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By: Rosemary Collins, RDN

Mince PiesHandmade gifts are the best kind, particularly when they are edible and prettily packaged. Delight your friends with homemade treats that are both frugal and festive.

For not much money and very little time you can make homemade gifts that friends will love! Our kitchen cupboards hold a treasure trove of edible goods ready to be transformed into homemade holiday treats. Homemade jams and chutneys are welcome alternatives to store-bought versions. Just add a simple ribbon and a handwritten label for the perfect gift.

A touch of ingenious packaging — a pretty ribbon, unusual bottle, small box, basket and a stylish paper and tag — and you are ready for the giving season.

The food recipes I have chosen are easy to make, and offering them to friends and family is much more than a small gesture: it is a personal one sharing the best sentiments of the season.

Festive Mini Mince Pies

These bite-sized beauties are special for the holiday season.

INGREDIENTS

1 pack of ready made pastry short-crust or puff pastry

14 oz. jar of mincemeat
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 390 Fahrenheit, 360 for fan oven. Defrost frozen pastry according to instructions.

2. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry. Using a small round cutter, stamp out 12 rounds. Line a 12-hole tart sheet with the pastry rounds and spoon a generous teaspoon of mincemeat into each case. Roll out the pastry trimmings, cut out small stars and trees, and place on top of the mince pies.

3. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 360 Fahrenheit (320 for fan oven) and bake for a further 8-10 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack, and then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

4. Store in an airtight container.

The holidays are always a busy time so you might want to make the dough up ahead of time. It freezes for up to three months, so you can include freshly made cookies in your gifts or take them to a party without any last minute effort. This next recipe yields 16 festive cherry bars, perfect for a holiday party.

White Christmas Cherry Bars

Bing CherriesINGREDIENTS

cup sweetened dried cherries or cranberries
cup white chocolate or vanilla milk chips
cup light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk biscuit mix
1 large egg
cup (1 stick) melted margarine or butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Stir dry ingredients together in a medium-size mixing bowl.
3. Add melted butter or margarine, vanilla extract, and beaten egg.
4. Mix thoroughly and spread into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray.
5. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the bars are light and the center is almost set.

Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies

This recipe yields 36 cookies and will put everyone in the mood for the winter holidays.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
tsp. salt
cup white sugar
cup dark brown sugar
2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
cup raisins
cup softened butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Mix dry ingredients.
4. Stir in softened butter or margarine, beaten egg, and vanilla.
5. Mix until completely blended.
6. Shape into ball the size of walnuts.
7. Place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
8. Bake 11-13 minutes until edges are lightly browned.
9. Let cool for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
10. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

CookiesFruitHost a Cookie Exchange!

Hosting a cookie exchange at home with friends is a lovely way to start the holiday season. Cookies always taste better when shared!

Just invite a small group of friends along for morning coffee and ask them to bake or bring a dozen cookies. Everyone will go home with a great assortment of cookies and probably some new recipes to try along with some festive cheer!

Fresh Fruit Basket

Last but not least, a homemade fresh fruit basket can make the perfect gift for those friends who don’t want to overindulge during the holidays. Both refreshing and healthy! Simply chose a small selection of fresh fruits, perhaps with some seasonal dried fruits or nuts, arrange, and wrap if you wish. Done in minutes!

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

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