Originally Published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday December 3, 2011
A homemade gift is the sweetest thing. Not fancy, just straight from the heart. If you are like me, you have many, many people in your life that you want to thank with a gift during the holiday season. Of course this is not feasible so this is the time of year to get creative.
That doesn’t mean you have to take out a small loan or flex your inner Martha, but maybe take a few minutes to jot down a list of all of the important people in your life that you want to remember. From your children’s teachers, coaches or babysitter to your hairstylist you can definitely give them a little something without breaking the bank.
In a season so threatened by commercialism, time in the kitchen cooking up sweets for everyone on your holiday list can be a balm to your sanity. It absolutely is for me. I am by no means a baker or pastry chef but I do enjoy making different cookie doughs after the boys go to bed, wrap the unbaked dough into logs and freeze for later. I find that this cuts down on the last minute hassles of getting something prepared for a family get together or office party.
Gifts from the kitchen have so many possibilities depending on your budget, who you are giving it to and what you are making. One idea for the Italian food lover is a small basket filled with gourmet pasta, a good quality pasta sauce, a fresh baguette and a bottle of red wine. I gave this last year to a family friend who had just moved into a new house during the holidays and they loved it. A small cookie sheet with a box of freshly baked Snickerdoodle cookies along with the recipe is a great gift for a family. A lot of people are hard to buy for or you have a small amount budgeted for each gift so edible treats really fit the bill here.
For your cocoa lover you can make a batch of hot chocolate mix, put it in a decorative container, and add a festive teaspoon along with the recipe for the recipient. My favorite one is 1 2/3 cups nonfat dry milk powder, 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 tsp salt. Combine this in the container and it is ready to go. Add a label to the lid with the directions (4 teaspoons in 6 ounces of hot water) to making the perfect cup of hot cocoa and the gift is ready.
Another easy Christmas treat to make and give is the Sugarplum. This no-bake treat are full of apricots, raisins and nuts. You can whip these up in minutes and they are so easy even your kids can get in on the action. In a food processor add 3/4 cups raisins, 3/4 cup dried apricots, 3/4 cups dates, 3/4 cups walnuts, 1 cup almonds and 1/4 cup orange juice and pulse until combined and sticking together. Roll this into 1 inch balls and roll each ball in sugar. Place each ball in a paper cupcake liner and store in an airtight container. Your friends will definitely have visions of these sugarplum treats dancing in their heads!
Surprise co-workers with a tray of cookies or sweets instead of feeling obligated to buy each of them a separate gift and spend money you may not have to spend. I know that being the recipient of a homemade gift shows me that someone cared enough for me to take the time to make it. A few cookies, a square of fudge or some roasted nuts are enough to make anyone feel special. Put it in a cellophane bag tied with a festive ribbon and you have yourself a gift!
This is also a popular time of year to send care packages to children in college, family who live out of town and service men and women overseas. Send season’s greetings across the miles with a box of cookies. I know when my brother was serving overseas and could not be with us for the holidays he appreciated all of the care packages he received from our family and friends. When you are choosing your cookie to send, stick with sturdy ones that don’t require refrigeration. Good travelers include, Giant M&M cookies, Molasses cookies and Chocolate Crinkle cookies. Wrap the cooled cookie in plastic wrap to keep them fresh, then box them up with tissue and use packing peanuts or bulk unpopped popcorn kernels to prevent breakage. Make sure to send the sweets first class.
So when you are looking for a holiday treat to send to far-flung relatives here’s a cookie that will really satisfy their chocolate craving. Rich with chocolate chips, these brownie like cookies look elegant, taste scrumptious and travel well. And while you are at it, tuck a copy of the recipe along for the ride. Once the cookies disappear, your gift will keep on giving. Ask your child to copy the ingredient list and directions in their best handwriting on a small piece of card stock and you have just given someone a keepsake to treasure.
Any way you package it, the recipient of your gift will appreciate the time and effort you spent on making this holiday special for them, a handmade gift from the heart.
- 3/4 C unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 C sugar
- 2 C all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 1 1/4 C
- 3/4 C of confectioners sugar, for dusting the dough balls
- In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the cocoa powder and sugar until well combined.
- In a medium sized bowl, stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Using a mixer, beat the eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.
- Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter.
- Pour the confectioners sugar into a shallow dish, like a pie pan, and roll each ball in the sugar. Place each ball about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until the cookies are set.
- Dust with a bit of additional sugar ,if you want to, after they have cooled.