Cookies are certainly a gift you can’t go wrong withat this time of year. Prepare at least 5 varieties of cookies in large batches, and the break them up into half a dozen or so of each variety. Holiday-themed tins or a wicker basket lined with a Christmas napkin make a great gift bag to hold the cookies in.

Take your cookie gift a step further, and create an Edible puzzle.  Roll out your sugar or gingerbread dough to a 4- by 6-inch rectangle.  Use a 2 1/2-inch-tall cookie cutter to punch out a shape in the center. With a paring knife, cut 8 to 12 pieces from around the center shape to create a puzzle.  Using a spatula, transfer pieces to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Gently separate cutout pieces from one another (about 1/2 inch) so that they don’t fuse in the oven. Brush lightly with beaten egg white and sprinkle the center shape with sugar.

Create glamorous place setting name tags from sugar cookie dough. Form the cookies with a tag-shaped or ornament-shaped cutters then use a plastic straw to punch a hole in the pointed end of each treat before baking. Decorate with colorful icing after they cool completely.


Cookie dough in itself makes a delicious and thoughtful gift around the holidays. Add patterned wrapping paper to logs bundled in waxed paper and secured with ribbon.


Twisted Cheese Sticks.  Tie a ribbon around a bundle of crispy cheese sticks for a savory gift.


Doesn’t a freshly-baked loaf of bread, Quick Breads, or Mini Bundt Cakes, sound like a fantastic gift to you? Take it a step further and give them a small jar of homemade flavored butter along with the bread.

Hot-chocolate mixes are a cut above most store-bought varieties. Fill jars with the mixes, and include peppermint “stirring” sticks for added flavor and color.

Snowman Soup

 Approximately 12 individual serving gifts out of this recipe.

4 cups powdered coffee creamer or powdered milk

1 cup cocoa                                   3 cups powdered sugar

12 oz. milk chocolate chips             6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

2 Tbsp. vanilla powder (optional)   Miniature marshmallows

Candy canes (wrapped) or cinnamon sticks.


Mix all ingredients well. Place 3 heaping tablespoons per serving in a small plastic bag and close with a twist tie. Place candy cane or cinnamon stick in mug. Place plastic bag in bottom of mug then place a paper cupcake liner on top of bag. Fill with approx. 15 mini marshmallows. Place filled mug into a small plastic bag or wrap with plastic wrap and tie at top. Decorate with curly ribbon. Attach following on a card:

Was told you’ve been real good this year,

Always glad to hear it!

With the freezing weather drawing near,

You’ll need to warm the spirit.

So here’s a little snowman soup, complete with stirring stick.

 Add hot water; sip it slow, it’s sure to do the trick!



Apricot Brandy, With four weeks of foresight, this gift is ready for giving….(so ring in the new year with this batch)… For holiday serving, transfer the liquid into festive bottles. Combine 1 1/2 cups water, ½ cup sugar, and 3 T. honey in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Allow syrup to cool slightly and combine with 4 Cups of brandy and 2 pounds of dried apricots in a large, sealable jar. Store in a cool, dark place for 4 to 8 weeks.  Line a strainer with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and strain the brandy. Discard apricots. Transfer the brandy to a clean container and store for up to 1 year.



Who says gifts from the kitchen have to be edible? Mix up this sugar scrub for a shower treat that will leave your skin silky smooth. Try a candy cane version by using white sugar instead of brown, and adding a few drops of peppermint oil instead of the spices.

Spa in the Kitchen: Sugar Scrubs


The basic ingredients for a sugar scrub are sugar & oil. You can use any skin-safe oil. Oils suitable for massage work well for sugar scrubs. When you find a sugar/oil mixture you like, add some fragrance. Herbs, spices, and essential oils work great. White sugar with lavender buds and a few drops of lemon essential oil are a standard favorite.


Sweet and Spicy Sugar Scrub

1/4 C brown sugar

1/4 C white sugar

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/2 t ground cloves

Oil: light olive oil, almond oil, grape seed oil, apricot oil, jojoba, etc.

optional: a few drops of essential oil, such as cinnamon


Combine everything but oil in a bowl and then add in oil and stir to combine. Store in a container with a lid and keep refrigerated. Pop it in a jar with a ribbon and a label with instructions and you’ve got one unique surprise for someone.


Soap off in the shower so you have clean skin. Stir the sugar scrub and then massage into skin in circular motions for several minutes.  After rinsing, if your skin feels too oily you can use a little bit of soap to wash it off.

 Gifts to give Fido & Tabby

Kibbles for Cats

3 cups whole wheat flour                      2 cups soy flour

1 cup wheat germ                               1 cup cornmeal

1 cup nonfat dry milk                         1/2 cup brewer’s yeast

1 (15 ounce) can mackerel                  5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon cod liver oil                     2 cups of water or as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mash the mackerel into small pieces. Mix in the oil and water. Add the mackerel mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. The dough is tough, so use your hands. Roll dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1/4-inch bits, using a knife or pizza cutter. Mound the bits onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 25 minutes. During baking, occasionally toss the bits with two wooden spoons, so they brown evenly. Turn the heat off and allow the treats to cool thoroughly before removing. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Healthy Dog Snacks

1 3/4 cups brown rice flour            2 tsp toasted wheat germ

1/2 cup brown sugar                     1/4 cup sesame seeds

rind of 1 lemon                            3 T. margarine or creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup fine ground walnuts           1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Combine all the ingredients. Knead until thoroughly blended.

Roll out , or press with your hands,  on well-floured surface, about ¼-inch thick. Cut into desired sizes with a cookie cutter or plastic knife and lift onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, then turn and bake another 15-20 minutes or until done. Cool completely and store in an airtight container or zip top bag. I suggest keeping homemade dog treats in the freezer to extend freshness.


Best of Cooking, Denise