Last minute homemade gifts |

Last minute homemade gifts

So, the rest of the squashes and pumpkins have been cooked up for pies, cookies and breads for family and friends and the candies are the list to be made, but there is always that last minute thing that happens the week before Christmas. A neighborhood gathering that you’ve forgotten about, that teacher’s gift you’re reminded of the night before it’s due, and you are still trying to figure where you put your keys down.

So, I take a deep breath and remember that I have items in my pantry to make great gifts for these last minute events. Cookies in a jar, corn muffin mix or brownie mix, seasoning mixes for those taco or chili lovers in your life. Don’t forget the homemade jams, jellies and pickles that you made this past summer are also great gifts for everyone.

Here are a few recipes for you to try:

Taco Seasoning mix

I tripled this recipe.

1⁄4 cup + 2 tablespoons of ground chili powder

1⁄4 cup and 1 tablespoon paprika

1⁄4 cup + 1 teaspoon of cumin

2 tablespoons and 1 1/1 teaspoons of onion powder

2 tablespoons and 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 tablespoon plus 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of cornstarch

1⁄4 teaspoon of cayenne powder.

(Now if you want a little more kick in your mix increase cayenne to 1⁄2 teaspoon.)

Blend all ingredients together and package in a canning jar or nice container with a tag that reads “Add 3 teaspoons into your tacos.”

Chili Seasoning Mix

1⁄4 cup of flour or rice flour or cornstarch (gluten free)

4 teaspoons of chili powder

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon of dried minced onion

1 tablespoon of minced dried garlic

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of parsley

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of basil

1⁄4 teaspoon of pepper

Mix thoroughly. Use a decorative Christmas bag of place in a 4 oz. canning jar and decorate with a festive tag that reads “Add 3 teaspoons into your chili.”

M&M cookies in a jar

You will need:

One quart size canning jar

1⁄4 cup of sugar

1 1⁄4 cup of festive M&M’s

2 cups of sifted flour – all purpose

1⁄2 tsp. of baking soda

3⁄4 cups of brown sugar

1⁄4 tsp. of baking soda

Mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Layer flour mixture, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and M&M’s packed firmly in the jar. On a recipe card of colorful cardstock write the directions noted below for making these cookies.

Empty jar of cookie mix into mixing bowl; blend thoroughly. Add 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened, 1 beaten egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix until completely blended. Roll into 1-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until edges are lightly browned, about 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for five minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

From to other great web pages on the Internet, you can find most anything to put into a canning jar, and then decorate the jars with leftover fabric, ribbon and recipe cards from your stash at home. It’s also a great kid friendly project.

So, my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year in 2013. Happy Canning!

April Reese is a certified master food preserver through the University of California at Davis. She has been canning and preserving food for more than 15 years. She can be reached at (530) 274-3871 at the A to Z Supply Garden Center or you can email her questions at

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