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Homemade gifts are the best gifts. And, when your holiday gift list includes not only family and friends, but also co-workers, neighbors, teachers, and even the mailman, homemade treats make heartfelt economical gifts that everyone appreciates.

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It has become a family holiday tradition to walk door-to-door together delivering sweet treats and merry well-wishes to our neighbors the week of Christmas. Most have family coming in for the holidays so something to share with houseguests is always accepted with open arms: a pound cake that can serve as tonight’s dessert (and tomorrows breakfast), caramel popcorn for a family Christmas movie night, or sugar cookies for Santa.

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The holidays are a time to come together and enjoy the company of those you love. I love making gifts that go beyond the present and foster family togetherness and traditions. I have a friend that makes cinnamon rolls as gifts for friends to bake on Christmas morning, and I love to give pre-made cookie dough so baking cookies for Santa can be fun and hassle-free.

 

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There’s nothing more personal or generous than cooking for someone and homemade gifts are certainly made with love.

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Peanut Butter Nutella Buckeyes
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1/3 cup nutella
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Flakey sea salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together peanut butter, nutella, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Using your hands, roll mixture into 1 inch balls and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet (recipe will make approximately 30). Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in the freezer until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring frequently until smooth every 30 seconds. Dip frozen peanut butter and nutella balls in melted chocolate by holding the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top. Place back on parchment paper and sprinkle tops with flakey sea salt. Refrigerate until serving.

 

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Salted Caramel Popcorn
½ cup popcorn kernels, popped
1 cup salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
1½ – 2 tsp kosher or sea salt, divided

 

Preheat oven to 300°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside. Pour popped popcorn into a large serving bowl. In a small saucepan melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and 1 tsp salt together over medium heat. Bring to boil. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir to coat evenly. Pour popcorn into lined pan, sprinkle remaining salt on top (1/2 tsp – 1 tsp depending on your personal taste preference) and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow popcorn to cool on a parchment lined counter.

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Deluxe Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

 

Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners’ sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extract. Blend in remaining ingredients. Cover the dough and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until golden. Do not over bake (cookie will get hard). Immediately remove cookies from baking sheet and place on a wire cooling rack.

 

 

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