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Volume II
December 11, 2008

Happy Holidays are Homemade
(Gifts from Your Kitchen)
By Jeanne Wolfley

I get a thrill just thinking about the wonderful sights, sounds and especially, the smells of the Christmas Season. They are distinctive to this time of year. The holidays are overflowing with wonderful memories of Christmas’ past. It’s truly a time steeped in tradition.

Although this is a wonderful time of year, it’s easy to become unraveled. It is easy to overbook, overdo and overspend. The key to a cheerful holiday season is to take inventory of your time, emotional state and finances. Most of the time if we simplify and use our creativity, we will have more time to enjoy the best part of the season – each other.

It’s not about how much we have or how much we can give. It is the experiences that we share together as friends and family that make this time of year so joyful. Gathering everyone into the kitchen will create memories that will last a lifetime.

Making food gifts together as a family can certainly get you in the spirit of the season. Bob Hope once said “When we recall Christmas Past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”

Homemade gifts don’t have to take a lot of time or money and are a wonderful way to say Happy Holidays! Whether your gift is a jar of jam or a basketful of surprises, you have the opportunity to be creative and resourceful. Keep it simple and get the family involved. Bring together your family to help make, assemble and distribute the gifts to your friends and neighbors.

I find that making food gifts gives me a great deal of satisfaction and apparently this is a tradition for many of us. Unfortunately this time of year, we can be bombarded with food gifts that have to be eaten right away and we just can’t get to them all! Because we can get too much of a good thing all at the same time, let me suggest some food gifts that can help with meals or be put away for later.

One year my daughter made her famous chocolate chip cookie dough. Instead of baking them, she put the dough in a colorful Christmas container that could be put in the freezer for use at a later time. Along with the baking instructions, she attached a note with a dollar sign on it and the words "We could all use a little extra dough this time of year". I thought this was really clever and very applicable for a year when things are financially stressed for most people.

Maybe you already have a gift made. Did you make extra jars of homemade jam, salsa, apple pie filling, pickles or relish this year? These make great gifts that can be used at anytime during the year.

One year I gave my neighbors an especially attractive jar filled with “Sinfully Cinnamon Syrup.” It was easy to make. Chances are, pancakes or French toast were made at least once during the holidays. If not, it was certainly used later! You could add a recipe for pancakes or a bag of your homemade pancake mixture with instructions or you could give a box of your favorite mix from the store.

Homemade fudge, caramel or butterscotch toppings are nice to have on hand to give away. These sauces can be used on a variety of things. Everyone likes toppings on ice cream and I like to dip apples in theme too. Spiced nuts are always a hit with my family. They last way past the holidays and are such a delicious snack. Who can’t use an extra jar of pickles or a special relish or chutney? The list is never ending.

Butterscotch Sauce

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup milk
3 Tablespoons butter

In a small pan, stir together the milk, corn syrup and brown sugar and butter. Heat over low heat until smooth and butter is melted. Do Not Boil!

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Hot Fudge Sauce

2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 (5oz) can evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix well – sugar, cocoa and flour. Slowly add milk and stir well again. Add butter, cook slowly. Bring to a rapid boil. As soon as it is boiling, cook for 2½ minutes. Stir mixture constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

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Caramel Sauce

½ cup heavy cream
½ cup of sugar
3 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

In a medium sauce pan, heat the heavy cream until bubbles form around the edges. In a larger pan, cook the sugar and the water over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Cook for 5 minutes or until it is the color of honey. Remove from heat and stir in the scalded cream. Let cool for 2 minutes and add vanilla.

I hope that I have given you some ideas. Be resourceful and get the family involved. Remember life is short; take time to enjoy the season. Below is a recipe that if followed is sure to add the right spirit to this extraordinary time of year.

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“Special Treat”
by Esther Dauber

Blend equal parts of Faith and Hope mixed well with Charity;
Stir in Good Will and Sweet Content and Precious Memory.
Add Kindness, Helpfulness and Joy; of Gratitude don’t spare’
Then drop by drop Love’s Essence sweet, and Praises freely share.
And don’t forget such spices rare as Laughter, Smiles and fun,
Taste often for the best results, (‘Tis sweet to mince upon).
Now add:
A Thankful Heart and then, the recipe’s complete,
You’re “Merry Christmas” all will like… so try the seasons treat.

* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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