Christmas Baskets for Christmas Gift Giving

By: Brigitte Smith

For many years I have been looking for alternatives to Christmas shopping. I find the crowds annoying, the pushing and shoving unnecessary and parking a nightmare. Having to buy all those presents in a few days shopping after working all day or on a Saturday when everyone and his cousin is doing the same thing takes away from the joy of really appreciating the true meaning of Christmas. I made a plan to do things differently.

The idea came to me when I was out looking for a special present. On every aisle they had gift box ideas. I thought why not take a box and personalize it. I had a friend who loved to read. I bought her a book by her favorite author, put a mug inside with a gourmet hot chocolate tucked in the cup and an aromatic candle. All told the Christmas basket cost me eleven dollars and I knew she would be thrilled with the thoughtfulness of my choices.

For many of my family members I make Christmas baskets full of goodies. For those of you who are familiar with making jellies or canning there are hundreds of recipes that are very easy to fix, require little time and are so much more fun than the traditional tie or sweater. Some choices are zucchini pineapple preserves, jalapeno jelly, lavendar sugar, chocolate coffee, or spiced tea. Make your own gourmet instant soups. All of these are incredibly easy to make and take very little time and can be made months in advance of December. Wonderful Christmas baskets!

If you have a backyard garden try making your own spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, pickles or relishes. All vegetables can be dried as well as herbs. Why not try dehydrated tomatoes, bell peppers, squash or onions. Following the directions of your dehydrator chop herbs finely or thinly slice fruits, dry and put into zip lock bags. Keep in the freezer until time to pack into your Christmas baskets and deliver.

Every cook loves fresh herbs. Plant seeds a couple of months ahead of time in very small pots and put under growing lights. Chives, parsley, rosemary, or different mints are favorites. Including these in your Chistmas baskets will make you a favorite of any cook. These are beautiful gifts to give and receive.

For your favorite gardener put a variety of flower or vegetable seeds, bulbs, a favorite tool, gloves or a unique garden ornament into your Christmas basket.

The last ten years I have been making goody baskets for my siblings and immediate family. They have been a huge hit. I bought several 12inch x12inch x 8inch baskets at my local hobby store. In each basket I put a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce, relish or pickle, packages of dried herbs and a jar or two of jelly, homemade pint bag of 12 bean soup, hot cocoa or chocolate coffee.

The exact list that goes into the Christmas basket changes from year to year depending on how much gardening I have an opportunity to do; new ideas or recipes I have found. The wonderful thing is my Christmas baskets are ready to be packed in August or September at the end of the gardening season and I didn't have to beat the rush or the crowds. I hope this has inspired you to try something new this gift-giving season. Try Christmas baskets!

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