Homemade recipes can make the best gifts | NevadaAppeal.com

Homemade recipes can make the best gifts

Amanda Long
For the Nevada Appeal

There are a lot of options out there on the web for Do-It-Yourself homemade food gifts.

You can hop on Pinterest and get an overload of ideas. We all know you can pin ideas to your heart’s content, but what will you actually make? What can you make that’s both personal and easy to make? Something that will still allow you time to partake in the holiday festivities — tree lightings, ice skating, light watching, all of that jazz?

These are the recipes I use each year. Homemade hot cocoa, vanilla extract, limoncello (adults only) and seasoning salts. They’re easy enough for you to make, while feeling good about giving your family and friends a personally made gift. We all know our time is one of our most valuable possessions. So when I get a personally made gift, it warms my heart. I know that person really cares. And homemade goodies are always the best tasting.

My hot cocoa is one of my most popular gifts. Really though, who doesn’t like hot cocoa? Chocolaty warm goodness for a cold winter night. I can see why it would be popular. My kids love it, and there’s something that’s so much more delicious about homemade hot chocolate. You can visit my blog for a homemade marshmallows recipe, if you‘re feeling adventurous.

They don’t take long to make, they’re not complicated and the kids get a kick out of making them from scratch.

For hot cocoa, my instructions say to make the cocoa with milk, you can mix it with water, too. But milk adds rich creaminess to the cocoa and while it’s a little more decadent, it’s the holidays and calories don’t count during the holidays, right? Well we can wish for a Christmas miracle.

HOT COCOA

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)

2 1/2 cups powdered milk

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon vanilla seeds from 1/2 a pod (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into individual gift bags or a nice jar. Mason jars work well.

Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in 8 ounces hot milk. Stir to combine.

The mix keeps indefinitely in the pantry. Water also can be used in place of milk. Milk makes the cocoa more rich and creamy.

LIMONCELLO

10 lemons

1 bottle plain vodka

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 1/2 cups water

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons avoiding the white pith from the lemon peels. (Squeeze the lemon juice into ice cube trays and freeze for a couple hours, then keep in the freezer in a plastic bag. Use whenever you need fresh lemon juice.)

Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature. In a cool dark place — the pantry works best.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to pretty bottles. Seal the bottles refrigerate up to 1 month. Mix with some iced tea for a spiked Arnold Palmer.

Vanilla Extract

5 vanilla beans

1 cup vodka (bourbon, rum or brandy)

Slice the vanilla beans in half. Place in a large jar with a lid.

Pour in the vodka or other liquor in the jar.

Shake the bottle and let sit in a cool dark place. Shake every few days.

Wait about 8 weeks and your extract is ready.

For Christmas gifts make a cute gift tag and write the ready date on the tag for your giftee.

Cost Plus World Market and the Container Store are the best places to get cheap stylish bottles or containers for these gifts. Happy Holidays to you and your families.

Amanda Long is passionate about cooking and posts her favorite recipes at http://www.stuffurface.wordpress.com. She is also the owner of Chive Cooking.