• Posted by Califia Suntree on December 17th, 2010, 2:54 PM

    It’s now one week to Christmas, so if you don’t already have your gifts squared away you are officially “behind.” According to the National Retail Federation, a mere 16.9% of holiday shoppers have not yet begun the process. Funny, I thought everyone was like me and didn’t think about Christmas until it was breathing down our necks…Who knew Americans were such go-getters? The NRF also reports that the average Christmas celebrant will spend $689 on the holidays, roughly $485 of which is on gifts. Who knew Americans were such spendthrifts? OK, everyone knew that.

    That kind of spending strikes me as unnecessary. Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to handmake things for everyone on your list, you can certainly reduce your spending by supplementing the gizmos, pajamas, and tchochkes with tasty edibles. One of the gifts I remember most vividly from Xmas ’09 is an addictively delicious white chocolate-walnut-Chex candy that my aunt Peggy made (see recipe below). I ate the whole bag so fast I’m surprised I didn’t go into insulin shock, and I can feel the joy to this very day.

    Your handmade edible gifts don’t have to be complicated. The limoncello I made last year was a great way to use up a bumper crop of lemons. And once they were peeled, the labor was done. Try it with grapefruit for a Greyhound twist. Other easy edibles include:

    * Bark — pour melted chocolate over a cookie sheet of dried fruits and nuts. Let set, then break up into pieces.
    * Refrigerator pickles — no canning required! Try it with cucumbers or green beans, or beets.
    * Spicy nuts — mixed nuts (go to Trader Joe’s for these, if you can), toasted and tossed with salt and spices.
    * Granola — gourmet granola costs a fortune in stores, and is so easy to make! Follow this recipe, it never lets me down.
    * Hot cocoa mix — the recipe couldn’t be simpler. Make it gourmet by adding a dash of hot chili powder & cinnamon, dried orange zest, or espresso powder (for a “mocha”).

    Christmas Miracle Mix

    4 cups Rice Chex
    4 cups Cheerios
    4 cups mini pretzels
    1/2 to 1 lb nuts
    2 lbs white chocolate, melted

    Combine the ingredients in a big bowl. Add melted chocolate and stir until it’s all mixed up. Pour onto wax paper, spread it all out in a thin layer Let it dry and break it up. Bag it in cellophane or plastic and tie with a nice bow.

    Happy holidays!

    (photo by: cuttlefish)

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