For the past two years, my students have operated a small business at the holidays selling Mason Jar Cookie Mixes to the families in our school community. It is part of our focus on business and financial literacy skills that we cover all year. This year, we changed it up a little and manufactured layered cocoa mixes. The new business had a lower overhead, and it was easier to source pint sized Mason jars, which translated into (a little) less work for the teacher-supervisors!
The cocoa mixes make great gifts for friends and neighbors at the holidays and are easy to assemble. Whether you are making 27-dozen like we did or just a few for gifts, it is an easy DIY holiday gift.
1/2 c. powdered milk
1 T. original powdered creamer
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 c. semi sweet mini chocolate chips
1/4 c. crushed peppermint bits
1/4 c. mini marshmallows (or enough to fill to the top of the jar)
In a pint Mason jar, layer ingredients in the order listed above beginning with the powdered milk.
Press firmly after the chocolate chip layer and again after the peppermint bits layer.
Fill to the top of the jar with marshmallows.
Attach a tag with a ribbon that says, “Mix jar ingredients in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 c. mix in a mug and stir in 1 c. boiling water. Store remaining mix in an airtight container.”
I found 5 oz. bags of crushed peppermint at Walmart in their holiday baking display. If you can’t find pre-crushed peppermint, buy classic candy canes and crush them yourself. If you are making really large quantities, order online from a source like Candy Warehouse in 5-lb. bags.
Fruity, refreshing cocktails go so well with many of my summer activities like sitting around for extended hours at the pool or watching kids ride bikes up and down the street. We also live in a beach town so that contributes to the summer cocktail vibe.
I rarely drink wine, but I will drink sangria. To kick off the summer season, I made a pitcher of sangria. My recipe has the fruit steep in rum for several hours before adding the wine, but I have seen recipes that use brandy and/or triple sec.
1 1/2 c. light rum
1/2 c. sugar
1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine
1 c. orange juice
Chill fruit, rum, wine, orange juice, and club soda.
Slice the lemon, lime, and orange into thin rounds and place in a large glass pitcher.
Add the sugar and rum and stir until sugar starts to dissolve. Chill in refrigerator 2+ hours.
Crush the rum soaked fruit slightly with something like a wooden spoon and stir in wine and orange juice.
When ready to serve, pour over ice leaving a little room at the top for a splash of club soda. Make sure to top with a few fruit slices.
Since I don’t know how to pick out good wines, this is a good recipe for me because it is perfectly acceptable to use cheap red wine a la the sale aisle at the grocery store. Most recipes recommend Rioja, Pinot Noir, or Beaujolais.
Try to remove seeds from the fruit slices before adding to the pitcher.
Sangria is easy to serve from those party beverage dispensers with a spigot, and it transports well in go-cups.
In my last post, I shared a banana bread recipe baked in mini loaf pans that I wrapped up to give as teacher appreciation gifts. Most people have a family banana bread recipe, so it is not that new and exciting. I was thinking it might be a nice twist to bake a breakfast bread recipe that may not be as widely recognized. I pulled out a recipe I have for Rosemary-Olive Oil Bread because I needed a few more teacher sirsees this week. This is a savory bread, and a slice tastes REALLY good toasted.
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. pine nuts
2 t. baking powder
2 t. dried rosemary
1/4 t. salt
1 T. freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. apple juice
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Pam or Crisco
standard loaf pan (8″x 4″) or 3 mini loaf pans (5 3/4″ x 3 1/4″)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray or grease the pan with Crisco.
In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, pine nuts, baking powder, rosemary, salt, and lemon zest.
In another bowl, blend the eggs, apple juice, and olive oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and smooth the surface.
Bake 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
The pine nuts can be replaced with chopped walnuts or pecans. You can also use a combination of nuts if you only have a 1/4 cup of pine nuts and need to add a few pecans to make 1/2 cup. This combination has been tested and approved.
If using mini loaf pans, fill about halfway with batter. I get about 3 mini loaves per recipe. Reduce the cooking time for the mini size. After about 30 minutes, watch until the top is browned, then test the center to determine if the rosemary bread is baked through.
Wrap with parchment paper and have kids decorate with stickers to give as gifts.
These work well as a teacher appreciation gift, hostess gift, or housewarming present.
My holiday houseguests arrived Thursday night (about 5 hours after school let out for Christmas break). I did not make it to the grocery store before they arrived, so I offered a few leftover rosemary nuts and some slices of cranberry bread that I received as a teacher gift for breakfast Friday morning. We did not even have milk for coffee– my husband had to run out to the gas station.
This morning, I actually had breakfast food for my guests after a major trip to the grocery store (courtesy of my husband– I almost considered that a Christmas gift). I served up some Breakfast Cups to the group, and people were not disappointed. I need another quick prep meal for tomorrow morning. Can anybody help a hostess?
1- 10 oz. Can Ro-Tel tomatoes (I use mild version)
½ c. mayo
1 c. grated cheddar and Monterey Jack (or just cheddar)
1 t. dried basil
8-10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ small onion chopped
1-2 cans 10 oz. refrigerated flaky layered biscuits (I use Pillsbury Grands Original Flaky Layer Biscuits)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, stir together tomatoes, mayo, cheese, basil, bacon, and onion.
Separate each biscuit into 3 layers.
Press each layer into a lightly greased mini muffin tin and fill with tomato mixture. Bake 10-12 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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.
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 orange (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.
Include the directions listed above along with a little holiday message.