Column by Francie Szostak
Photography by Erika Kent
Each December for as long as I can remember, my sister and I would head to our Aunt Mo’s house in Chicago for a holiday crafting weekend full of gift making and cookie baking. We’d spend hours singing to holiday tunes while making homemade presents and sweets to give our family for Christmas.
While the projects and recipes have advanced over the years, the formula for the weekend always stayed the same. Crafts, carols and lots of cookie dough. As we got older, Aunt Mo started taking us on the pre-crafting supply run, stopping at her favorite local chocolate shop to pick up white chocolate to melt over pretzels, or to the Asian market to pick up the right spices for her famous gingerbread. We’d even stop by the mom and pop fabric store to pick out ribbons to decorate our gifts.
While making homemade edible gifts during the holiday season is a great way to show love and thoughtfulness for family and friends, it’s also a great opportunity to support local food producers and retailers.
Strengthening of local economy and the spirit of community partnership is always worth celebrating, so this season as you gather your children (or rambunctious nieces) to make homemade gifts, reinforce the idea of supporting local farmers, producers and stores. The story of hard work and love that local producers pour into their products will resonate with children as they proudly make their own gifts to share.
Aunt Mo’s Gingerbread Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Mix
A holiday twist on jarred cookie mix. The recipe below is for one jar. You can easily multiply the amounts for multiple gifts (but portion separately). Flour and oats are available from local vendors—find them at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market.
- 1 quart-sized Mason jar
- 1 tag for writing instructions
- 1 t. ground ginger
- ½ t. each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
- ¼ t. ground cloves
- 1 c. light or dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1½ c. all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour
- 2 c. rolled oats
- ½ t. each baking soda, baking powder and salt
Layer all the ingredients into your mason jar or simply mix all together and pour in. Then, write or type the following instructions on the tag and fasten to the mason jar:
- Wet Ingredients needed:
- ½ c. raisins
- ½ c. (1 stick) butter, melted
- 3/4 c. molasses
- 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly butter an 8×8 baking pan. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix in wet ingredients. Add jar contents to wet ingredients and stir until completely combined.
Form small balls with dough and press lightly into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, until firm in the center.
Francie Szostak is the Outreach Coordinator for NuGenesis in Oconomowoc, a nonprofit organization that teaches both youth and adults how to grow, cook and understand food and its impact on health and wellness. Francie resides in the Tippecanoe neighborhood of Milwaukee and when not gardening at home, she can be found enjoying all the local food, music and outdoors activities that Milwaukee offers!