by Kay Mercer

Di's Kitchen: The Christmas Edition

South Dunedin Library's Dianne Mears shares some seasonal treats and tips for inexpensive Christmas gifting

Quick and easy Christmas ideas. A mixture of items from the Library and other sources.

As everyone would have guessed by now, I love spending time in my kitchen and making lots of treats. Coming up to Christmas I’m already thinking of things that I can do and make for my family and friends. As well as having something on hand that I can throw together for gatherings.

If you are like me, you will have been thinking about your Christmas Cake. When should I make it, have I got all the right ingredients, should I get an extra lot of ingredients if I run out early? This can happen in my house, so I now keep an extra supply of what I need.

About 26 years ago I bought one of Alison Holst’s Christmas books, it’s just a small thin book but it has a recipe for a Quick Mix Christmas cake. I’m one of these people who doesn’t like the Fruit Mix (added cherries and other stuff) added to cakes, I prefer sultanas. I’m fussy I know. I usually make this cake at least once a month but at Christmas time I make it with my favourite icing – I use a butter icing with the addition of Canterbury Cream or Kahlua… an extra special Christmas treat. I did find this recipe in the more recent Cooking for Christmas by Simon and Alison Holst on page 12.

I have been enjoying looking on our library catalogue and finding books on platters for entertaining, I recently had out Beautiful Boards: 50 Amazing Snack Boards for Any Occasion by Maegan Brown. This book gave me heaps of ideas about what I can put together and I can also let my imagination go wild. You don’t have to go overboard (pardon the pun): simple can be fun as well. I really enjoyed making up a platter for one of those lazy Saturday nights - sitting on the deck with a nice cool drink and enjoying the company of friends.

Cookies in a Jar — Image by: Dianne Mears

I’ve also been thinking of things that I can make myself to give to friends and family as Christmas gifts. One thing that I like to do is ‘Cookies in a Jar’, I have bought a few nice jars and put in all the dry ingredients, while trying to make it look pretty (doesn’t always work). I write a label with the wet ingredients needed and instructions listed. I made one up so that I could take a picture and then I just had to bake them! I must say the recipe that I found online for M&M Cookies was fantastic. They only lasted a few days and I got told off as I ate the last one and the son wasn’t impressed.

I’ve also bought a selection of cool mugs and some small cellophane bags so that I can do mug cakes or cake in a cup. I’ve written down a few recipes from Mug Cakes: Soft Melting Cakes Ready in 5 Minutes by Lene Knudsen. Doing the same things of making labels with written instructions and list of extra ingredients. These makes cute gifts. If you are looking for some inspiration, we do have a selection of cookbooks that have suggestions for handmade gifts, I really enjoyed looking through Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen by Alison Walker.

Lemon Curd — Image by: Kay Mercer

I’m also a big fan of looking online for recipes, I recently started looking at the recipes on Chelsea’s website. This is a fantastic site as it is a New Zealand page and we have easy access to the ingredients. There are heaps of fantastic recipes on there and I have found a couple that I’ve since made: Lemon Curd and Passionfruit Curd. I bought some nice small jars and have made both, they will definitely be made again closer to Christmas to go in gift baskets.

There’s something about making your own gifts that makes them extra special. You put your own time and energy into making a personalised gift.