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Last-Minute Homemade Gifts (Right From The Pantry)

By Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

Every year during the holidays, I find myself needing a last-minute gift for a thoughtful co-worker or neighbor who has graced me with something special. My circle of family and friends is rather small, which makes things easier when it comes to my end of things, but it is inevitable that I will receive a gift from someone that I wasn’t expecting. I really enjoy giving to people, so I always have a backup plan just in case. Most of the time it is of the homemade variety.

I love to give homemade gifts. Which one of my kids do you want?

Take my kids, please!

I like to give homemade gifts because they allow me to express my appreciation in a creative way. While I am in the process of making, I get to concentrate on the recipient and kind of imbue the gift with a little extra love. I am giving them my attention and time (and blood, sweat and tears, depending on what I’m making). I also like to give something that can be shared with others, which is why I try to include a recipe or instructions on how to make it. For me, it really all is about sharing. Me sharing my energy by making and giving, and then hopefully passing the experience along.

I like to make edible gifts, but with the proliferation of fudge, cookies and cakes floating around the office at Christmas I think it’s nice to offer a little variety and mix it up with some savory snacks. This also helps balance out a workplace sugar coma. Below are links to a few homemade food items, including a delicious spicy nut mix that can be made well in advance.

Even some edible ingredients can be used to make pampering gifts. Brown sugar and honey can be mixed together to make a hydrating and exfoliating sugar scrub. Another great idea is making a natural countertop cleaner with just water, vinegar, a little dish detergent and some essential oils. Most craft stores carry spray bottles, or you can order them online. Add a custom label with ingredients (and amounts) and it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

Try your hand at some of these easy last-minute gift ideas. Many of the ingredients and supplies are probably already in your kitchen. You could also invite some friends over for a gift-making party. Choose one or two ideas, have everyone bring an item on the supply list, and enjoy a glass of wine and A Christmas Story on the DVD player. Actually, if Ralphie had given his teacher one of these gifts instead of a fruit basket, he just might have gotten an A+ on his essay.

Get creative and use favorite recipes to create original gifts of your own. Your friends are sure to enjoy receiving them as much as you enjoyed making them.

Happy Gifting!



Homemade Vinaigrette

Homemade Vinaigrette Dressing

This homemade vinaigrette is a great gift for anyone on your list. This tangy dressing can be used traditionally (on a salad) or as a marinade for tofu or fish. It contains no artificial flavors, sugar or preservatives and can last in the fridge for up to a week. The main ingredients are olive oil, salt and pepper, which are found in most every kitchen. Assembly is easy and when done in mass batches, you could have enough gifts to cover everyone on your list.


BBQ Dry Rub For Grilled Veggies or Meat

Barbecue Dry Rub for Grilling Meat or Veggies

Does anyone ever know what type of gift to give to a guy? Sure, you could just run out and buy some electronic gadget thingy (or a gift card — LAME!), but he probably has at least a dozen similar man items that just sit around collecting dust. That’s where this amazing BBQ dry rub comes into play. It is suited for grilling vegetables or white meat, and if you don’t live in Alabama like me (which is great for cold-weather grilling) it is versatile enough to transfer to the oven. I always like to write the ingredients on the label so it can be made again. Add a package of bamboo skewers and a basting brush and you’ve got a ready-made gift (and probably dinner).


Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts by Ina Garten

Ina Garten's Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts

This amazing recipe comes by way of uber-chef, Ina Garten. She is the queen of delicious and anyone who receives this spicy snack will thank you (and probably ask for the recipe, so be a dear and include it). This gift is good for anyone and is a welcome change from the usual holiday party suspects like Chex Mix and cheese balls . Paired with a six pack of craft beer or luscious wine, and you have an instant party! These can be boxed or bagged and they also travel well, making them perfect for giving to your friends who will be traveling over the holidays.


All-Natural Household Cleaners

Mandarin and Mint Natural Household Cleaners

I have been a fan of natural and vegetable-based cleaners for quite a while. Sometimes simple really is better, and the smell of this natural grime-buster can't be beat. It's safe around children and pets, making it the perfect gift for anyone who has recently moved, had a baby or just happens to be a cleaning freak. Perhaps I'll make some for my husband. You could add a few cotton towels and print custom labels for the bottles, then box it all up for the perfect housewarming gift. How thoughtful!


Homemade Sugar Body Scrub

Brown Sugar Body Scrub

I saved the best for last. I have been making sugar scrubs for years and everyone who I have given them to has just flipped. I prefer making to purchasing because it is less expensive, more fun, and you can blend ingredients based on your friends' skin types for a truly custom gift. You can use salt, oatmeal, white sugar or brown sugar, and a variety of carrier essential oils. Avoid using mineral oil or vegetable oil (as used in cooking). These are not aromatherapy grade oils and I would not recommend that these be applied to the skin. Check out www.aromaweb.com for more information on carrier and essential oils. Oh, and be sure to make extra. After you've seen the results you're going to want some for yourself.

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