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Gifts from your Kitchen

I love to give holiday gifts from my kitchen.  Most are quick and easy and they always are a big hit!  More than that, it’s something that I know the majority of people will use – even the most difficult to buy for – and you aren’t giving them something that will add clutter to their homes.
One year as a gift to a friend and her family I gave them some pancake mixes and homemade syrup so they could use them for Christmas breakfast.
Gingerbread Pancake Mix:
2 cups all purpose flour
5 tsp. baking powder
4 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
(Variation:  add ¾ cups chocolate or white chocolate chips to this recipe OR omit the ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and then add the chips.)
To use the mix,  combine it with 2 eggs, ½ cup vegetable oil, and 2 cups milk.
Note:  When I make pancakes or waffles, I save the leftovers, wrapping them individually in plastic wrap and placing them in the freezer.  These can be reheated in the microwave or if thick and firm enough (works especially well with the waffles) they can be warmed up in the toaster just like Eggos!
This honey is really delicious over pancakes or in tea or simply as a spread on breads:
Spiced honey – Combine 4 cups honey, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves, and 4 cinnamon sticks in a saucepan.  Heat up over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, until very warm.  Place about 1/4 of this mixture into each of 4 half pint jars and put one of the cinnamon sticks in with it.  Allow this mixture to stand at least 24 hours before serving.  This will keep nicely at room temperature for about 3-4 weeks.
Storybookwoods has a delightful sounding and oh so easy recipe for Candy Cane Syrup.  Basically it’s just a simple syrup (simple syrup is just equal parts water and sugar) that she has added some broken up pieces of candy canes too.  Follow the link for complete instructions:  http://storybookwoods.typepad.com/storybook_woods/2009/01/candy-cane-syrup.html
And some other breakfast syrups:  http://www.tongue-n-cheeky.com/2009/12/several-weeks-ago-one-of-my-favorite.html
Our Best Bites also has a delicious sounding buttermilk syrup recipe on their site as well as one for a double chocolate waffle mix: http://www.ourbestbites.com/2009/12/holiday-gifts-from-kitchen.html
How about giving a box of those wonderful Clementines that are so readily available at this time of year?  Dress them up a bit with these adorable stickers from Giverslog that will tell your recipients that the fruit comes straight from Santa’s own orchard!  Printable available here:  http://giverslog.com/?p=4243
A tray of these strawberry brownie bites from My Charming Kids would make a special gift or a great goodie to take to a holiday party – they are basically brownies that have been made in muffin tins topped with a strawberry held in place by a skewer.  Complete instructions here: http://www.mycharmingkids.net/2009/12/strawberry-brownie-bites.html
Or what about Strawberry Santas?:  (sorry I can’t show you photos – I have developed a dangerous allergy to strawberries and can’t go near them anymore – so sad…my favourite food ever!)
Ingredients:
An 8 oz. pkg. plain softened cream cheese
½ cup marshmallow crème
12 large strawberries
12 pineapple chunks (they need to be about one inch in size)
12 toothpicks – the ones with the little foil curly cues on top or something similar are the best
23 mini chocolate chips
12 white chocolate covered Oreos (or similar cookie for the base)
Instructions: Beat the cream cheese and marshmallow crème together on high until nice and fluffy.  Put this mixture in a pastry decorating bag or use a Ziploc with the corner cut off.  If using a pastry bag, a star tip makes a nice touch.  Cut each of the strawberries in half cross-wise.  Use the toothpicks to hold together a strawberry piece, then a pineapple chunk, then the rest of the strawberry together.  You want the “pointy tip” of the strawberry to be at the top to form Santa’s hat.  Press two chocolate chips into each pineapple chunk to form eyes.  Use the cream cheese mixture to pipe on the white fur trim on Santa’s hat as well as a beard and mustache for him.  These need to be refrigerated until serving but shouldn’t stay in there any more than 2 hours to be at their best.  Place each Santa on a cookie base (you can just sit them there or you can use any leftover cream cheese mixture to hold them in place).  So cute!
How about a tin of Christmas light shaped cookies?  Complete tutorial (best one I’ve seen for them!) here: http://www.wearethatfamily.com/2009/12/diyp-guest-post-from-bake-at-350.html
Or these snowman marshmallow treats? Instructions here:  http://www.chicaandjo.com/2009/12/03/marshmallow-snowmen-treats/
Our Best Bites has several gifts from the kitchen that sound so delicious.  One of them is for a hot fudge sauce.  http://www.ourbestbites.com/2009/12/holiday-gifts-from-kitchen.html
How about combining that with some ice cream cones that have been “embellished”?  I find this works better with the thicker stronger cones like the sugar cones as opposed to those regular ones that tend to break very easily.  Over low heat, melt 3 oz. chocolate candy coating and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (this should give you enough for a typical sized package of cones) together in a saucepan.  Remove it from the heat to work with it.  If it begins to harden up, return it to the heat to melt again.  Dip the tops of each cone into the melted chocolate, letting it extend about an inch down the cone.  Now you can get creative.  Dip the chocolatey cones into rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, crushed nuts, or for a Christmassy touch, crushed candy canes.  Use a tray or cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment and place the cones upside down on this.  Put the tray into the refrigerator for about half an hour, until the chocolate has sufficiently hardened.  Store in a covered container in the fridge.
Or if you’re not a fan of the fudge sauce, how about some cherry sauce (or both)?  Dump a 10 ounce jar of maraschino cherries into a blender or food processor, juice and all, and process until roughly chopped.  Place these in a saucepan with an 8 ounce jar of cherry preserves and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the preserves melt.  Keep covered in the refrigerator and serve it cold over cake (like angel food or pound cake) or ice cream or even a fruit compote.
Candied pretzels:  For a 10 ounce package of mini pretzels, you need to melt 18 ounces of white chocolate chips, chocolate chips (milk, dark, your preference), or any other kind you prefer (like butterscotch or peanut butter).  Dip each pretzel into the melted chips and then into coloured coarse decorating sugar or candy sprinkles.  Use Christmas colours if you prefer or you can even dip them into crushed candy canes for a minty taste and even more Christmas cheer.  Place these on trays/cookie sheets lined with waxed or parchment paper until the coating hardens.
(Note: I have given some movie night gifts before – in a big popcorn bowl or a basket you could combine some of these candied pretzels with some popcorn and the popcorn seasonings below, add in a DVD or two, and give it to a favourite family for a family movie night!  Or with a new board game for a game night!)
Spice Mixtures:  Five Spices Powder (why it’s called that I don’t know because it has more than 5 spices in it!):  Combine together 2 tsp. crushed anise seeds, 2 tsp. ground black pepper, 2 tsp. crushed fennel seeds, 2 tsp. ground cloves, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 tsp. ground allspice.  This is really good on beef, pork, and apparently fish (I don’t eat fish so have no personal experience).
Creole Seasoning:  1 T. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 1/2 tsp. onion powder, 1 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground red pepper, 3/4 tsp. ground black pepper, 3/4 tsp. dried oregano, 1/2 tsp. crushed bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. chili powder.  Use with chicken, beef, pork, fish, or vegetables.
Fine Herbes Mixture:  Place all the ingredients in a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder to chop them up finely: 1 T. thyme, 1 T. oregano, 2 tsp. sage, 2 tsp. rosemary, 1 tsp. marjoram, 2 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. parsley.  Delicious with eggs (like scrambled eggs or omelets or in quiche), on fish, chicken, or pork, or with vegetables or as seasoning for rice or noodles.
Caribbean Spice Mix:  1/4 cup turmeric, 2 T. ground coriander, 1 T. cumin, 1 T. ground cinnamon, 2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Buttermilk dip or dressing mix:  2 T. thyme, 1 1/2 T. parsley, 1 T. lemon pepper, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sage, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. ground black pepper.  To make salad dressing:  Mix together 1 1/2 tsp. mix with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup buttermilk.  To make dip:  Mix together 1 1/2 tsp. mix with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup sour cream.  For both the dressing and the dip mix it’s best to mix them up and then put them in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the flavours to blend together.
Tea mixes: I used to make these for my dad for Christmas and when he would share them with guests that came to the house, I ended up getting lots of requests for the recipes.  They are simple but tasty!
Fruity tea:  1 cup of sweetened lemon flavoured instant tea, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 pack of fruit punch flavoured Koolaid (the small packs without sugar in them), a 7 1/2 ounce package of Runts or similar fruit flavoured candies.  Just mix this all together and use 2 T. of the mix per 1 cup of hot water for your tea.
Cherry tea mix:  1 pkg. unsweetened cherry Koolaid combined with 1 1/4 cups sweetened instant tea mix.  Use 2 tsp. mix per 8 oz. hot water for a cup of tea.
Peach tea mix: 1 cup instant tea mix, a 3 ounce box of peach jello, and 2 cups sugar.  Use about 2 tsp. mix per 8 ounces hot water for a cup of tea.
Russian tea mix:  I love this one and always get the biggest rave reviews for it!  A little bit sweet, a little bit spicy!  Combine 2 ½ cups Tang, 1 ½ cups sugar, a 12 ounce package of instant lemonade mix, 2 tsp. cloves, 1 ½ cups instant lemon tea mix, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg  Note:  I just mix this all together but if you want to, you can make it like one of those “cookie mix in a jar” effects by layering the ingredients and instruct the recipient to mix it together when they receive it.  Use 2 T. of mix per 8 ounces of hot water to make your tea!
Chai Tea Mix:  Chai is my favourite kind of tea.  If I ever pass by a Starbucks, I always go in and order their Iced Chai Tea Lattes! MMMMMMM!  Here is a Chai tea mix you can make for yourself:   Mix together: 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup powdered creamer (like Coffeemate), 1 cup of French vanilla powdered creamer, 2 ½ cups sugar, 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 ½ cups instant unsweetened tea, 2 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. nutmeg and 1 tsp. ground cardamom.  Note:  It’s really delicious to use whole spices and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder or using a mortar and pestle!  To use this mixture, put 2 heaping tablespoons of it in 8 ounces of hot water.  Double yum!
Cranberry Ketchup:
Ingredients:
1 can (16 oz.) jellied cranberry sauce
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup white vinegar
2 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1 T. all purpose flour
2 T. hot water
Instructions:  Combine all except the flour and hot water in a large saucepan and place over medium heat.  Bring this to a boil.  Combine the flour and hot water and blend it until a smooth paste.  Add this flour mixture to the cranberry mixture and stir frequently until it thickens up. (kind of like making a gravy).  Take this from the heat and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours.  Store this covered in your refrigerator.  So delicious!
Cranberry Mustard
Ingredients:
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup water
½ cup dry mustard
¼ cup honey
2 T. cider vinegar
½ tsp. salt
Instructions:  Boil the cranberries in the water for a couple of minutes until they pop.  Drain but reserve the liquid.  Push the cranberries through a strainer – this will give you a bowl of cranberry pulp and remove the peels and seeds for you.  Measure the pulp and add enough of the reserved liquid to equal ¼ cup if needed.  Mix the cranberry pulp with the dry mustard to make a paste.  Allow this to stand for 15 minutes and then add in the remaining ingredients.  If the mustard is too thin, you can add more of the cooking water or if too thin, you can add a little more dry mustard until you have the desired texture.  Store covered in your refrigerator.  You can use this right away but the flavours get even better in 2-4 weeks.
Gourmet Popcorn Seasoning Mixes:
Garlic Parmesan: ½ cup grated Parmesan, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. tarragon, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. parsley – To use this, you can either spray the popcorn with an olive oil or butter flavoured spray like Pam and then sprinkle on the seasoning or (my favourite) you can melt ¼ cup of butter (for about 3 cups of popped popcorn) and stir in 1 T. of the seasoning.  Pour this butter mixture over the popcorn and toss to blend!
Cinnamon Chocolate:  ½ cup icing sugar, ¼ cup mini chocolate chips, 1 T. plus 2 tsp. cocoa, ½ tsp ground cinnamon.  Follow the instructions above to use this seasoning mix – the chocolate chips will melt when they hit the hot popcorn but I do highly recommend the melted butter method for this mix.
Cranberry Liqueur:
Mix together a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups vodka, a 16 oz. can of jellied cranberry sauce, a 12 oz. can of frozen cranberry juice cocktail (or a blend like cran-apple or cran-orange), 1 cup half and half, and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Put in the refrigerator for a minimum of 12-24 hours before serving.
Our Best Bites has lots more wonderful sounding recipes for gifts from your kitchen that I can’t wait to try including:  Peppermint Bark Popcorn, Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies, Garlic Bread Seasoning, Cinnamon Caramel Corn with Pecans and White Chocolate, and Pie in a Jar (fruit pies or they have a really cool sounding Chicken Pot Pie in a Jar idea!).  http://www.ourbestbites.com/2009/12/holiday-gifts-from-kitchen.html
Once a Month Mom also has some great ideas for gifts from your kitchen here: http://onceamonthmom.com/christmas-gifts-from-your-kitchen/
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