Saturday, 27 December 2008

A homemade, handmade Christmas

For several days leading up to Christmas I worked furiously on several homemade gifts for friends and family. In an ideal world everything would have been homemade. Alas, the realities of having an almost-eight-month-old around prevented me from meeting that goal. However, with the help of The Dear Sweet Husband (who actually took several days off and had a blast playing with Abner) I managed to crank out quite a few gifties to add to the tasty items I picked up before we got snowed in.

I took a crack at several recipes for delicious treats I found online. The trickiest had to be the candied citrus peels. I got the idea from Sarah over at The Small Object (who got the idea from Martha) who made it look positively simple. I suppose it wasn't that difficult, but very, very tedious.

After carefully removing the peels from the lemons, oranges and grapefruits, you have to cut them into thin strips and remove as much of the pith as possible. If you don't get all the pith off, they can taste rather bitter. There must have been about 100 strips in the end and I used a paring knife to trim each and every one (except for the dozen or so that TDSH did while Abner napped). The result was a beautiful pile of citrus rinds and two fingers with absolutely no sensation left in them (two days later, the feeling hasn't quite returned*).

The trimmed peels are set to boil several times over, then simmer away in a sugary syrup before getting laid out to dry on wire racks. Once dry (I waited overnight) simply toss the peels in sugar and package. I used cute little Ball canning jars and managed to fill four of them. Those are the peels in the front on the right.

Out of nowhere the other day I remembered making sweet spiced nuts as a kid and decided I absolutely had to make some for Christmas gifts. I looked through all of my cookbooks but couldn't find the recipe I used to use. Thank goodness for Google. I managed to find a recipe that was bang on! Instead of pecans, I used almonds (my fave nut) and packaged them in the same jars as the candied citrus peels. I had more than enough to fill jars for all my family and friends and still have a bunch to nosh on myself (which I did wholeheartedly).

The other item pictured above is my first ever attempt at cake in a jar. I'm sure this will be the first attempt of many, many, many more to come. I got the idea for these from the folks in The Kitchn at Apartment Therapy, who got the idea from Angry Chicken. In the end I used a recipe from Yankee Magazine for a delicious pumpkin cake. The recipe was super easy and yielded the eight jars indicated (baking recipes never actually seem to yield the amount their supposed to in my experience). As a bonus, there was some extra pumpkin left over so Abner will get to have some too.

I also whipped up some dill and thyme herb butter as part of my family's gifts, but sadly, we couldn't pack it with our other gifts on the skytrain (car is still snowed in). I have no idea if it will be tasty or not, but's butter. How bad could it be?

For some of the little kiddlets I know, I made up these hand-cut paper art pieces (only a fool would give food to a kid on Christmas! Ha, joke...will write more on this story later). No tracing involved with these...just freehand carving of paper with an exacto blade. I'm really pleased with the results and hope to make more of these in the future.

I had a lot of fun working on these gifts and I think everyone enjoyed getting them (I know my mom liked the cake...she had it for breakfast today). I only hope that next year I can make every gift we give.

* Funnily enough...this isn't the first time I've lost the sensation in my fingers. There was a nasty little incident while waterproofing the seams of a tent a number of years ago. Let's just say, if the instructions call for you to wear protective gloves while applying a product, you should do it. Unless, of course, you don't want to have any feeling in your fingertips for six months.


  1. that all sounds so fantastic kim, i love the paper art, i just might have to make one of those myself.

    congratulations on seeing your plan through to fruition, i know it must have been a challenge.

  2. Ironically enough, we too missed giving something to everyone yesterday. There is a bunch of high-end cheese in our fridge that was supposed to come with us yesterday. So I guess we can exchange some dairy tomorrow?

  3. the gifts sound (and look) absolutely lovely Kim! You are absolutely ambitious and I'm so glad to see you did it all! Bowing to your superior time-management skills. :-) love cake-in-a-jar especially.

    i can commiserate about the numb fingers - we make (and eat) a lot of marmalade around here and those darn peels take forever and day.


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