Holiday Handbook: Easy, Affordable Homemade Gifts

Vanilla Sugar:
Split a whole vanilla bean and put in a clean jar.
Bury the bean with granulated sugar.
Close the lid tightly.
Let sit for a minimum of three days.

Orange or Lemon Sugar:
Use the outer peel of an orange or lemon.
Cut strips/sections of the peel and let dry out for a day.
Place the peels in a clean jar.
Cover with granulated sugar. You can layer the sugar with peels as well: sugar; peels, sugar; peels etc.
Cover tightly.

Spiced Nuts With Recipe and Homemade Tag

Spiced nuts are fabulous because they're very easy to make and a great gift for men and women. During the holidays, everyone is always looking for a little snack or a little extra spice, and there are really fun ways to make that a gift and personalize it.

"They're a perfect nosh during the holidays," Soriano said.

Instructions:

Spiced Nuts (recipe courtesy MarthaStewart.com)

Ingredients:
Makes 2½ cups
1 large egg white
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1¾ teaspoons cayenne pepper
2½cups pecan halves, or assorted nuts, such as cashews, walnuts or almonds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat egg white until soft and foamy. Combine all remaining ingredients except pecans; whisk into egg white. Stir in pecans until well coated; spread mixture in single layer onto an ungreased baking pan.

Bake pecans for 15 minutes, then remove from oven. Using a metal spatula, toss, stir and separate nuts.

Reduce oven to 250 degrees and return nuts to bake until medium brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; toss and stir again. Place baking pan on wire rack to cool (they will crisp as they cool).

Break up any that stick together; store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to two weeks.

**Recipe from Martha Stewart Living, November 1997

Homemade Holiday Gift Tips

Pre-Potted Bulbs

Prepotted bulbs are a great gift because you can give them now and they'll be ready in the spring. You can get the bulbs at your nursery now and it's really the gift that keeps on giving.

Instructions:

Items Needed:
Bulbs suitable for the season (e.g., daffodils, hyacinths, tulips)
Terra cotta pot
Potting soil (preferably pre-made bulb mix)
Fertilizer
Stones
Place several stones over the drain hole in the bottom of your pot.
Fill container half full with potting soil
Plant bulbs with pointed ends up
Finish filling container with potting soil
If preparing the gift a couple of days ahead of time, water the pot thoroughly from the top until plenty of water runs from the drain holes to help settle the soil.
Once your bulbs are potted, make a decorative gift tag with the type of bulb in the pot as well as instructions on how to make the plant grow.

Gifts for Pet Lovers

Homemade Dog Biscuits

Soriano said homemade dog biscuits are actually quite easy to make. Everybody wants to keep their dog healthy and keep their teeth clean, and it's a very easy recipe. You can cut them with a cookie cutter, you can cut them with the top of a glass and make little discs and they're really fun to wrap and people will love them.

Instructions:

Homemade Doggie Biscuits Recipe (Recipe courtesy AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients:
2½ cups sifted whole wheat flour
½ cup dry milk powder
1 cube beef bouillon, crumbled
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked ground pork
1 cup grated carrot
6 tablespoons shortening
1 egg
½ cup cold water

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