Whether “last minute” for you means anytime after Thanksgiving or 11:30 on Christmas Eve, it’s nice to have a repertoire of standby gifts that don’t require expensive overnight shipping. My standbys are edible gifts — decadent treats that offer my love and best wishes for the season.
By their very nature, edible gifts are often best when left to the last minute because you can always argue that fresh is best. These quick-fix favorites require little if any culinary skill.
Combine in a very big bowl:
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups small pretzels
2 cups salted peanuts
1 bag (12 oz) plain M&Ms
1 bag (12 oz) peanut M&Ms
Melt 2 (12 oz) bags white chocolate chips according to the package instructions*. Be careful to not overcook, as these chips burn quickly. Pour the melted white chocolate over the mixture and with a strong long-handled wooden spoon toss well to coat.
Spread the hash out on waxed paper and let rest until the chocolate hardens. Store in an airtight container or pile into gift bags. If you get the red and green M&Ms, you’ll have a very festive-looking result. This makes a lot. You should be able to make 10 to 15 gifts, depending on the size of your containers.
Almost Most Anything
Get big bags of nuts, candies and other similar treats. Dump them into a large bowl and mix well. Repackage into smaller holiday containers, mugs, bags of your choice. Embellish and you’re done.
Melt your choice of wafers, chocolate bars or chips (*see note) according to package instructions. Dip pretzels of any size or shape. Place on wax paper to harden. You’re done.
*Chocolate melting notes: Melting wafers are chocolate formulated for making candy. They are inexpensive, easy to use and available at grocery stores, cake and candy supply stores, and craft stores. Chocolate bars and Baker’s chocolate melt well. Chocolate chips, however, are formulated to resist melting. You can melt them, but it’s tricky. Stir in 1 teaspoon vegetable oil per 1 ounce of chips. Microwave on medium power at 30-second intervals.
Crunch ‘n’ Munch
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine
Pinch of salt
4 cups corn Chex, rice Chex or Crispix cereal OR 3 cups bran or wheat Chex.
Mix sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Melt butter or margarine in large skillet. Add cereal and mix well. Heat over medium heat stirring until coated (5 to 6 minutes). Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar mixture over the cereal and continue stirring until well coated. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture and heat several more minutes. Spread on a layer of wax paper or foil to cool. Yield: 3 to 4 cups. This recipe multiplies well if you have a large skillet.
Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at mary@everyday
cheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.