A holiday tin packed full of home-baked and decorated Christmas candies and cookies is a time honored gift-giving tradition with many families.

Nothing touches the heart of someone special like taking time to put together a homemade gift straight from your own kitchen. The gift doesn't have to stop at the traditional cookies and candies. Try adding unusual items. Antipasto in a jar, Champagne jelly in a flute and ice cream sauces in sundae glasses all are fun, easy to make and add that special touch to your gifts.

Antipasto in a jar can be teamed with a selection of cheeses, salami, pasta, marinara sauce and a loaf of bread all arranged in a basket with a bottle of wine for an Italian dinner for two.

For those cold winter nights, mix up a jar of coffee and cocoa with a bit of cinnamon. Put the mixture in a decorative clear canister, add a Christmas mug and a few homemade cookies for the perfect present for a co-worker or friend.

An elegant romantic basket may include Champagne jelly in Champagne flutes, with a small can of smoked salmon pate, crackers, a brick of brie and a candle to set the mood.

The gifts can be as simple as a beer stein full of spicy nuts, homemade hot fudge sauce, candies, cookies, soup mixes and more. Each gift should include a label with a recipe or directions for use.

The fun part of giving these gifts is that you can put together a gift to fit the personality of each person on your Christmas list.

Coffee Cocoa with Cinnamon

2 cups sugar

11/2 cups instant coffee crystals

1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In medium mixing bowl, combine all coffee mix ingredients. Store in airtight container no longer than six months.

For serving, place hot water in large mug. Microwave at high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very hot. Stir in coffee mix.

Antipasto in a Jar

Makes 1 quart

Pickling liquid:

1 cup water

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon light olive oil

Vegetable combination of the following to equal three cups:

Broccoli florets

Brussel sprouts, cut in half lengthwise


Cauliflower florets

1/2 cup water

Vegetable combination of the following to equal one cup:

Fresh whole mushroom

Green or ripe olives

Green, red or yellow pepper, cut into one-inch pieces

Sliced cucumber

For Garnish add one or a combination of the following:

1 lemon slice

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh dill

1 sprig fresh oregano

1 sprig fresh basil

Mix pickling liquid in a 4-cup measure. Microwave at high 31/2 to 51/2 minutes, or until boiling, stirring once.

Combine desired 3 cups vegetables in 2-quart casserole. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover and microwave at high 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender and color brightens.

Place into strainer under cold running water until cool. Drain. Add remaining 1 cup of vegetables. Pack vegetables into sterilized 1-quart jar, layering if desired. Include garnish.

Pour pickling liquid over vegetables. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days before serving. Will store in refrigerator for one month.

Spicy Mixed Nuts

Makes 2 cups.

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 tablespoon cooking oil

Combination of raw peanuts, cashews, almond and/or macadamia nuts to equal 2 cups

Combine coriander, cumin, salt, black pepper and red pepper in small bowl and set aside. Spread nuts in a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Drizzle with oil. Stir to coat. Sprinkle with spices and toss lightly.

Bake in 300 degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool completely. Store tightly covered in a cool place.

Five-Bean Soup Mix

Makes four batches of six bowls

Bean Mix:

11/2 cups dried pinto beans

11/2 cups white kidney beans

1 cup dry kidney beans

1 cup dry lima beans

1 cup dry chickpeas

Combine pinto, navy, kidney, lima and garbanzo beans in a large airtight container or bag.

Seasoning Mix:

1 Tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 cup dried minced onion

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 Tablespoon chicken bouillon powder

3 cubes beef bouillon, crumbled

1 Tablespoon parsley

1/4 cup bacon bits

1/4 cup mixed vegetable flakes

Combine onions, paprika, salt, mustard, garlic, chicken broth, beef broth, parsley, bacon bits and vegetable flakes in plastic bag and shake to mix. Place bag in bean container. Store at room temperature.

Attach this to outside of Container:

To Make Five-Bean Soup:

Start 21/2 hours before mealtime. Rinse 1-1/2 cups of bean mix in sieve under running water. Place beans in a three-quart saucepan. Add 5 cups water and 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (optional) and 1/4 cup of the seasoning mix. You can add 1 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes and juice at this time, or you can add the juice and reserve the tomatoes to add near the end of the simmering time.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 2 to 11/2 hours until beans are tender.

Caramel Rum Sauce

Makes 4 half-pints (about 31/2 cups)

2 cups packed brown sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

11/3 cups whipping cream

1 cup water

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup rum

2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan. Stir in cream, water and corn syrup. Cool and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbling. Cook for 2 minutes at full boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, rum and vanilla. Cool at room temperature. Pour into half-pint jars. Seal and label. Store in refrigerator for up to three months.

Champagne Jelly

21/4 cups pink champagne

1 package liquid fruit pectin

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon allspice

31/2 cups sugar

Paraffin wax

In an 8-cup microwave safe bowl, combine all ingredients, except sugar and paraffin. Microwave at high for 8 to 12 minutes, or until boiling, stirring every 4 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Gradually stir in sugar until blended.

Microwave at high for 3 to 6 minutes, or until mixture returns to a boil, stirring every 2 minutes to prevent boil-over. Boil 1 minute. Skim any foam from top.

Pour jelly evenly into each of 9 sterilized champagne glasses to within 1/2-inch from top.

Melt paraffin as directed on box. While jelly is hot cover with 1/8 inch of paraffin. Let cool, add another 1/8 inch paraffin to seal. After opening, jelly keeps in refrigerator for up to one month.

Fireside Coffee

Makes 80 servings

2 cups powdered non-dairy creamer

11/2 cups instant hot chocolate mix

11/2 cups instant coffee granules

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Sift together creamer, hot chocolate mix, instant coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into a jar and seal with a lid.

To prepare: Stir 3 teaspoons of mixture into 1 cup hot water. Adjust to taste.

Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes 4 half-pints.

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate pieces

1/2 cup butter

11/3 cups sugar

11/3 cups whipping cream

Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar. Gradually add whipping cream. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Continue to boil gently over low heat for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool at room temperature.Pour into half-pint jars, seal and label.


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