Making Gifts to Give

Yes, it’s almost that time of year, and yes, they have already started playing holiday music in the stores.  I prefer to skip the chaos in the stores this time of year, and spend my time in my craft room and kitchen instead. 

Personal and homemade gifts are perfect for just about anyone on your list, but they are especially nice for the teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, co-workers, hairdressers, mail persons, and the paper boys on your list.

I picked up these plastic containers at a dollar store – 3 for $1.00.  With a little scrapbooking paper, embellishments, and a rubber stamp, I made these cute little paper bows and gift tags to decorate them with.  Very inexpensive to make, yet bright and festive.

And of course you need to fill the little boxes, so I  found a perfect recipe for that too.  I made these Chocolate Peanut Butter Crisp Bars from a recipe in the Kraft Food & Family Holiday 2006 Magazine.  I will be sharing the recipe with you in a later post, so make sure you don’t miss it.

The secret to making your own gifts to give, is giving yourself enough time to make them.  Start your projects now so that you won’t be overwhelmed trying to do it at the last minute. 

Do you like to shop till ya drop, or do you like spending time making your own gifts to give?  Or, do you like to do a little of both?

Apples and oranges help make a great holiday food gift

Aside from making Peppermint Chocolates I racked my brain trying to figure out what I was going to bake as holiday food gifts for our close friends this year.  This is an annual ritual for me, and most of the time I make big cookie boxes to pass along.  Being on a bit of a health kick this year I wanted to do something other than cookies galore.   I considered my choices, and hashed, and re-hashed the options over and over again in my head.   Leaning toward breakfast goodies I  narrowed it down to cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, or muffins.   And the winner…..

Oh, these are your clues.  Did they help?  I didn’t figure they would but I just love taking picture of fruit.  I know, weird right? 

This year, muffins won me over.  Apple Oatmeal and Cranberry Orange to be exact.

I’ve made the Apple Oatmeal Muffins before but the Cranberry Orange Muffins were created specifically for this occasion.

I found a recipe for Orange Yogurt Muffins in my Williams-Sonoma cookbook Baking.  I know I’ve mentioned this book a few times before but it’s one of the best.  And no, I’m not getting paid, or any freebies from Williams-Sonoma to promote their book (that would be nice though – hint, hint).  The book just has some awesome recipes in it, along with  pictures of every recipe .  Pictures inspire me.  When I look at my cookbooks without pictures it’s not quite the same. 

With a little tweaking here is what I came up with. This is my adapted version. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Muffins

1 large orange for zest and juice

1/2 c. sugar (1/4 cup for orange mixture and 1/4 cup for later in the recipe)

4 tablespoons of orange juice (from the orange)

5 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2 c. of all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

3/4 c. sour cream

3/4 c. milk

1 can of whole cranberry sauce ( you will need to save 1 tsp. for the glaze but should have plenty left over)

Glaze

1 large orange for zest and juice (you will only need half of the orange)

1 c. powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of orange juice

2 tsp. orange zest

1 tsp. cranberry sauce

pinch of salt

Grease muffin tins, or line with papers. Strip the zest from the orange.  Put the zest into a saucepan and cut the orange in half.  Squeeze the juice from both halves into the saucepan.  Add 1/4 cup of sugar and the butter.  Warm until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted.  Take off heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs, milk, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla and orange mixture.  Add flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Mix until blended.

Spoon batter into muffin cups (about 1/2 full) and then place 1 teaspoon of cranberry sauce onto of the batter in each cup.  Cover the cranberry sauce with more batter so the muffin cup is about 3/4 full. 

Bake for approximately 15 minutes.   While the muffins are baking make your glaze.

To make the glaze zest about half of the orange and put the zest into a  small mixing bowl.  Squeeze the juice from the half of the orange you zested into the bowl.  Add powdered sugar, salt and cranberry sauce – mix thoroughly.

Once the muffins are done let them cool approximately 5 minutes and drizzle the glaze on top.

The Cranberry Orange muffins look so festive.  We immediately delivered them to our friends so they could enjoy them while they were  fresh.   Upon arriving at one of our stops we were greeted by one of  our friends little girls who immediately took the container from my hands (before we could even get inside).  Her eyes were wide and bright.  “Are these for us?” she asked.  As her three little sisters got wind of what had just arrive they surrounded their dining room table like hungry little vultures.  Pure excitement and anticipation radiated from them.  A very happy ending for a baker who didn’t know where to start. 

Do you give holiday food gifts?  What kind of  sweet confections are you whipping up to share this year?