Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pretty Gifty

Thanks to my lovely DVR (best invention ever!) I had taped a bunch of Holiday specials on the Food Network and while watching "Paula's Cookie Swap" last night I learned some great tips for packaging cookies. I thought they would be helpful for those of you giving cookies or other treats as gifts this holiday season!

1. Chinese Take-out boxes are an excellent, unexpected way to package those sweets for the sweet! They only cost about $1 at most local craft stores and some may even be less then that. I know our local Michael's sells them in solid colors in packages for about $5.99. If you use one of those 40% off coupons you'll get a great deal! When packaging your cookies, add a little paper shred in the bottom of the container. Also make sure to purchase a couple sheets of food-safe paper, such as Vellum, and cut it into little squares a little smaller then the cookies. As you place each cookie, or each layer of cookies in the container, add a sheet of the paper in between so they don't stick to each other. After you have filled your container add embellishments such as ribbon and an ornament to make it more festive!

2. Glass jars are also a great option. You can either put your treats into the jar as is or you can cut templates out of Vellum paper to match the size (height) of the jar and wrap it around the inside. You can add stickers, a strip of ribbon in the center, or anything else you desire to personalize the paper. To add your liners in between the layers, use the bottom of the jar as a template to cut matching circles from the Vellum. Use the circles as your liners between your treats. Add a ribbon or other embellishment around the top of the jar or handle if it has one on the lid.

3. When making cookies that require you to slice them from a log of dough, cut them a tad thicker and insert oven-safe lollipop sticks (available at your local craft store) before cooking. Once they are done, you have adorable cookie Lollipops - a treat that someone special is sure to remember! Just make sure to place a treat bag or cellophane wrap around the cookie and tie at the base with a ribbon to keep them fresh. To give as a gift, you can peruse your craft stores, dollar stores and even stores such as Target or Kmart etc to find a deep bowl, pail, etc on sale. Add a small block of florist foam cut to fit into the bottom of the bowl or pail (about halfway up the side of the container). Stick the pops into the foam and put shred on top to hide it. Add embellishments such as ribbon around the top of the bowl or anything else you might like to add to personalize your gift!

And don't forget that the best way to ensure that your gift stays fresh is to make it 24hrs before you plan to give it!

I also found this great article on the Food Network website that features tips for keeping your food gifts fresh and also for shipping them! Here it is.......

Whether you're sending homemade treats to a neighboring town or across the country, here are some helpful tips to ensure it reaches its recipient in perfectly shipped shape.

Choose your gifts wisely. Do not mail highly perishable items such as dairy- or meat-filled foods. If you're sending baked goods, moist and firm, rather than brittle and delicate, ship well and arrive in the best form. Include a note on the best way to handle the food once it arrives. Holiday baked goods that travel well include:

  • Cookies: To prevent cookies from breaking, create a cushion on the bottom of the container with crumpled wax paper or parchment, and then layer the cookies, wrapped in airtight wrap or in zippered plastic bags with crumpled wax paper in between. Separate crisper cookies from moister to preserve textures. Cookie tins are really ideal ? find them at craft and hardware stores and also at yard sales and flea markets (just wash them well first).
  • Pound cakes, loaf breads, brownies and fudge: Bake in disposable foil pans and ship them in the pan. Cover the cooled pan with plastic wrap, place in a zip lock bag (leave air in the pan to act as a cushion, and then ship in a cushioned box. These baked goods may also be baked and shipped in decorative new pans, with the intention of including the baking pan as a gift, too.
  • Cakes and candies: pack compactly in tins. Candies should be placed in cups or layered on cushioned papers. Make sure there is no headroom or the confections may crack or crush.
  • Bottles of oils or vinegars or jars of chutney, sauces or jam: Before packing, make sure bottles are tightly sealed and packed in sturdy jars. Wrap the bottles or jars in bubble wrap and then place inside an air-filled zippered plastic bag. Pack the items in a shipping box lined with plastic wrap (a large plastic garbage bag works well), filled with crumpled newspaper, bubble wrap, foam peanuts or air-popped popcorn. Pack heavier items at the bottom of the box and make sure there is cushioning between each item. A good rule of thumb: Calculate two to three-inches of packing material on all sides for optimum cushioning. Pack the top of the box so there is no headroom or items may shift.

Always use sturdy, unused corrugated shipping boxes. Use packing tape to securely close the box. Fill out your labels with a waterproof pen. Mark the carton "perishable" and ship it via the fastest means possible.

Perfectly packed and properly shipped, you can be sure your treats will be welcomed with opened arms — and mouths.

I hope you enjoyed the tips I learned from Paula's Cookie Swap and the wonderful article courtesy of the Food Network website. More tips to come!

Happy Holidays!

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