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Homemade Gifts for the Holidays

by Caley Walsh

Is it just me or have the holidays become more and more expensive over the years? Whatever your particular brand of holiday celebration (Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus?), this time of year creates a hefty amount of financial stress with the pressure to be buying more and more gifts for all the people in our lives. Sure, the thought of my empty wallet makes me yelp, but I truly think this monetary obsession sidesteps the greater meaning behind these gifts. The holidays should be a time to show our loved ones that we care, not to dazzle them with big, flashy electronics. Instead of exhausting your bank account, why not surprise loves ones with homemade gifts from the heart? Over the years, Recipe4Living has collected a variety of great gift recipes, and hand-picked a couple favorites just for you. Whether it's homemade soup mix for the cooking-challenged or beautiful bath salts for the diva, your gift is sure to be touching.

Beauty Gifts

Desert Sands Bath Salts

Creating three colored layers of pretty bath salt, this recipe makes a wonderful gift.


5 drops yellow food coloring
2 drops red food coloring
4 drops musk fragrant or essential oil
3 drops Jasmine fragrant or essential oil
3 C. Epsom salts
1 C. baking soda
2 tsp. liquid glycerin (skin moisturizer) (optional)


Combine baking soda, Epsom salt and glycerin until well blended. Add scents stirring until there is no clumps left. It will be a fine powder. Divide the mixture evenly into 3 separate bowls. In the first bowl add 3 drops yellow food coloring, in the second add 3 drops red food coloring and in the third bowl add 2 drops yellow with 1 drop red food coloring. Stir each bowl until the color is well mixed. Allow the air to dry it for a few hours before placing in a bottle. Once dried, layer the colors in an airtight glass jar starting with red first, then orange then lastly yellow. To use, add 2-3 tsp. of the mixture to running bath water. Soak as desired.

Note: Liquid glycerin used as a skin moisturizer, is a by-product of soap making. Glycerin can be found at health food stores, some drug stores, or major department stores depending on where you live. It's also readily available on the internet as well.

Oatmeal Soap Balls

These soothing and exfoliating soap balls also make great gifts.


1 C. instant Quaker oatmeal
1 bar mild soap, such as Ivory
1/4 C. water
Food coloring (optional)


Grate oatmeal or use a mini-processor oatmeal. Put into a bowl. Do the same with the soap. Add the water and blend well. If adding food coloring, add it to the water for even consistency. Shape into balls and put on wax paper to dry. Balls can be put into containers or wrapped with plastic wrap and tied with raffia. A gift tag can be attached to the raffia.

Other Beauty Recipes
Oatmeal Soap
Chamomile Lip Balm
Candy Cane Bath Salts
Bath Bags
Lilac Bubble Bath
Foaming Vanilla Honey Bath
Vanilla Rose Bubble Bath Gel
Orange Blossom Soap
Gingerbread Bath Salts
Velvet Apple Bubble Bath
Bath Salts
Lotion Sticks
Apricot-Orange Lip Gloss
Gardenia Dusting Powder

Breakfast Anyone?

All-in-One Pancake Mix

Ditch the box and get inspired. This homemade pancake mix keeps in an airtight container so you can make pancakes whenever you want.


2 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 C. dry milk powder
1/3 C. shortening
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. soy flour


In a large bowl, mix together flour, soy flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and dry milk. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. To use, measure 1 C. pancake mix and combine with 1/2 C. water. This makes a thick pancake. Add more water 1 Tbs. at a time if you prefer a thinner pancake.

Note: With the addition of soy flour you do not need to add an egg.


Fruit Extracts/Flavored Vodka

Making your own citrus extracts to use in recipes will give you a much purer fruit flavor. You can do this with lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, or tangerine. Peel the fruit in strips, leaving the pith behind. Place the strips in a jar, and cover them with good-quality vodka. Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature for two weeks, shaking the jar daily. Discard the peel, replace it with fresh peel, and let it stand for two more weeks. Remove the flavor, and use the flavored vodka in recipes calling for extract. It will keep indefinitely.

Instant Chai Tea Mix

For a great, super-cheap gift idea this holiday season, give this delicious chai tea mix in a decorated jar.


1 C. pwdr. dry milk
1 C. non dairy creamer-dry
1 C. Fr. Vanilla pwdr. creamer
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 C. instant tea
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cardamom


In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 C. at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder. Store in your favorite jar or decorative bottle. To serve: Stir 2 heaping Tbs. Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.

Makes about 4 C. mix

Other Drink Mix Recipes
Citrus Spice Tea Mix
Hot Russian Tea Mix
Sugar-Free/Caffeine-Free Hot Spiced Tea Mix
Irish Crème Liqueur
Sugar-Free Cherry Tea Mix
Russian Tea in a Gift Jar
Spicy Winter Tea Mix
Heartwarming Tea Mix
Mocchacino Mix


Bathtub Finger Paints

Kids of all ages will love taking a bath with these fun paints on hand!


1/3 C. clear liquid dish soap
1 Tbs. cornstarch
Food coloring


Mix liquid soap and cornstarch together in a small bowl until blended. Pour mixture in equal amounts into ice cube tray. Add a couple drops food coloring into each compartment and mix.

Note: In case this accidentally gets into eyes flush with water for 5 minutes. If problems persist consult your physician.

Other Kid-Friendly Recipes
Schooldays Cookies
Reindeer Ginger Pops
Candy Roll
Cherry Bubbles

Don't Forget the Pets

Kitty Heaven (Sardines and Rice)


2 flat cans of sardines in oil
2/3 C. cooked rice
1 Tbs. cooked chopped liver
1/4 C. parsley, chopped


Combine all ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon to break up sardines into bite-sized pieces. Store unused portion in refrigerator, tightly covered.

Yield: 2 servings

Fido's Favorite Treats


1 C. uncooked oatmeal
1 C. boiling water
1/2 C. margarine
1/2 C. milk
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbs. sugar
1-2 tsp. bouillon granules
3/4 C. cornmeal
2 1/2-3 C. whole wheat flour


In a large bowl, pour boiling water over oatmeal and margarine. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in milk, egg, sugar, bouillon and cornmeal. Add flour, 1 C. at a time, mixing well after each addition. Knead in the final half C. or more to make a stiff dough. Pat or roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into bone shapes and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Sauces and Seasonings

Cranberry Pear Chutney

Cranberry Pear Chutney is a savory and versatile complement to a huge variety of dishes and edibles, year-round. It's as good with grilled or roasted chicken, ham or pork, as with cold meat or cheese sandwiches. Make it ahead and keep ready for spur-of-the-moment snacks; or take a jar as a gift for someone.


4 C. fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, and stemmed
2 1/2 C. sugar
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, each about 3 inches long
1 tsp. salt
4 firm Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 C. golden raisins
1/3 C. diced crystallized ginger (see note)
1/2 C. whole hazelnuts, roasted, skins removed, and halved (see note)


In a deep 6-qt. saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, 1 1/4 C. water cloves, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the cranberries begin to open, about 10 to 12 minutes. Adjust the heat so the mixture simmers. Stir in the pears, onion, raisins and ginger. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, stir in the hazelnuts, and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Discard the cinnamon sticks and cloves if you can find them. Refrigerate in tightly sealed jars for up to 3 months.

Makes about 2 qts.

Other Sauce and Seasoning Recipes
Safari Sauce
Kiwi Relish
Herb Honey
Caesar Salad Dressing Mix
Memmie's Chili Sauce
Green & Red Pepper Jelly
Herb Vegetable Dip Mix
Casserole Sauce Mix
Tabil Spice Mix


Coconut Brownie Mix in a Jar

Give this walnut and coconut brownie mix to someone with a sweet tooth.


1/3 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. chocolate chips
1/3 C. flaked coconut
2/3 C. brown sugar, packed
3/4 C. sugar
1/3 C. baking cocoa
1-1/2 C. all-purpose flour

Directions to Attach to Mix

Add brownie mix to 2 eggs, 2/3 C. oil and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Blend well. Spread in greased 8X8 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until center tests done.

Makes one dozen.

Candy Cane White Fudge

A festive fudge for the holidays and a great way to use up all those leftover candy canes! Ingredients

12 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 C. coarsely chopped peppermint candies


Butter an 8-inch square baking pan; line bottom and sides with foil allowing foil to extend over sides of pan by about 1 inch. Butter foil. Over medium-high heat in top of double-boiler or heatproof bowl set over pot of hot water combine white chocolate and condensed milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth, 5 minutes. Pour mixture into pan; sprinkle candy over top. Using knife lightly swirl candy into chocolate mixture. Refrigerate until firm, about 6 hours or overnight. Cut into 1 inch squares, diamond shapes or rectangles. Store in refrigerator.

Yield: 64 pieces

Other Sweets Recipes
Caramel Popcorn Kit in a Jar
Jingle Balls
Dark Chocolate Praline
Peppermint Chocolate Fudge
Snowman Soup
Cranberry Nut Fudge
Fool Proof Fudge
Premier White Almond Bark
Nature's Candy
Holiday Sugar Cookies


French Market Soup Mix in a Jar

The layers in this bean-rich soup in a jar give it a pretty presentation for a gift and a tasty result.

1 lb. dried navy beans
1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 lb. dried Great Northern beans
1 lb. split peas
1 lb. yellow split peas
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
1 lb. lentils
1 lb. dried baby lima beans
1 lb. dried lima beans
1 lb. dried soybeans
1 lb. pearl barley
1 lb. dried red beans


In a very large container, combine navy beans, pinto beans, great Northern beans, split peas, yellow split peas, black-eyed peas, lentils, baby limas, limas, soybeans, barley & red beans; mix well. Divide evenly into 14 lidded jars. Attach a card to each jar with the following recipe:

French Market Soup

2 qts. water
1 ham hock
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 (16 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced


Soak 2 C. French Market Bean Mix in water to cover, 8 hours or overnight. In a large soup pot, bring 2 qts. water & ham hock to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove ham hock. Stir in soaked beans, salt, pepper, diced tomatoes & green chilies, onion & garlic. Bring to a boil again, skimming foam off the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 1 hour, until beans are tender.

Potato Soup Mix

Give this instant soup mix to friends and family who are uncomfortable with cooking!


1-3/4 C. instant mashed potatoes
1-1/2 C. dry milk
2 Tbs. instant chicken bullion
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1-1/2 tsp. seasoning salt


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Place in 1 qt. canning jars to store.

Instructions to attach to jar: To serve: Place 1/2 C. mix in soup bowl and add 1 C. boiling water. Stir until smooth.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Soup Recipes
Arizona Bean Soup Mix in a Jar
Turkey Noodle Soup Mix in a Jar
Mushroom Barley Soup Mix
Texas Two-Step Soup Mix in a Jar
Condensed Cream of Soup Mix


For the Whole Family- Why not create a family cookbook, one for each member of the family? This sentimental treasure creates a wonderful keepsake to be passed down for generations. Check out how to do it here: Create a Family Cookbook at

For the Lovers of the Great Outdoors- Delight the nature lovers in your family will all natural alternatives to ward off bug bites and save their garden.

Insect Repellent Sachet 


4 parts tansy 4 parts patchouli
2 parts lavender
1/2 of 1 part powdered Orris Root


Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Fill cloth bags made from remnants. Tie off with a bow.

Animal Repellent The smell of this home made repellent will keep animals away from your outdoor garden.

1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 qt. water
1/4 tsp. liquid detergent

Directions Mix well. Spray on all garden plants. Note: Do not use around your pets .

Weed Killer

The vinegar is what kills the weeds, but the dish soap holds the vinegar in place so it stays on the plant instead of running off. This works great on grass or weeds in sidewalk or driveway cracks, too. Best time to spray is in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest.

1 C. of vinegar
1/2 C. of regular dish soap (not dishwasher detergent)
Fill the rest of the bottle up with water.

Directions Use a funnel to place the following ingredients in a medium spray bottle approximately the size of a quart, but it doesn't have to be exact. Shake well before each use. Spray mixture directly on the weed itself; if weed is out in the yard, be careful not to spray the grass!

Copyright © 2006 Ampere Media LLC

About the Author features more than 10,000 user submitted recipes, ideas and recipes from Wolfgang Puck, reference guides, healthy living advice, tips for kids, and much more. You can find all recipes mentioned in this article at


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