Since I like to cook and everyone likes to eat, I like to make food gifts for the holidays. They’re always the right size, never go out of style and can be made non-denominational. So everyone can be pleased – from neighbors, to friends, to teachers, to family, etc.
Because my oven is still working, even though never “fixed”, I’m kind of scared to turn it off. O.K. not really. But it seems like it’s been on and I’ve been baking for 2 weeks solid. I’m not complaining, although I need more counter space. I’ve made a few usual favorite cookies such as Molasses Sugar Cookies. But this year I opened my December Sunset magazine and was inspired to try their cookie contest winners. The White Christmas Dream Drops (click for recipe) are chewy and refreshing (and easier to make than say the name), and I can see why they won first place (Good going, Dustin and Erin Beutin of Tustin, CA). They were my son’s choice for his school party. While the Chai Spiced Shortbread cookies are more subtle. I love them with tea and can’t wait to experiment with different types of tea bags for the dough. They were a runner up (Congrats Anissa Shea from Walnut Creek, CA). I made a variety to give to neighbors and our contractors (yes, we’re in the middle of some construction to make the holiday a bit more hectic).
For those who may receive lots of sweets at the holidays, I make a cookie mix jar. This way you are giving a fun treat for the recipient to make anytime they have a craving (whether it’s January or July). They are festive looking and the jars are quicker to measure and assemble, than make than the actual cookies. Plus the 1 quart reusable jar has lots of recycle uses (we use them for shells and eraser collections at my house). To present them, I found some good sturdy reusable bags with peace signs at Whole Foods that are cute. This year my kids asked “How come we never make those cookies, just the jars?” A good question. So I made a batch for us, no jar necessary. They are yummy! Good thing, since we made them and gave them to teachers and friends.
Finally, this year I also gave a mulled wine kit. I picked up a copy of A Greener Christmas by Sheherazade Goldsmith, which has lots of DIY ideas for gift giving. I wish I had it earlier in the season. Filled with fun crafts for kids too. This recipe was easy and something different from the usual wine hostess gift.
Mulled Wine Kit
1 cinnamon stick, break into 3 pieces
6 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
fresh nutmeg, grated
1 square cheesecloth (7 x 7)
1 pinch ground ginger
length of twine
1 bottle red wine (I used a french red table wine)
All the spices go into the center of the cheesecloth. Carefully sprinkle the ground herbs over the whole. (Because some may come out the cheesecloth, I wrapped the spice bouquet in plastic wrap before attchin to the wine bottle. Gather cheesecloth and tie into a bouquet. Tie around wine bottle with instruction card.
Instructions for Mulling Wine:
Put the wine, spice bouquet and 1/2 cup water and 6 tablespoons raw sugar into t pan. Heat gently until sugar has dissolved, but don’t allow wine to come to a boil. If you’d like optional ingredients include:
slices of oranges and lemons
juice of 1 orange
splash of port or brandy