Homemade goodies a satisfying gift

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There is something satisfying about making a gift of food. If you have time to bake and make the cookies everyone salivates for, great. However there are also wonderful recipes for snack mixes, granola, or spiced nuts that can be made in bulk in very little time. If you don’t have time to cook, but still want to give something with a personal touch, you can hunt, gather, and pack to create a thoughtful gift.

Craft stores are loaded with packaging possibilities and glitter and glitz galore; there is something for every financial and time budget. Make the gift actually do double duty and last beyond the pleasure of the season. Containers can be anything from inexpensive Ball jars, French glass jelly jars, dishtowels, sand pails, coffee mugs, colorful plastic pencil boxes – all for just a few dollars apiece. Even festive, new dish towels can make great wrappers. Who needs paper? Troll through the cabinets. Remember those chartreuse linen napkins that’ve never been used? Now’s the time to unearth them and wrap them around something.

High-quality cellophane bags, available at party and paper goods stores, are pretty and don’t require any taping or tying. French ribbons with wire along each edge make bow-making a snap. Add a sprig of shiny stars cut from one of those $2 garlands and your gift sparkles.

No time to cook? Think outside the box. Put together a ”Snack
Attack Pack.” This is an assembly project. Think in multiples. Hit
places like Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Dollar shops.
Purchase fancy fruity water and individually wrapped foods that
come several to a box. Little by little, collect a cache of goods to be
distributed among the containers later. You’ll end up with jars full of
a mixture of various candies, or wrapped cookies and crackers. A
glossy bag, lined with tissue paper, makes it a present.

So turn up the holiday music and get busy!

Homemade granola
Makes 8-10 cups

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, almonds, walnuts, or a combination
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
11/2 cups dried fruits such as raisins, cherries, cranberries,
apricots, and figs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, nuts, seeds, and coconut.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, molasses, honey, vanilla,
cinnamon, and salt. Mix well with a wire whisk.
4. Pour oil mixture over dry ingredients and mix until they’re well
coated.
5. Spread granola on a cookie sheet. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring
twice, at 15-minute intervals.
6. Remove from cookie sheet while still very warm and place in a
large bowl.
7. When mixture is cool, add dried fruit.

Picante spice mix
Makes approximately 3 cups

1 cup dried chives
1 cup dried parsley
1/2 cup dried red pepper flakes (or less)
1/2 cup dried onion flakes
1/2 cup minced dried garlic
1/2 cup dried oregano

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well. (Caution: This mix is
spicy. Be careful when handling the red pepper flakes. In this
quantity, you can feel it when you inhale, so stand back from the
bowl.)
2. Buy glass jars for packaging the spice mix (kitchen ware shops
have great choices for just a couple of dollars) or use small
cellophane bags. Attach the following recipe ideas printed on a
card:

Pasta Picante

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan. Add 1-2 teaspoons of picante
spice mix. Toss with your favorite pasta or cooked vegetables.

Dip for Bread

Heat 4 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add 1-2 teaspoons of picante
spice mix. Place in bowl and serve with fresh French or Italian
bread.

Dip for Vegetables

Make yogurt cheese by draining 1 cup of plain yogurt in a yogurt
filter (or a sieve fitted with a paper coffee filter). After several
hours, mix drained yogurt with 1-2 teaspoons of picante spice mix.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Use as dip for fresh vegetables.

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