Saturday, October 15, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Thinking of Christmas

My husband could never understand why he would find Christmas craft items in Michaels in say... August.  However, having sold at craft sales long ago, I know a lot of Holiday crafting has to be started in summer.

Holiday baking is often begun in late November and early December but if one has decided to make some kinds of food gifts, they should be started soon.  I don't know about you but I was shocked to find how close we are to American Thanksgiving so gifts such as homemade vanilla extract need to be started... now.  I've made it before and found it took a full two months to begin to develop a good vanilla flavor. 

I know, it is kinda' difficult to think of Christmas when the forecast says it is to be 80 degrees, as ours does.  But it is coming and before we know it... December will be here.  I don't like to have a rushed December at all.  I adore Christmas music and Christmas books and Christmas movies and morning Quiet Times by the light of the tree and I want to have time to enjoy them.

Have I mentioned that I do not like the Mall at Christmas?  It was different when our stores were Downtown and even though it may have been freezing cold, there was a feeling of the Holidays all around.  In the window displays of the department stores, the Christmas lights, the Nativity on the Courthouse lawn (yes... it was once legal), and the Salvation Army bell ringers on various corners. (Silver Bells, Silver Bellls, it's Christmas time in the City... yes, the bell ringers!)

Somehow the florescent lights of the Mall never had quite the same attraction.  But I guess the nostalgia for "Downtown" ages me.

While the decorations may wait until after Halloween in the stores (emphasis on MAY WAIT), a lot of the food products are already in the main aisles of the larger grocery stores.  Making it possible to buy a little here and there, especially as they go on sale.  That is what I'm waiting for to stock up, the bigger discounts on baking ingredients.

I'm already thinking about what gifts I'll give this year.  I only buy gifts for the kids and grandchildren and perhaps a couple of friends.  Everyone else receives baked goods or something similar and I find they enjoy them.

After reading a blog post by Annabel (The Bluebirds are Nesting*), it got me thinking about the kinds of food I give as gifts each year and whether an option with less expensive ingredients would do just as well.  Now, there are some things that I will never change... like using real butter.  Except for the few cookies that also use Crisco sticks.  So I'm already looking for sales on butter to stock up a little each week, as well as 10 for $10 sales on cream cheese.

But after reading her blog post, I decided to make granola as one of my gifts this year.  Granola can be very expensive or relatively thrifty, I go for the thrifty option that is just as good.  I already have containers the granola would look nice to be given in.  The cocoa mix recipe I use is good but expensive to make, even with using dried milk** I have on hand.  So I'm researching other recipes that are simpler to try before making a large batch.

I have already cut back on expensive cookie recipes to make in bulk and like Annabel, I make more shortbread cookies now.  I have a Christmas mold that I use sometimes to make one big shortbread cookie that can be kept whole to see all the designs.  Sometimes I roll out the shortbread dough and use cookie cutters (it rolls out so much better than my sugar cookie recipe).

One cookie recipe that is always in the mix is the Jewel cookie recipe, everyone loves it and I use strawberry (or cherry) jam in half the cookies and mint jelly in the others at Christmas. Red and green.  Of course. I think you can see why I start freezing butter in October (or earlier).

Now that I know how well my chocolate chip dough freezes after it is scooped on cookie sheets and flash frozen, I will definitely be making it in November and freezing the dough ahead of time.  They can be placed frozen on a cookie sheet and popped into the preheated oven, adding only a few minutes cooking time.  SO MUCH BETTER than making them and baking them all in one day.

Have I mentioned chocolate chip cookies have a siren song, wooing one to nibble a couple of them late at night when willpower is weak?

We'll be talking more about Christmas cooking and baking soon but today's post is to remind you how fast time goes once the leaves start falling (or the apple trees blossom south of the equator). 

The Bluebirds are Nesting, September 25... here.
Peak dry milk (I was asked what kind I think is so good)... here. (This is the smaller size.)
Some of my cookie recipes... here.


Heather LeFebvre said...

Am trying reading blogs on my phone and will see if I can stay on top of them better!!! Just today got a Christmas box in the mail from Scotland!!! Wow someone is organized! The only thing I've begun is cArd pics ordered and started a box to keep presents I collect for kids :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,
I try to do some baking ahead for Christmas, as baking is not really my favourite thing, but it wouldn't be the holidays without shortbread, fruitcake, etc.
Great idea about the chocolate chip cookie dough! Nice to have something to pop in the oven if someone comes by. Have you ever tried frozen cookie dough? ;)

Vee said...

Butter is still nearly $5. I keep hoping some will go on sale. I have picked up a couple cans of pumpkin. = D

It is not too early to be preparing and thinking ahead.

My friend Abby was just telling me about flash freezing cookie dough. I want to have some on hand for the grands because they used to expect something in the cookie can. Sadly, since John's passing, they have learned that there are no cookies. I need to change that around, but a can of cookies is a dangerous thing!

Mama Squirrel said...

"Have I mentioned that I do not like the Mall at Christmas? It was different when our stores were Downtown and even though it may have been freezing cold, there was a feeling of the Holidays all around."

Yes, here too! My shopping pattern varies from year to year; this year I've done some online shopping, and that is another thing that goes better if you get going on it early. (No worries about things that might or might not arrive on time.)

Terri said...

Brenda, This post is a wonderful reminder to me that I better start thinking about the gifts that I make for Christmas. I love receiving and giving gifts that are homemade. Your blog is lovely and I thank you for writing it.

Melissa said...

Now that it's just "Hubby" and I, when I make cookies for us I freeze half of the dough (we don't want to eat too many nowadays)...that way, when December comes I have a variety of cookie doughs all ready made and just pop them in the oven like you do.
As far as giving Homemade goodies, I try to make less "sweet" things...because so many others do that. I've "canned" applesauce and peaches. I also make a frozen fruit dish and put that in pretty containers to give away, lots of friends say that it is a refreshing idea instead of all of the sweets.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I rarely shop the mall, anytime of the year.

I am shopping for the kids already, and found Rachel's gifts today!

I baked Cappuccino muffins last year and gave them as gifts to friends, and people we wanted to thank, such as our local produce stand ladies, and the gals at our favorite breakfast place. Not expensive and they were all so pleased.