Handmade, consumable gifts are a thoughtful way to extend holiday greetings without breaking the bank. Edible treats are ideal accompaniments to purchased gift cards, or you can wrap up a few items along with candles and napkins in a gift bag. Children can help with the making and packaging of these goodies, giving them an opportunity to prepare gifts for their friends. I like to make an assortment of items in late November to have a supply of treats all ready for the busy days of December.
Zesty Snack Mix
When I was growing up, my favourite snack mix was a savoury baked delight, called Nuts and Bolts because of the pretzels and Cheerios in it. We only ever had it at Christmas time and it was one of those treats I yearned for all year long. While it remains a favourite of mine, my family prefers this zesty version. Because it’s no-bake, young kids can make it by themselves!
½ cup vegetable oil
1 package powdered ranch dressing mix
1 tbsp dried dill
1 box Crispix cereal
1 bag thin pretzel sticks or twists
1 bag plain or cheddar Goldfish crackers
- In a one-cup measure, combine oil, ranch dressing mix and dill. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine half the cereal, pretzels and Goldfish crackers.
- Drizzle 1/3 of the oil mixture over the cereal mixture and stir gently to combine.
- Add remaining cereal, pretzels and crackers; drizzle remaining oil mixture over the top and stir again.
- Pour the entire mixture into a large paper bag and fold the top to close.
- Let stand one hour on the counter, gently shaking every 10 minutes or so and then laying the bag to rest on a different side. The paper will absorb the excess oil.
- Store snack mix in an airtight container for up to a month.
Roasted Snacking Nuts
Maple Roasted Almonds
1 pound raw almonds
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon good quality sea salt
- Put almonds in a bowl.
- Drizzle maple syrup over top and stir to coat well.
- Add oil and stir again.
- Spread on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until syrup bubbles, thickens and coat the nuts evenly.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt immediately before the syrup hardens. Toss gently to distribute salt.
- Let cool, break apart any clumps and package in airtight jars.
- Store at room temperature.
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Combine the sugar, cayenne, paprika, cumin, chipotle chili powder, and salt in a small bowl.
- Spread pecans out on a parchment-line baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes.
- While nuts are roasting, put the honey in a small bowl or glass measure and warm it on medium heat in the microwave for 1 – 2 minutes until it is runny.
- Drizzle the honey over the nuts and stir to thoroughly combine.
- Return the nuts to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Stir the nuts to turn over and coat again with honey at the bottom of the pan.
- Cook for 5 minutes more; the honey syrup should be nice and bubbly at this point.
- Remove nuts from oven and sprinkle spice mixture over them. Stir well to evenly distribute spices.
- Allow nuts to cool completely on the pan then transfer to an airtight container for storage.
Marshmallow Caramel Popcorn
Unlike most sticky popcorn mixes, the coating for this version does not have to be cooked on the stove, making it easier for kids to help. Do be cautious, though, as the melted butter, sugar and marshmallows is scalding hot; you’ll definitely want to supervise the stirring and pouring.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
8 – 10 regular sized marshmallows (or 30 – 40 miniature ones)
6 cups popped popcorn
- Put butter and sugar in a 2 cup glass measure (or microwave safe bowl).
- Microwave at medium-high for approximately 2 minutes, until bubbly.
- Stir, then add marshmallows. Microwave until melted, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until marshmallows have melted.
- Stir vigorously to combine, drizzle over popcorn placed in a large bowl.
- Let cool slightly before eating and break apart largest clumps.
- Store in airtight containers.