents, I give away little Christmas cookie bundles.
I make about 5 or 6 different cookies, tuck them neatly into little cookie boxes and tins lined with pretty Christmas tissue paper, make a name tag out of some construction paper (th
ough scrapbook or even wrapping paper can work), and call it a day.
And you know what? Everybody loves them.
Because it came from the heart and you took the time to make them and it's much better than going out and getting some gift card.
Which, ahem, I actually also love to give and receive.
But I digress.
Below I'm listing some homemade gift options that I think are really great. I hope you like them, too.
As for me? This year will hit all the notes: chocolate, coconut, fruit, gooey, chewy, nutty, and delicious.

Cookie Mix in a Jar

The easiest gift to make, and it just looks so pretty! Take your favorite cookie recipe and a mason jar and begin! Layer all of the dry ingredients, leaving out the wet (butter, eggs, extracts). Attach a name tag along with instructions and they may just love you for life.
Just about any recipe will work. I'm partial to the good ol' chocolate chip and peanut butter varieties.

Similarly, you can scratch the cookie mix idea and fill a mason jar with pancake mix. Yes, pancake mix. Homemade pancake mix, mind you. Label a tag with "Christmas morning pancake mix" and pack it up alongside some hot cocoa mix and marshmallows. Talk about one lovely breakfast.

Nigella Lawson's Instant Pancake Mix
Adapted from Nigella Express or Nigella Kitchen. I can't remember..

4 c all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Separate into jars or tins, containing 1 cup of pancake mix each, or pour into one big jar.
2. For each cup of pancake mix, add 1 egg, 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Mix batter and make pancakes. Each cup makes 15 3-inch pancakes.

Optional: you can even add mix-ins to the dry pancake mix like chocolate chips or granola. yum.


Who doesn't love a good holiday liquor?! And this year, why buy one when you can make one. Oh yes, make one.
Limoncello is fantastic. Seriously.
Like the lovechild of tequila and lemonade. Sort of. Ok, maybe not.
Served as a digestif and meant to be sipped, not shot (calm down there frat boys), it's a really smooth, syrupy-sweet, delightful lemon liqueur.
Most recipes you'll find for it, like this one, call for vodka. When we used to make it at the restaurant, we actually used 190-proof Everclear grain alcohol. We covered it up nice and tight and let it sit for about a month in a dark, cool place.
And if you took off the plastic wrap and didn't stand back, you would get one big alcoholic punch in the face.
While letting it sit for 3-4 weeks was great, it's not entirely necessary. You can leave it to sit for as little as 4-5 days and it will be ok.
As for the best storage? The freezer. Limoncello is meant to be served ice cold in a nice, frosty glass.
You could pour the limoncello into a decorative jar and pack it alongside some shot glasses and you, my friend, have become the life of the party.
Similarly, you could omit the lemon and go for orange or grapefruit instead. OR. You could infuse vodka with another flavor altogether.

Possibilities are endless!
Exercise your creativity. Give homemade. And have yourself a merry little wallet.

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