Snacks & Treats

5 Gifts from the Kitchen Kids Can Make

Nov 17, 2014

The holidays are all about givin, and because kids tend to have more creativity than cash, it’s the perfect opportunity to teach them the value of sharing by encouraging them to create something homemade for their teachers, coaches, family and friends. During the festive season, food is always welcome—treats from your own kitchen always go to good use. And what better way to spend a snowy afternoon with your kids than in the kitchen, creating something delicious? They’ll get so much more satisfaction out of mixing up something special, then decorating their own packages, than they would by tagging along to the mall—and as a bonus, you won’t even need to worry about parking.

Here are five delicious gifts from the kitchen your kids can help make, package and give—just make sure you make extra for noshing yourself.

Christmas Butter Cookies

A box of homemade cookies is always well received—and kids tend to get into the production of mixing, rolling and cutting during the holidays. This basic recipe is perfect for playing around with—let kids add flavourings like coconut or almond extract, spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, finely chopped dark chocolate or candied citron. They’re a blank cookie canvas—and anything goes. These are perfect for decorating—or poke a hole near the top with a straw before baking, then loop a ribbon or string through to hang on your tree.

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, until pale and light. Beat in the vanilla.
Add the flour and salt and beat just until the dough comes together; gather it into a ball, divide it in half, shape each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic or waxed paper. Refrigerate for half an hour or so.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough out 1/4-inch thick and cut into whatever shapes you like with a cookie cutter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick each once or twice with a fork.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Striped Peppermint Bark

This is the ultimate Christmas confection, and looks so pretty tucked into a Chinese takeout container, padded with tissue. Kids can easily melt, spread, chill, bash and sprinkle, letting each layer chill before they add the next. Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1998.

  • 1 lb. good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 3 candy canes, coarsely crushed
  • 1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1⁄2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1⁄2 lb. good-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Turn a 9x13-inch baking pan upside down and cover the top with foil while you gently melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Spread about half the melted white chocolate over the whole surface of the pan. Sprinkle with about half the crushed candy canes and chill until firm.
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream with the peppermint extract; add the chocolate and let sit for a minute, then stir to melt. Cool to just barely lukewarm.
Pour over the white chocolate and gently spread into an even layer and chill until firm.
Warm the white chocolate again and pour over the dark chocolate layer; spread evenly and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Chill until firm and then cut with a sharp knife into squares, trimming the edges (those bits are for you to eat!). Keep in the fridge until ready to package in jars or Chinese take-out containers lined with tissue.
Makes about 1 1⁄2 lb. bark.

Homemade Spice Blends

Making your own signature spice blend is unique, simple and inexpensive; buy spices in bulk at your favourite spice shop or bulk food store, then whisk together curry blends, dry barbecue rubs or even your own pickling blend. Pack in small sachets or glass jars—and if you spray the lid with chalkboard paint, you can write
the type of spice blend on top.

Lemon-Blueberry Bread

Quickbreads are simple to mix and bake, and if you pick up some aluminum loaf pans from the dollar store (these were three for $1) you can bake them, cool them, and wrap in festive cellophane and tie with a ribbon. This lemon-blueberry bread is also delicious made with grated orange zest and cranberries.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • grated zest of a lemon (or orange)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or cranberries)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder and salt. Add the blueberries and lemon zest and toss to combine. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the yogurt in two; fold in the berries.
Scoop batter into two small buttered loaf pans and bake for an hour, or until golden and springy to the touch. Let cool completely before wrapping.
Makes 2 loaves.

Homemade Sea Salt

If you live by the ocean (or are visiting), homemade sea salt makes a unique gift; collect at least a litre of water and pour it through a sieve lined with a coffee filter to remove any grit. Pour into a wide skillet and set over medium heat. Simmer for about an hour, letting the water evaporate until it gets thicker and eventually turns into a sludgy salt mixture. Stir often at this point, until the excess moisture cooks off and the salt is dry. Pack in small jars. Since salt is a preservative, it will last indefinitely.

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


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