This time of year my family and I are hitting all of our favorite holiday spots. Candy canes at the Martinsville Candy Kitchen, hot chocolate on the circle in downtown Indianapolis and this year we added taking in a show at what I still call the Murat Theater.
My family and I attended the Cake Boss live show last week at Old National Center. My youngest, being as interested in cooking as he is, was elated when I told him we were going. It was just what we needed to kick of the season!
So now that we are in a festive mood, it is time to get down to the business of preparing holiday gifts. I am not an early shopper, which should come as no surprise to anyone. But I usually have a general idea of what I need and who I am buying for. I am a list maker after all.
The easiest and most heartfelt gifts, in my opinion, are the ones you make yourself. When we were first married homemade gifts were almost all we could share at the holidays. Being just a bit over twenty years old and a new grown up job not to mention my first car payment and rent really forced me to be creative.
One of the first sources I used for ideas was Gooseberry Patch. At that time they had a catalog that I ordered from but nowadays they have a booming online and cookbook business. I still have my very first cook booklet I bought in 1993 and I still use it every year. In it are ideas on how to package your handmade edible gifts using cloth, ribbons and hand written labels.
This may sound simple, but often times the most simple gifts are the most meaningful. You don’t have to be a magician to give something from your kitchen. It just takes a bit of time and pre-planning and then you are on your way.
I like the visual look of mixes layered in old mason jars with a vintage cloth cover. Whether it be a wild rice mix or fun cookies, the layers really make the gift. Another fun idea is purchasing over sized mugs and filling them with little bags of hot chocolate mix and small peppermint sticks. I use a simple mix of powdered sugar, instant powdered milk, chocolate drink powder, malted milk powder, unsweetened cocoa and non dairy creamer. It may seem like a lot of ingredients but it really makes a lot. Pair this with a few squares of homemade marshmallows, I like to get mine from 240 Artisan Marshmallows, and you have a gift that will be remembered.
Even a treat like pretzels dipped in chocolate and rolled in colorful sprinkles will make someones day. What really matters is that you cared enough for them to take the time to create something. Afterall, the beauty of life is diminished if not shared with a friend. Cicero must have had a friend that made a mean cookie.
Today I am sharing what has to be one of the easiest treats I have ever made, Sweet and Salty Cracker Dessert. This is an old recipe that has come through my family and I seem to get at least one box of this from someone every year.