Gifts from the Kitchen (and Your Heart!)

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While the days get shorter, your holiday lists are likely getting longer. Here are a few ideas to keep you from battling the shopping crowds while you turn out unique gifts from your home and hearth!

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and while the days get shorter, your lists are likely getting longer. You may find your stress level building instead of decreasing, fueled by your desire to give your family and loved ones just the right gifts and atmosphere to celebrate the best holiday ever.

Why not try turning on the Christmas carols and drawing your children into the kitchen for a time-proven stress combatant? They’ll love to join you in making homemade gifts “from the heart.” Allow yourselves to stop the buying binge and revel in this season that celebrates family by relaxing and letting your creativity run wild. You don’t have to be a seasoned crafter or cook to make these simple gifts that will fill their recipients with joy.

Goodies and Mixes

Homemade food and mixes are especially great gifts for people on your list that already “have everything,” and most people love receiving them! All you need are the ingredients, containers, and a little time and effort.

Mixes for cookies, hot chocolate, winter orange tea, cider, pizza dough, corn bread, muffins, bread, cakes and soup are all wonderful! You can package them in pretty kraft bags or Mason jars. Label your jars with the needed recipes and be sure to mention the mixes are made with love. You can decorate your jars with fabric or let your kids decorate the outsides of the kraft bags and jars with rubber stamps, potato stamps, stickers, glitter, paint—whatever they like!

Jams, jellies, mustards, relishes, and vinegars are fun to package in interesting bottles and jars. There’s no need to buy anything expensive—try yard sales, thrift shops, or even your basement for pretty, funky, or just unusual containers. Tie a ribbon or raffia on your gift and include a recipe if you’d like.

And of course who doesn’t appreciate a tin filled with homemade cookies, fudge or peanut brittle? Homebaked quick breads can make a delicious breakfast that families-on-the-go are sure to enjoy.

Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are wonderful presents for just about any celebration. If you’re visiting family or friends for the holidays, baskets also make great hostess or thank you gifts. Below are some fun suggestions to get you thinking—and with some creativity, you can come up with plenty of other ideas too!

  • Looking for a great gift for a family or breakfast aficionado? Try a pancake basket! Include homemade pancake mix or a gourmet bagged mix, a bottle or two of good maple or flavored syrup, some irresistible blueberry jam, and a nice pancake turner.

  • If you know a pasta lover, assemble this fun gift in a professional quality colander. Include some great pasta, a jar of gourmet spaghetti sauce or canned homemade sauce, some olive oil for dipping, and maybe a mix for fantastic foccacia. Not in the mood for Italian? Try baskets for fans of Mexican, Barbeque, Thai, or even Cajun.

  • Herbed pizza dough mix, a jar of sauce, a bottle of wine (or root beer, depending on the recipient’s taste—and age!), and a good quality pizza cutter make a perfect gift for the pizza fanatic in your life. Package it up in a deep dish pizza pan. Ah, that’s Amore!

  • Fill a fun container—a beach bucket or flowerpot, for instance—with ingredients for sugar cookies (whether it’s a homemade mix or a bag mix), cookie cutters, frosting mix and fun sprinkles to decorate. The kids will love it, guaranteed.

  • Package snack mixes, nuts or flavored popcorns in tins with dividers. Or put together a chip and dip basket including chips and seasonings for several dips such as bacon-flavored dip and vegetable dip. People having company during the holidays will appreciate the quick and delicious snacks.

  • Don’t forget your favorite pet this holiday season! Make up a batch of these doggie biscuits for your four-legged family member or even the dog-next door.

Scent-Sational Gifts

Everyone loves for their house to smell good, especially during the holidays with friends and family dropping by. You’ll enjoy giving fantastic gifts such as holiday room spray, homemade potpourri, and even seasonal candles. You may want to make extra for your own home!

Pampering Presents

The holidays can be a joyous but extremely hectic time—especially for moms! Help someone you love replenish her skin and relieve tired, aching muscles with gifts you’ve made yourself or with your child. Try some of these recipes for basic bath salts, herbal skin softening bath salts, soothing chocolate milk bath, and oatmeal body sugar scrub. Even little ones can help mix ingredients, and together you can package these with other bath products like a loofah sponge or include a nice hot drink mix for someone to enjoy during a relaxing soak in the tub.

Holiday Decorating Delights

Even toddlers love to get involved in kitchen fun! Spend some time with your kids and make these Christmas ornaments together. You’ll have a blast decorating salt dough ornaments, sweet smelling cinnamon applesauce ornaments, and traditional gingerbread ornaments. Grandparents will adore getting a homemade gift from their loved ones. Hang them on your own tree and they’ll become treasured ornaments of Christmases and years past.

Wrap it Up!

This project is tons of fun for a chilly winter afternoon. Slice a few potatoes or turnips in half. Using cookie cutters, cut some interesting shapes on the flat end of each half, then use as homemade stamps to decorate plain brown wrapping paper. Dip in food coloring if working with young toddlers, and let them stamp the paper at will. Don’t forget to drizzle some glue and glitter on for good measure!

The Cookie Jar That Won’t Stay Empty

This heartfelt gift is especially nice for an elderly or disabled person, someone who lives alone, or perhaps a relative or close friend who isn’t comfortable in the kitchen. Stock a great-looking cookie jar with cookies, muffins, peanut brittle, wrapped fudge or another favorite treat. Include a note for the recipient that you’ll refill the jar once a month (or however often you choose). What a special present for someone who will love the delicious treats each month and will also get the joy of your visit.

The (Cook) Book of Love

Make a cookbook with family favorites for someone you love! This is a great gift for a parent (help Mom organize all those recipe cards!), a college student, or even a younger child, and you can add to the book year after year. Someday your child will love having time-tested recipes that have been passed down through the generations.

You can make your book as fancy as you’d like. Gather your recipes and put them in a database. Print them out, punch holes into the paper, and file them with a three-ring binder. You can use colored tabs to denote sections of the book and may even want to use plastic holders to preserve the pages. Don’t forget to include your own personal notes with recipes, too. Everyone loves to remember that Grandma made the 24-hour fruit salad each year at Thanksgiving, or find out the secret ingredient to your mouth-watering spaghetti sauce!

Some of these ideas may take more time and effort than a trip to the mall (Or do they? You won’t have to worry about parking!), but the one ingredient they share is a gigantic holiday wreath of love. From planning just the right gift for each recipient to the joined labor of small and large hands, working together to transform your ingredients into a loving reality, you’ll create a memory that lingers long after the gifts have been given.

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