Tag Archives | holiday gifts

Give the Gift of the MightyFix from MightyNest

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During my visit with my parents earlier this week, we spent some time talking about the coming holidays. Mostly, the conversation was strategic. We mapped out transportation, thought through menu ideas, and traded thoughts on what to get my sister’s two young boys. We also talked about gifts for one another, but kept coming back around to the reality that we all have pretty much everything we need.

And so we struck a deal. This year, we’re only giving gifts that serve a purpose. Bars of good soap are great, but useless appliances are not. Edible gifts are a-okay, but no one needs another sweater. And anything that helps keep our kitchens clean and running smoothly are always welcome.

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If you find that your family feels the same as mine, may I suggest the MightyFix from my friends at MightyNest? It’s a monthly subscription service that sends full sized non-toxic products for the kitchen and home. It typically costs $10 a month, but if you subscribe now, you can get a full year of fab products for $99.

It’s a gift that continues to give all year long, which means that your favorite cousin or your best friend will get monthly reminders that you’re thinking about them. When the MightyFix was first launched, I bought a subscription for my sister, and she’s really appreciated the various shipments she’s gotten. It’s included things like Bee’s Wrap, a set of reusable Produce Bags, a stack of six Tidy Dish Cloths, and lunchbox-ready leakproof Stainless Steel Containers.

Oh, and did we mention that the MightyFix ships for free, and anything you add to your monthly order from MightyNest will also ship for free? Subscribe to the MightyFix for 6 months, 12 months and 24 months today!

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Pre-Order the Food in Jars Cookbook!

Food in Jars cover

Okay kids, I have some fun news. The Food in Jars cookbook(subtitled Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round) is available for pre-order! Obviously, it won’t be shipping before you give gifts this week (expect to see physical copies of it around May or June), but if you have a bit of extra holiday budget burning a hole in your pocket, pre-ordering a copy from your favorite bookseller.

Get it from a local-to-you bookseller.
Get it from Powell’s.
Get it from Amazon.
Get it here from Barnes and Noble.
Get it here from Chapters (for you Canadian folks).

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Holiday Giving: Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Thanksgiving is behind us and out here on the East Coast, December is less than an hour away. Sounds to me like a fine time to start talking about homemade, edible gifts (well, as long as you’re prepping for Christmas. For those of you starting your Hanukkah celebrations tomorrow night, well, I’ve failed you miserably).

Now, I know that lots of you spent the summer putting up luscious jams, vivid jellies and puckery pickles to tuck into boxes and baskets. However, I have my suspicions that there are more than a few folks out there just beginning to think about how to cover their gift giving bases. I can empathize, as I am a known procrastinator and truly, if it weren’t for my canning habit, I’d be perpetually stuck for hostess and holiday gifts.

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However, there is hope. One easy, lovely holiday gift that you can get started now and will be ready in plenty of time for Christmas/New Year’s giving is homemade vanilla extract. It’s an amazingly easy thing to do and people are mightily impressed when you present them with a ribbon-wrapped bottle.

Vanilla beans in vodka

Making vanilla extract is as simple as splitting eight or nine beans (although even more is better) and dropping them into a bottle of vodka. Now, I realize that vanilla beans can be a bit spendy. However, if you buy them bulk the price drops impressively. I have found that you can get them on eBay in bundles of 12, 15, 30 or more beans for just a few bucks. Team up with a few friends, order a pound and suddenly whole vanilla beans won’t feel like such a rare commodity anymore.

I like to let the beans steep for at least a couple of weeks before pouring the now-infused booze into the regular-mouth half pints jars. I typically include at least one bean in per jar (though two is even better) that I’m gifting and I like to top each one off with a bit of dark rum, to balance the sharpness of the vodka.

It’s nice to add a tag to the jar before giving it as a gift, instructing the recipient that as they use it, they can keep topping it off with vodka or rum to extend the extract. Eventually the vanilla bean will surrender the entirety of its fragrant virtue, but it can refresh several rounds of booze quite happily.

Updated: Many of you have gotten in touch to say that you don’t think that a couple of weeks is long enough to fully develop the extract flavor. And while I’ve always managed to get good vanilla flavor in that time, I do understand that results can vary. If you don’t think the vanilla extract is sufficiently vanilla-y when the gift exchanges arrive, you can still bottle it up and give it away. Just let your recipients know that it may need a bit more time to get appropriately fragrant and flavorful. Asking people to wait prior to use does nothing to the thoughtfulness and eventual utility of the gift.

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Gift in a Jar: Vanilla Syrup

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A couple of years ago, I uncovered a secret that completely changed the way I cooked and baked. I discovered that it was possible to order bulk lots of vanilla beans on eBay for cheap. I went from treating the vanilla bean as a precious item to using them freely. And this time of year, they can become an easy path to a sweet, homemade holiday gift. Homemade vanilla syrup can sweeten coffee, is delicious in plain yogurt and is wonderful drizzled as a quick glaze over top of any number of simple baked goods.

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To make, combine one cup of water with two cups of sugar and add three to four vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into half pint jars (when I made this tonight, I filled two half pints and one quarter pint). Include a piece or two of vanilla bean in the jar to keep infusing.

Because this is an unacidified product, it can’t be processed for shelf stability. However, it will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Gift this with some pancake mix, freshly baked scones or a pound of coffee.

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Gift in a Jar: Apple-Cranberry Jam

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Throughout my childhood and teenage years, my parents’ standard holiday gift for friends and family was a bag of my dad’s homemade pancake mix (in particularly flush years, we’d also gift a bottle of maple syrup). The bag would also contain printed instructions on how to turn the mix into batches of fluffy cakes or waffles. I have it on good authority that people looked forward with great anticipation to those pancake mix gifts.

Over the years, we were also the recipients of many a homemade holiday gift, including jars of lemon curd from our cousins in the Bay Area, bottles of homemade coffee liqueur and divided plastic plates from my dad’s business partner, overflowing with cookies, fudge and caramels, hand-wrapped in squares of waxed paper.

In recent years, as my canning practice has grown, more and more of the holiday gifts I give are home-jarred edibles. This year, I’m planning to give my Philadelphia cousins jars of apple butter and apple-cranberry jam, along with mini-loaves of cranberry bread. If you’d like to give your friends and family their own jars of apple-cranberry jam, the recipe is after the jump (it’d be great with some scones on Christmas morning).

I’ll be posting more ideas for gifts in jars in the coming weeks, in the hopes that I’ll be able to inspire you to give your own gifts in jars this year.

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