Saturday, December 02, 2006

Frugal gift-giving: holiday cookies with a personal twist!

The golden rule of frugal gift-giving is to be thoughtful and personal. If your recipient knows that you put time and effort into your gift for them, and were thinking about them and what they'd like, your gift is likely to be appreicated.

One of my favorite ways to do this at the holiday season is by giving homemade cookies, candy, or other sweets-- and specifically by baking gingerbread cookies. Tasty treats are usually well-received to begin with. But alongside the cookies shaped like snowmen and trees, wrapped presents and wreaths, I also make special personalized cookies for each recipient. Whether it's making cookies that look like their cats, attempting cookies shaped and decorated like cameras to recognize their favorite hobby, apple cookies for a teacher, human-shaped cookies that look like the person in question, or anything else that will tickle their fancy, it's a fun challenge to let your creativity run wild deciding what cookies fit the person and then figuring out how to make them come alive out of dough and icing.

You don't have to be a brilliant artist or a practiced cookie-decorator to make this work; it's easier than it sounds. (Although you'll probably want to plan on making more than you need to give, so you can save the mistakes to be eaten in your own household-- they still taste just as good!) You can use cookie cutters if you've got the appropriate ones, but you can also carve out shapes with a knife just as well-- and the recipe I use even holds up well to being shaped and sculpted by hand. You don't need special equipment for the icing, either; plastic bags with holes cut in the tip work just fine. (I like to use meringue/egg white powder in my icing, but you can make a serviceable icing with just powdered sugar and water.)

And of course, if you have kids, this is a great project to include them in! They may not be able to pull off finely detailed cookies, but they'll have a blast cutting out fun shapes and then bringing them alive with color.

What kinds of hand-made gifts do you give? Are there any special ways you add personal touches?


Jenn said...

I like making Biscotti, Peppermint Bark and Spiced Nuts for my family. All three of them are super easy to do and look impressive. The nuts are of course much more expensive than the others, but the peppermint bark is literally just melting white chocolate and mixing in crushed candy canes, pouring it into a pan to harden and breaking it into pieces. And have you seen how much that stuff goes for in stores???

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