Gifts in a jar

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If you have younger kids or grandkids, you've probably been the recipient of a "gift in a jar." Many teachers do this activity as a class holiday gift. You'd recognize it as a layered batch of dry ingredients all made up in a Mason canning jar. They're easy to do and make a perfect gift for those on your list that you want to remember with a little personal gift without spending much money. The idea here is that the recipient gets the dry ingredients to a recipe, simply adds a couple more like eggs and oil and whips up a homemade treat with a touch of "you."

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It's essentially like a homemade cookie mix or soup mix, etc. Yet, it ends up looking very pretty as you layer the ingredients. Cookie, brownie, soup, pancake and hot cocoa work really well because you have to add few ingredients to complete it and they're something folks will really use.

Once you layer and seal the jar, they'll keep for about 6 months. Add a cute tag with the additional ingredients needed and the directions and you have a complete personal gift. If you make several, you can save money by buying in bulk and dividing it up between the jars. In some instances, it can end up costing you just a couple of dollars for a nice little gift and a jar also!

You can even tie on a candy cane or an ornament or cookie cutter to the jar as an added touch. Get creative with a bow or raffia or even a small circle of fabric on top to make it look even more festive.

Here are a couple of easy-to-make recipes that layer well to get you started. These are perfect for school helpers, bus drivers, doctor office staff, neighbors and even hostess gifts - all those wonderful folks that you just want to remember with a little something. Plus, when they whip up the recipe at a later date, they'll think of you all over again.

Brownies in a Jar

This is what you layer:

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Flour 1/2 tsp. Salt 2/3 cup packed brown sugar 2/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup baking cocoa 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 1/2 cup vanilla chips 1/2 cup chopped pecans

This part goes on the tag:

Additional Ingredients 3 eggs 2/3 cups canola or vegetable oil 1 tsp. Vanilla extract

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vanilla together. Add the brownie mix and stir until well blended. Spread into a greased 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool on rack and enjoy!

Bean Soup in a Jar

This is what you layer:

2 cups dry black beans 2 cups dry Great Northern beans (or any small white bean) 2 cups dry red kidney beans 2 cups dry pinto beans 2 cups dry green split peas

In four 1-pint canning jars, layer beans in order given, dividing evenly between jars.

For seasoning packets, use four individual small sandwich bags

Into EACH seasoning packet (You'll need FOUR times this amount TOTAL for all four jars of soup mix), place:

3 teaspoons beef (or vegetable) bouillon 3 tablespoons dried chives 1-teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon dried savory 1/2-teaspoon ground cumin 1/2-teaspoon black pepper 1 bay leaf

Now just fold over the plastic bag and place it in the jar on top of the beans or attach it with a ribbon to the top of the jar.

This part goes on the tag:

Place beans, 5 cups of water, and seasoning packet contents into pot. Heat to boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours until beans are tender. Stir occasionally. Add one 16-oz. can stewed tomatoes with liquid (break up tomatoes). Heat to boiling. Reduce to low, and cook 15 minutes more. Discard bay leaf. Makes 6 - 8 servings of soup! Yummy!

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