It is only December 2, and I already feel like a crazy person. Every year, I decide to make all kinds of Martha Stewart-ish holiday treats (cocoa kits, reindeer food bags, gingerbread houses…) and then get testy with everyone in my house because they interrupt my projects when they want something– like dinner. Even though I had about 6 loads of laundry to do, several sets of school papers to grade, and various other weekend chores, I chose to mix up a batch of Buttered Nuts with Rosemary and Orange, print cutesy labels, and bag them using one of the clear gift bags I have in my vast collection.
This morning’s project is super fast and will be going to some of my husband’s co-workers or given as a thank you sirsee to the hosts at the (few) holiday parties we are attending if I run out of cocoa kits.
2 cups lightly salted roasted mixed nuts can (an 11.5 oz can)
1 T. unsalted butter
2 T. sugar
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 T. thinly sliced orange zest
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the nuts, sugar, rosemary, and zest. Cook, tossing, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool on a baking sheet.
NOTE: Recipe can be doubled easily. I added an additional 1/2 c. of pecan halves and 1/2 c. of plain almonds and a few extra mixed nuts, then doubled the seasonings and butter.
I donated to the teacher gift fund, so my children’s classroom teachers will be getting a group gift card from the class for the holidays, but I always like to send in a little something extra and personal.
This year’s Christmas teacher sirsee is a Cocoa Kit. I am not sure why I like “kits” so much (in the past year we have given Ice Cream Sundae Kits and Teacher Emergency Kits), but this kit is something the teachers can use at school or share with family at home. I should be able to create an assembly line in my kitchen and pack them up pretty quickly. I am going to make extra to take with us as hostess gifts to holiday parties or to give as gifts to friends and co-workers. What are other festive sirsees to give this holiday season?
The Cocoa Mix: Click here for the Cocoa Mix Recipe I used. I put about two servings of cocoa mix in the plastic bag that went into the box. Alternately, you could simply buy pre-made cocoa mix.
The Chocolate Stirrers: I originally saw these candy spoons on Pinterest. I adapted the idea to make cocoa stirrers. Go to the Cocoa Mix Recipe for directions about how to make the chocolate filling for the spoons. After the chocolate is melted, turn the heat off and let cool slightly (5 min?). While the chocolate cools, rest plastic spoons on the handles of wooden spoons (or another kitchen item) to hold the spoons level. Place a gallon Ziploc bag in a large measuring cup and fold the top of the bag over the edges of the measuring cup. Pour chocolate into the Ziploc. Pull the Ziploc bag out of the measuring cup and hold it like a pastry bag. With scissors, snip off a very tiny piece of one corner and fill spoons with the chocolate. Hold your finger like a stopper over the opening of the bag as you move from spoon to spoon. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on the chocolate and let set.
The Other Contents: I added mini marshmallows and a few cookies to the kit. I used snickerdoodles because I think they are a good dipping cookie for cocoa or coffee. I think gingersnaps or a classic Christmas sugar cookie would work well too.
The Packaging: I need to buy stock in Avery labels and clear gift bags. I own almost every size possible. I wrapped the bowl of the candy spoon in a 3×4 inch clear bag and tied with raffia ribbon. I used my trusted clear bead bags for the cocoa mix, cookies, and marshmallows and printed small labels for each item. The boxes are Wilton Treat Boxes I purchased at Michael’s.
The Gift Tag: I printed a message and directions for making a mug of cocoa on cardstock and tied it to the top of the box. When we are actually getting ready to deliver, I will have my children sign their names on the tag rather than using The Room Mom!
Bring your child’s teacher a really good lunch the first week of school! In fact, this is a great little sirsee for a teacher’s birthday, teacher appreciation week, standardized testing week, or any random day. As mentioned in the Teacher Emergency Kit post, teachers are trapped in the school building all day. Unless a planning period aligns with the moon on a Tuesday in January, they are not getting out of that building to go pick up a lunch. Most teachers (read: me) hastily pack a half of a peanut butter sandwich along with their kids’ lunches as they are racing out the door in the morning. What a treat it would to receive a good lunch one day.
The Bag: I sewed the bag in the picture above modifying a pattern I had for an art bag. I would not recommend sewing your own lunch tote. After 7 hours at the sewing machine, I decided I do not like my children’s teachers THAT much. Pick up a lunch bag at any store where you purchase school supplies or even your local grocery store. A cute disposable gift bag would work well too. I really like the neoprene lunch totes if you want to upgrade the gift. Almost all teachers have access to refrigerators, so you should not need an insulated lunch bag.
The Food: I made a really good pesto chicken salad and put it on a squishy roll with arugula. I included pretzel crisps, raw veggies, and a small container of cashews, almonds, and dried fruit. I added a bottle of water too. Teachers usually have a microwave available, so you could send something yummy in a tupperware with re-heating instructions instead of a sandwich.
You can click on Fancy Sandwiches for the pesto chicken salad recipe and a few others. I realized after I decided to post these recipes, they probably have a bad breath factor to them. No problem– include a mint with the lunch OR make sure your child’s teacher has the Emergency Kit, so he/she has a toothbrush.
The Extras: Do not forget to add a paper plate, napkin, and any plasticware that is needed.
If you need a lot of teacher gifts but don’t want to spend too much money, you can put together ice cream sundae kits. My son and I needed about a dozen sirsees or little surprise gifts for the special area teachers, classroom teacher, school receptionist, etc.
We purchased small cake boxes, curly ribbon, cardstock paper, clear bags, and small ziploc jewelry bags at Michael’s. We then bought sugar cones, fun ice cream toppings, and ink jet return address labels at Walmart/grocery store. At home, we printed the labels, printed the cards to tie on the top of the box, and filled bags.
Our gift tag on the box said, “Thank you for teaching me this year. I hope you have a sweet summer.”