December 19, 2011

Easy Homemade Gift Sets

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Before I say anything else, please let me apologize in advance for any typos. I nearly chopped off the tip of my finger while making dinner, and I never realized how much I use my left pinky to type until now.

This post leans more towards the trinkets side of Treats & Trinkets. You know those super cute gift sets you always see in WalMart and Target this time of year, with the mug and the drink mix and the marshmallows? That's what we'll be putting together today. Homemade gifts are always well-received, and this isn't exactly that glued pasta frame that you made in kindergarten. This is a homemade gourmet drink mix with homemade marshmallows. That's right, I said it. Homemade marshmallows.

If you've never made homemade marshmallows before, don't be intimidated. I made them for the first time just for this purpose, and they were surprisingly easy. You just need the right tools: a candy thermometer, a stand mixer with a deep bowl and a splatter shield, and plenty of patience and powdered sugar. I used Betty Crocker's recipe for Gingerbread Marshmallows and they turned out wonderfully. The only thing I would change would be to used a 9 x 13" pan instead of the 11 x 7" recommended in the recipe. My marshmallows turned out massive. Also remember to spray your tools with cooking spray. And to be very, very careful. Melted sugar is very hot and dangerous. But I'm pretty accident prone (see above), and I managed to escape unscathed. As long as you pay enough attention and take necessary precautions, you will be fine.

Since I didn't change anything about the recipe, I'm just going to move on to what I did with the finished product.

Here are today's cast of characters: Chai Latte Tea Mix (also from Betty Crocker), gingerbread marshmallows, and a dollar store mug. I got a bunch of cute ones from the dollar store, some Christmas themed and some not. I'm currently putting this together for a co-worker. I chose this mug because it was nice and non-denominational, plus the green looks good against my background. XD

The chai latte recipe makes enough for 18 cups of chai, so I decided to split it up into three to get more bang for my buck. Now you don't have to use the chai latte mix, you can use any mix you please, even a store-bought mix and divvy it up however you like. The same goes for the marshmallows. I chose this particular flavor combination because I thought it would go well together. You can do whatever your little heart desires. Be creative. People appreciate that you put thought and time into their gifts.

You can also add holiday candies and cookies to the set. I plan on adding some shortbread cookies to the ones I make for family. This is for a coworker, however, and she gave me cookies today. I don't want to seem like I'm copying her or trying to show her up.
You're also going to need some plastic treat bags. You can go with Christmas themed or clear. I actually went with both. The latte mix went in Santa here, because you don't really need to see it. The marshmallows went in the clear bag because, hello! Homemade marshmallows! You might want to put the treat bag in the mug before filling it; however Santa's beard was a little too wide for me to do that.
See how wide the bag is compared to the mug? There are about 1 1/2 cups of mix in Santa now (1/4 cup of mix= 1 serving for the latte). What you're going to do now is sort of stuff him in, pushing the mix upward until he fits in the mug. (Poor Santa- this sounds awful)
He even watches you from your coffee cup!
Now twist tight and tie with a twist tie. Do the same with your marshmallows.

I only put seven marshmallows in the bag. One to taste and one for each cup of chai. Again, this is for a co-worker, so I'm skimping. For my relatives I'll probably put more.

Now, you could tie these together with a ribbon and be done with it, but how will the recipients know how to make the chai? How will they know the marshmallows are actually dense, spicy gingerbread marshmallows? For that matter, how will they know what it is? We'll just have to make gift tags.
You can see here that I've printed out the directions for making the Chai Latte. I sized it in Word to fit on the back of a large-ish gift tag, and I cut it out with a paper cutter. You can use scissors if you have a steady hand, but I needed to cut fairly close to the text and didn't want to chance it. You can find a printable pdf of this at the end of the post.
For the tag you simply need a gift tag, the directions, and double sided tape. We have a lot of gift tags in my house, so I just picked one out. You can easily make your own by printing the directions on nice, heavy cardstock, punch a hole in it and tie a ribbon through it. Or you can cut out a gift tag from scrapbook paper. That's what my background is, and I got a book of Christmas themed papers from Marshalls for 4 bucks.

Stick the double-sided tape to the back of the direction on all four sides. Stick the directions on the back of the gift tag, et voilĂ .
Cute on the front
Useful on the back
 Now, you can tie the two bags together using the gift card and give it that way, but I found that the gift tag was too big for that and it looked awkward.
You could put them in a cute Christmas themed box. This is great if you're giving candy and cookies as well. You can give this as is or wrap it in cellophane and tie the gift-tag to the top. But I only had two of these boxes and I didn't have enough to put in it to make it worth it. So instead:

I wrapped it up in green Reynolds plastic wrap. I don't know if they still make this (we've had it for years) but you should be able to find something similar.

There you have it. Easy-peasy and just as cute as the ones from WalMart.

{Chai Latte Mix Directions}
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