Adults aren’t the only ones who enjoy giving gifts during the holidays. Kids like being givers, too. That’s why, when thinking about gifts for their teachers, kids often expand the gift list to include what seems like every adult in the school — the computer teacher, librarian, gym teacher, art teacher, custodian, nurse and on and on.
We remember a year when we had three kids at three different schools, and each kid wanted to “gift” every adult they came in contact with at school. At that point the gift-giving was clearly out of hand, and we had but one option — to hit the kitchen. Homemade treats are something most everyone loves and the only way to handle gifts en masse.
We recall — less than fondly — the year we baked 82 dozen chocolate chip cookies, each dozen planted in a tin foil pie plate, wrapped with clear plastic and topped with a big red bow. Cookies seemed like the easy way out but making so many was labor-intensive so we moved into other culinary delights. Part of the fun was researching what we could make in big batches and finding recipes. The kids, of course, helped with the entire process and then shared in the cooking or baking.
Here are some treats you can make in bulk and gave as gifts to teachers, neighbors, friends, co-workers or others on your gift list:
- Hot cocoa mix. No cooking involved here — simply mix the ingredients well and package. This recipe makes a mix that’s far better than most store-bought mixes. Pack it in decorative airtight containers.
- Granola. Granola is super-easy to make — just mix the ingredients, bake, cool and store. Here’s a flexible recipe you should have no trouble making.
- Pumpkin bread. This recipe is quick to make and produces pumpkin bread that is delicious — and smells good, too. Bake the batter in mini loaf foil pans or small ceramic pans the recipient can keep. Tip: Many stores put their ceramic mini loaf pans on clearance after Christmas so plan ahead for next year’s gifts.
- Caramel corn. Plan to spend a bit more time creating this goodie because you’ll be cooking the caramel as well as baking the mixture after you coat the popcorn with the cooked mixture. This caramel corn recipe is from Paula Deen via the Food Network.
- Apple cakes. Just like the pumpkin bread, bake the cake batter in mini loaf pans for a compact little gift. This recipe will make six mini loaves.
- Rice Krispie treats. Almost everyone welcomes this classic American treat. If you want to jazz it up, use a drop or two of food coloring to give this confection a festive red or green look.
- Homemade marshmallows. Yes, you can make marshmallows at home. Martha Stewart makes it sound easy with this recipe but we’ve found whenever a candy thermometer is called for things can get tricky. Still, this one is worth the trouble if you do want to take it on.
- Caramels. It’s possible to make caramels, although once you taste these, you may have trouble parting with them as a gift. This caramel recipe, which promises to be quick and easy, uses the microwave to cook the ingredients, eliminating the need for a candy thermometer.
- If you’re totally short on time and kitchen skills, go with a trail mix known as gorp (good old raisins and peanuts). Add chocolate chips or M & Ms for enhanced flavor. Customize your mix by adding seeds, substituting nuts for peanuts and cranberries or other dried fruit for the raisins. You can also throw in mini marshmallows and/or banana chips for a new twist on an old favorite.
- Chex Mix. Sure, you can buy Chex Mix by the bag in the grocery store but it can’t hold a candle to the homemade mix, which is ever-so-tasty. The flavor of the homemade mix is worth the trouble. You can get the Chex Mix recipe from the Chex website but we prefer our ancient recipe, which uses little round oat cereal instead of bagel chips and pretzel sticks. Give it a try if you have a long list of teachers on your holiday list — or if you want to taste Chex Mix the way it was meant to be:
3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup small pretzel sticks
1 cup round oat cereal
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Mix the first six ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.
In a large ungreased roasting pan, melt the butter, then stir in the seasonings. Gradually stir in the cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. After one hour, spread the mixture on paper towels and cool for about 20 minutes before storing in airtight containers.