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Gifts from the hearth

By on November 22, 2008


It’s time to plan ahead for the busy gift-giving season. Why not make something yourself? Homemade gifts from the comfort of your kitchen will stretch your holiday budget. They contain inexpensive ingredients and are simple to make. They can easily be made ahead of time, and, when given early, they can be enjoyed and shared during the holiday season. They’re great gift solutions for hard-to-shop-for people on your list, hostess gifts and those last-minute gifts that catch you off guard, but they are equally perfect for friends and family. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

Wrapping your homemade gifts can be frugal, too. There’s no sense in saving money on making your own gifts and then spending a lot on packaging and gift wrap. You can reuse containers or find great bargains on items such as glass jars, baskets, ribbons, vintage plates and tins. Even if you purchase new, wrappings such as cellophane, mason jars, mugs and gift bags aren’t terribly expensive.

The following recipes are so delicious that you won’t mind having an abundance for your own family to enjoy.

Pumpkin Spice Creamer

6 to 8 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 cups nondairy powdered coffee creamer

Mix ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 2-1/2 cups

Malted Mocha Creamer

2 cups instant hot-cocoa mix
2/3 cup nondairy powdered coffee creamer
2/3 cup malted-milk powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 3-1/2 cups

Baked Caramel Popcorn

2 sticks butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanuts (optional)
5 quarts popped popcorn

Boil butter, corn syrup, vinegar and brown sugar for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add baking soda, vanilla and peanuts if you opt for nuts. Pour over popcorn, and mix until well coated. Place on baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour at 250 F. Stir every 10 minutes or so to separate and prevent burning. Let cool. Break up into pieces, and store in an airtight container.
Tip: To mix things up, add butterscotch chips or almond extract when you add the baking soda and vanilla.

Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

1 (14-ounce) package wrapped caramels
2 tablespoons water
1 package 8-inch pretzel rods
1 bag milk-chocolate chips or chocolate melting wafers (about 3 cups)
Toppings: sprinkles, crushed peppermint, chopped nuts, crumbled sandwich cookies, toffee and chocolate candies.

Unwrap caramels, and place into a microwave-safe bowl with water. Microwave until melted (about 2 to 3 minutes). Stop and stir after 1 minute. Let caramel cool for a minute. Dip pretzel rod, twirl, and coat 3/4 of the rod.

Set coated pretzel on either a baking sheet lined with wax paper or a baking sheet lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.

Dip caramel-coated rods into the melted chocolate, and then dip into chosen toppings. Place on baking sheet to set. Makes 20 to 24 pretzel rods.

Tips: Set up multiple bowls or plates of various toppings. Use white-chocolate chips instead of milk-chocolate chips. Create an additional embellishment by placing a fork into the melted topping of white chocolate or caramel and drizzling onto coated pretzels. Gift wrap in cellophane or place into 2-quart glass jars. To mix things up, try coating sandwich cookies.

For more frugal and homemade gift ideas visit:

One Comment

  1. Candy

    11/25/2008 at 8:24 pm

    Thank you for the great ideas. Money is very tight with my husband out of work. Now I have a few more things to add to my gift giving.

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