Easy Homemade Gifts — Really!

"Instant" Pancake Mix; Alton Brown

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

This week is like the holiday Olympics for moms, jam-packed with recitals, school parties and hours of gift-wrapping. Homemade gifts have always been my favorite to give, and they’re the ones that friends and family talk about for years to come. In the past, spending hours squirreled away in the kitchen wasn’t an issue, but life is quite different these days.

As my daughters grow, homework duties increased, and the list of recipients grew longer, I started re-thinking my homemade gift-giving strategy. I didn’t want to give up on the idea of hand-decorated cookies, but I began to realize I was in need of a compromise. Rather than start crossing names off my “nice” list, I decided to put friends, family and even my girls’ teachers in charge of the final product.

I wanted to give not just the gift of something homemade, but also the gift of time — time together as a family and with friends. The first year I gave out my homemade pancake mix. It was the first time some of friends had made pancakes from scratch. The next year I added a homemade hot cocoa mix to my list. One sip and let’s just say Swiss Miss should be worried.

These are also two easy gifts that kids of any age can help make since there’s no sharp objects or ovens involved. As for packaging, add a few scoops of the mixes to a clear cellophane bag, let the kids color festive holiday scenes on small squares of cardboard — the inside of empty pasta boxes are good for this — and don’t forget to include the cooking directions. Then punch a hole, tie up the bag and tag it with a pretty ribbon or butcher’s twine. Here are two of my favorite recipes to get you started:

Happy holidays!

Jennifer Perillo is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her recipes and tips for feeding families homemade meals are a regular feature in Working Mother magazine, where she’s the consulting food editor, as well Relish Magazine , Parenting , Kiwi and her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen.

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