Do-it-yourself gifts are fun and heartfelt

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 13, 2015

By Toi Degree

Rowan Cooperative Extension

As Christmas quickly approaches and malls become overrun with shoppers, consider a new way of gift giving to save yourself from the dreaded holiday shopping this year, by DIYing the perfect gifts for every family member and friend.

Do it yourself giving allows you to spread holiday cheer with sweet and savory simple handmade and homemade gifts. There are tons of gift ideas and choices for everyone on your list.

When Danelle Cutting and I set out to select gift options, we had a huge task ahead of us and it took some time to narrow it down, but we finally did.

So at the end, Danelle chose to do pampering DYI gifts and I would do edible gifts.

My DIY gifts included sweet, savory and hearty. The sweet came from the Peppermint Stick Cocoa; savory the Ranch Dressing and Dip Mix and Popcorn gift set; and the hearty Vegetarian Five Bean Soup Mix.

Each of the gift options we selected is great for giving to anyone and they were quite easy to make.  It was a fun experience from start to finish and it makes the gift so much more personal because you get to not only give a wonderful present, but it is something you put yourself into.

Taking the time to select the item you will make, the packing jar, box, etc. you will put it in, making the item, and finally personalizing the label is rewarding.

If you have thought of DIYing for gift giving, I highly encourage you do so. There are so many sites that give great ideas and places where you can find labels to accompany your handmade treasures. This will assist you if your budget is tight, because most of the gift can be made for a few dollars and you make multiples. It will also allow you to control the things that go into your gifts.

Even though Danelle’s gifts were body butters, foot soaks and scrubs, all were made with things that are safe to eat and could be eaten. So you don’t have all the additives and preservatives that are not good for us or our environment.

Lastly, did I mention how fun this was and I do believe therapeutic, at least for me. Knowing that I am making something that someone will enjoy, it is made all-natural and based on their likes.

So again I do suggest DIY’s. It will save you cash, and you can spend some time crafting for the holidays.

Below are the recipes that I made and the link to where you can find them:

Vegetarian Five Bean Soup Mix


1 pound pinto beans

1 pound split green peas (or green lentils)

1 pound great northern beans

1 pound black beans

1 pound kidney beans

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons dehydrated onions (found in the spice aisle)

2 tablespoons sea salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

8 bay leaves

4 vegetable bouillon cubes


4 clear quart Mason jars plus lids and rings

Parchment paper

Tape or stickers


Fabric and ribbon to cover top

In each of the four Mason jars, layer 2/3 cup of pinto beans—shaking the jar gently to level the beans. Then repeat with 2/3 cup of green peas and so on ending with the kidney beans. Set jars aside.

In a small bowl, combine all remaining spices except bay leaves and bouillon cubes.

On a 10-by-10-inch piece of parchment paper, spoon 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture in the middle. Place two bay leaves and one bouillon cube on top. Fold parchment around spices to make a small spice packet. Seal with tape or stickers. Repeat three more times to create four total packets. Squish the packets into the top space of each of the four bean jars. You can also package the spices into plastic zip-top baggies if you prefer.

Place lids on jars, cover in fabric and ribbon and label as desired.

Directions: Remove spice packet from the jar and set aside. Rinse beans and place in a large stock pot. Cover by 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for one minute. Remove from heat, cover and let soak for one hour. Drain and rinse beans. Return beans to the pot, add in spice packet, 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer for 1-1/2–2 hours until beans are very tender and soup is thick. Serve with a big hunk of crusty bread.

Ranch Dressing and Dip Mix Recipe


2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried minced onion

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

2-1/2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Additional ingredients for dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup buttermilk

Additional ingredients for dip:

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Directions: In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. Yield: about 6 tablespoons mix (enough to make 6 batches).

To prepare dressing: In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon mix with mayonnaise and buttermilk; refrigerate. Yield: 2 cups.

To prepare dip: In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon mix and sour cream; refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Yield: 1 cup.

Originally published as Ranch Dressing and Dip Mix in Quick Cooking July/August 2000, p. 19.

Peppermint Stick Cocoa

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

This mix will fill a 1-quart jar (12 servings), but if your containers are different sizes, just keep the ratio of ingredients constant. On the back of the tag, write: “Mix contents in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water. Store remaining mix in an airtight container.”

Happy DIYing!!

Toi N. Degree, family & consumer education agent at the Rowan County Cooperative Extension office (704-216-8970) or at

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