Holiday Treat "Cheats"By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, December 21, 2006
Tis the season that makes many working women everywhere long for the 28-hour day.
|Baked with lots of love and very little labor...Happy Holidays!|
We want our homes to sparkle, glitter and glow with holiday decor, we want our guests to smile as they inhale - deeply - the aroma of freshly-baked cookies and pies when they enter our foyers.
We want our children to absorb all the lavish details that will become the adult memories of childhood holidays.
What we get, more often than not, are half-finished home decorating projects, lost scissors, "where the h*** did I put that tape?," mad dashes to the corner store for boxed cookies to deliver to a school or office "party," and a long-standing promise to ourselves to be "ready" when next year's season-to-be-jolly fa-la-las around.
Stop. Right. Now.
There's no need to delay a "homemade" [and that is not spelled h-o-m-e-m-a-i-d] holiday until next year. With my handy-dandy, better-than-candy "cheat sheet," the upcoming holidays can be all that you desire without expending one quarter of the effort you might expect.
Think big bags. Big gift bags, to be precise. There is no real need to follow six or eight hours at an office, or waiting tables, or punching numbers on a cash register with another three or four hours of cutting, fitting, and taping.
Buy an assortment of holiday gifts bags and some tissue-style wrapping paper, and enjoy the ease! Line bags with tissue, arrange gifts inside the bags, cover the top with two or three sheets of the tissue, tape the bag edges closed if you wish, and YOU ARE DONE!!!! AND the bags are often easier to carry than stacks of oddly-shaped wrapped presents.
Want the fresh-baked smell but don't need that fresh-sifted mess? The good folks who stock the refrigerated cookie dough aisle at the local supermarkets have placed some new items on the shelves. Last night, I baked one dozen turtle bars and one dozen peanut-butter, chocolate drizzle bars in one hour! And I washed NO pans!
DO NOT FEAR THE PRE-MADE TREATS! THEY ARE AVAILABLE FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!
I used two pre-made baked goods kits offered by a company whose "spokesperson" giggles when his middle is poked. The kits come assembled, the desserts inside bake-in and then throw-away pans. Set the oven to the specified temperature, place the pans on a cookie sheet and into the oven, and about 27 minutes later, you've got goodies and that swell smell is wafting through the house.
A well-known cream cheese company has introduced pre-made filling for cheesecake. I used the stuff at Thanksgiving and it is quite good. Here is my "secret treat-cheat recipe": Purchase one pre-made graham cracker pie crust and one container of the pre-made cheesecake filling. Open the pie crust package, open the cheesecake container.
Dump the contents of the cream cheese container into the pie crust. Smooth with spoon. You are done. The entire pie preparation process maybe required 10 minutes.
Get crazy with it....invest another five minutes and arrange some berries on top.
So it isn't exactly like the cheesecake your grandmother used to make....I'll bet you your hard-earned dollars to Grandma's homemade donuts that Grandma didn't have a 45-minute one-way commute five days a week, she didn't have to do laundry at 1 a.m. and she didn't have to find last-minute "alternative child care" when little Benny had a sniffle and temp.
Don't panic if your gift shopping isn't done. I am not a fan of gift cards.....the companies that deduct cash value after 30, 60 or 90 days are stealing from the card purchaser and the recipient, plain and simple....but I LOVE sample size shampoos, lotions, wipes, hair sprays, and soaps, and travel-size body sprays and lotions.
Purchase a selection of these items, arrange them in a cute basket or a large coffee mug and you've got a great gift for a baby-sitter, a niece or a sister-in-law. Find out where your nephew gets that one-of-a-kind haircut and pay for the next two or three trims.
Ahhhh, I can see you are getting the hang of this. Once you start thinking outside the gift box, the holidays can be a piece of cake.
Frozen, of course, cut into individual slices on paper plates and left to thaw in the fridge until serving time.
FYI: The items I used as my "treat cheats" were bought at the North Adams Stop & Shop supermarket. Other markets may stock the same or similar items.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 413-663-3384.