Recently I re-read the entire “Little House” series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, books that I was enchanted with as a child. As an adult, there were plenty of things I noticed that had escaped me as a child, from the occasional whiffs of prejudice against Native Americans to Ma’s displeasure at her husband’s wanderlust ways.
But most of all, I was struck by Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of Christmas mornings, when gifts like a fresh orange, a pair of hand-knitted mittens, and a piece of maple-sugar candy would render Laura speechless with delight.
We’ll never return to such simple times, but my Christmas gift budget this year sure has me wishing we could. I don’t think anyone on my gift list would appreciate receiving an orange, but I’m hoping they might like a slightly more impressive food-related gift, such as a sea salt herb blend, a cookie mix, or a box of chocolate truffles…particularly if I made it myself.
A bag of groceries, and materials to make pretty containers and wrappings are all that’s needed to make a batch of homemade goodies. While it’s easy enough to find beautiful little tin, glass and cardboard containers at stores like The Container Store, you can also get even more crafty by finding online resources to make your own gift bags or boxes, or to find recycled glass or cardboard containers. If you plan ahead, you can even save up glass jars and other appropriate containers throughout the year, soak off the labels, and decorate them with your own labels or fabric glued onto the lid.
Here are a few of my favorite ideas—maybe next year I’ll get even more ambitious:
• Flavor-infused vodka or liqueur in a beautiful glass bottle with a decorative stopper
• Spiced or candied nuts in a gift tin or inexpensive gift-wrapped serving dish
• Cake or cookie mixes, particularly from a family recipe, layered in a jar or a paper bag. To adapt a recipe, just mix together all the dry ingredients, or layer them in a jar, then include measurements and instructions for adding wet ingredients and baking.
• Granola in a large glass jar with a wooden scoop
• Jams or preserves…if you have canning equipment
• Spice rubs in a tin or jar, with recipe ideas
Tune in next week for my recommendations of the best healthy food and cooking books to give as gifts.