Now that December is here, Christmas shopping is in full swing! It’s the season of giving, and while material things are always nice to have, my favorite gifts to offer come from the heart of my home, the kitchen. Most folks can be found at the mall hunting for presents this time of year, but you’d have better luck finding me on the baking aisle of the grocery store. My shopping budget is spent on brown sugar and sprinkles, festive packaging and condensed milk.
Some of my most cherished holiday memories are sitting around the Christmas tree opening presents with the family, when my moment comes to give. I’ll not forget about seven years ago when I gave my dad a platter of homemade pecan sandy cookies, made with a sugar substitute to accommodate his health needs. You’d of thought I had wrapped $1 million and had Jesus himself deliver the goods. Dear old Dad welled up with emotion, accepting the gift with great gratitude.
Maybe that’s just my daddy, but it seems every time I bake a gift and share it with someone I love, the gesture is appreciated far more than if I had purchased them a new sweater or neck tie. I don’t attribute that fact to any special cooking skill or hidden talent. I believe it’s because when you give someone something you’ve taken the time to create and added that personal touch, that gift is never more memorable.
Take, for instance, last year. I have a friend who adores all things peppermint. I also know that the man would fight a circle saw for a slice of cheesecake. Therefore, it only made sense to me to combine the two. With a little time and a good recipe, Santa came to town and brought him a peppermint cheesecake for Christmas. He still talks about it today and has requested another one this year.
Homemade food gifts are really special, though I’m aware not everyone enjoys slaving away in the kitchen. Plus, with all the gift wrapping, community events and church functions happening during the holidays, time is of the essence. I’ve got a few gift ideas — homemade and purchased — that’ll make even the biggest Scrooge on your list don a grin.
Festive coffee mug
Purchase an inexpensive and festive coffee mug — they come in all shapes and sizes — and fill it with decorative stuffing. Top it off with individual packages of hot cocoa or a box of hot tea bags. Then, add the recipient’s favorite candy, like red candy canes, special chocolates or even dried fruit.
Refrigerated, pre-packaged sugar cookie dough is a Godsend. Separate dough into individual balls and roll each one in your choice of colorful sanding sugar, alternating colors so each cookie is different. Get creative and have fun with it! Before baking, place a pecan in the center of each cookie by pressing down slightly with your thumb or a Mason jar. Bake according to package directions. If you’re not a fan of sugar cookies, you can never go wrong with a classic recipe like chocolate chip.
Local gift basket
Giving a local gift basket is a fantastic way to support the community and show off your Statesboro pride. Stop by one of the Boro’s wonderful bakeries, like Sugar Magnolia Bakery & Café, and pick up a loaf of fresh-baked bread. Then, visit Braswell’s Food Company for some specialty preserves and fruit butters for the perfect spread to package alongside it. Who wouldn’t love a sweet pecan loaf topped with pumpkin butter?
Wrap each gift in cellophane, add a handwritten note or personal photo and tie everything together with coordinating ribbon. Attaching a recipe to the package is also a nice touch.
When you make your list this year, check it twice. Sharing the gift of food with elderly neighbors and those who serve our community in public safety roles is always a welcomed surprise. Eat well!
Rebekah Faulk is a local food writer and blogger at Some Kinda Good, a Southern, coastal food blog highlighting East coast restaurant reviews and Lowcountry-inspired recipes. Email her at SKGFoodBlog@gmail.com.