I'm not crafty or particularly skilled in the kitchen, and I haven't mastered any domestic arts (though I'm really good at watching TV on the couch, which is not so much an art as a talent). But during the holidays, I get the condition known as Martha Envy, where I decide to make gifts for friends, family and teachers. Here are 5 easy (emphasis on easy!) gift ideas you can whip up in your own kitchen.
I'm from the "teach a man to fish" school, where you can give these treats along with a recipe card, so the gift is not only the product, but also the potential — a gift that keeps on giving!
Home Scent Sachet: My favorite way to get my home ready for holiday visitors is to make it smell amazing. Scented candles make me sneeze, so I do what my mom used to do — boil together water, some apple rinds or juice, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and orange rind and let it simmer all day on the stove. (And look: Cambria posted other simmer pot recipes last month on Re-Nest.) As a gift, put together little jars of the mixture (minus anything perishable, like apple rind), and attach a little card with ingredients and instructions.
Honey Lemon Body Butter: My friend Heather over at Domaphile was searching for moisturizers that weren't filled with toxic ingredients (don't even google it — you'll never bathe again) and she found this amazing recipe at Pure Natural Diva. A combination of grapeseed and Vitamin E oils, beeswax, citrus essential oil and distilled water, the recipe yields a fluffy cream perfect for sensitive skin. Of course, you can decide what kind of essential oil to add — lavender? ylang ylang? jasmine? — to make your own scent. A pot of body butter would make a great gift for mothers, sisters, aunts and friends.
Scented Linen Spray: This is one of those little indulgences I would never take the time to do for myself, but loved as a gift. Get a decorative fine-mist spray bottle (I like this fancy one) and fill it with equal parts distilled water and vodka (Mmhmm), then add 20-40 drops of your favorite lightly-colored essential oil (aromaweb.com has lots of ideas for scents and blends). Include instructions on spraying lightly on sheets (and avoiding skin contact).
"Dangerously Addictive" Olive Oil Granola: This was the gift I gave last year, and it was a big hit. I found Melissa Clark's New York Times recipe for Olive Oil Granola on The Kitchn and tweaked it to my tastes. I cut the brown sugar in half and the maple syrup by a third (I don't like granola that is too sweet), added quinoa for crunch (plus, it's a super-food!), threw in some slivered almonds, and took out the apricots. Cardamom can be hard to find, but it's worth it. This recipe is so rich and delicious, I eat it for breakfast and dessert. It looks great in a be-ribboned jar with a decorative holiday label on it &mdash and again, print out a copy of the recipe (however you tweak it yourself) so your giftee can have it year-round!
Chai Tea Mix: This might be my go-to gift this year: homemade chai tea! Dana from The Kitchn mixes loose black tea with peppercorns, cardamom, candied ginger, fennel seeds, coriander, cloves and cinnamon to make this chai mix. I love how she adds red peppercorns for a little holiday pep. Pack the results in a little jar and attach fillable tea pouches (For fancy gifts, I like the ones from In Pursuit of Tea) and brewing instructions.
Sources: I'm partial to Bormioli and Leifheit jar brands — they're decorative and come in fancy shapes but aren't too pricey. You can tie small bamboo scoops to the jars for granola or chai. For pretty kraft paper adhesive labels, washi tape and baker's twine, try Etsy stores like Crafty Theresa D and Paper Souffle.
Images: 1 & 6. Dana Velden/The Kitchn; 2. Publicdomainpictures.net; 3. Domaphile; 4. Blue Moon Candles; 5. Faith Durand/The Kitchn.