Consumer Watch: Treat ideas for holiday party favors

Consumer Watch: Treat ideas for holiday party favors

November 25th, 2018 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

If you're heading to a family member's or friend's house for the holidays, it's always nice to bring a hostess gift. It doesn't need to be anything expensive or extravagant, just a thoughtful gesture for all the hard work they put into the family feast. Conversely, if you're the host and want to leave your guests with a little party favor, these homemade gifts can serve as party favors, too. So this year, get crafty and make one of these DIY hostess gift or party favor ideas for your host or your guests.

Ellen Phillips

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

This kit is made up of three homemade seasonal seasonings (that's a tongue twister) and is incredibly easy to assemble. Moreover, I can't imagine the recipient wouldn't find a use for all three items in the coming months. And if she wasn't likely to make chili or mulled wine, you can bet she will now that you've given her the most essential ingredients for both creations. Plus, the pumpkin pie spice is perfect for this time of year's pie baking.

Pumpkin Pie Spice:

4 tablespoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon vanilla powder

1. In a small bowl combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight, lidded container.

Chili Spice:

2 teaspoons paprika

4 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoon oregano

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients In a small bowl combine and store in an air-tight, lidded container.

Mulling Spice:

3 strips orange rind

2 strips lemon rind

2 tablespoons whole cloves

1 tbsp whole allspice, smashed

1 whole star anise, smashed

4 cinnamon sticks, smashed

Arrange lemon and orange rind on a rack; let stand until dry and brittle, about 24 hours. Break into 1/4-inch pieces into bowl. Add cloves, allspice, star anise and cinnamon; stir to combine.

Make a spice bag from 2 to 3 layers of cheese cloth. Put the spices in the center of a 6-inch cheesecloth square and tie cloth shut with kitchen twine. Use one bag to every 2 quarts of apple cider or wine.

Goodies in a Jar (or pumpkin) – Take a pint or quart mason jar, a medium-size plastic pumpkin, or a smallish hollowed-out, clean, fresh pumpkin. Depending on which container you use and its size, fill with whatever looks attractive and what you think the hostess would like. The list could include assorted candy, seasonal tea bags, dog treats, airline-size liquor bottles, movie and/or fast food coupons, and the list goes on and on. Tie a brightly-colored ribbon around the top of the jar and, for the pumpkin, place a stick in the midst of the "whatevers," and add a ribbon on top.

Coffee Mug Mixers: Pour melted chocolate into vintage spoons (flea markets are great to find these) and top with extras for really cute treats. Granola, peppermint or chocolate sprinkles, marshmallows, and whichever extras gifters think of add that extra punch. Wrap in cellophane and you're good to go. (Depending on the size of the container, add a coffee mug or two to the package.)

Stove Top Potpourri: Since memories are so strongly linked to smells, this holiday season I plan to make this fragrant and easy recipe as gifts and for my own house to smell divine. One whiff of some whole cloves and orange peels is the best!

Starting with a pine tree in your yard or trim from a live Christmas tree, trim 2 good-size sprigs. Add 2 peppermint sticks (make sure it has peppermint oil in the ingredient list) + 2 sprigs of pine + 2 cinnamon sticks = one jar of potpourri. If preferred, substitute the cinnamon stick for a vanilla bean if you have one. It's a versatile potpourri that nicely carries over into Spring.

1 sprig of fresh rosemary + 2 cinnamon sticks + peel of one lemon = one jar of potpourri. The recipe calls for lemon peel, but sliced lemon wedges work fine as well. It's hard to mess up a stovetop potpourri recipe.

2 cinnamon sticks + 2 sprig of pine + 1 TBSP. of whole cloves + 1 whole nutmeg + 1/3 cup cranberries + 1 star anise pod + 1 orange = 1 jar of potpourri. This recipe has a lot more ingredients, but it's also super flexible. You can take out any part of the recipe and it will still smell great. Use powdered or grated nutmeg as well, if you can't find it whole. If you don't have an orange, use a lemon. It all works.

Make it all just spices — nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

Tips for buying spices: Since spices – and particularly whole ones – tend to be fairly expensive, look for cheaper ways to complete your mixture. Check the bottom shelf for bulk containers of cinnamon sticks; Walmart usually carries them for $5. If not found at grocery stores, check health food stores for whole star anise and whole nutmeg; even then, it costs only $1-2 for the amount needed (handful). For fresh rosemary, buy the plant not the pre-cut bunch. Not only great for potpourri, the plant is a delightfully-smelling holiday addition and an added bonus can be planted outside as a perennial. Local stores may sell it in the produce section or check your local nursery.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.


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