Easy “Make it Yourself” (MIY) Holiday Gifts

By Lisa Page

I’m not crafty. I don’t scrapbook or knit or make fancy cupcakes. But there’s something about the holidays that inspires me to head into the kitchen and make homemade gifts for my friends and family. So every year I try making a new recipe – biscotti, rolls, candy – you name it and I’ve probably made it. Some years my gift experimentation turns out better than others. I don’t even want to know what has been tossed out along the way, but here are a few of the fan favorites  that have survived from one holiday season  to the next. And the best part: these are all really easy and can be made in less than 30  minutes. So if you’re like me, and still trying to address holiday cards, shop and wrap gifts, there’s still time to throw a little something from the heart into the mix…

This first recipe is my mother’s hot buttered rum mix and it’s become an often-requested holiday favorite amongst my friends. There’s nothing I love more this month than cozying up on a cold night with a cup of hot buttered rum.

Suzy’s Hot Buttered Rum Mix

1 ib. butter (4 cubes)
1 1b. brown sugar (I box)
1 lb. powdered sugar (1 box)
1 round tsp nutmeg
1 round tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch all spice

Directions:  Beat all of the ingrediants together.  Stir in 1 qt. vanilla ice cream – use mixer (I recommend a standing Kitchen aid mixer for this sticky substance. It took going through a few mixers for me to figure this out!)

For gift giving, you can place the mix in a clear glass jar or container decorated with ribbon and a pine sprig. Include a tag with the following instructions: put two spoonfuls of mix in mug, add a shot of rum, hot water, stir, sprinkle with nutmeg and enjoy!

This next recipe is one I found in a Raley’s magazine a number of years ago when I first started MIY gift-giving. I remember picking it because it was quick and easy and who doesn’t love mint?

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Line a baking sheet with foil and chill. Place 2 cups milk chocolate chips in a glass bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir and microwave for 15 seconds more or until chips are melted; stir until smooth. Spread 1/4 inch thick onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup holiday mint M&Ms or crushed peppermint candy, pressing into the surface lightly. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then break into pieces. Cover and keep chilled. May be made up to 1 week ahead.

Place in a holiday tin or a holiday coffee mug tied in clear cello wrap, and VOILA – these gifts are ready for giving.

The following Christmas pecan recipe came from last December’s issue of Oprah magazine. These yummy meringue-glazed pecans are perfect with Suzy’s hot buttered rum mix for a late-night snack (like when you’re up late on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts). Pack them up in a cellophane bag or eco-friendly pouch, and you have the perfect holiday gift.

Diane’s Christmas Pecans

2 egg whites at room temperature (do not use refrigerated liquid egg whites)
1/8 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 pound shelled large or jumbo pecan halves
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter

Directions: Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 275°. Have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet, preferably a light-colored nonstick pan for easier cleanup.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add salt and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, pour vanilla extract over brown sugar. Then add sugar mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, to egg white mixture, beating on high speed to form a strong, shiny meringue (about 10 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in pecan halves until well coated.  Meanwhile, melt butter on a baking sheet in the oven (3 to 5 minutes). Be careful not to let butter brown. Gently tip baking sheet so that butter coats bottom of pan. Using a rubber spatula, spread nuts over butter, without stirring, to form an even layer without deflating meringue.  Bake nuts for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir nuts with a spatula so that nuts at center of pan move to outer rim and those at edges move closer to center. Bake nuts for 15 minutes longer and stir again. Continue baking another 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until nuts are separated, have absorbed butter, and are beautifully browned but not dark brown. Immediately turn nuts out on a counter lined with a long sheet of aluminum foil. Spread them on foil and allow to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered tin or covered glass container, or present in gift bags or boxes lined with decorative waxed paper. The nuts will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


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  1. Lesley Miller says

    I love the pecan idea. I just tried making cinnamon roasted almonds for gifts but my first batch was a bust. Maybe I’ll attempt pecans next.

  2. the BLAH BLAH BLAHger says

    Mmmmmmm, think I’ll try the peppermint bark, but I WISH I could come to your house for hot buttered rum! : )

  3. LP says

    How did you store the hot buttered rum mix and for how long? Looks great.

  4. Brigette says

    These are great ideas– definitely an improvement on the plates of cookies I gave out last year!

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