Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Gifts for Coworkers

It's that time of year again! I know, I know - you are already sick of all the holiday displays that have been up since the beginning of November and spending hundreds of dollars on gifts that you aren't sure anyone will like. I get it. While it is easy to get sick of the commercialism, there is something about the holiday's that is special. There's a spirit in the air that is infectious. Plus us office workers actually get a decent amount of time off! After working for a year and a half without more than a week off, I'm VERY excited to have 11 days off IN A ROW! That is cause for a celebration in my book.

Anyways, what I wanted to cover today is the dreaded 'what the heck do I get my coworkers?' question. When I first starting working as a intern, I didn't even realize that people gave anything out for the holidays. I got a few cards and homemade items from some of my coworkers, and I felt terrible because I hadn't realized that people did that in my company. So I quickly went out and braved the hallmark to buy some cards for people. While it felt like a sufficient thing to give out, I vowed to do something a little more special in years to come. Which leads me to a list of cute, inexpensive homemade items that you can make to give out for the holidays.

Some really adorable ideas that I've heard and read online include taking a cookie recipe and putting all the dry ingredients into a mason jar. You'd measure out all the dry ingredients (oats, flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, chocolate chips, etc) and layer it into a jar. Put a bow on it with instructions on how to bake the cookies and there you go! Instant present! You can also do this with hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips, and marshmallows. I really love the idea of deconstructing a present into its own separate parts and letting the gift receiver bake the cookies when they want to. Plus it gives the person a good recipe, as well as a unique gift. Another gift that I thought would be cute (which lead me to what I made this year) is cooking a snack food. Chex mix would be a fun thing to hand out, or any other fun snack food along those lines. I also saw some mulling spices to make cider out of, or spices for veggies or meat. Filling a cute container with little candies is also an easy, fun idea. All of these gifts show that you put some effort into their preparation without spending a fortune.

What I decided to do this year is chocolate covered pretzels with candy cane crumbles. It is easy, relatively inexpensive, and doesn't require baking in an oven. I like to make things as simple as possible, especially when it comes food preparation so this fit the bill. As you would expect, there are only three ingredients- chocolate to melt, candy canes to crush, and pretzels to drizzle it all on top of.

First, I set up all my ingredients. I put out parchment paper onto my counters and put a single layer of pretzels on it. Then, I opened up my candy canes and put them into a gallon size bag. The easiest way for me to open the candy canes was to break them in half, and then pull the plastic wrapping off of them. This seemed to be relatively effective, but I had scissors as a back up. Once you have a few in the bag, seal the top and use a meat tenderizer/hammer/anything hard to smash up the candy canes into crumbles.

Next I melted the chocolate. I set up a double broiler, which sounds fancier than it is. You put a pot filled with a few inches of water onto the stove and put a second container on top of it. This way you melt the chocolate slower than you would on direct heat. You can also try microwaving the chocolate, but I just decided to do it this way. Make sure you melt the chocolate slowly to avoid burning it. Don't forget to stir!

Once my chocolate was ready, I put it into a squeeze bottle that I bought at a craft store. You could honestly just do this with a spoon or use the container you melted the chocolate in and drizzle it over the pretzels, but I know I would be too clumsy to pull that off. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle over the candy cane crumbles. Warning- this will get messy! But the end result is so fun and festive.

Once you have let the chocolate cool down and set, you can box them up! I ended up using little plastic bags from the craft store and twist ties, but you can package them however you want. I found these cute little tags at the craft store to tie around the tops. I made the message generic so I wouldn't have to sort out who get's which bag. 

After I packaged them up, I put them in the fridge to continue to harden up. Here are some of my bags!

Finally, I tied on my little note and put a ribbon on the bag and voila! A cute, homemade gift for the holidays. Hopefully this post will gave you some good ideas to use in the future. Now if only I could get around to sending out christmas cards... I guess it's one step at a time when it comes to that. Cheers!