22 December 2014

Last Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

No matter how organized you are there is usually someone extra you need a gift for. Before you rush out and buy something, take a look at this list of quick, easy and budget friendly gift ideas.

Grandma's Shortbread

The best shortbread ever! And it's easy too. Use a star shaped cutter to cut out the biscuits, then when they are cooked and cooled stack six in a pile and tie with red ribbon for a festive look.

Grandma's Shortbread
250g butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup rice flour

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flours together. Using your hands gradually work the flours into the butter mixture until combined. Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Roll out to 2cm thick. Cut into fingers or circles. Put on buttered biscuit trays. Prick tops with a fork. Sprinkle with castor sugar.  Bake until firm and light golden at edges, about 20 minutes.  Cool then store in an air tight tin.

Caramel Corn 

Takes about 10 minutes to make. Package in a large jar. Cut a topper from Christmas paper to cover the lid and tie it on with raffia, string or curling ribbon. Stick the gift label to the jar.

Caramel Corn
20 cups pop corn
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup condensed milk
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Spread the popcorn in a thin layer in shallow, greased baking pans.  Preheat oven to 120 degrees Celsius.  Combine the brown sugar, condensed milk and butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over a medium heat. Boil for five minutes, stirring continuously.  Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarb soda and vanilla essence, beating well. The mixture should be light and foamy.  Immediately pour over the popcorn. Stir with a fork to mix. Don't worry too much if not the popcorn isn't completely covered with the caramel.  Place into preheated oven and bake for one hour, stirring completely  every fifteen minutes.  Remove from oven and empty onto sheets of baking paper. Break the caramel corn into bite size pieces. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Variation:  Bliss Bombs - add 2 cups unsalted peanuts to the popcorn before covering with the caramel mixture.

MOO Taco Seasoning 

Whip up a batch and put it in a jar. Print off the recipe, fold it into four and attach it to the jar with a ribbon. Cover the lid with paper and tie on with raffia, ribbon or string.

MOO Taco Seasoning
2 tsp ground chilli powder (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground oregano
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together and store in a small, air tight jar. To use: 3 tablespoonfuls is the equivalent of 1 packet of commercial taco seasoning mix.

Russian Caramels 

Make a batch and put them on a doily covered paper plate. Cover with cellophane or clingwrap, stick a bow in the middle. You can include the recipe if you think the recipient would like it.

Russian Caramels
125g butter
250g sugar
1 tin condensed milk
vanilla essence

Melt the butter first, then add the sugar and condensed milk. Stir constantly until the mixture boils. Still stirring, allow to boil for 15 minutes then add 1 or two teaspoons vanilla and remove from heat. By this time the mixture should be the colour of light caramel. Test for setting in cold water. Pour into a buttered pan and when cold cut into small squares with a sharp knife.

Two Minute Fudge

This microwave fudge makes a slice tray full for around $6.

Two-Minute Fudge
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (macadamia, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts or a combination)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Put the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30 second bursts until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the microwave. Stir in the nuts and vanilla extract. Mix well. Pour into a foil lined and buttered slice tray. Chill for 2 hours before cutting into small squares.

Cheapskates Washing Powder 

Either make a batch and put it in an ice-cream container or get the ingredients and bundle them together in a small box or gift bag. Include a copy of the Tip Sheet.

Cheapskates Washing Powder
1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup borax

Mix together and store in a sealed container. Use 3 scant teaspoons per load for a top-loader and 1 scant teaspoon per load for a front loader.

A Starter Garden

Fill an egg carton with potting mix or good soil from your garden. Put a seed in each pod. Use the lid of the egg carton as the tray to hold the pods. Make a plant label from an icy pole stick or cut an empty (and washed out) milk bottle into sticks. Use a permanent marker to write the plant name and pop it into one of the pods. Include the seed packet and wrap the lot in cellophane. Choose a seed that has a good germination rate (peas are ideal and grow year round).

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  1. Is a bag of chocolate chips equivalent to 250g of Cadbury choc. melts? Thanks!

    1. Yes - I use whichever chocolate has been on sale, not necessarily cooking chocolate. Often the blocks are cheaper than the bags of melts/chips per 100g. The melts/chips usually come on sale around Easter time and then again in October/November so I will stock up then if they are cheap enough.


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