I originally wrote most of this post as a part I of a two part series. BUT I decided to hold off posting it until after Christmas, so that everyone had a chance to get their gifts before I revealed them. Then I decided to just include the last few items I didn’t write about, since I already did a post on cookies. So, this is kind of a long post, but I think I got some pretty interesting stuff here.. so feel free to skip around to what may interest you the most.
The past couple of weeks I’d been doing a little research (God bless Pinterest) and I decided to make my own Christmas gifts this year. I’m tired of buying the same old stuff from the same old stores, running around finding things for people they don’t really need or want. I mean really.. I’m pretty sure most of us can’t even remember what we got last year and from whom. (Barring the big gifts I mean.) Heck, if I didn’t write stuff down, I wouldn’t even remember what I got people either. My aim this year was to spend a little time making things for people that they can use, consume and/or dispose of. So I found a bunch of ideas and picked my favorite ones.
Peanut Butter Bacon Dog Treats
I found this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I know Zeus LOVES peanut butter.. and I haven’t met a dog yet that turns their nose up at bacon.. so I figured this was a winner. I made 1 batch and it produced enough to give to Zeus’s cousins Mia (another pug) and Tara (a yellow lab.) I found that mixing the ingredients with my hands the best approach to getting everything uniform.. and I had to bake them in our toaster oven since our regular oven decided to crap out on us.
I had to reduce the cooking time from 15 minutes on each side to 10 minutes on each side. The 15 minute time burned them. Each oven will vary of course.
Spiced Wine Jelly
This was probably the gift I was looking forward to doing the most. The idea was posted on Kaity Cooks On. I’ve never canned anything before, but I’d seen my parents do it and it didn’t look hard. I love the taste of hot spiced wine at christmas and thought the jelly was a new, different idea. So I got myself some wine, some mulling spices, and a ton of sugar and made myself some jelly. The first batch came out great, the second never jelled. SO I guess I’m giving out half spiced wine jelly and half spiced wine syrup. either way.. it’s pretty tasty.
The canning process WAS pretty easy. to prep the jars, I just boiled them in hot water for 10 minutes, reduced the heat and let them sit in the hot water until it was time to fill them. The tool kit came with tongs for removing the jars and a handy magnet that let you snatch the lids out of the water too. It also came with a funnel the perfect size for filling the jars. Once filled, the lids were placed on the jars finger-tight, and they were put back in the boiling water for 10 minutes, then removed. As they cooled, I could hear the lids popping, indicating they were sealed.
As for the jelly that didn’t jell.. I read a few places that you could boil the jelly again, adding a little more pectin, and see if it jells. BUT I was out of pectin and time.. so I am just leaving it as syrup.
Beer Bread Mix
So I thought.. ok I’m giving jelly.. what else should I give? How about something to put the jelly on!? I searched Pinterest again and came across this from Coordinately Yours by Julie Blanner. A little flour, a little sugar, a little baking powder, a little salt.. and you have your very own beer bread mix. Well, at least I hope so. I didn’t bake one myself yet. But I got these great pastry bags from the dollar store and I’m going to print off some instructions to let people know what to do. All you have to add a 12 oz beer (or soft drink) and some butter. Voila! Who doesn’t love some fresh baked beer bread?
Chai Tea Mix
While looking for DIY mixes, I came across this gem.. DIY Vanilla Chai Mix from A Kitchen Addiction.I like chai- we get the Cafe Escapes Chai for the Keurig.. and I love Oh My Chai from Tastefully Simple, but I thought it would be cool to make my own.. plus it looked really easy.
This I did test out.. and it was really pretty good! Just 2 tablespoons in 6 oz of hot water. There is a little bit of spice that may not dissolve all the way, but nothing that bothered me too bad. So I would give this one a win!
Grasshopper Mint Chocolate Bark
If you ever find yourself perusing Pinterest.. you can’t help but notice all the fantastical goodies that pop up on your home screen. chocolates and candies and cookies and cakes.. they all look so good and I want them ALL. (I especially love when your friends post all kinds of ooey gooey goodness.. then post links to exercise routines haha) But the holidays are the worst! All I want to eat right now are all the nastily disgustingly delicious holiday desserts and treats.. so I decided just to give in and try one. I found grasshopper mint chocolate bark from Brown Eyed Baker. I made 2 batches of this for my 12 gift bags, and while it didn’t seem like it made a lot, I found a little is all you really need anyways. I made it two different ways. The first time, I did not add the mint extract to the white chocolate and I sprinkled my Andes mints on top. I found that when I poured my semi sweet chocolate on the chilled white (green) chocolate, the temperature made the semi sweet chocolate cool faster. when I added the Andes mints on top, I really couldn’t press it into the bark because it was turning solid fast. Then when I went to cut it, the Andes pieces just crumbled right off.. defeating the purpose.
The second batch I made, I did put some mint extract in with the white chocolate, and I mixed the Andes in with the semi-sweet chocolate instead of putting them on top. they were totally blended in and coated with the semi-sweet.. which made for a blah looking product. BUT, the Andes did stay intact after I chopped up the bark into pieces… so I guess it did the trick.
Hot Chocolate On A Stick
Pretty easy to do.. I got this recipe from Glorious Treats. I modified it a bit, to make sure I was getting the serving sizes right- I used my mini muffin pan and my silicone mini muffin cups. Turns out, the final product is somewhat soft/mailable, so it was easy to put a stick in when they were done.
I took them out of the silicone baking cups and stuck a lollipop stick in the center of each. I placed two in a treat bag and added two big peppermint marshmallows.. thought it made a cute little package. All you have to do is stir into a cup of hot milk and enjoy. The flavor was not overly chocolaty.. but a nice subtle chocolate flavor to the warm milk.. a great cold day pick me up.
Garlic, Rosemary, and Chili Almonds
I wanted to make this treat, to break up the monotony of all the sweets. This recipe is from The Passionate Cook, and it was very good. The chili is very subtle, but present, and the olive oil, garlic and rosemary combined well with the taste of the almonds. I didn’t add any salt or pepper to this, but I imagine you could to your own taste. I bought a large bag of almonds from BJ’s and found that it made plenty for my 12 gift bags.
Cinnamon Applesauce Tree Ornaments
I wanted to include something non-edible in my gift bags.. and I saw this recipe for Cinnamon Applesauce Tree Ornaments from Katy Elliot. The post said it smelled really good.. so I thought it might be a nice addition to my gifts.
I found that I needed to add a little water to the dough to make it pliable and less crumbly. Once that was done, it was pretty easy to roll and cut. I think I made them a little thin, but they turned out alright. They did curl a little when I baked them, so I think my cook time should have been adjusted for the thinness. But I was only making one batch of them, so couldn’t apply the lesson. They really did smell good. I can see these being used as car air fresheners too.
As I wrote about in my blog DIY Christmas: Cookies, I included one of each batch in my gift bags. I found these great cylinder canisters to pack them in. I think it made a great addition to my gifts.
To wrap everything up, I got a bunch of gift packing materials from the Dollar store- I can’t recommend them enough for that sort of thing. They had boxes of all kinds, treat bags, party favors, plastic dishes, holiday napkins, ribbon, wrapping paper.. all kinds of stuff. Why waste money on stuff that’s just going to get thrown out at the end of the season anyways.. but that’s just my two cents. Everything I used to package all my gifts came from there.. and I was quite pleased with the result.