Hello Family readers – and all other visitors to my blog.This post is by Nicola Baird, and offers some simple foodie gifts to make with your children. Or make them yourself and get the kids to design a label. These gifts show off your creativity and are cheaper to make than buy (although Lidl can compete on the truffles).
Wrapping can look eccentric, or authentically chic, using newspaper, especially foreign language papers which you may find at train, tube or metro stations. There are lots of other ideas in my book Homemade Kids – itself a fine gift for baby bumps and new mums. You can buy copies of Homemade Kids here (or have a look at the library).
PayPal says when families start to watch their budgets, more of us give food or drink gifts. Encourage your children to make something – jam or truffles for the older ones. Or try vanilla essence (split a vanilla bean and put into a clean small jar with vodka); flavoured sugar (decorate a big jar and fill with fair-trade sugar and a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick). If you want to be more imaginative with a bargain tin of Quality Street from Tesco try sewing together the sweets to make a necklace. The green ones can be turned into mini sweet kebabs if you spear them on a lolly stick. Draw on a smiley Christmas fairy face/dinosaur/Santa at the top.
Instructions below for making:
1) Jam 2) Truffles 3) Vanilla essence (needs vodka)
4) Flavoured sugar (super simple) 5) Mini sweetie kebabs (panic choice)
1 JAM is a great gift
If you buy preserving sugar there is usually a recipe on the packet. I find the more sugar or pectin-rich fruit you use, the easier it is to get the jam to set. If it’s very runny, leave to cool and maybe try re-heating tomorrow when you’ve got more time, or are less tired. This works well for me and the kids:
1 kilo fruit (strawberries/blackberries fresh or from the freezer)
1 kilo jam sugar (contains pectin)
Blob of butter
Lemon juice (squeeze one)
- Method – sterilise 5 jars by putting through dish washer OR wash out and then warm/cook in oven for 20mins on 100C – or do for 10mins in 180C. Also put 2 saucers into the freezer.
- Gently melt a spoonful of butter with the sugar and then add the fruit. Stir occasionally so nothing burns.
- Now bring to boil. Boil for about 6 minutes until setting point reached (!).
- You can test success by putting a teaspoon of the mix on to a cold saucer. Leave a mo then push at the jam with your finger – is it runny, or slightly tacky. The firmer the better. Keep testing every two minutes. I find this usually takes 20 minutes on an electric hob – perhaps gas hobs are quicker?
- Remove from heat, allow to cool and then pour (I use a milk jug) into the warm jars.
- While warm add a wax disc (make from greaseproof or baking paper) to put on the top of your jam – this stops mould growing. Seal the lid and store in a dark, cool place (eg, larder/cupboard) until needed.
- If when you open your jam there is sugar mould scrape it off for the compost, and then eat the rest. To avoid this happening if this is a gift encourage the recipient to eat soon and once open keep in the fridge.
- Jam that doesn’t set is still delicious as a hot or cold sauce for icecream, an extra filip for a cake or eaten on cereal, with yoghurt etc.
TIP: Instead of making jam, you could give a voucher for a pot of marmalade 2012 – the bitter Seville oranges are in shops and markets from early January. I’ve always had best luck finding them in Waitrose or greengrocers.
2 TRUFFLES are easier to make if your house is a bit cold
Ingredients: 110g dark choc (one bar), 2 tbs double cream, 2tbs alcohol, 25g butter, some toppings to give the truffles a finish (eg, dessicated coconut, chocolate powder, grated chocolate) = 12. I usually double or triple ingredients – it’s just as easy to make with a larger quantity of truffle mix.
- Method: Melt small dob of butter in a big pan, add chopped up chocolate and melt very slowly.
- Take off heat and stir in cream and brandy (or your choice – cointreau is good)
- Leave until almost hard but friable enough for you to mould into balls. Overnight is too long. 2-3 hours probably OK.
- Using your fingers and palm roll teaspoonfuls of the mix into a nice round ball – then finish off by rolling through grated dark chocolate, dessicated coconut, chocolate powder (eg, milo, ovaltine etc) or whatever coating you want.
- Put in a pretty box and leave in a cool place until you need to hand over.
- Best eaten within 5 days, might be a good idea to store in a cold place – not just by the woodburner, or dog.
TIP: Dogs get sick if they eat chocolate, so keep them out of reach. This is a very rich truffle, ideal gift for grown ups. Take to parties, housewarmings, new baby arrivals, birthdays, significant milestones etc.
3 VANILLA essence
Find a small clean bottle or tiny thin jar. Snap a vanilla pod to fit the bottle and release its flavour. Then fill the bottle with vodka and leave to marinate. Result vanilla essence – ideal for flavouring cake mixes.
Homemade Kids verdict: Slightly troubling to know there’s alcohol in your kiddy cooking?
4 FLAVOURED sugar
Find a large, clean, empty jar. Fill it half-full with Fair Trade sugar (pale brown looks nice). Then add a flavouring.
- vanilla pod for vanilla flavoured sugar
- energetic shakes of cinnamon for cinammon flavoured sugar
Top up the jar with the remaining sugar. Tighten the lid and make a label.
TIP: Keeps forever but gives sugar-users a nice kick to their sweet treat. Also nice used in crumbles or a cake mix.
5 Mini SWEETIE KEBABS
Sew your wrapped sweeties from tins (eg, Roses, Quality Street) together and make bracelets, necklaces… Ideal time waster for a rainy afternoon with six-year-olds. And you’re bound to eat some of the sweets too, so it’ll be a fun chore. I use the sweets without excess wrapping for sweetie kebabs. Spear with a sharp skewer (or clean object) and then thread on to a clean wooden lolly stick. You can add paper decorations to the lolly stick – someone’s name, or an animal head, monster design to raise the crafty stakes. It might be fun doing this for a hide and seek quiz around the house?
Over to you
Good luck making these gifts – I know I’d be very happy to have any one of them! Do share any other quick foodie ideas you have that are simple(ish) to make with children of any age. Thanks. Nicola