We've tightened our belts during the downturn, but that's no reason to miss out on the gift-giving cheer this holiday season.

A gift from the kitchen is more special than any gift you can purchase, so why not put on your apron, roll up your sleeves and turn your kitchen into a workshop for some sweet treats?

Here are some simple recipes to get your started.

They use uncomplicated ingredients that are as easy to do for the giver as they are for the recipient to make.

Happy holidays!

MCT News Service

Getting started

•Any kind of jar will do, but wide-mouth canning jars work best.

•Blend the flour, baking powder and soda or salt in a bowl before adding to the jar.

•Pack ingredients in as tightly as possible. Place the ingredients in the jar and press down with a utensil with a fairly wide, flat bottom so the ingredients lose some volume and the ingredients fit in the jar.

•Careful packing is key, but if you can't get all the ingredients into the jar, put them in a zip-close bag and attach them to the jar as part of the decoration.

•The layers will stand out most if you pack the highly contrasting items next to each other.

•White sugar will seep down, so it is better to put white sugar below other ingredients. All-purpose flour and cocoa also have the same seeping problem.

•Include a card listing the recipe's ingredients and baking/cooking instructions, and another card with the entire recipe.

•Start with fresh ingredients. That way, the person receiving the gift can wait a few months to use them. These mixes, if stored in a dry and dark place, should last six months or longer.

•If the mix contains nuts, it should be used sooner, ideally within three months.


Each recipe has two sets of instructions. The "Jar instructions" are for the giver, and the "Card instructions" are for the recipient and should be attached to the gift jar.

•Clip the entire recipe and include it.

•Use the "For jar ingredients" to fill jar.

•Write the name of the recipe, the "For card ingredients" and the "Card instructions" on a card and attach it to the jar neck with ribbon or to the body of the jar with colored string.

•Use the "Jar instructions" to layer the ingredients.

•To decorate, use scissors to cut a

•9-inch-diameter circle from calico. Place over lid and secure with a rubber band. Tie on a raffia or ribbon bow to cover the rubber band.

•You don't need special equipment. Putting gift mixes together can be as simple as putting all the ingredients in a resealable bag and adding instructions. ]]>

Ingredients for jar:

•4 cups oatmeal

•1/2 cup wheat germ

•1/2 cup coconut

•1/2 cup almonds, chopped

•1/2 cup peanuts

•1/2 cup each dried raisins,

•cranberries and pitted dates

Ingredients for card:

•1 tablespoon vanilla extract

•1/2 cup oil or melted butter

•1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup


Jar instructions: Layer oatmeal, wheat germ, coconut and nuts in a

2-quart jar. Place dried fruit in a plastic bag. Place bag of dried fruit on top. Close lid. Include instructions for baking.

Card instructions: Heat oven to

300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with rims with parchment paper. Measure honey, oil and vanilla. Whisk. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Use your hands if necessary. Pour onto baking sheets and bake 40 minutes or until cereal is evenly toasted. Halfway through baking, stir cereal and put bottom pan on top rack and top pan on bottom rack. Remove granola from oven, allow to cool, then add dried fruit. Store in airtight container.

Makes: About 7 cups