The holiday season is a time of entertaining, shopping and gift giving…and trying to keep your budget under control. Sometimes the best gifts are the homemade ones that someone knows you’ve put time and effort into making just for them.
If you’re short on cash this year, how about giving an edible gift to the hairdresser, the newspaper delivery guy, or the mailman? They also make ideal gifts to keep in the freezer or the pantry for those moments… and I know we’ve all had them, when someone out of the blue knocks on your door and gives you a gift. They’re also ideal take home gifts for dinner guests.
So what kind of foods can you make other than the dreaded fruitcake? Here are my top picks.
Cookies, Brownie and Loaves
You can rely on your own favorite recipe or try something new. You also have the option of making up the dough and not baking it so the recipient can use it when they’re looking for a quick snack, or you can make up a batch and tie them together with red or green raffia.
Loaves are another idea to try. Once again you can opt to bake them yourself, or put them in foil pans and give as is. One of my favorite ways to present this type of gift is to bake about four varieties, slice them and give each person about two or three slices of each variety. That way everyone’s sure to get something they really like. Some of my favorites for the holidays are chocolate chip/pumpkin and a ginger, pear and chocolate combination.
There’s one more option when it comes to things like cookies and brownies and that’s to layer all the dry ingredients in a decorate jar. Put the instructions for baking on the outside and let the recipient add their own ingredients like eggs, milk, etc. Another idea, and this one is going to cost a bit more, is to take a muffin mix, put it in a red or green bag and then attach it to a muffin pan.
If you’ve ever stopped by a gourmet chocolate shop you’ll know just how much they charge for things like truffles and they’re one of these easiest and usually most inexpensive treats to make. Most of the chocolate companies have recipes on their Web sites, companies like Hershey’s and Nestle. You’d be surprised just how close to the real thing these recipes can be and for pennies less. I usually put mine in a box that I’ve found sitting around the house. I wrap them in tissue paper, place them in the box and they look exactly like the ones at the store.
With all the various beans and dried vegetables and spices you can get these days, you can easily make a dried version of just about any type of soup. One of my favorites is dried cheese filled tortellini with split peas and dried red peppers. Try visiting a local co-op in your area and stop by their bulk food section. You’ll find just about everything you need for these types of recipes and at bargain prices. Just like the cookie mixes you can layer the ingredients in a jar. I use Mason jars for soups and write the instructions on a tag and tie it around the neck of the jar.
Okay, this one might sound a little strange to give as a holiday gift, but it’s a really thoughtful gesture for maybe a neighbor who’s a senior and all alone for the holidays, or maybe a family who’s having a hard time making ends meet.
And don’t just think about making gifts to give away. Keep some in reserve for yourself and use them all year round. Whether it’s frozen cookie dough or brownies, or a whole shelf of dried soup mixes, stores have bargain prices on lots of baking supplies this time of the year, so what better time to stock up.