Tag Archives: make ahead

Gift Giving on a Budget

Christmas is rapidly approaching. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly believe it’s December already! This year we’re living (and giving) on a single income. So, we’re being creative and giving gift baskets. After all, Christmas isn’t about how much someone spends on you (or how much you spend on someone). We give gifts as a reminder of God’s greatest gift, His Son Jesus, to us on that first Christmas!

I came across this page on the Whole Foods Market website and can’t wait to try some of these ideas out! The majority are simple and contain budget-friendly ingredients, so you can customize each package. You could do themed gifts, like BBQ rubs and sauces for the guys on the list, home spa package for the ladies (see bath salts and oils recipes, or search for a homemade soap recipe), and “visions of sugarplums” package for the kids (check out the Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttons and Candied Cranberries recipes on the site).

Visit your local flea market, consignment shop, or Goodwill for baskets or containers to put your jars in (or just dig around in your closet or basement). Make sure to sanitize them, and maybe even line them with a pretty piece of fabric. If you sew the edges, the cloth can be used as a centerpiece napkin later on! Add a handmade piece of jewelry or a pretty ornament to brighten it up. And let your kids get involved, if you have them. Lots of these recipes are just mixing ingredients and require little to no heating elements.

The possibilities are endless. Start planning now (if you haven’t already). Many of these recipes can be made weeks ahead, so you can relax and work at your own pace without having to feel the holiday hustle and bustle.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Candied Lemon Peels, Orange Peels, or Cranberries
  • Infused Oils and Infused Vinegars
  • Seasoned Salts and Sugars
  • Chocolate-Dipped Figs or other fruits
  • Biscotti, Cookies, and other Baked Goods
  • Pancake Mixes or  Cookie Mixes
  • Barbeque Sauces and Rubs
  • Jellies, Jams, and Marmalades
  • Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
  • Marinated Olives
  • Mulling Spice Sachets

For more ideas, search the “Gift” Category on the Whole Foods Market website or check out this page on the Country Living website (picture above from Country Living site).

Happy Giving! And Merry Christmas!


Recipe: French Onion Soup by Melissa McKinnon

We had a catering last week that included a salad bar. There was about 6 cups of shaved onions leftover from the salad bar. They were ready to be tossed and I thought, “What can I do with that many onions?!” Then it hit me, French Onion Soup! I’d never made it before, so I thought it was worth a shot. Turns out, I was right. I didn’t follow a recipe. I just followed my nose. Yum! Check it out below:

French Onion Soup by Melissa McKinnon

Serves 10


  • 6 cups shaved onions (about 6 medium onions, finely sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce (I used Lee & Perrin’s Thick Sauce)
  • 1/3 to 1 c. Shiraz (or favorite red wine)
  • 4 beef boullion cubes
  • 5 c. water
  • 10 slices Provolone cheese
  • 10 slices of French bread (and butter to spread on top of each slice)


Slice onions as thin as you can slice them. I would recommend cutting each onion in half or quarters before slicing, so they don’t get too stringy as they cook down.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in Medium Stockpan over Medium heat. Add onions, salt, pepper and basil, and reduce. It helps if they’re able to brown just slightly, bringing out the natural sweetness of the onions in the caramelization process. Once it reaches this point, add wine and Worchestershire. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, allowing the onions to soak up the wine flavor. Then add boullion cubes and water. Make sure the cubes are fully dissolved and transfer to crockpot.

Cook onion soup for 4-10 hours on low.

Crockpot of Onion Soup

Ladle 3/4 c. into 10 serving bowls. Meanwhile, butter and  toast slices of french bread (I broiled mine in the toaster oven for 2 minutes).

The Toast is Ready for the Soup

Place one slice of toast in each bowl and cover with 1 slice of Provolone cheese.

I let my cheese hang over the edges of the bowls. You can use shredded if you like and just top the bread.

Broil on low for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

The one cup Pampered Chef glass storage containers are the perfect size.

I served mine with salad and a slice of french bread with butter, thyme and garlic salt.

Dinner is Served!

This is a great make-ahead recipe. To reheat, place in toaster oven on bake at 300F for 5-10 minutes. Bon Appetit! ~Melissa