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Easy-to-Make Homemade Goodies

Star Cookie Trees

You'll need star-shaped cookie cutters in different sizes for this pretty present. Your little one can help with icing and stacking.

  • 1 pkg. (18 oz.) refrigerated sugar-cookie dough
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 box (16 oz.) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 Tbs. egg-white powder
  • 5 Tbs. water, divided
  • Green food coloring
  • Red nonpareils
  • Red gumdrop candies

  1. Heat oven to 350?F. Combine cookie dough with flour. Roll dough out to 1/40 thickness. To make 1 tree, cut 2 stars each from 4 different-size cookie cutters (we used 50, 40, 30, and 20 sizes). Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool 1 minute, and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely. Repeat to make 2 more trees.
  2. To stack, place a dollop of icing in center of each cookie, except those with gumdrops. Starting with largest, stack 2 of each size, alternating tips of stars. Continue stacking with the 3 smaller-size stars, finishing with gumdrop-topped star. Makes 3 star trees.

5-Grain Pancake Mix

Let the kids do the layering -- it's like edible sand art! Wrap up a colorful spatula with this gift to make it extra special.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 cup wheat bran
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

  1. In a 32-oz. container with a tight-fitting lid, add each ingredient one layer at a time.
  2. Include a recipe card with the following instructions: "Before using, shake ingredients to mix. For one batch of pancakes, whisk together 3/4 cup buttermilk or milk, 1 egg, and 1 tsp. vegetable oil until combined. Stir in 3/4 cup dry pancake mix just until combined. Heat nonstick skillet over high heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake into pan, and cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side or until pancakes are golden." Makes six 40 pancakes per batch.

Christmas Fudge

Your child can stir in the dried fruit when the fudge is off the stove.

  • 2 bags (12 oz. each) white-chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Line an 80-square pan with foil. In a saucepan over low heat, stir and melt chips, condensed milk, vanilla, and salt. Remove from heat and stir in fruit. Spread evenly in pan. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Remove from pan and cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Holiday Pepper Jelly and Cheesy Biscuits

Any tiny holiday cookie cutter will work for stamping a design onto these crackers -- just don't press too hard!

  • 8 oz. finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • Paprika

  1. In a food processor, pulse cheese and butter until well blended. Add flour, sugar, salt, and curry powder, and pulse several times until well mixed. Add the water, and pulse 2 or 3 more times. Turn dough out onto a clean surface; knead with hands until smooth. Gather dough into a ball, divide in half, and shape each half into a 90 log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  2. Heat oven to 375?F. Grease 2 baking sheets. Slice logs into 1/40 disks and place on prepared baking sheets. Place paprika in a small bowl. Dip small cookie cutter in paprika, then lightly press onto a biscuit. Repeat, dipping cutter in paprika for each biscuit. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until just golden. Makes about 6 dozen biscuits.

Holiday Pepper Jelly

Let your child decorate the jar lids for this spicy jelly. It goes perfectly with our Cheesy Biscuits.

  • 8 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 jalape?o peppers, seeded
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded
  • 2 cups apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 box (6 oz.) liquid pectin (2 pouches), such as Certo

In a food processor, combine 1 cup of the sugar and the jalape?o peppers. Process until jalape?o peppers are completely ground: Sugar will look green. Transfer to a large saucepan. Cut green and red bell peppers into chunks. Chop pepper chunks into small pieces in food processor. Add peppers, vinegar, and remaining sugar to saucepan and bring to a boil. Add both pouches of pectin, and boil 1 minute. Skim foam from surface. Let cool for 1 hour. Stir, then transfer to clean jars and cover. Refrigerate up to 6 months. Makes 9 cups.

Popcorn Truffles

Add M&M's just before shaping the balls to keep the chocolate from melting.

  • 1 microwave bag of popcorn, popped
  • 1 cup roasted cashews
  • 1 3/4 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup M&M's Minis

  1. Place popcorn and cashews in a large bowl. In a saucepan, combine corn syrup, butter, vinegar, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil 6 minutes. Pour mixture over popcorn and mix with a large spoon to coat. Let mixture rest until cool enough to handle.
  2. Lightly coat hands with vegetable cooking spray. Place a few M&M's in the palm of your hand, and combine with some popcorn mixture. Gently shape into a 11/20 ball. Repeat with remaining popcorn mixture and M&M's. Makes about 4 dozen.

Herb-Salted Blends

Give the kids a funnel, and let them fill the bottles with these flavorful blends -- great for seasoning poultry, beef, or even popcorn.

Mediterranean

  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 tbs. basil
  • 1 tbs. marjoram
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tsp. thyme

Moroccan

  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Southwestern

  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground chipotle chili pepper

Peppermint Patties

Place 1 cup white-chocolate chips in a freezer-weight resealable plastic bag. Melt chocolate in microwave on medium heat in 20-second intervals. Rub bag to combine chips. Snip off one corner of bag, and pipe zigzag designs onto chocolate wafer cookies. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes or mints, and let dry.

Make this gift in 5 minutes!

Copyright ? 2005. Reprinted with permission from the December 2005 issue of Parents magazine.