Gifts in good taste are wonderful, but gifts that taste good are the best.
With Christmas just around the corner, you may find yourself wondering what to give that special boss or your child's favorite teacher. Food gifts have long been a popular option. If you take the time to package it prettily, it won't even matter if you don't make it from scratch.
Here are some ideas, including some from our readers, and even some recipes to help you give a tasteful, and tasty gift this holiday.
Former Summit Hill resident Heather Urquiza says she loves to make homemade gifts.
"This year I made homemade vanilla extract for everyone," said Urquiza. "It really is simple to make. I split five Madagascar vanilla beans lengthwise, and placed them in a mason jar. I then added roughly 10 ounces of vodka. The hardest part is waiting a month to a month-and-a-half until it's usable."
Wendy Mengel of Summit Hill makes a lot of homemade gifts, including a variety of jams and fruit butters.
"I make hats, scarfs, sachets and jams, applesauce, apple butter and pumpkin butter, and dog treats," said Mengel, who says she always uses fresh fruit in her apple and pumpkin butter. "I am giving these things as gifts this year."
Providing the ingredients for a homemade treat is a fun, thoughtful gift as well. Pick out a favorite recipe, then carefully layer the dried ingredients into a large mason jar. Include a recipe with the jar, explaining what's inside and what the receiver needs to add, as well as directions to make it. This is a great idea for hot cocoa or cookies. Just make sure you choose a jar large enough to hold all of your dry ingredients. Print out the directions and either glue them to the front of the jar, or hang them from a ribbon tied around the mouth of the jar.
Decorate the jar with a square of colorful fabric and a piece of twine, ribbon or rafia.
For more than 20 years, I have been making dozens of loaves of Poppy Seed Tea Bread every Christmas. I usually start baking in mid-November, and freeze the loaves to give out at Christmas time. This recipe came to me from my friend Donna Angus in Belvidere, N.J. We had a wonderful group of friends who all had children the same age. We would get together regularly at each other's homes or at the town pool. Someone always made a batch of this tea bread to share.
When I moved to Pennsylvania, I began making it each year for teachers, bus drivers, co-workers, hair stylists, the letter carrier just about everyone. It is the recipe I am asked for more than anything else I make. So, as my gift to our TIMES NEWS readers, I'm happy to share the recipe with you this year. I will offer you one warning: once you make this for friends and family, you will be making it over and over (and over) again.
Makes three 9-inch by 4-inch loaves
3 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Blend all ingredients. Pour into three medium loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 60-75 minutes, on until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes.
cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Poke holes in baked bread with a fork. Warm glaze in the microwave for about a minute on high, until sugar is dissolved. Pour over warm loaves in pan. Leave in the pan for at leat an hour to absorb glaze. Remove from pan. This bread freezes well.