Do you ever find yourself short on time and money during the Christmas season? Living over forty miles from the closest mall and stop light, time is the one thing I find myself short on. I can’t just run to the store for a forgotten gift, unless I can find three hours to spare.
Here’s some tips for easy gift ideas and ways to cut time and still be able to get homemade goodies baked.
1. Make your dough ahead of time. I mix up a enough pastry dough for two double crusts pies and divide into four balls. Wrap it in plastic wrap and toss it in the freezer. When I need to bake a pie or pop a quick Quiche in the oven for breakfast or dinner, I just need to open my freezer door. You can either thaw the dough in the fridge overnight or leave it on the counter for about an hour and a half. I also do this with cookie dough. It works great for sugar cookies, no waiting for that dough to chill before rolling. Just be sure to thaw in the fridge for a few hours. I do the same with chocolate chip cookies, but freeze the dough in a log and then chop while still frozen and bake at normal temp and time.
2. Baking mixes in a jar. Grab some quart size mason jars. I pick up extras at garage sales throughout the year for this. Fill them with your favorite dry ingredients for cookies or brownies. I like to add the Christmas colored M&M’s, or crunch up some candy canes for the top layer on brownies. Use your imagination. A cute circle of fabric for the top and tie it with some ribbon or raffia. Be sure to include the directions for the liquids and baking. These are especially nice for neighbors, co-workers, and teachers.
My mother made brownie mixes this way a few years ago and when we were invited to a last-minute party, I just tossed a pan in the oven and didn’t have to worry about finding something to bake.
3. Snowman poop. Yes, you read this right! Simply use a packet of hot cocoa mix, top with mini-marshmallows, and tie on a candy cane. There are tons of recipes on-line for this. You can put the ingredients in a mug or dump the cocoa in a Ziploc bag or clear cellophane and add some curled ribbon. Here’s an adorable site w/ instructions.
4. Bring out the crock pot. Finding time to cook a meal for your family can be hard during all the extra holiday activities. Toss your favorite recipe in the slow cooker. Almost everything you cook in the regular oven can be adapted to the slow cooker. Just add a little extra liquid. Or, put oatmeal in the night before and set on low. Breakfast is served!
I’d love to hear what gifts you make or tips for saving time in the kitchen.