French Friday’s w/Dorie + Gift Giving

December 17, 2010

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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

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jun Belen December 17, 2010 at 8:21 am

Susan, these are all so lovely. I love the labels in the vanilla bottles, the blue ribbons. The brown paper bags for the peppermint barks and caramels. Everything! You could really tell so much thought and love were put into making each gift. Have a wonderful Holiday to you and your family!


2 Susan December 17, 2010 at 8:23 am

thanks, Jun! Means tons coming from you! Have a wonderful holiday and much love in the new year!


3 Jessica of My Baking Heart December 17, 2010 at 9:51 am

Beautiful, Susan! I would be ecstatic to receive any one of these gifts! 🙂


4 stephirey December 17, 2010 at 11:44 am

Holy toledo, and this was a year that you didn’t “bake.” I can’t believe all the wonderful things you’ve made. So lovely and so thoughtful. I made Citrus Sea Salt & Chocolate Dipper Pretzels & Strawberry Jam (earlier this year) and thought I did a lot. You are amazing. How do I get on your friend list. 😉


5 Susan December 19, 2010 at 6:45 am

stephanie, your treats sound amazing. citrus sea salt and chocolate dipped pretzels are so right up my alley!! you are now on my friend list!


6 Esi December 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

Great homemade gift ideas!!


7 Amanda December 17, 2010 at 11:58 am

There are so many amazing ideas here… I want to do every single one!!! Beautiful presentation girl!!



8 allison [a for aubergine] December 17, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I LOVE the idea of making homemade vanilla. I am inspired. xxoo

p.s. those almonds looks so good.


9 Gilli Treiman December 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Beautiful! i love all your labels and the vanilla looks amazing! g.


10 Kristen December 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

What a delicious assortment of holiday gifts! You have lucky friends!


11 Maria December 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Great gift ideas!


12 The Italian Dish December 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Susan, what a great post! I love it when people make the extract – it makes such nice gifts. And I’m glad you were able to use the links. You sure did a lot of beautiful baking.


13 Susan December 19, 2010 at 6:43 am

Elaine, you were my inspiration! I bow down to you! xx


14 Joy December 18, 2010 at 7:42 am

Your gifts are simply lovely but the packaging? Classic, simple and really sweet. I feel kind of dorky for using mason jars for every last thing under the sun!


15 Beth @Thescreenporch December 18, 2010 at 9:03 am

Susan all I can say is WOW. I hope next year I’m around to use some of your great ideas. I wish I was your friend….Such a great post. Very inspiring to share. :)B


16 Alina December 18, 2010 at 2:53 pm

How lovely! That’s so much better than those useless Christmas souvenirs people exchange every year. I’d love to make some baked goodies for my friends and family too, but we have a 3-month-old, so maybe next year 🙂


17 Lana December 19, 2010 at 1:46 am

I admire your determination and effort you put in making home-made gifts. I hope that all your friends and family really appreciate how much love and thought has gone into making all of this.
We are new in California and we have no friends yet, but in the previous years, I assembled the mulled wine kits, sewed aprons, made the brittle, and jams for my friends. One day soon, I hope to repeat that:)
Happy holidays to you and your family!


18 Steph@stephsbitebybite December 19, 2010 at 10:29 am

I love all your pictures, and think it so awesome that you’re making all those homemade gifts! I’m sure Dorie’s nuts were a great addition to your already amazing spread.


19 Deeba December 19, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I agree with you 100%. Homemade gifts mean far much more than bought ones. I love your beautiful bottles, envious of them too, blue ribbons and all.- they are PRETTY! The caramels, the labels, the packaging … evrythings gorgeous! Happy Holidays!!


20 luciacara December 21, 2010 at 5:06 am

Great post- the homemade vanilla is such an unusual idea for gifts. Really a perfect gift. Beautiful photos, too. Everything looks wonderful.


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