December 16, 2008

Non-Food Gifts
From Your
Christmas Kitchen

I really thought I'd get back to you before now... but then, it IS the holiday season! Aside from all the goodies that may come from your kitchen at this time of the year, there are many non-food gifts that you can make too. Let's start with a few kitchen cosmetics that you can make.

The base ingredients used in so, so many of today's high-end HABAs have been around for years, are readily available, and generally are very inexpensive. Take bath salts for example. Usually based on Epsom salts that you can buy very inexpensively at any drugstore or Wal-Mart, fancy bath additives can be made elegant, therapeutic or even just fun at very little cost.

A wonderful basic "recipe" calls for ingredients you're bound to have on hand. You can use the cologne called for or a drop or two of any essential oil you'd like. Essential oils which are, well, really essential, for making soaps and so many other beauty preparations, are available at natural food stores (for your best selection) and often also at drugstores, or even some grocery stores.

Refreshing Salt-Starch-Salt Bath Soother
1/2 c Epsom salts
1/2 c cornstarch (remember this has always been used as a soothing baby powder)
1/4 c table salt
few drops scent

This is enough for one bath. To use, sprinkle under running bath water, swirling to dissolve and spread, or mix well and put in jar or bottle, label with directions for use.
NOW, to make really special gifts, make a large batch of the base salts and starch, then add different scents to each of a half dozen jars. For example, a whiff of pepperment can be quite invigorating while a few drops of rosemary, lavendar, or rose oils will yield a totally different product.
While this is a good start, for a really excellent aromatherapy bath salts recipe, visit the Annisquam Herb Farm at
This is a site worth bookmarking as Suzanne always has interesting info...check out her recent ginger cookie recipe too!

For an old-fashioned skin softener and mositurizer, you can't beat rosewater and glycerine.
This has been around for generations and still works very, very well. I'm going to give you two recipes either of which is lovely.

Rosewater and Glycerine Skin Care
1 c rosewater
6 TBSP glycerine
3 Tbsp witch hazel


1/2 c rosewater
1/2 c glycerine
1/4 tsp borax

Mix and bottle in fancy containers. The rosewater is usually available at drug and healthfood stores, but if you can't find it, just add a few drops of rose oil to distilled water.

Another of my easy favorites is a bubbling bath oil made with the least expensive baby oil and baby shampoo you can find. Little kids love to make this for their friends, especially using some of the neon food coloring and maybe some bubblegum scent!

Bubbling Bath Oil

1/2 c liquid baby shampoo
2 TBSP baby oil

Mix, scent or color as you'd like. Add 2 Tbsp to running bath water. To give, put in an old shampoo or squeeze bottle and label including use directions.

Wow, I was going to include so many more recipes here, but time is getting so short. I'll come back to this general idea again, and since I absoluely love fancy soapmaking, I'll plan to do a series on that next year too.
I'll see you next year when we'll start 2009 with some birdseed cake recipes.

I wish you, each and all, a very peaceful holiday season and a New Year full of promise.


December 2, 2008

Gifts from Your

Christmas Kitchen

Christmas cooking often tends toward candy, cookies and other sugary treats. Like many of you, that is so NOT what I need, but also like many of you, if someone gives me, say, some peanut butter cookies, the kind with the chocolate kiss in the middle, I WILL eat every single one of them!

So I've been thinking about what a tough economy we're in and how much more practical gifts from our kitchens may be appreciated. Every year we are gifted with a batch of homemade granola, and I really look forward to it.

A few years ago the layered mixes-in-a-jar were popular. Why not put together all the dry ingredients for a multi-bean soup, layering a varieties of beans, some dried tomatoes, dried onion, garlic, parsley and other seasonings. Check the international aisle in your grocery for the best selection of dried beans, lentils, peas, etc. And don't forget to attach cooking directions.

You can easily make fancy rice mixes too, varying the seasonings and other add-ons. Maybe a lemon-dill-pepper rice, or a curry rice with dried apple bits. Use your imagination, check your own cookbooks or those at your local library and look for recipes on the internet.

Homemade mixes for hot chocolate or Russian tea are always welcome, and the following three recipes (from The Frugal Family Kitchen Book) for the pricey international-type coffees are inexpensive to make and definitely delicious.

On any of these, if you just mix the ingredients and don't process in a blender or food processor, the ingredients will separate.

Cinnamon "Vienna" Coffee Mix

1/2 c instant coffee
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 c powdered creamer (you can use powdered milk, but it's not as good)

Mix all together in a blender or food processor until powdery. Use 2 heaping tsp per cup.

Orange Coffee Mix

1/2 c instant coffee
3/4 c sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp dried orange peel
1 c powdered creamer (or powdered milk)

Mix all together in a blender or food processor until powdery. Use 2 heaping tsp per cup.

Mocha Coffee Mix

1/2 c instant coffee
1/2 c sugar
2 TBSP cocoa (powder, not mix)
1 c powdered creamer (or powdered milk)

Mix all together in a blender or food processor until powdery. Use 2 heaping tsp per cup.

The chocolate mug cake recipe I gave here a few posts ago also gifts well. Put all dry ingredients together in a small plastic baggie, put in a coffee mug, tie directions to handle and voila!

To get you thinking in yet another direction, consider this recipe from w-a-y back. Copper Coins, sometimes called Copper Pennies in really old cookbooks, look nice, are cheap, quick, and easy to put together, and made a great snack, or side dish with just about any meal.

Copper Pennies

2 lbs carrots, peeled, sliced thin, and cooked until just tender-crisp
1 medium green pepper, diced
3 medium onions, sliced and separated into rings
1 can tomato soup
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c vinegar
1/2 c salad oil
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine soup, sugar, vinegar, oil, mustard and Wrcestershire in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Layer carrots, pepper pieces and onion slices in a bottle or canning jar, cover with boiling marinade, cool and refrigerate for 12 hours before sampling. Keeps well in the refrigerator for a long time. I've experimented with hot pepper in this as well as horseradish and even put in some artichoke hearts one time...all good.

In a few days I'll post some more recipes for gifts you can make in your kitchen...yes, a few goodies AND some kitchen cosmetics!