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Low on Cash for Christmas? Try Gifts in a Jar
by: Kristin Johnson

Time is money, and right now you don't have either the time or the money to answer the call of the shopping mall at Christmas. The only way you can show your friends love, peace on earth, goodwill towards men is by shopping at Macy's, so you think.

It's a safe bet that the Three Kings didn't buy the gold, frankincense and myrrh given to Jesus Christ in the manger from Macy's or Pottery Barn.

This year you, too, can give frankincense and myrrh of the tasty kind. The best part is, the ingredients come from your neighborhood grocery store or even your own kitchen. The Three Kings used ornate containers, but you can make do with an inexpensive 1-quart mason jar to hold your "sand art" cookies, or "Gifts in a Jar."

What do you need to make "Gifts in a Jar"? Let's take, for example, the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies: flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oatmeal and raisins. All of these are available for under $5 at your local grocery store. If you buy in bulk, you'll save more time and money-- -just make sure to create your "Gifts in a Jar" as soon as possible before you plan on giving them. The ingredients have a shelf life of 3 months in most cases, so use fresh ingredients.

Layer the dry ingredients in the order listed above, alternating light and dark-colored ingredients for that "art" effect. Your recipient supplies the moist ingredients, and you can attach your favorite recipe or the Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies in a Jar recipe, printed on fancy paper (such as the kind you'd find inexpensively at Kinko's) with a decorative font from your computer, and tied to the jar with pretty ribbon or raffia (inexpensive at craft and sewing shops). Cover the top of the jar with a circle of pretty fabric--- maybe from a tablecloth, curtains or a dress that's headed for the rag bag.

To turn your favorite cookie recipe into "Gifts in a Jar," just make sure the total of dry ingredients is 1 quart (1 l) or less. You may have to cut your current recipe by half or one third to get the correct amount of dry ingredients but it will work. Remember to adjust the amounts of wet ingredients needed when writing out your directions to place on the jar. Or, rather than cutting your recipe, you can use the larger 2-quart (2 l) mason jars, and if there is any space left at the top of the jar, pack it tightly with tissue paper or add a few extra raisins and a sprinkle of oatmeal--this adds pizzazz!

Your thoughtful, personal gift will delight everyone on your list and save you money when you make "Gifts in a Jar." Besides, you'll no doubt get invited to eat the cookies---when was the last time a sweater from Macy's gave you that kind of sweet rewards?

Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies in a Jar

  • 1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) dark brown sugar, firmly packed

  • 2 cups (500 ml) quick cooking oatmeal

  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) raisins

Sift together flour, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, baking soda and salt, then place in the bottom of a 1-quart (1 l) glass mason jar. Tamp down the flour mixture so it is packed in firmly. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order given, making sure to pack down each layer firmly before adding the next. Screw the lid on the jar. Attach the following directions:

Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies

Note: Store this jar in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months before using.

  • contents of this jar

  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) butter or margarine, softened

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Empty the jar of cookie mix into a large mixing bowl, blend the mixture thoroughly. Stir in butter or margarine, egg, and vanilla. Mix until completely blended. Shape into balls the size of walnuts. Place 2 inches (5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Makes 36 cookies.

Copyright Kristin Johnson.

Kristin Johnson is co-author of the “highly recommended” Midwest Book Review pick, Christmas Cookies Are For Giving: Stories, Recipes and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts (ISBN: 0-9723473-9-9). A downloadablemedia kit is available at our Web site,, or e-mail the publisher ( to receive a printed media kit and sample copy of the book. More articles available at


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