Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Dreaded C Word

I saw my first Christmas advert on TV yesterday, nearly a full month before Halloween. I don’t know about you, but there is something about Christmas advertisements which makes me feel anxious, unprepared and slightly depressed, and I’d like to smack retailers for bothering me in October. Consumption for consumption’s sake gets to me, and I don’t like feeling pressured to buy things that my friends and family neither want nor need just because the calendar hits a certain date. So this year, I’m not going to do it. This year is going to be different!

This year I am putting together hampers for everyone on my Christmas gift list, and my plan is to make everything in them myself (save a bottle of wine – I’m not that crafty). So far, I have soaps, lip balms, home-made jams and jellies, and some gourmet tablet ( made by my lovely and talented husband. I’m also including some of my hand-blended chai, and thought I’d share the recipe for anyone interested in making some. It’s dead easy, and it looks gorgeous packaged in a Kilner or Mason jar.

Elizabeth’s Chai:
1 part black tea - I use organic Assam, but you can use whatever you like. Just make sure the leaves are whole and not pulverised or tea-bag cut.

1 part spice mix - whole cloves; cardamom pods; broken cinnamon sticks; dried, sliced ginger; vanilla pods (snipped into small pieces); pink peppercorns; and a few pieces of star anise.

The spices are chosen for their colour as well as flavour, but if there is something in there you don’t like, feel free to leave it out. I’m not crazy about anise, and only use a small amount because it’s pretty. I love cardamom, though, and really pile that into the spice mix.

You can blend it all together or layer it in the jar. Either way, it looks beautiful.

Do you have a recipe or craft that would work for hampers? And if you do, would you share? :) I thought we might do a little pre-Christmas exchange of ideas. I bet we could come up with some fabulous Christmas hampers!


Anonymous said...

Now that our best friends in town have moved off, we're not exchanging Xmas gifts with anyone. Most of my long time friends are out-of-town, and I'd told them a long time ago, after I moved away from Vancouver, that we should stop exchanging gifts because not only is the buying part stressful enough, then you have to spend all that postage mailing things.

When I do some sort of holiday gifting, I make baked goods. There are some cookies that I pretty much only bake and give at the holidays: whipped shortbread and chocolate almond bites are my two specialties. I'd be happy to share those recipes with anyone who wants them.

Thank you for the chai recipe!

Kate said...

I made a yummy (and lovely-looking) peppermint hot chocolate in jars last year. I will did out the recipe! Also, an easy toffee/cookie recipe.

I'd love the whipped shortbread recipe!

gracefruit said...

Teresa - Oh please, would you post your recipes? That would be an excellent edition. We don't have too many hampers to give away (mainly to my husband's family), but I really want them to be special. I had an idea for making herb and spice infused olive oil. That can't be too hard, right?

Kate, the hot chocolate and toffee/cookie recipes sound great!

Suds to Love said...

I love chai tea, thank you for posting your recipe, I'm going to give it a try.

I love to make "Buttered Rum Fudge" for cookie / dessert plates for family get togethers. Very simple, line an 8 x 8 square pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Over low heat melt together 1 can vanilla frosting, 1 bag (12 oz) butterscotch chips, stirring constantly, when melted, remove from heat and add 1/2 tsp rum extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 3/4 cup chopped pecans, mix well and pour into the prepared pan. Stick in the fridge until firm, pull foil out of the pan and cut into small pieces.

Sorry for the long post.

gracefruit said...

That's a great recipe! Thank you for sharing it. I love fudge.

Michelle said...

I've got some jars of chutney ready for this year. Bottled fruit is another great hamper gift. These are delicious and have been a big hit with our relatives:

Be careful with preserving things in oils - gotta watch out for botulism!

sherrieg said...

Thanks for the chai recipe! Milk baths can be made in bulk and are easy peasy. Mmmm. :)

Anonymous said...

OK...did it! I posted the recipes to my blog. :)

Heidi said...

You said it so well...I hate seeing Christmas adverts before fall even sets in!

We're really wondering what to do for Christmas this year. I don't want my kids to grow up expecting lots of junk. I don't have room for it, and they don't need it. We'd like them to be grateful for the things they recieve. We want to teach them how to be givers. There are so many kids out there with nothing, why not balance the scales a bit.

Sorry to spew that all out = ) We've been thinking about what to do and have so many thoughts swimming around in our heads. My mom's already thinking about what she can buy so I'd better figure it all out soon!

Meg_L said...

I followed Teresa R. over here and I think your hampers sound great.

I couple of years ago I participated in a virtual cookie exchange and posted some recipes. You might by interested.

gracefruit said...

Michelle, botulism is the last thing I want to give for a Christmas gift! :) Thank you for the link!

Sherri, the bath milk idea is great! Thank you for that. I have lots of pretty Kilner jars to fill.

Teresa, thank you! I'll probably need to have a few trial runs baking -- you know, just to test things. Hee!

Heidi, I'm so glad you posted that. We struggle with it every year. While we don't want to promote greed and consumerism, we don't want our kids to feel cheated. It's a tough balance. We've been talking a lot about pollution and waste, and even over-packaging, so I hope they have more realistic expectations this year.

Solidarity! :)

Hi Meg! Thank you for stopping by and thank you for the link.

Anonymous said...

I love teas and will definitely give your recipe a try.

Now, thinking about the ideas ( I actually decided on giving away few baskets of handmade stuff myself :)), besides soaps, salts, bombs etc., I'm thinking of spiced nuts, cookies/oatcakes (=baking).
I also make (very shy now) my own lovely granola and spiced baked apple puree (no preservatives though, doesn't keep long) among many other things, which people appreciate but I don't know if it's suitable for this kind of thing...
Apart from foods... knitting (scarfs?)...


gracefruit said...

I., I'd pay someone to knit for me. I've tried a few times and really made a mess of the yarn. What sort of spiced nuts do you make?

Anonymous said...

I used to knit a lot when I was at home with my boy (quite relaxing). Kids are such grateful wearers of knitted stuff and look so cute it them too :)

1. Almonds with whiskey and smoky salt
200 g almonds
50 ml whiskey
2 Tsp maple syrup
1 Tsp (or less) neutral oil
smoky salt
Marinate almonds in whiskey and maple syrup for 1 hour. Take out, mix with oil and roast in the oven (200 C) for 10-15 minutes stirring a couple of times. Cool slightly and sprinkle with some salt.

2. Mixed nuts with chili and rosemary
1 1/3 cup mixed natural nuts (of your choice)
1/3 cup dark muscovado (or demerara)
2 Tsp neutral oil
1/2 tsp chili
chili flakes
fresh rosemary
salt flakes
In a bowl, mix nuts, muscovado, oil, chili, chili flakes and a couple of rosemary twigs. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven (175 C) for 10-15 minutes stirring few times. Let cool down and sprinkle with some salt.

These are original recipes. I tend to to add more things or substitute with others (like curry powder or cumin or just black pepper, choose your favorites!).
Love nuts!

I. (Glasgow)

gracefruit said...

These both sound gorgeous! We do buttered garlic pecans, but they get a bit samey after awhile. I can't wait to try this. Thank you!