Holiday Gifts, Odds and Ends!
I thought instead on one general theme, I would touch on several different things today. It’s fast approaching holiday time and it shows in all the markets. I enjoy baking for the holidays and giving holiday gifts of of food to people. This is a great thing to do and if you think about it, there are very few people who you can’t do this for.
Baking is one method of gift giving and sharing, but I also make herbal tea gifts and holiday gifts of seasoning blends. Many people make “gifts in a jar”, these last a long time and people can make them after the holidays at their leisure. Consider doing something like this instead of spending money (that most people can’t afford) on traditional gifts. Of course, “traditional gift” is a misnomer, since food gifts are far older than what people have been giving for the last 20 years! Even children can be won over to gifts of food.
When my nieces and nephews were young, I couldn’t afford to give them each a bought items as holiday gifts. So, I’d make them each their own “goodie bag”. I would sit and talk to them ahead of time about what their favorite things were…what jam, what pickle, what bread and what cookie. Then I would put together a bag of goodies that were their favorites.
Now, the one thing that every pre-adolescent and teen loves as holiday gifts is food, but what makes it special is that it is their OWN food. They can eat it in front of anyone and not have to share…they wouldn’t have to share if I’d given them a doll or truck, so I made that rule with the parents…no pinching the kids food! The kids got quite creative, learning what their parents hated (nuts, coconut, raisins etc) and would have me put it in their goodies. Then I would make labels for any jars or bags with “Melissa’s Cookies” or the like on it. Of course, said goodie bag was heavy on the cookies, but they were also personal, personalized and JUST what the kiddo wanted. You can be as creative as you want for all the people you give gifts to, but by making it yourself, you can know that it will be appreciated.
Now is the right time to start making your plans and lists to get the ingredients for the things that you will use for these gifts. It’s also the time that stores put many of the more expensive baking items on sale. I take this time to stock up on all of that stuff, there may come a day when it is hard to get. I know of no cocoa trees or coconut palms planted in the northeast, so I pay particular attention to items like this. Are they necessary to life? Absolutely not, but comfort food is important as well. A holiday should be special if your family celebrates them and will perk everyone up if you can make it special. I have had no problems keeping most baking items for 5 years, if I have vacuum packed them.
While you are searching for nifty gift items to make, check out recipes using dehydrated food, long term storage food and home made mixes. I was thinking that one of the habits I find hardest to shake, is the one where I want a “quick meal”. dehydrate2Store.com, has plenty of mix recipes you can make up. I’m planning on putting together quite a few mix packets for my storage. You take the base ingredients and put them in a vacuum bag. Before sealing the bag, you print out the recipe and put that in. Then you take the seasonings and late addition items and vacuum seal them in a smaller bag and add them to the big bag. Then seal the whole thing and label. You are making “quick meals” using your own stuff and get the best of both worlds!
Now is also a great time to stock up on turkey. Make sure you pick up a couple of extra birds while they are on sale. You can bake them a couple at a time and either freeze or can the meat for later. Don’t forget to cook the carcass down and can up the delicious broth you make from it. Ham too, is usually a bargain at this time and well worth getting more than one. I always wait until a few days before Christmas and pick up lots of hard candy (you can wait until the day after too). Hard candy will seal well and last for a long time. Hard candy is what our mothers and grandmothers gave us when we had a sore throat, instead of fancy cough drops.
Condensed and evaporated milk is also more available this time of the year and has a fairly long shelf life. While not my favorite way to drink milk, it can be done and is certainly good for baking. The cans will last several years on the shelf, so that makes it a good buy to me.
Temporarily, prices are down on sugars and flour, these being staples, your should really stock up. Don’t forget the “fancy” sugars like brown and powdered, as they keep well if packaged right. I usually pick up both light brown and dark brown sugar. We use it on oatmeal around here, plus it has many different recipe uses. I know one of the most frustrating things is not to have on hand the one item in a recipe that is vital!
When you are out doing all of this shopping, another thing to look for is flavorings. Vanilla, lemon,raspberry are our favorites, but my mother always kept almond and a few others on hand.
Don’t forget to only shop the sales and use those coupons! As always, I welcome comments and additions to this blog post.
Books on homemade candy recipes HERE!
Original post archived from APN