Holiday Simmering Spices are the perfect low prep gift to give friends this Christmas season. I used to throw an annual cookie exchange and would put together a little party favor for the guests. One year I gave each friend a bag containing the “Essence of Christmas”. This is something my mom always had simmering on the stovetop at our house during the holiday season; it makes your whole house smell like Christmas.
It is easy to make in big batches, and if you are already in cocoa kit or rosemary nut production, you should have a large supply of clear bags and labels– perfect for packaging these goodies. Share with neighbors, teachers, co-workers, or bring as a hostess gift to parties.
Simmering Spice Ingredients
- 1 t. cloves
- 4-5 juniper berries (can be hard to find, Whole Foods usually has these with the bulk spices from Thanksgiving to Christmas)
- 1 whole orange (OPTIONAL, navel oranges– cannot use clementines or tangerines)
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- Slice orange and add slices with spices to a pot with 4-5 cups of water. Simmer on the stove to emit a wonderful Christmas fragrance. Refill water as necessary.
Simmering Spice Notes
- You can make bags with our without the orange. The bags last almost forever if you do not include the fresh orange.
- CLICK HERE to download a sheet of printable labels. Print on cardstock and cut apart to make nice tags to attach to the simmering spice bags.
I abandoned my traditional Teacher Emergency Kit back to school gift this year for a teacher snack bar that all the teachers at my school could enjoy. My children attend the school where I teach, and traditionally, I have made THESE KITS for my kid’s homeroom teachers. Well, my son and daughter are in middle school now (*sniff*), and they see multiple teachers throughout the day. I thought setting up a snack bar in the teacher kitchen for everybody to enjoy would be a great way to thank all the teachers.
Last spring during Teacher Appreciation Week, I put together a BEVERAGE BAR, and I used that same idea but with snacks. The interesting thing is that everyone commented on loving the salty snacks. I think when people bring treats for teachers, it is often cookies, cakes, muffins… I made a mental note to provide salty teacher treats more often.
Setting up a Teacher Snack Bar
I made Spicy Ritz Crackers, Tijuana Tidbit Snack Mix (CLICK HERE), and my daughter baked brownies. We put the mixes in cookie tins, the brownies on a platter, and set out napkins, small plates, and small 5-oz plastic tumbler cups to hold the snack mix. All the snacks were on the counter in the common teacher kitchen, and people walked by throughout the day and grabbed a little bite. The seasoned Ritz crackers were the crowd favorite. I was worried they would be too spicy but that is why everyone loved them.
- 1/2 c. melted butter (one stick)
- 1 packet Ranch dressing mix
- 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 T. red pepper flakes
- 1 t. garlic powder
- 1 box original Ritz crackers
- Let melted butter cool slightly. Mix butter, Ranch dressing mix, grated Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.
- Put Ritz crackers in a mixing bowl.
- Pour butter mixture over the Ritz crackers and gently stir to coat crackers.
- Put crackers on a foil lined baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Let cool and store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.
All the snacks were gone before lunchtime! It was an easy teacher appreciation gift, and I will definitely set up something similar again.
The first full week of May is National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States. It is no secret that I love putting together small gifts or gestures of appreciation for my children’s teachers. Many people work with my kids, so I am always trying to find a gift idea that I can mass produce and is cost effective. When we start counting the various core teachers, special area teachers, and support staff who interact with my 5th and 7th grader on a daily basis, it is over 25 people.
To make sure I do not leave anyone out, I am setting up a beverage bar tomorrow for the entire faculty. I bought 16-oz. Solo cups in a fun color, pretty straws, and a selection of individual sized drinks. My school has an ice machine, but if this is something you are considering for teachers, don’t forget bags of ice too. People can drop in all day to the teacher break area and fix a cold drink to take back to the classroom.
- Provide a variety of sizes and options. I purchased Coke and Diet Coke in 12-oz and 8-oz cans, sparkly flavored waters, Snapples, and a few sodas in bottles with twist off lids. A twist off lid is great if you don’t want to finish the drink in one sitting (or students return and you have to start teaching again). The smaller soda cans work well if you need a little refreshment but don’t have time for a larger drink.
- In place of a beverage bar where people go to a common location and serve themselves, you could print a fun, individual label and attach to the Solo cup. THESE LABELS are Avery 5263, 2″ x 4″. Put a can of soda and straw in the cup and deliver to individual teachers.
- If this is something your school’s PTA or parents’ group is considering for the faculty and staff, they could order Personalized Can Coozies with the school logo to give to teachers. There are many sites that sell party items like this in bulk for groups.
- Depending on how well you know the teachers, you could kick the beverage idea up a level and give individual gift bags with cocktail kits. There are so many airplane sized liquor options at liquor stores now, it can be fun to give a small bottle of alcohol, a mixer, and a lime. This may not be appropriate for your school community– you be the judge. I did put together a little gift like this for the teachers returning from multi-day field trip with my daughter to Williamsburg, VA. I knew the group of teacher chaperones, and I was pretty confident they would love the gift!
I have many great teacher gift ideas. CLICK HERE for more inspiration.
It’s the time of year where I like to send a small thank you to all the teachers, coaches, and other caring adults who work with my children. It adds up to more than 20 little gifts, so I am always looking for something that I can make in bulk AND will be something that the receiver might use. I typically go for something consumable meaning the gift receiver can eat the item, or it has a one time use and then is gone.
This year, I made flavored popcorn salts. There are many recipes available and lots of cute ways to package the salts to give as a gift. I found containers that look like French fry boxes at Hobby Lobby. I put one package of microwave popcorn in each container along with a variety of mini bags of flavored salts. Even if our teacher friends don’t use the salts, most people I know will eat popcorn, and it is something that can be a good snack to make at school (although you have to be careful not to pop in a central location because the smell does linger!).
We gave a mix of 3 salt flavors– Bacon Parmesan, Buffalo Ranch, and Mexican Hot Chocolate (my favorite). I read through a handful of recipes by doing a Pinterest search and then clicking through to the websites. I used recipe ideas from THIS WEBSITE and THIS ONE. For our popcorn packets, I bought “light” microwave popcorn because that type usually has the lightest amount of salt and butter flavor. You need the least amount of salt and butter as possible to start because the flavored salts are SALTY, so use sparingly. Of course, you could always pop your own popcorn from scratch and control the salt amounts that way.
I printed THESE LABELS for the mini bags. I used my favorite 3″ x 5″ bead bags that I get from Michael’s Crafts and Avery labels 8160, size 1″ x 2 5/8″.
The salts can be sprinkled on meat, eggs, or anything to which you would normally add salt. Based on the few blog posts I read, it is really easy to create new combinations so think about flavors you enjoy and start mixing! If you want to take this idea and make the gift a little more substantial, add a movie gift card for your local theatre or a gift card for Redbox.
Did you see my LAST POST with information about a fun back to school teacher gift? I’m having my annual giveaway, so you don’t have to put one together yourself; you can win two!
One Lucky Winner Will Receive TWO Back to School Teacher Emergency Kits!
Keep one kit for yourself and give one to a teacher friend (or make two teachers, friends, co-workers, neighbors… super happy and give both as gifts). Giveaway ends this Saturday, August 5 at 3 PM (EST). Shipping addresses must be within the USA or Canada.
The winner will receive two clear cosmetic bags and emergency kit contents. Each kit contains a $10 Starbucks giftcard, Blistex, travel sized Pepto Bismol chewables, cough drops, dental flossers, two hair bands, four quarters for soda money, disposable toothbrush and paste, Band-aids, tweezers, and an emery board.
To enter, comment on this blog post with any teacher or parent (or teacher parent) life emergency supply, trick, or advice you have. Do you have a great MacGyver-type move that really saves the day? I’ll share one– if you need deodorant in a pinch because you live in South Carolina and have recess on a playground in direct sun at noon with little shade, and you get totally sweaty no matter what you do, wipe some hand sanitizer under your arms with a Kleenex.
You can also leave a comment on any of my INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK giveaway posts for additional entries. Each comment = one entry. Random name chosen from all comments when the contest ends 8/5/17 at 3 PM (EST).