Monday, December 23

Christmas gift ideas & Book Review

It is Christmas Eve's Eve. It is December 23 ie...officially crunch time for finishing up Christmas cards, Christmas gifts, and mailing or wrapping them up. Time is counting down for Christmas day. If you are shopping for gifts or been to the post office lately you know what I am talking about.... The stores are packed and I know there are some good sales going on. But if you want to give a more creative, personalized gift filled with love and solid ingredients, or you just remembered you forgot your sister's husband's brother.... here is a gift idea you should check out:

homemade muffin/ bread/cookie mixes 

Hopefully your gift shopping is done, you can sit back with your eggnog or hot cocoa, and enjoy the christmas carols or fun movies of the season. I would love to say that we are doing just that but it is Monday Night football. So we are doing some dinner and screaming at the tv for the next 3 hrs praying that the 49ers might choke. I know it doesn't sound festive. But if they can lose it will really help my Seattle Seahawks. Actually I will be hiding in the living room trying to not think about the christmas pb fudge in my fridge that my loving aunt left for us when she was over watching the seattle/cardinal sunday game with us. 

For this gift idea all you need is a recipe, dry baking/cooking ingredients (common stuff), brown paper sack lunch bags (one per recipe), gallon sized freezer bags (one per recipe), I used a laptop with the ms word program & printer to make the labels with regular white paper, a stapler, tape, some ribbon, and a bow. It takes about 20-30 minutes to make one recipe. Type up the label, print, cut off the extra paper, staple it to the paper sack... super easy. Fill the freezer bag with the dry ingredients seal it. Put in the bag and staple the bag closed carefully not to get the bag inside. You could do this too and be someone's hero. They will never think they were forgotten. Most people think you need a special recipe to do this but you can use your own favorite recipes - stuff you know tastes good.  

heres what that looked like at my house: 

Here are some recipes but -  really  - honestly you can use whatever sounds good or to fit someone's personality or age. You could give a young adult a cookie mix, give a guy a bbq or grill meat rub or a dry chili mix, give a mom bread mix or special hot cocoa with white or dark chocolate. So many choices out there.... The better you know the person the better the gift becomes.  Gift cards work but this is so much better. You gift becomes the gift of time... instead of someone spending time mixing this up themselves they can sit with their family or get an extra errand done or just relax. 

Recipes & Book Review: B+

I used some recipes from book, Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead & Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher, for some my homemade gifts this year. I had never used the book before this and all ideas are my own. As a cook I give it a grade of a b+. It is clear the author knows food and how to manipulate it. Jessica Fisher loads her pages with useful hints, important and creative suggestions, and easy family friendly recipes. Most recipes have under 10 common normal ingredients. There is cooking directions, baking, freezing, defrosting, and storing information for over 200 recipes in this book. Overall it is a good and easy cookbook. You should find your book on amazon or at the library and check it out. True to the title this is not your mothers make ahead and freeze cookbook.... this is new, improved, and efficient! 

What I didn't like? There is no pictures, which is usually a HUGE drawback for me. I love looking at pictures. Also, because of its size and quantity of recipes it comes across as overwhelming and intimidating at first glance. Perhaps images and color pictures could've broken up the text making it more approachable and friendly. To add to the huge daunting task of finding a recipe for a normal cook or novice, feeling, the book's organization is a disadvantage UNLESS you are specifically wanting to freezer cook in bulk. If you are, this book will be genius for you. But, if someone picks up the book looking for one recipe they have to go many pages through an introduction, pre made grocery lists, and pre made possible menus before you get to the first recipe.  I do recommend this book, despite its flaws, because it comes down to food, flavor, and technique and like I said before, this author knows food. 

Recipes you'll want to try/Mixes you may want to gift:
1. Maple Oat Waffles Page 261 & 262
2. Whole Grain Cinnamon Rolls Page 311
3. Vanilla Cranberry Bread Page 291
4. Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Oats Page 284
5. Cardamom Zucchini Cinnamon Rolls (click on the link)
(note if doing this as a mix use sandwich plastic bag to separate the filling from the main dough ingredients)
6. Oatmeal Honey Rolls (click on the link)
7. Orange Cardamom Vanilla Swirl Bread (click on the link)
8. Coconut-Pecan Muffin Mix

Something I want to try next year:

Chocolate Chunk Hot Cocoa Mix

Happy gift giving
Merry Christmas Eve's Eve 
From my kitchen to yours

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Please feel to comment about the pictures or recipe above. Looking forward to reading your comments. Happy reading, cooking, eating, and sharing good food!