Monday, December 18, 2006

Goodie bags

We are quickly approaching the upcoming holiday . . .
Goodie bags for our friends and neighbors, and some family members are a traditional gift from our home. This weekend we finally got them out. I was a little concerned that we would be pressed for time and missed working with the kids to assemble these bags, but I believe this is typical of a family entering the "launching" stage with two teenage children. Our goodie bags are actually brown paper lunch sacks decorated with ribbons to hold various goodies (decorated sacks not pictured), I find a basic bag like this very versatile and potentially festive. Although the gift bags vary in content quantity, the largest bags for a select few included: Bags of 8 mixed variety cookies, chocolate covered plastic spoons to stir hot cocoa with, baggies of hot cocoa, chex mix "puppy chow", (vegan) fudge, banana bread w/ chocolate chips (pictured previously during baking extra #1), chocolate dipped pretzel rods sprinkled with broken candy, and pumpkin granola bars.

Previously as a stay at home mom / home school teacher I had both kids and myself in the kitchen for a couple of days to make goodie bags that we would share with many. I greatly dislike holiday traditions in which kids make long "want lists" and it is all about them with no thought for someone else .... when they have no clue the holidays are about being a blessing to someone else. Our gifts and talent are not given to us to keep all to our self, they are meant to be shared and then they can accomplish the purpose for which they are intended - a satisfying and more peaceful life for all of us. I have tried to teach my kids that one must contribute something to anyplace they go, especially at Christmas time. These contributions can take many forms and is similar to looking for the positive in others, even though some people require that you really search for it.
Link#1 - ornaments, scrap book pages, sweet treat packages, etc
Link#2 - More than baked goods, long list of ideas

In our early home school years (when they were younger) on Christmas Day I would give both children a choice of something to contribute to our little family celebration meal. One year Melissa made homemade peanut brittle in the microwave (it turned out awesome) and Matthew made cookie bars (very dry, but he was sure impressed with them). Other years they made meal dishes, Matthew's favorite is corn casserole and Melissa has favored decorating the room and table to make the day extra special. On Christmas day we like to have a special brunch, Dave tells the Christmas story, we eat, and then officially receive gifts. I say receive because for the past three years each of us set a dollar amount and pick out our own gifts. The gifts are set under the tree and greatly anticipated until we finally receive them. We have really come to value the time that we shop together to pick out the gifts, even though the past two years I had to order their gifts from specialty catalogs. Shopping has been primarily for togetherness fun. I dislike holidays in which people I haven't spent much time with must figure out what to buy me or I them. I prefer to shop or do something together so I can can get to know them better.... this is a much nicer and more meaningful gift. I know that my kids would not be able to tell you all that they received as gifts three years ago, but they would be able to tell you what we did together and who did/ said something funny or sad, etc.

Over the past few years this is the order we tend to do things ... always make a big batch of hot cocoa and stock up on herbal teas around December 6th about the time we put up the tree and begin decorating. I say begin because we usually keep adding decor over the following weeks. This has allowed us to be prepared for snows and sledding.... they are getting older now and have more responsibilities so there is less snow play time (and oddly enough we have had no snow this year yet), but coming in for a nice warm cup of hot cocoa when it is cold is still a favorite. The first favorite sweet is chocolate coated pretzel sticks and biscotti (my favorite) and next favorite is the puppy chow mix... for some reason this is one that DH and the kids feel should be on hand at all times during the month of December.

One of my favorite home school memories is when it snowed. This was ALWAYS a time to delay all school plans and go sledding, my kids were the first to get to the best sledding hill or to make a snowman that was the first to say, "Welcome Winter" to all the kids walking home from school ready to have snow fun too. Hot cocoa was the best to warm up with.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
2 & 1/2 cups soy milk powder (Better Than Milk Vanilla is excellent)
3/4 cup natural sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Dash of salt
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients.
Blend well.
Store in airtight container.
Makes about 15 servings.

Single Serving:
Combine 1/4 cup mix and 3/4 cup boiling water in a cup. Stir to blend.
If you like a chocolate mint flavor, stir with a candy cane... my favorite to to stir with a chocolate mint candy cane.

Here's a link to some homemade gift ideas ...

DH comes form a large family intermixed with step siblings. At one time the girl friend of a step child of a step sibling (sorry for the complexity) worked at Starbucks. A few of us were commenting that we would love the recipe for the gingerbread late from her workplace. Well, she sent it to us.... last I knew she was no longer employed there and I don;t think it had anything to do with leaking secret recipes.

Gingerbread Latte for two

3 cups of (soy) milk
3 Tbsp. Of Starbucks® Gingerbread syrup
Two shots of Starbucks Espresso® Pods
Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
Steam milk with Starbucks Barista Athena™. Place Starbucks Gingerbread Syrup in preheated coffee mug. Brew single shot of espresso, using pre-measured Starbucks Espresso Pod, and pour immediately. Top with steamed milk and foam. Garnish foam with a light dusting of nutmeg, crushed gingerbread cookies, or a light touch of cinnamon sugar. Settle back and enjoy this delightful holiday treat!

Here is a recipe from my recipe files for homemade
"Gingerbread" Syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1Tbs shredded fresh ginger
1" piece cinnamon stick
Put all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Turn to simmer. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until sugar is dissolved, and mixture is syrupy. Cool. Strain. Store in jar in fridge. Will thicken when cooled.
If you don't have an espresso machine,
just stir Gingerbread Syrup into hot coffee (to taste).
Top with whipped topping and a sprinkling of nutmeg or cinnamon-sugar

Pumpkin Granola Bars
The pumpkin puree in this recipe makes these tasty granola bars nutritious.
Wet Ingredients:
Blend until thickened and smooth. (I use the large magic blender cup)
3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1.5 teaspoon Ener-g egg replacer
1/4 cup water
1/4 c. margarine at room temperature (or sub 3 Tbsp olive oil)
1/3 C sorghum molasses OR substitute with the following syrup combination
(sub) 1/4 cup rice syrup or corn syrup with 2 T. black strap molasses

Dry Ingredients:
2 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. chopped pumpkin seeds
1/4 C currants or chopped raisins
2 T. shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 T. grated orange rind
Blend the wet ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl ( in the oats, seeds and dried fruit, coconut, wheat germ, cinnamon, and orange rind. Add the wet blend and mix well. Spread this mixture into a lightly greased 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown. While still warm, cut into 3-by-1 1/2-inch bars. For very crisp bars, remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Cut in typical "granola" bar shapes. Wrap in parchment paper and store in refrigerator for a week or two and the freezer for longer term storage. Yield: about 30 bars.


cv said...

Mmmmmmmm. Those pumpkin granola bars look awesome! Thanks for posting this, Dori!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post Dori !
Absolutely love it :)
Thank you for the wonderful ideas !

Urban Vegan said...

Great post. Homemade gifts are even more greatly appreicated in this age of consumerism. Very inspiring! You are one special family.

erica said...

I agree with you Dori, I hate the giving and receiving, especially of things I don't want or need, which is usually all it is. I used to ask that people give me only what I ask for, but it didn't work. This year I asked to not be given gifts, which some people have a really hard time with.

Get this - my mom made fudge the other weekend and told me it was vegan. I can't eat chocolate anyway, so I declined. Then she tells me the secret ingredient is Velveeta Cheese! Blech!

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous post! I love the traditions your family has created.

The goodie bags sound fabulous. You have my address, right? ;-)

Just curious about the hot cocoa mix? Where do you get your soy milk powder? I can't find it anywhere. When you say blend well, do you mean in a food processor/blender or do you just mean stir well?

I hope you and your family have a very merry Christmas!

theONLYtania said...

Hey! Thanks so much, this is a great entry. My family makes cookie plates every year, I love all of these ideas :-) Happy holidays!

Dori said...

VV: To answer your hot cocoa question, it should be mixed - wooden sppon by hand will do. And the soymilk here's one place I have purchased it from

Here's another I found, but never bought from them before, they have a soy good powder but I've never tried it. I have purchased soymilk powders that seemed like ground dry soybeans.... they never mixed in with the water, so I stick with the more expensive better than milk.

Also.... one place that is expensive, but are there when I need something in a pinch. If you have a seventh day advenist chuurch in your area, a large city (1 1 /2 hours from me) has a "bookstore" that sells canned vegan products and powdered soymilks. I was impressed with their supply but it was definitely pricely! This brand of religion promotes healthy diet as the ideal way to live, I'm not one but I sure like their stuff!

Anonymous said...

i wish i was your neighbord! amazing post! have a great holidays!

Emmy said...

Those goodie bags sound incredible. The recipients sure are lucky people :) I really enjoyed reading about your family holiday traditions. Very nice.

That looks like an excellent hot cocoa mix recipe. Thanks for the sharing the recipe. And Yay you have a recipe for Gingerbread syrup :) I'll have to try that one as Starbucks is no longer selling bottles of ginger bread syrup to consumers.

I hope you have a terrific holiday season. Merry Christmas :)

Nikki said...

Dori, what a wonderful post! You are such a joy to read, and I wish I lived next door to you so I could get a goodie bag. :)

Tanya Kristine said...

I love the recipes. i'm printing out the gingerbread latte one...that sounds so warming and fitting for now. i jsut wish we had snow.


laura jesser said...

Dori, I love this post. I certainly agree with you--children should not be raised to think that Christmas is all about GETTING what they want. I like the giving and receiving of gifts because of the thought and love behind it, and it's even more special when it's handcrafted and straight from the heart like delicious goodies! But I enjoy the giving far more than the receiving.

I'm excited about the gingerbread syrup recipe--I bet it would be easy to make a peppermint syrup along the same lines.

You and your family are so special, and I hope you have a blessed holiday!

Cherie Anderson said...

Those spoons are awesome! Sounds like you made some really cute gifts. :D

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

You are so creative and industrious, Dori! Wonderful stuff!

I've just got my phone back, so I'm stopping in to catch up on all my favorite blogs! It's been 12 days off-line, except at work, and I can't blog-surf there!

I wish you and your family healthy, happy, and peaceful holiday! I know you will eat well!

All the best, Bryanna

Jackie said...

Happy Christmas. Thanks for stopping by, I feel so bad as I haven't been popping in here much or to our other friends blogs...don't know if I am old, had a bad year with all the terrible things happening but just found I couldn't string two sentences together.

But I got the most wonderful Christmas gifts this week. Someone has actually started a Vegan Society here in South Africa again ( the last and only one fizzled out about 10 years ago) plus the International Vegetarian Union (IVU) which has never had an office here only in about 3 or 4 African States made a man (who says he and his fiance are Vegan) here Chairperson for Africa and they might have their World Congress here in 2010 :) This is a country where the Whites are big game hunters and so we get hunters from all over the world (thousands from the US unfortunately) and Blacks who tend to kill at every celebration in cruel ways and basically live on meat and maize hence the high death rate in their children. And guess what the new Chairperson is a very healthy Black has taken all that horror of everything happening in Africa for a while...a very Merry Christmas for me and for South Africa :)

Jackie said...

Whoops, didn't mean to write a whole book :-)

Jackie said...

Passed on your comment (thank you) to the local IVU and told them what a great blog you have and such great recipes so hope it generates some new fans :)

Kate said...

Dori, you are amazing! With that said, I love all these recipes and need to try the granola bars because I have had many "ventures" with making healthy snaks. I also adore the hot cocoa mix recipe, I think it would make a great gift. I still how some people who I have not given gifts too (I know, i am late) and this post was perfect for inspiration.