Ever since I can remember, I have been making gifts for people. I always made cards for my family, baking is a vehicle for me to say “thank you” and “I love you”, and in college I used to make jewelry to give as birthday and holiday gifts. It doesn’t have to be December for me to bake, package and deliver goodies to those around me that I admire and adore.
With that said, it is December. And in December, my “to-do” list can be seen on sticky notes all around my house. In the past, I have made and baked somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-16 different kinds of cookies, bars, and candy, totalling approximately 120-ish dozen goodies. It always feels good to do it, but it is exhausting. November was full to capacity and when Thanksgiving ended and December began, I just wasn’t motivated to prep, make, bake and freeze.
This year I choose to make things that weren’t going to make me a slave to the kitchen. I choose both sweet and savory goodies that had a pretty long shelf life, which in turn, generated less stress. The first thing I made was several batches of Dorie’s sweet and savory nuts. This recipe comes from her book, around my french table, and happens to be one of my go to for everything books( last night I wasn’t groovin on my dinner menu, so I whipped up her Indian infused barley soup – perfect, easy, delish).
What I love most about making flavored nuts, and these in particular, is that they really do not require a whole lot of attention. It’s an egg white, some sugar, some spices, nuts of your choice and a bowl. They roast in the oven and when done, they cool on the rack. Done! I made 5 pounds of these nuts and I did it joyfully. I am going to make a note for next year…nuts are the way to go, especially when my gift list for home made goodies exceeds 50 people!
Because I decided to not do the “bake-a-thon” this year, I needed an alternative. In late November, I was reading Elaine’s blog, The Italian Dish. By chance, I stumbled upon a post of hers from last year on how to make your own vanilla. BINGO!! She walks you through the process (a rather easy one) on not only making the vanilla extract, but where to get the labels and where to find the bottles. I did try and find the bottles in my neighborhood, but found that buying the bottles through Specialty Bottle Company (her suggestion) was the best value. I also fell in love with My Own Labels and Jeff, the nice guy I spoke with on the phone couldn’t have been more helpful. He answered all my questions and guaranteed me I would get my labels on time. He kept his word. I pretty much “lifted” Elaine’s brilliant and creative idea and made about 3 dozen bottles of vanilla for those that love to cook.
In Elaine’s post, she also made caramels, which ironically, I had already planned on doing. Also on my list this year was all kinds of sables( I made these in November and baked off the day before delivering), chocolate gingerbread bars, peppermint-shortbread bark, toffee crunch cookie brittle, and lemon wreath cookies Although this is no simple task, I felt much less stressed this year. And that feels pretty darn good!
It feels good to give. I have plenty of people tell me I am crazy to do all of this, but I’d rather do this than buy a bunch of gift cards. This brings me sheer joy and satisfaction. Now that all the goodies are packaged and delivered, I can now surf some of my favorite blogs and websites and find inspiration for next year!
Happy Holidays and Cheers to 2011