Admission time: I love to get my craft on. However, since having kids, I have had to admit some of my limitations and curb my creative gusto. During the holiday season, I get a lot of “how do you have the time for all this??” from my friends and family. I’m going to let y’all in on a secret: it doesn’t have to be that hard. There are all sorts of things you can create to wow your own lucky gift recipients that won’t break the bank and are fast and easy enough to do during nap time (or that 45 minutes after your kids are asleep and before you settle in for your evening “me” time). Here are six deceptively easy ones to get you started. I won’t tell if you won’t.
You can stir, chill, roll, cut, frost, and go wild with amazing snowflake/gingerbread creations. Or, you can make these simple snacks that your kids can help with. The combination possibilities are endless, so feel free to adjust to your liking. My husband likes mini Reese’s peanut butter cups. I like caramel kisses or Rolos. The only thing I do not recommend is chocolates with whole nuts in them, as they mess with the squishing. The base here is little pretzels (note: I used the grid ones, but pretzel-shaped ones tend to have less breakage). Spread them out on a cookie sheet. If you’re using a chocolate with caramel or some other filling, I’d recommend putting down some parchment paper just to make cleanup easier. Set your chocolate of choice on top of each pretzel, and put the tray in a 175°F oven for 2–3 minutes. You want the chocolate to just start to soften. The caramel-filled kisses were still too solid after two minutes, so I put them back in for a minute. Pull the tray out and quickly (GENTLY!) squish an M&M on top (Reese’s pieces work here too). Put the whole tray in the fridge until it hardens. This deceptively simple treat is the perfect combination of salty, sweet deliciousness and is super popular with our kids’ teachers every year.
This one is a bit more involved, but it’s easier than you think—promise. Mix all the ingredients together and let them sit for a couple of days. Then blend it up in a food processor and you are done. This stuff is STOUT and amazing anywhere you would otherwise use a good Dijon mustard. It does mellow the longer it sits in the fridge, so make it early and let it hang out for a week before you gift it. The recipe is from Saveur, but don’t let that intimidate you!
3. Flavored Salt
This is a great gift for the gourmet-lover in your life or someone who just wants to up their weeknight dinner game. Finishing salt sprinkled on broccoli probably won’t make your five-year-old eat it, but it will be delicious for the adults at the table! Buy a box of kosher salt and mix in flavors you like. Chop your additions SUPER FINE. Then mix in with your salt. Be generous here—about one to one and a half teaspoon of flavoring to ¼ cup salt. If you use a “wet” addition you will want to spread your flavored salt out on a cookie tray and let it dry overnight. You can use whatever you have on hand or consider these combinations: 1 tsp. red pepper flakes + 1 tsp. lime zest + 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika; 1/2 tsp. lemon zest + 1/2 tsp. orange zest + 1/2 tsp. rosemary or 1 tsp. dried lavender. Pour your finished salt into a little jar and gift to your favorite cook.
4. Toffee Vodka
As befits a delicious alcohol recipe, this one is ridiculously easy. Use a solid mid-range vodka. No need to spend a lot on the good stuff, but you do still want it to be drinkable. Pour a 750-ml bottle of vodka into a large mason jar. Add about 20 Werther’s candies (the hard ones). Let sit overnight or until the candy dissolves. Shake it up and pour into a pretty bottle for your lucky recipient. Make a label with a recipe for a Toffee Martini if you want to inspire them (4 oz toffee vodka + 2 oz chocolate liqueur + 1 oz amaretto + 1 oz toffee syrup).
5. Sugar Scrub
Mix together 2.5 cups of sugar with 1 cup of olive oil (or get super fancy and use coconut oil). Add in your favorite scent and a bit of color, and you’re done! I used peppermint essential oil and a drop of red food coloring. This stuff is fantastic for rough heels or tired hands. It makes that 10-minute shower feel a bit like a spa. Warn your recipient, though, that they need to rinse the floor of the shower thoroughly as the oil can get slippery.
6. Dog Treats
Let your friends with four-legged kiddos know you’re thinking of them. These Pumpkin and Molasses Homemade Dog Treats have real food in them, and my pups totally approve. These keep in the fridge for two months, and I can assure you that they are totally edible by humans. But perhaps include a label that clearly notes they are for dogs so that the gift recipient’s spouse doesn’t question your baking skills when he/she accidentally samples one of them.
I love to spoil my friends and family during the holidays—both two-legged and four-legged alike!—and it’s double nice when I don’t have to go crazy doing it. Do you have any secretly simple homemade Christmas gifts? What do you make for your loved ones?