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Recipe of the Week: A homemade gift comes from the heart

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Only five days remain before Christmas; if you are still stumped on what to give the remaining people on your list, you can always make something.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a homemade gift is one from the heart. Gift-giving, after all, is about letting people know you thought of them during the holiday season. Just follow your strengths; if you have one thing you cook or bake that everyone likes, make a lot and package each gift attractively.

It could be cranberry or banana bread, savory breads, simple truffles, fudge, pie, cake, spiced nuts, vinegars or pickles.

It’s a little late in the year to make jams, but you can still find local apples to make applesauce or apple butter.

Some years back “cookies in a jar” were popular; the dry ingredients to make a batch of cookies were piled nicely in a mason jar with a recipe attached. These are still around, along with “soup in a jar” mixes. There are dozens on the Internet.

Hot chocolate and tea mixes also are popular, especially chai, a combination of instant tea, sugar and spices. Those recipes also are easy to find.

I find that pretty much everyone likes Christmas cookies, and you don’t have to make a big assortment or fill a large tin for it to be a nice gift.

You can make a single kind, or two or three, and add a sprinkle of colored sugar or candies to make them look festive for the holidays. Put them in a clear cellophane bag and tie it with a ribbon and you have a thoughtful gift that anyone would enjoy.

Even if you don’t like fruitcake you are bound to like these fruitcake cookies from tasteofhome.com; you can adjust them to include the ingredients you prefer.

Fruitcake Christmas Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups dates, finely chopped

4 ounces red candied cherries, halved

4 ounces candied pineapple, diced

½ cup whole hazelnuts, toasted

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients.

2. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container. (Cookies are best after a few days.)

Editor’s Note: To toast whole hazelnuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350°F oven 7 to 10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. To remove skins, wrap hazelnuts in a tea towel; rub with towel to loosen skins.


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