By Susanne Merrett
The days are getting colder, the nights darker, and everyone's thoughts are turning towards Christmas. The holiday season has changed considerably since I was a wee one. It has morphed and expanded from a week to almost two months, with stores and malls decked out and stocked up, and consumers all aglow.
I am a bit of a purest about Christmas, preferring to avoid the consumer aspect of the season. I tend to give hand-crafted gifts to the ones I love. I let my creative juices flow, and give from the heart. Since I am a bit of a restless artist, tending to work on several projects across many mediums at once, my gifts come in many forms: paintings, prints, hand made cards, mosaics, beeswax candles, and, of course, food.
Even if you don't have any artistic talent, absolutely everyone can make a give a food gift. The Internet is full of wonderful ideas for gifts from your kitchen. From simple to grand, Google and Pinterest can inspire you to culinary treasures. And for an added bonus, you will stretch your gift-giving dollars by making gifts from your kitchen.
One of the simplest food gifts to make has to be a good old-fashioned Hot Chocolate Mix. Four ingredients, no cooking – it could hardly be any easier, or more delish! Confectioners sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and powdered milk mixed together and put into a decorative jar (think Dollarama!) then topped off with mini marshmallows (or crushed up candy cane) and you've got a lovely gift that will warm them from the inside out. (Check out the Pioneer Woman's recipe here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/how-to-make-hot-chocolate-mix/)
Of course, if you want to get adventurous, you could skip the marshmallows and take things up a notch with cayenne pepper. (Alton Brown's Mayan inspired Hot Cocoa recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/hot-cocoa-recipe-1911397 )
With just a little more effort, but still not baking, more gift giving options open up. Nutella Bars, Orange Cranberry Almond Bark, and No-Bake Turtles make gift giving scrumptious. Make a batch for hostess gifts, or office party exchanges, or as stocking stuffers. BuzzFeed offers 21 Festive no-bake ideas at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/thereciperebel/21-easy-no-bake-christmas-treats-1dlvu?utm_term=.rcKdWXBxY#.fkD90k4d2.
By all means, if you are feeling inspired, roll up your sleeves and unleash your inner Martha Stewart (or Julia Childs, or Jamie Oliver, or Laura Calder). Once again, the Internet will provide you with oodles of ideas.
I suppose what it really comes down to is giving from the heart. Your gift need not be fancy, or gourmet, or expensive. What matters most is that is it has a little part of you in it. Wishing you all a joyous Christmas season, filled with love, laughter, and (of course!) great food.