Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift

When I started thinking about what to get my grandmothers for Christmas I tried to think of something simple and enjoyable. They don't necessarily want anything in particular of course, but I want to give them something just to let them know I'm thinking of them. I decided to go homemade and do a gift bags of homemade hot cocoa mix, marshmallows and peppermint bark. All of these recipes are super easy to do and fairly cheap. The peppermint bark is a splurge because of the cost of chocolate so if you are cutting costs maybe skip the peppermint bark and get peppermint sticks instead for them to stir their cocoa!

I packaged everything pretty simply. The cocoa went in a mason jar, I got clear plastic favor bags to contain the peppermint bark and marshmallows and spruced everything up with some  homemade printables. 

I got the beautiful backdrop patterns from HWTM and made my own labels by simply adding text and shapes in pages (you could also do this in word). I'll finish off the packaging by placing them all in lovely gift bags I got in the Target dollar aisle!

Hot Cocoa Mix

I really wanted to find a recipe that didn't involve powdered milk for some reason that just doesn't sound very good to me. I prefer the real thing! So after scouring the Internet for recipes, I finally decided to make a combination of my own. I was aiming for William-Sonoma and although this does fall a little short of that (you can't beat shaved chocolate), I do think it's a close second. It's rich, thick, and chocolatey....everything I love!

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
Dash of salt
2oz instant chocolate pudding
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Mix sugar, cocoa, salt and pudding together in a bowl. Add vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon at a time in different spot and mix until combined. 

Place chocolate chips in a food processor and chop to a fine powder. 

Add the mix to the food processor and chop one more time until everything is combined.

Peppermint Bark

Ok, ok this is another substitute for a William Sonoma favorite of mine. (Hey, we are on a budget people!) I love their peppermint bark and after testing multiple samples I felt confident I could make my own. Get the best chocolate you can afford and go from there. I think you will be pleased!

36 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (the better the ingredient the better the result!)
36 ounces white chocolate chips
3 teaspoons peppermint extract (add 1t at a time and taste as you go)
1/2 bag of peppermints, crushed

Line a pan with aluminum foil. 

In a double boiler melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips until completely smooth. Add peppermint extract 1 teaspoon at a time. Taste as you go until you achieve the flavor level you prefer. Once the extract is completely mixed in pour the chocolate into the lined pan and smooth with the back of spatula. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes. You want it to still be sticky to the touch.

Next melt the white chocolate chips in the double boiler until smooth. Pour onto of chocolate and peppermint mixture. Smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle crushed peppermints on top and place in the fridge until completely hardened.

Homemade Marshmallows

I found this recipe a few months ago when I was doing the sweet bar for Ethan's 1st birthday. They were a hit and what better to go with a hot cup of cocoa than homemade marshmallows? The key here is to not get distracted, they will start setting up on you if you lolly gag and believe me...they turn into a stringy mess. If this happens though just coat yourself in powdered sugar and you will make it out ok. I promise. But seriously, they are easy. Give it a shot. 

Confectioners sugar
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla

Grease a 13x9 pyrex and cover with confectioners sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water and let stand to soften.

In a 3qt heavy sauce pan cook sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup of cold water and salt over low heat, stirring with a spatula until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and boil without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. 

Turn the mixer on high speed until white, thick and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes.

In a separate medium bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. 

Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow uncovered until least three hours and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around the edges of pan and invert onto a cutting board. With a large knife trim edges and cut marshmallows into cubes.

Keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

Weekend Bloggy Reading


  1. I'm doing something similar for my relatives! I found some adorable silicone molds and will make the pepermint bark in them so they'll be Christmas Tree shapes and Snowflakes!


  2. This looks soooo yummy! I'll definitely be making this for my neighbor this year!

  3. Laura you are a GENIUS. And absolutely amazing. Thank you for this! I can't wait to try this out!

  4. I've been dying to make homemade mallows. I even went out and bought a candy thermometer last year. The process always seems like a pain in the butt though. But you totally made it look sorta-easy. It all looks really really good too.

  5. So wonderful! I love anything with peppermint in it! Great post!


  6. This all looks and sounds amazing!

  7. That is the perfect gift!!! Looks amazing!!!

  8. love this. such a great idea. super happy I found your blog. loving it. definitely following. If u get a sec I'd love if you'd check out mine. It's all about the adventures of a small town girl turned LA local. thanks, love. xo

  9. That looks yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  10. what a wonderful idea... love your packaging and labels! and there's just something extra special that everything was handmade by you. definitely need to whip up some homemade marshmallows ASAP! Thanks for linking up, Merry Christmas!

  11. Good morning! These look so yummy. Peppermint bark is my new holiday favorite. I would love for you to link this up to My Favorite Things Friday Party that just started for the week. I'm stopping by from the Serenity Now Party.

  12. Look at you go! This is awesome!


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