I’ve never been one for tradition, so it’s only fitting that I go a little outside-the-box when it comes to teacher gifts during the holidays. As a parent of two rowdy, ADHD, challenging boys, I recognize the importance and patience of the boys’ teachers. Honestly, I should probably be giving each of them a bottle of wine…or liquor, in Eli’s case. However, since it’s probably frowned upon…and illegal for Eli to deliver it himself, I opt for holiday gifts that the boys can actually help with and that aren’t the usual cookies and ornaments.
We (the boys & I) began this when they were both in preschool. If I remember correctly, Ean picked out the fabric, and I sewed the gift bags. It was more time consuming than many of the other projects/gifts that we’ve tackled, but it started a “tradition”, and we’ve continued it for at least 11 years. Over the years, we’ve made cocoa mix, citrus jelly, apple-cranberry jelly, refrigerator pickles, truffles, bath salts, and this year, cream puffs.
Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix–in bags or recycled clear wine bottles
*Easy for little kids to mix. Parents may need to help scoop the mix into bags/bottles.
10 c. dry powdered milk
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 c. dry coffee creamer (use any flavor–we mixed it up and gave different flavors…Irish Cream, Caramel, Plain, Amaretto)
2 c. unsweet cocoa powder (regular or dark)
Stir together all ingredients. Makes 16 cups. Scoop into gift bags with mini marshmallows or wine bottles without mini marshmallows. Add a gift tag with preparation instructions (see below).
Gift Tag Instructions:
Place 1/3 c. cocoa mix in a mug. Add 3/4 c. boiling water and enjoy!
Refrigerator Pickles–takes approximately 1 week to make
*Easy for older kids who can handle knives and strong enough to stir a gallon of pickles.
1 gallon whole dill pickles in juice (available at Sam’s & Costco)
1- 4 lb. bag of sugar
Drain pickles. Slice pickles in 2″rounds into a large bowl. When pickles are completely cut up. Layer pickles and sugar in gallon pickle jar. Near the end, you will need to pack/press down the pickles to make everything fit. Place the jar in the refrigerator. Stir the jar everyday. The sugar will begin to melt and create the juice. When the sugar has completely melted, spoon pickles and juice into small jelly jars. Add a gift tag with instructions/suggestions (see below)
Gift Tag Instructions:
Keep me in the refrigerator. I’m too sweet to sweat!
Profiteroles–aka Cream Puffs
*Easy for mixed age groups, but will need adult supervision/help.
1 stick butter
1 c. all purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 pinch of salt
Bring water and butter to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon in one direction while the dough absorbs all of the liquid and cooks for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Place dough in a mixing bowl. Turn mixer with a paddle attachment on low-medium. Allow the dough to mix and cool until the bottom of the bowl is only warm to the touch…approximately 4 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, allowing the egg to be absorbed before adding another. When all eggs have been mixed in, turn mixer to medium-high and beat until dough begins to “ribbon”(dough will string away from sides of bowl.
*While dough is cooking, have younger kids, trace 2″ circles (using a small biscuit/cookie cutter) onto parchment paper.
Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with large round tip. Turn parchment paper over (so that marked side is on pan), and pipe mounds of dough. **My mounds of dough look like bee hives of 3 continuous circles)
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, check to see that profiteroles look dry. If they still have bubbles of moisture on them, bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven/pan and cool before filling.
Vanilla Pastry Cream Filling
3 c. milk
1 TBSP vanilla extract
3/4 c. sugar
8 large egg yolks
6 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP butter-softened
Heat milk and vanilla in a large soup pot to just before boiling–scald it. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in cornstarch. When milk is ready, turn mixer on low and slowly drizzle in 1 c. hot milk. Slowly add in another 1/2 c. hot milk. Add milk-egg mixture back to pot of remaining milk. Add butter. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl, and chill before filling.
Cranberry-Amaretto Jelly Filling
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 c. sugar
1 tsp almond extract (if using Amaretto)/ orange extract (if using Grand Marnier)
1 TBSP Amaretto or Grand Marnier
2 TBSP cornstarch
Add all ingredients to a 2 qt sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until thick and bubbly. Cranberries will pop as they cook. Remove from heat. Pour into a food processor and pulse until mixture is barely lumpy.
EASY Chocolate Mousse Filling
1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding
8 oz. Cool Whip
Stir together both ingredients. Pipe into cooled cream puffs. Refrigerate cream puffs and remind recipient to do the same.
Dulce de Leche Filling
8oz cream cheese-softened
15 oz. can dulce de leche
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Pipe into cooled cream puffs. Refrigerate cream puffs and remind recipient to do the same.
To Fill Cream Puffs
Spoon filling into a piping bag fitted with a long, skinny filling tip. Squeeze out additional air.
Stick filling tip into the side of the profiterole…find a weak spot. Squeeze piping bag to fill center of puff. *You will feel the cream puff getting heavier and full. **Be sure not to over fill and break the cream puff.
**Dust finished cream puffs with powdered sugar.