Eat Well, Spend Less: Homemade Substitutes for Holiday Favorites

You may have noticed the barrage of holiday food items in supermarkets. The towers of garishly colored fruitcake, rows and rows of pale frozen shrimp rings, and battalions of eggnog cartons.

As most of these once-a-year items tend to be highly processed and contain unrecognizable ingredients, they never make it into my shopping cart. That is not to say I don’t enjoy eggnog, butter tarts or other Christmas-time specialties, I just try to make them myself, from scratch, when I can, because they taste that much better and I know what they contain.

Take fruitcake, for example. My mother’s recipe (which was also her wedding cake) contains ingredients like fresh lemon zest, dried figs, currants and apricots, apple cider and rum, and freshly ground spices. It’s a confection that makes you weak in the knees and momentarily lose your train of thought.

My mother’s Christmas fruit cake simply cannot be compared with a commercial product, which – in a perfect example of mystery ingredients – contains those candied ‘fruits’, fruits that are actually pieces of dyed rutabaga. Yep, turnip.

We know homemade is better, so why spend a penny of your Christmas budget on less than stellar products when, with a little planning, you can make many, if not all of your favorite holiday foods?

Today I’ve rounded up some recipes for traditional and popular holiday foods. As we all come from different backgrounds, cultures and family traditions, my favorites may vary from yours. Feel free to share your holiday eats, recipe notes, or personal must-haves in the comments!

[Read more…]

Beautiful Cookies for the Artistically Inept (Brown Sugar Molded Cookies)

Written by Lynn Craig of Cookie Baker Lynn.
This is undeniably the season for making cookies. Cookie swaps, cookie plates for the neighbors, gifts of cookies for teachers, and nostalgia all demand that we spend some time in the kitchen. Even people who rarely bake the rest of the year will dust off their old, faithful cookie book and bake up a batch or two of the family favorites.

Because I bake cookies all the time, I like to create something different, really beautiful and special for gifting. Unfortunately I have the decorating skills of a four-year-old on a sugar high. Lots of enthusiasm, not so much art.

I don’t have the patience or steady hands to intricately frost a cookie, let alone a dozen cookies! Fortunately there is a way to make gorgeous cookies for the artistically handicapped, like myself, that doesn’t take days and days of work.

[Read more…]

Two Versatile Homemade Chocolates for Gifting

Written by Cheri of Kitchen Simplicity

I always love making homemade edible gifts to give to people over the holidays. I do, however, try to keep them simple so that they’re not an added stress to an already busy holiday season, so that you can make your loved ones feel special and still be able to actually spend time with them.

Homemade chocolates are a perfect gift to make because not only do they store well in the freezer (if someone is already overloaded with goodies) but they are extremely easy to make and do not require a candy thermometer.

You can get the kids involved too, giving them a fun project on those cold days when you’re all stuck inside. I’m sure they’d be proud to give a batch to their grandma knowing that they had a hand in making them (Grandma will like that too).

I share two of my favorite homemade chocolate recipes below, which are both easy and versatile. For each, I’ve provided a basic recipe along with some of my tried and true flavor combination as well as ways that you can adapt it to make it your own.

[Read more…]