Spice Things Up a Bit This Holiday Season: Give the Gift of Cooking

Delight your family and friends this season by taking a little extra time—and spending a little less money—to create personalized culinary gifts. The old adage—it’s the thought that counts—shows its true colors when making a special gift for that special someone. The little extra creativity goes a long way.A large mason jar is spacious enough to hold all the dry ingredients necessary for a batch of homemade cookies. For a simple and economical holiday gift, load up on these jars, which can be found at any grocery store. Pick up enough ingredients for the number of batches of cookies you want to give. Measure the ingredients, and pour them in the jar one layer at a time, so they don’t mix together—the layering effect is a nice, ascetically pleasing touch. Wrap a piece of twine or yarn around the jar, and attach the cookie recipe.

Chocolate chip cookies not only are simple, but also just about everybody can get down with them, which makes a mason jar full to the brim with the appropriate ingredients an excellent—and unique—gift. Just fill the jar with flour, baking soda, brown sugar, white sugar, and semisweet chocolate chips. Give it to the lucky friend.

Food baskets always have been the easy way to go when it comes to gift-giving, but by coming up with themed ones, you can save money and personalize them. Baskets, which can be found at any craft or second-hand store for a very reasonable price, come in various shapes and sizes. Instead of filling them with the usual cheeses and meats, take the freedom of getting to choose the items in the basket, and personalize them according to tastes.

For example, if someone is an Italian cuisine aficionado, fill the basket with a bottle of wine, some pasta, and a dinner recipe with all the ingredients included. Simple Italian pastas include Bolognese (which only needs some noodles and a meat sauce), or a spicy classic (olive oil, ground red-hot pepper, and Parmesan cheese). The basket full of ingredients and a recipe makes for a satisfying and extremely easy dinner. If you want to be extra-authentic, a can of espresso to cap off the evening would be an excellent addition.

Not unlike food baskets, cookbooks are an easy-way-out kind of holiday gift, but personalized ones go above and beyond the utility of the average kind. Websites such as <www.tastebook.com> are resources that allow you to upload old family-favorite recipes, and design the layout of the cookbook. Once all the work is done, a company publishes your collection of recipes, and sends the finished cookbook to you.

It makes an excellent gift for everyone from the fresh-out-of-high-school student who never has cooked a day in his or her life to new family additions who need to learn to cook traditional family meals. Uploading information to the do-it-yourself cookbook websites is a relatively quick process that only requires you to know some recipes. If your creation is full of classic family favorites, one book for everyone is easy, efficient, and—best of all—thoughtful.

Another spin on the create-your-own cookbooks is literally to fashion your own by means of cutting and pasting recipes. Cookbooks, as common as Barbara Streisand records at thrift stores, cost little. A personalized book full of recipes gathered from various old cookbooks allows the freedom of including any type of cooking project, from lemon bars to chili to spicy pad thai. A personalized cookbook full of random favorites is useful, showing you put some thought into your inexpensive and one-of-a-kind gift.

Whether it’s a mason jar filled with the ingredients of a delectable batch of cookies or a homemade cookbook with favorite recipes, these creative ideas are sure to satisfy any special someone this holiday season.

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