Holiday Crafting (and Cooking): Frugal Gifts

December 15, 2010

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is searching out new, fun gifts to give to family and friends. It just feels like the perfect time to put all the creative desires one can find into gift making, and most days are stuffed with paper, glue, glitter and fun. I remember being in college and discovering Martha Stewart on one of her Holiday Specials on TV. I truly thought that she had the greatest life ever. I mean being paid to come up with cool crafts, recipes and tips to make the holidays just a bit brighter, could it get any better?

Having said that, I like to make gifts from things that we mostly already have. Crafting is not always a cheap pursuit, so once I have enjoyed making the list of things I know we want to try, I have to make sure that we actually have the materials needed to create them.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes and projects that use things that are generally right around the house, and are quick, easy and pretty inexpensive to make.

As a mother of two kiddos with Celiac disease, and a member of our local Celiac/Spruce association, I like to find quick and easy gifts to exchange that are tasty and still full of holiday cheer. I was very excited this year to discover this great recipe for mini pies that can be baked directly in the jar. First, I have what feels like 3 million mason jars, and using them up and giving them away seems like a great plan (especially in the eyes of my husband), and who can resist individual pies that can be made ahead, frozen, and popped into the oven any time you crave? Certainly not I.

For this holiday, I chose to make frozen gluten free/soy free crumb apple pies (I left out pie crust for a crumb base to make things even easier) using cubed apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, brown rice flour, freshly grated nutmeg, and butter. When I say that these were made, jarred and put into the freezer in under 20 minutes, I am not joking. The topping was made from 2T of GF oats, 1/4 c brown rice flour, 1/4 c brown sugar, 2T cold cubed butter, and a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon (I used two forks to cut the ingredients in together).

I did modify the recipe in just one way, I used a slightly larger jar, and layered the crumb topping in between the apples and butter. I just figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a bit of extra crumb topping throughout.

The result is pie. In a jar. Piping hot. Yeah, it is good. Really good. So good in fact that I decided to make up an entire tray of these to freeze for when the wee one finally arrives. I figured that any late night nursing would be made much better by one of these yummy treats.

Once the jars are frozen, you can top with fabric, a standard mason jar lid or any other decorative trim you can find and pack them up real pretty for whoever is lucky enough to receive them.

Speaking of gluten free gifting, one thing that may sound really boring, but is always a hit, is making homemade gluten free bread crumbs for a hostess gift or food basket. For some odd reason, even with all of the advancements in gluten free food available today, store bought gf bread crumbs are truly atrocious. They taste like paste, or something worse, and it ruins every meal I ever try and make. One day the light bulb went off that if I liked making homemade bread, then that same bread should be good to make my own bread crumbs with.

Simply leave your bread out on the counter for 24 hours, and pulse in a food processor or blender with dried basil, oregano and parsley. Store in an air tight container, or freeze if you will be using it over a long period of time. I guarantee you that a jar of gluten free bread crumbs will make everyone smile.

I have to admit that over the course of the last year, I have really come to value creativity that can be found in a toilet paper roll. My husband asks little questions (smart man) about what the 25+ tp rolls are doing in a pretty basket under the sink, for he knows that if he asks, he may find himself in a lengthy discussion of just all the crafts that can be made from a single roll.

So what can you make with an empty tp roll, a piece of wax paper, left over scrap book paper and some Hershey kisses? A pretty candy roll filled with yumminess.

Cut your paper to the exact width of the toilet paper roll.

Using Modge Podge or standard glue, glue the roll to the paper. Make a straight cut across the paper, and seal the edges with a bit more glue.

Your paper tube is now ready to fill.

Using a sheet of clear wax paper, roll it over your candy roll and tie on one end. The less wax paper you use, the more vibrant your paper will be underneath. I liked the look of natural twine, but colored ribbon would be beautiful as well at each end.

Fill your candy roll with whatever treats you have on hand (this truly works with everything from bite sized cookies, to gum drops, to Sundrops).

Tie the other end and add in a gift tag, write the recipients name on the front, or simply leave as is and enjoy.

I recently discovered the joys of a paper shape cutter, and I am starting to wonder how I ever lived without them.  Jacob requested a Christmas sketch book yesterday, and after cutting these little circles out for a different project, I had a few left over to use for him.

A few paper circles, glue, a blank red journal I found in my office, and a sharpie gave us a holiday ornament journal for many a fun sketches. All in all it took about 10 minutes, and the smile I got from it was worth every quick second.

A few easy, fun and inexpensive last minute crafts always put me in a good mood, keep the days busy, and the little ones occupied. Hope you all enjoy.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherene December 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I LOVE, LOVE LOVE the pie idea. I had seen it with cupcakes in the microwave ( but this didn't sound quite as yummy, and I dont have a microwave). But pie, anytime is a sure winner with almost everyone I know. Hmm, wonder if I have room in some of my gift baskets to try these?

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Kelly December 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Yum, that pie looks so good. great gift ideas!

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Andrea December 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

What fun ideas–and not excessively complicated, which is the path I find myself going down (and floundering in) with home made holiday gifts.

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AdirondackMama December 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm

You just gave me ideas for how to spend my down time today! THANKS Sweets! These are all gorgeous ideas for gifting.

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Aubrey December 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

You rock! Love all those ideas! Merry Christmas!!

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Luisa December 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

great ideas. I'm saving my tp tubes for candy giving cute. I love giving homemade goods in a mason jars the warmth. I recently started making my own bread crumbs and croutons. I've been making my own bread for a couple of months and we love it so why not add two more things to make with day old bread. All the store bought stuff has dairy which we can't have.
Great ideas :)

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GinnySheller December 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

These are all great, but freezing the pies for when the new baby comes is genius!!!

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kate December 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

you had me at "pie in a jar" — I love these ideas, and I *just* bought a circle paper punch last night so YAY to more uses for it (we're making bottlecap photo magnets for my brother)….And ps– HELLO! I'm back in a new blog space– and looking forward to catching up on all that I've missed:)

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Anna December 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm

It all sounds and looks wonderful! Pie in a jar without having to make pie crust — sound like a completely brilliant idea!!!!!

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kbernadette December 15, 2010 at 6:10 pm

You know I am making some pie today! You'd never know there were toilet paper tubes underneath the pretty paper.

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Sarah Jane December 15, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Woman, you've got such a creative gift! And those apple pies look wonderful. Did I tell you I have new neighbors who are gluten free and so I'm suddenly more interested in gluten free.
Thanks for sharing all the goodies!

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Nina - Tabiboo December 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

What a fantastic pie idea – I don't think the Brits have caught on to this concept…..much. Definitely one to try as I love, love, love apple pie or crumble – yum. Warming and filling and a gift all rolled into one – perfect.

Happy festive holidays,

take care,

Nina xxx

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kendra December 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm

ooo, please keep sharing tp roll ideas! if i hadn't just used up all my jars for jelly, i would so freeze a tray of those for our soon-to-be arrival too! we've been pretty strict on dairy though, so we use coconut oil!

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Johanna December 15, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Great ideas! Your candy roll reminds me of a Swedish cracker that we use for Christmas. It is made of tissue paper.

Jo http://joshealthcorner.blogspot.com/ ” target=”_blank”>http://www.thelivingwellmoms.com

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Lise December 16, 2010 at 1:26 am

Great ideas!

Thanks for your comment on my yarn-along post. Glad I was able to point you to some new books! Hope you enjoy them.

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earth mama 101 December 16, 2010 at 3:42 am

EEK! Thanks for that tp roll idea! That would make great fancy stocking stuffers! I love your Matryoshka up there. She is beautiful. I know what you mean about GF. I cannot bear, or logically, since my oldest is so so sensative, to make/give anything but gluten free goodies. Everything in our kitchen gets made GF. Its always nice though to give it out and have people oohhh and ahhhh over it…and then tell them, Oh it's gluten free, and they are so surprised, because if you wouldve told them first they would have been all biased about it. Too bad we aren't neighbors, we could swap goodies.

:)Lisa

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a little crafty nest December 16, 2010 at 5:55 am

Oh, such wonderful ideas with such simple bits and pieces. Thanks!

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Nicola @ Which Name? December 16, 2010 at 7:06 am

Oh yum. As a now-GF baker, I am super appreciative of this post!
Nicola

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Alyssa Spring December 16, 2010 at 2:41 am

thanks for sharing that recipe! Looks delicious…I've been wanting apple SOMETHING now for several days (20 weeks preggers) so that would be perfect!

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erin December 16, 2010 at 3:22 pm

such great ideas. love the toilet paper roll! :-)

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Tonya December 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I am going to make the candy holders for my girls:) I laughed when I read about your basket of toilet paper rolls.
Warm wishes for a joyful season Heather.

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emmalina73 December 17, 2010 at 1:18 am

The pie in a jar looks genius! How would you cook it? Sorry if I missed the instructions. I just fancy making about a dozen of them and eating them all to myself. Wait did I say that out loud…? ; )

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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:38 am

Emmalina, I have already eaten all of the ones that I made, so I hear you on that one :). I baked mine at 375 until they were just golden and bubbly. The main thing that I read is that if the pies are being taken out of the freezer, they need to be put into a cold oven, and then heated up with the oven to reduce any cracking in the glass.
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:43 am

Gluten free baking feels like it changes so much of who we have been in the kitchen, but yet at the same time, it is a very fulfilling challenge to come up with modifications that still taste like out old favorites.
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:45 am

Lisa, that is so true. I think that there are so many people who have eaten bad gf food, that the bias is always there. I am always excited to tell someone that what they just raved about is gf, and see the idea that gf food does not always have to taste like paste.

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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:50 am

I loved the idea of the candy rolls looking like crackers. Now if I could just get them to snap like them too :)

I loved browsing your blog and website. I feel like I need a lot more time to go through everything, but what wonderful resources you have created!
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:53 am

I agree, Pie in a jar, that can be individually eaten, and not having to make crust. Such a winner in my book as well :).
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:53 am

No, I hadn't heard that! As a GF mom, it is just neat to hear the excitement in your voice over that :). Let me know if you ever need any recipes.
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:54 am

Oh wow, bottle cap magnets sound awesome! It is so good to have you back in the blog world, and I am looking forward to catching up on all that you have been up to :).
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:57 am

Oh croutons! that is brilliant. Do you just cut them up and cube them, and then season?
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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 5:58 am

I so agree with you. Complicated was out with me this year, and simplicity really reigns as being the most important part of or holiday crafting. I think that might just be the motto I adopt for the year :0

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Melinda Taylor Kelly December 17, 2010 at 9:14 am

If there was a "Like" button I would be hitting it like a million times! I love the idea for the "crackers" another project to get done by Christmas, but that is so cool, yet so simple I can not wait to do them! I have always not liked just throwing in small candies into the stocking! This totally fixes that issue! Thanks, yet again!

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agambroult December 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm

well, look at you now, gathering crafts, tips and stories and getting paid for it! yay!
uh, pie in a jar? yes please! Those candy Christmas crackers are so fun! I feel the same way about my paper shape cutter. I think I have to use them more often!

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Shivayamama December 17, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Oh how I wish I got paid for that! No, I was just lamenting on the life of Martha Stewart :)

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valarie December 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Me too, I have a million mason jars. This is going to be very fun. We love to make the Christmas crackers out of toilet rolls too. We have huge crowd coming over tuesday to make them. Thanks for sharing all of these special gifts to give.

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mindy bell December 18, 2010 at 6:42 am

great pie in a jar idea!! I'm doing this tomorrow for sure! I have a whole box of jars that ned to be used up! xo

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Home Baked December 19, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Lots of great ideas! I really enjoy the way blogging lets us all peek at eachothers holiday crafting, don't you?!

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Angela December 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

These are fantabulous! I actually need some more mason jars. I am running out! I can completely relate to the urge to create gifts and I know what you mean about the expense! Whew! Thanks for sharing. Peace, Angela

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christine January 13, 2011 at 1:21 am

pie in a jar, oh how cleaver. and those crackers, love 'em

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Lucy January 28, 2013 at 10:07 am

Hi there, just wondered where you got your paper cutter from?

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