Join Me in the Kitchen! – Dec. 10, 2012

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Vicki McGraw
Vicki McGraw, Jamestown Gazette Contributing Writer

So…how many things have you crossed off your Christmas to-do list?? I know I have very little crossed off, and in turn, an awful lot left to do! I am ready to start thinking homemade gifts will be a good idea. I can stay home on my day off and create really special gifts, rather than fight the crowds at the mall to spend too much on boring, ordinary stuff.

There are so many simple to make, wonderful to receive gifts. From mason jar mixes to works of art, the thing that matters most is that the gift was made by your own hands. There are dozens of “checkout magazines” at every supermarket stand that will guide you step by step to a wonderful array of gifts. When my kids were little we always made cinnamon applesauce angels and I loved receiving jars of chocolate chip cookie mix and friendship tea. Much like giving a tray of homemade cookies, a homemade gift will warm the heart of its recipient!

Today we are so busy with life in general that it seems like it would take less time to just go to the store and buy a gift, but in truth, one trip to the store can provide you with the materials to create many memorable gifts that you can put together in an assembly line of your own. By purchasing a dozen mason jars and the ingredients for 12 batches of chocolate chip cookies, you will create 12 gifts…for the postman and paper carrier, neighbors and the kids’ teachers. Simply layer the dry ingredients in the jars, add the lid and tie the recipe on with a pretty ribbon and you are all set. The same can be done with just about any recipe; simply layer all of the dry ingredients in your jar…brownies, quick breads, cookies, even flavored teas, cocoas and other beverages. Add the recipe and you are done.

Another fun food craft is cinnamon applesauce angles. By mixing dry cinnamon and applesauce, you can make a great craft dough out of which

you can cut a variety of shapes to make ornaments or other decorations. Not only are they cute, but they will make the house smell wonderful! Do you remember “shrinky dinks”? (the homemade stained glass window decoration). You can make similar decorations by crushing hard candies, putting them on a foil lined baking tray and baking until they have melted.

Let’s not forget tissue paper wreaths and magazine Christmas trees. Remember being in kindergarten and folding Reader’s Digest magazines over and over until the whole book looked like a pine tree (kinda, sorta, if you squinted)? I’ll always remember the smell of the spray paint in the art room… And when I look at my Christmas tree each year it is like a chronology of Todd and Mark’s school years. There is a special ornament made by each of them each year from preschool on. And we can’t forget homemade Christmas cards. Those are always my favorite! Just yesterday I came home to find two beautiful cards on my desk, handmade by Todd and his girlfriend Toria. They are ones I will keep long after the holiday has ended!

You don’t need to be a real “crafty” person to create some wonderful gifts this year; you just have to open your mind to taking the time to try it! Start small with just a few things and see how it goes! If you don’t like what you create, you aren’t out much more than a little time, and chances are you will be excited at how fun-and easy-it was!

Cinnamon Applesauce Angels

  •  2 cups ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup smooth applesauce
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • Mix cinnamon and cornstarch; add applesauce to from a soft dough (adding extra cinnamon if dough is too sticky).
  • Roll dough to ¼” thick, cut with cookie cutters. Carefully put cutouts on a foil lined baking tray. Using a straw, make a hole in the top of the ornament for a ribbon or hook. Bake at 300* for 35-45 minutes (or until dry).
  • When completely dry, tie a ribbon through the hole to hang on your Christmas tree.