If you have a foodie friend or family member or anyone for whom it is difficult to find gifts, take a look at these. These are specifically edible gifts, easily consumed so they won’t clutter the house. They are also easy to make and budget-friendly, so you don’t need to worry about breaking your budget. Just pack in a mason jar, tie a pretty bow around the lid, label and you’re done!
Vanilla Sugar is a great staple to be used in baking, tea, or coffee.
Lavender Sugar is a great addition to sugar cookies, shortbread, tea, or coffee.
If you are looking for last minute, budget-friendly gifts for your loved ones, consider one of the following. These are all homemade and most ingredients can be found in your own kitchens. Make up a big batch, divide them into mason jars, label and decorate with a pretty bow, and you’re done!
While we were living in Saudi Arabia, it was almost impossible to buy vanilla extract, since the authorities assumed the little bottles contained alcohol (a no-no in Saudi Arabia). Instead, I would pick up packets of vanilla sugar when we visited our Oma in Germany every summer.
Now that we are living back in Canada, I can buy pure vanilla extract. The real thing is pricey, so I decided to try my hand at making my own vanilla extract using vanilla beans and some rum. Vanilla extract is such a common ingredient in desserts because it enhances the flavours of cakes, cookies and puddings, just like salt does when used in cooking savoury dishes. It especially brings out the flavours of chocolate, coffee, fruit and nuts. The specific flavour and aroma of the vanilla depends on where the beans were grown. Madagascar vanilla is sweet and buttery while Tahitian vanilla is fragrant and floral. The best vanilla extract I ever bought was a dark homemade bottle in St Kitt’s, which was sweet and buttery with notes of caramel – possibly because the base liquor was rum! I only use it in relatively plain, non-baked desserts where the special flavour can truly shine.
Vodka gives the cleanest taste to the extract, but you can also try rum, bourbon or brandy. After at least 6 weeks, you can use the vanilla extract straight from the jar, and allow the beans to continuing soaking in the remaining extract. Once the extract is used up, you can add the spent vanilla beans to a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the vanilla beans; stuff more into the alcohol if you can – you want vanilla extract, not vanilla-flavoured alcohol. Vanilla extract needs to be at least 35% alcohol (according to the FDA), so you can just use regular 80-proof liquor, and you’ll need about 10 beans per 250 mL of alcohol. For the best aroma, let the mixture hang out in a jar in a cupboard, away from the light. It is best to let the beans steep in alcohol for at least 6 months for the flavours to fully develop, so try not to rush it. Since I bake often and love vanilla, I think I need to make another batch right away!
While I was roadtripping through New England, one of the restaurants had a seashell of hand scrub in the bathroom. They instructed me to wash my hands, then rub about a teaspoon onto my hands for a minute, then rinse off and dry. My hands were silky smooth and moisturized afterwards!
This scrub is a great way to get smoother skin during the summer, or to moisturize during winter. You can customize it to your own flavour preferences, adding lemon zest, rosemary, rose petals, or lavender. It’s also makes a great, low-cost gift that is easily used up.
You can use a variety of oils; just make sure that they don’t have a strong scent or flavour (and are not too precious; I’d rather eat really good olive oil), such as coconut, olive, grapeseed, apricot kernel, vegetable glycerin, or baby oil.
I don’t know how to skate or rollerblade, which is a bit uncommon for a Canadian. When I was in primary school, our class would walk to the skating rink for skating lessons. Most of my friends took figure skating classes and were zipping around the rink while I clung to the side walls. When our family went skating, my mom would make me do a couple circuits of the rink before she would let me stop. My feet were cold, my toes were numb, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was miserable. The only bright point was when we stopped at the snack bar for Jolly Ranchers, Miss Vickie’s potato chips, and hot chocolate. I was so cold that I couldn’t wait for the hot chocolate to cool, so I would burn my tongue. Always. Always! Even now, sometimes I can’t wait for food to cool before eating it and I make funny faces and do some mouth breathing, much to Rafael’s bemusement. Hot chocolate always reminds me of those miserable days that turned out delicious.
This is a great mix to have on hand whenever you have a hankering for hot chocolate, and it also makes a great gift. Adding the chocolate chips makes the finished hot chocolate that much richer. Just make sure that you let the hot chocolate cool before you drink it.