All posts tagged gifts

  • diy coffee liqueur

    coffee liqueur

    This year, I’m determined to right the wrongs from last Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just 10 minutes into Thanksgiving dinner prep, I sliced off a chunk of flesh from my finger. The rest of my afternoon consisted of bleeding and watching the Forsyte Saga and Quantum Leap (yes, I’m a very cool person) while Cory took over dinner. Dinner was still delicious, but it put a damper on the day I hadn’t experienced the likes of since Thanksgiving ’95. That was the year my dad thought it would be a great idea to show my extended family a home video of me singing, dancing, and pretending to be the great Cornholio from Beavis and Butthead. These days, embarrassing myself is one of my favorite hobbies and you can find a clip from that video on YouTube. I think it’s adorable now, but at age 10? Mortifying. As for my homemade Christmas gifts, all but the buckeyes ended in disaster. We didn’t even get to visit family due to a power outage. So here I am, many moons later, gearing up to shower friends and family with tasty homemade treats.

    First up, coffee liqueur! When I was a wee one, having Kahlua in the house was a rare and very special thing that my parents would use for making White Russians. Those are nice and all, but I also recommend using coffee liqueur almost anywhere you would vanilla. It’s a simple way to give baked desserts and goods a little bit of “ooh, what’s in this?”. Adding just a small amount can go a long way. We’ve been putting coffee liqueur in smoothies, coffee, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, cookies, popsicles, and drizzling over ice cream. Your coffee liqueur will be ready in about 4 weeks. Technically, you can pop it open whenever you’d like, but it’s best to allow the vanilla to infuse for 4 to 6 weeks. It’s so worth it.

    Damn girl, where did you got those bottles?

    I love swing top bottles. The bottles pictured above are from World Market. I must’ve bought them on sale because they’re a little more expensive on the website, but Amazon sells the same bottles for about twice as much. If you’re in Portland, Kitchen Kaboodle has a huge selection of glass bottles on the cheap. Want a really large bottle? IKEA sell 34 ounce bottles for just $4. Maybe keep that one for yourself and give the smaller ones away? That’s what I’m doing!

    Coffee Liqueur
    (adapted from Food in Jars)

    I actually doubled this recipe so I could keep some for myself and give away to others. If you don’t really care for vodka, try this with rum or bourbon. Admittedly, I’ve only used vodka but I’ve had a lot of success making vanilla extract with both bourbon and rum.

    2 1/2 cups white sugar
    2 cups water
    3/4 cup instant or ground espresso
    2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
    3 cups vodka

    Heat sugar and water in a large pot over medium heat. Stir often until sugar is completely dissolved. Then, add the espresso and stir until it has been fully dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. Mix in vodka, bourbon, or rum.

    Split and scrape the vanilla beans and stir the seeds into the coffee mixture. Drop vanilla beans into your bottle or jar (cut them in half if using multiple jars or bottles). Then carefully funnel the mixture into each jar(s) or bottle(s). Give each bottle a shake every few days. The liqueur will be ready in 4 to 6 weeks. Enjoy!

  • homemade gift ideas: 2013


    These days, my list of Christmas gift recipients is pretty small: my parents, my in-laws, and my friend Cristina. Cristina and I have a tradition of exchanging weird things (commemorative Tom Selleck plate, inappropriate slippers [yes, there’s such a thing], unicorn art, corgi things, etc), but with the parents I go the homemade route. As the years go by, it seems silly to gift things like movies, clothing, and gadgets that will either be ignored or quickly obsolete. Homemade means made with love… and possibly containing strands of my hair. Sorry about that in advance, guys.

    Maple Cream

    Recipe and photo from America’s Test Kitchen

    Did you know if you heat maple syrup to a certain temperature, then diligently stir it for about 20 minutes it will transform into a heavenly spread of deliciousness? I found this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen over the summer and I knew then it had to be a part of my Christmas goodie package. I just purchased 2 pounds of Grade A maple syrup from Amazon and will be trying it out next week.

    My mother-in-law is a HUGE fan of the San Francisco-based chocolate company See’s and loves their chocolate maple creams. Lucky for her, I worked just around the corner from a See’s and very close to a post office. I’d send her See’s for holidays and just because (yeah, I’m the best). Now that we’re in Ann Arbor, we have Zingerman’s and cookie butter from Trader Joe’s to keep her excited about getting surprises in the mail, but I know she’s missing the taste of See’s. The maple cream will be a hit with everyone, but I’ve got a feeling it will change my mother-in-law’s life.


    Recipe and photo from Smitten Kitchen

    If you’re not from or near the state of Ohio, you may not know what buckeyes are. They’re peanut butter confections, partially dipped in chocolate, and loaded with confectioner’s sugar. Whenever these were included in candy trays from family and friends growing up, I’d go straight for them and ignore everything else until the buckeyes were gone. I’ve made them every year since 2010 using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. Deb’s recipe swaps out some confectioner’s sugar for crushed graham crackers. Not that it makes it any healthier, but it adds an interesting texture to the sweets. I think I also might slip in some Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter into this year’s buckeyes, too. The recipe says they can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, but Cory and I have kept in them in the fridge for up to three weeks.

    Blurb photo book

    In 2010, I made a book from Blurb with some of the recipes from my blog and sent them to family. Blurb has super easy-to-use software for creating your book, or if you have knowledge of InDesign you can upload your own design. Last year, I made a photo book full of Cory and I’s travels to Turkey, my dad’s visit to San Francisco, my in-law’s visit to San Francisco, and of course, photos of our newly adopted cat. Everyone loved the photo book and I intend on continuing the tradition this year. The deadline to receive a photo book before Christmas is December 13th, so I need to get started. Big things happened for us this year, you know, like getting married, quitting our jobs, moving across the country, and starting our own businesses. Hope no one minds that 80% of the photos will be of our cat.

    Homemade vanilla

    Recipe and photo from Simply Recipes

    If you make this now, it won’t be ready for Christmas, but it could still be gifted. I actually made this last year and started in early November to make sure the extract would be ready in time for Christmas. Making vanilla extract is so simple – just pour some vodka or bourbon in a bottle, add a few split vanilla beans and let them steep for about 6-8 weeks before using. I actually kept two bottles for myself and I’m never buying store bought vanilla extract again.

    I purchased my vanilla beans from Amazon and the bottles from Beanilla. IKEA also has really cheap glass stopped bottles, but they’re pretty large.

    Infused Olive Oil

    Links to recipes and photo from The Kitchn

    The homemade vanilla extract was not actually a great gift idea for my steak and potatoes dad. I should’ve known, but I thought he’d use it for hot chocolate (he did not). He loves to cook and likes the way I spice food, but doesn’t go out of his culinary comfort zone on his own. Infused olive oil will be a nice and easy way to give his meals a kick.

    Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

    Recipe and photo from Epicurious

    Okay, I’m not actually giving this as a gift to anyone… unless a gift to myself counts. I’ll be making these either on Christmas or a couple days before. Cory can have one or two if he wants, but they’re really for me. I’m a sucker for just about any dessert involving cream cheese. Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting are basically my favorite thing ever. It’s what made my 27th birthday so special, after all.