It has been a longish time since I produced a tract. The original piece, which explains the reason for the series, is here. Today’s tract is for those of us who have perhaps waited a bit late in the day to rustle up a Christmas gift or two and are feeling a tad desperate, but it is also aimed at those smug persons who have completed their Christmas shopping and are sitting back with upper lip curled at everyone who has not. Because shopping has very little beauty in it, whereas a homemade gift is always merry and bright.
Tracts for the Pleasant Life #3: Homemade Christmas Gifts
Chances are, if you are participating in the holidays to any extent, you have already made cookies for the office, or the traditional family fruitcake. The treats that you make each year would be a perfect gift for someone, assuming that you know that person’s food allergies and tolerations.
If you don’t have your own recipe to share, here is a simple recipe for homemade fudge. The list of ingredients is short, the amount of time required is minimal, but the result is a wonderfully heavy tin of delicious chocolate.
One 12-ounce package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1-1/4 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the chocolate chips and the sweetened condensed milk in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 1 minute. Stir, and if it is still not smooth give it another 30 seconds and stir harder this time, like you really mean it. If you had stirred vigorously after the first minute you would have been fine. Stir in the vanilla and nuts and glop it into a wax paper- or parchment-lined 13 X 9 pan (or a 9 X 9 pan, for slightly taller fudge). Leave the ends of the paper hanging over two of the sides to use as handles when lifting the fudge out later. I also like to put a piece of parchment or waxed paper on top and press it down to smooth it out before placing the pan in the refrigerator to chill. Once it’s firm, use those nifty handles to lift out the block of fudge, peel off the top paper if you used it, and cut the fudge into reasonable portions and package as desired.
To make Rocky Road Fudge, follow the recipe above, using walnuts and adding three cups of mini marshmallows. I also made a batch using dark chocolate chips with chopped dried cranberries (about half a cup) and 1 cup of pistachios. I made some of that last night, and it is good and rich in antioxidants.
I did say that the amount of time to make the fudge is minimal, but be warned that the clean-up is sticky. You will certainly have to wash the can opener. Why doesn’t condensed milk come in a pop-top can?
If you are unwilling to add to the caloric load of the season with a gift of food, then I have another idea for a homemade gift: Write a letter to your gift recipient. The power of written communication is mighty. If you need a recipe for your letter, here is a simple one addressed to Joe. Please change “Joe” to the name of your recipient.
Salutation: Dear Joe
Paragraph 1: Wish Joe a happy holiday season.
Paragraph 2: Tell Joe that you are grateful to know him, and give at least one reason why.
Paragraph 3: Recall a memory that you share with Joe, and why you recall that memory
Paragraph 4: Express your desire to experience more happy times with Joe in the new year.
Closing: Sign your name.
It isn’t difficult, and it is a great deal less sticky than making fudge or even cookies. Don’t worry about perfection in spelling or punctuation, because perfection is not the goal. I made a batch of Rocky Road last night, and realized as I was cutting it this morning that I had forgotten to add the vanilla. But it doesn’t really matter. I sampled it, and it tasted delicious.
That’s the magic of Christmas. Our gift offerings, even when they are flawed, are valuable.