It was a conversation with my 88-year-old mother, Barbara White, that generated the idea for a Simple Gifts series. Mom has always loved baking up a storm right before Christmas, making dozens of different kinds of cookies, then arranging them on plates to give to friends and family. But this year, she said with great regret, she is “too tired” to bake cookies for everyone. “I will just buy a box of chocolates for the people on my list”. I said, “Oh, Mom! You sound so sad! I know you want to give something homemade!” So I suggested that she make something simple. A homemade gift that doesn’t keep you in the kitchen for hours. The first idea I suggested was oven-roasted nuts. They are fabulously delicious, and so, so easy to make. People will love them!
There must be zillions of people who are just like my mom – “too tired”. Families with brand new babies, grandmothers like my mom who have children and many, many grandchildren; young people who work until they drop then rush out to a late-night party with friends; people recovering from illness. We all at some point or another feel like we just don’t have the time or energy for handmade gifts. But you do! Our new Simple Gifts series will feature easy homemade gift ideas that take thirty minutes or less to create! Every month we will feature a new gift that is fast and easy to create, and most of them will be easy to make quickly in multiples so you can do a lot of them at once.
Guidelines for Simple Gifts:
• Plan ahead. Think about and decide what you want to do well in advance so you can do the shopping portion of the giftmaking along with other errands. Have all materials and ingredients on hand when it is time to make the gift.
• Packaging. Pretty packaging makes any gift special. Arm yourself with a supply of small boxes or cellophane bags and ribbon. We also recommend having your own personalized tags or labels on hand. Use generic wording so they can be used on a multitude of items. For example, mom’s tags and labels say “with love from Grammie.” With no reference to what the item is, they can be used on anything!
• It is not the item itself that is special; it is the idea that you think enough about a person to prepare something personally for them. Sometimes your gift doesn’t even have to be handmade; but hand-assembled. Follow this monthly series and you will see examples of both.
I just discovered this year that freshly roasted pecans are outrageously delicious. So are freshly roasted walnuts; no salt needed. They are excellent for snacking; serving as appetizers with wine; or when crumbled, as a garnish on salads, yogurt, meats or roasted winter squash.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place shelled nuts on a baking sheet and bake 5-15 minutes, watching carefully, stirring often (every 2-3 minutes). Nuts are very sensitive to the heat, and uneven oven heat can burn some and leave others underdone. Stirring frequently will help them toast evenly. Bake until lightly browned and remove from oven. Allow to cool on the baking sheet. Put about 1/2 cup (2-3oz) of nuts in each cellophane bag; fold down the top and seal with a customized label.
I like to make a dozen nut packages at once. Once you’ve finished, store them in an air-tight container to keep them fresh until gift-giving.