From dangerous spa products to ridiculous recipes, bad do-it-yourself gift ideas spread across the web whenever a holiday grows near. I learned this lesson firsthand after spending way too much time and money making cookie and cocoa mixes in jars. The cost of ingredients and packaging materials exceeded the cost of buying affordable gifts. Instead of wasting your holiday budget on duds, try these three delicious gifts from the kitchen. They are all budget-friendly, easy to prepare and great on their own or as part of a larger gift.
Family Fun: Homemade Pancake Mix
Use a simple, reliable pancake recipe for this gift and be sure to include a recipe card or gift tag with the complete recipe. Flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt are the basic ingredients to make pancake mix. Adding spices, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, creates a unique flavor without adding much to the bottom line. Although the cook will need to add perishable ingredients such as butter, eggs and milk, this is still a thoughtful gift because you have already done the fussy measurements.
It is best to purchase fresh baking soda and baking powder to ensure that the pancakes will turn out light and fluffy when the recipient decides to prepare them.
A reusable container is a useful way to package homemade pancake mix, but clear or tinted food-safe cellophane bags are practical and very inexpensive. Finish the package with a raffia bow and recipe card.
Boost this gift by adding extras such as a thin spatula, wooden spoon, pancake mold and/or a special bottle of syrup.
Indulgent Handmade Gift: Chocolate Truffles
Gourmet candy is expensive, but you can create delicious homemade truffles using ingredients from the grocery store. With a little work, plain chocolate chips, cream and butter become an unforgettable gift. Look for truffle recipes on product websites, such as VeryBestBaking.com. These recipes are usually very clear and include useful notes to ensure good results.
Chocolate can be unforgiving. Be sure to follow the melting directions exactly.
For easier handling, transfer the truffles to small candy cups or miniature cupcake liners.
Favor boxes or decorative tins are a natural choice for homemade truffles.
Present the truffles on an elegant tray or candy dish.
Sweet Gift: DIY Vanilla Sugar
Homemade vanilla sugar is a great gift that keeps giving. Look online for a recipe or try this simple method. Slice a whole vanilla bean pod open. Scrape the seeds into a food processor. Add one cup of sugar and process to combine until the sugar contains an even distribution of small black flecks. Transfer the flavored sugar to an airtight container. Bury the scraped seed pod in the sugar and seal. The vanilla flavor will develop over one to two weeks. The recipient can add additional sugar to the container and it will continue to adopt a more subtle vanilla flavor.
Whole vanilla beans are vital to this recipe. Some grocery stores now have them on the spice aisle. Stores such as Penzey’s Spices and Whole Foods Market also stock vanilla beans.
An attractive clear glass jar lets this homemade gift double as cute kitchen décor. Shop for food-safe containers at craft stores or The Container Store.
Vanilla sugar is delicious in baked goods, but it also adds a little something extra to hot beverages. Consider including a package of coffee, tea or hot cocoa and a cute mug with this gift.