Making Holiday Gifts in your Kitchen


In today’s world, cutting expenses during the holidays is something we all are thinking about, and whipping up holiday treats in your own kitchen is a great way to not only save a little cash, but to spend some quality time with your kids too.

It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew and overwhelm yourself, and your child, with an enormous laundry list of impossible tasks. It’s easy to keep adding to your to-do list, but do your best to keep it simple and most importantly, keep it fun. This is a great time to have a fun, simple activity with your children and to help them develop confidence in the kitchen while you’re at it.


Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread men march with glee in December and are a blast for kids to decorate. Remember that the younger your child, the shorter the attention span, so plan ahead to decide which parts of the process the kids will help with. Everyone loves mixing, an easy and fun task. Preschool children can help to cut the first few cookies, but then will most likely tire of the task and need a little break. Continue with your cutting and baking, then bring them back into the process once it’s time to decorate. Remember, with the kids lending a hand, you won’t get perfection in your decorated cookies, and that’s ok. The important thing is that they are made with love and that you and your child have a great time; a crooked hat or gloppy mouth will only look that much more endearing to the recipients.

Host a Cookie Exchange

Love to throw a party on a budget? A cookie exchange is the way to see family and friends in a relaxed, comfortable setting filled with sweet treats that you didn’t have to slave over. It works like this: One family hosts the party and provides lots of cold milk, hot chocolate, and even some coffee for the parents. Each family brings one dozen already baked cookies for each family in attendance plus a copy of the recipe if they’re willing to share, then everyone gets to take a dozen of each type of cookie home, or enjoy some at the soiree.  Eight families equals eight dozen different varieties of cookies going home with each group.

The variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes that come from different families is amazing. Plus, it’s fun to try new cookies that may be holiday traditions in other families but unfamiliar to your own. Either eat or freeze the cookies, or share with neighbors. Whatever you do, the cookie exchange is an easy party and fun that can’t be beat!

Hot Cocoa

Good hot chocolate is a treat everyone enjoys, so why not whip up your very own batch of hot chocolate mix to give away this year. This is a snap to make and inexpensive as well.  Plus, the kids will love the measuring and stirring needed to make the perfect mix.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

2 cups   Non-fat dry milk powder (in the baking aisle)

¾ cup     Superfine sugar

½ cup     Unsweetened extra dark cocoa powder

½ cup     powdered non-dairy creamer

¼ tsp      Salt

½ cup     Andes chocolate mint candies, finely chopped

½ cup     Mini marshmallows

Combine the dry milk powder, sugar, cocoa powder, powdered non-dairy creamer, and salt in a bowl.  Mix well. Add the Andes Mints and marshmallows; toss to coat.

Divide mixture into four bags.  Be sure to include the following instructions with your yummy gift:

“Spoon 4 tablespoons of cocoa mix into your cup, add boiling water, and stir well. Add a splash of milk or whipped cream for extra creaminess.”

Now that you’ve made your fabulous hot cocoa mix, you’ll want to be sure to package it so that it looks cute. Check out the local dollar store for inexpensive mugs and ribbons. Place the bag of cocoa mix in a mug, tie with a ribbon and you’re ready to go for a sweet treat everyone will love.

 Looking to amp up your presentation? Check out for fun and unique packaging ideas.

Christine van Bloem is the owner and instructor extraordinaire at The Kitchen Studio Cooking School in Frederick MD.