A tradition that our family has each December is to create food baskets for our neighbors, many of whom are retired. Instead of just dropping the gifts by, we try to set up a time for the family to come to our home or for us to visit them. With ten families on our list, we start early in December scheduling times to visit.
The kids help me prepare the goodies to place in the gift basket (or box). Typically, the basket contains Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam, a loaf of homemade bread (Love my bread machine!) a couple of kinds of cookies, and Puppy Chow. Sometimes I add a bag of microwave popcorn, hot chocolate, teas, or other little favorites in the box.
Puppy Chow (aka Muddy Buddies) is one requested items from our neighbors. It is very easy to make and a hit with all. Bubs made it for his 4-H club last fall and was able to do a lot of it himself. Even the youngest kiddos can help with this recipe.
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
9 cups chex cereal (any flavor)
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
In a microwave safe bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips. Melt in the microwave on medium heat for 1 minute 30 seconds or until chocolate chip are smooth. Add 1/2 t vanilla. Place chex cereal in a large bowl with a lid. Slowly a add the melted mixture to the cereal, folding in the chocolate mixture to coat the cereal. Add the powdered sugar. Place lid firmly on the large bowl. Shake the mixture to coat the cereal with the powdered sugar. Or to allow the kids to be able to participate more, place the coated cereal in a zip top bag. Pour on the powdered sugar, close the bag well, check again to make sure that the bag is closed, and shake.
The easiest way that I have found to place the mixture in zip top bags is to use a cup to hold the bag. I used a measuring cup to fold the top of the bag over. Worked well!
One batch makes approx 10-12 snack size zip-lock bags or 3 quart zip-lock bags. It can be made ahead a few days. I let mine sit in the garage to keep it cool and fresh until we are able to deliver it.
The gift baskets are an opportunity for training our children as well. While helping to make the goodies, they are working their fine motor skills, learning measuring, and cooking skills. More importantly, it is quality time together as a family.
While making the goodies, we talk about how we are being Jesus’ hands and loving on people like Jesus would. We are giving gifts just as the wisemen gave to Jesus and just as Jesus was a gift for us from God. Also, the kids learn the joy of helping and blessing their neighbors. The kids’ face light up when they are allowed to hand a goodie to another adult. Almost always that adult dotes on them providing them with positive feedback.
But the training doesn’t end after the food is made. Since most of our neighbors are retired, the children learn how to entertain themselves while Mommy and Daddy visit with the couples. This can be a challenge for the kids since some of the homes are not kid friendly. Before the visit, we set the expectations up for the children. They are reminded to talk quietly and play on their own. We also remind them that if they need us to simply come up and place their hand on our arm and wait until they are addressed. This provides them with an appropriate way to get our attention while still respecting the adults we are visiting. This doesn’t always go perfectly but they are learning and character is being formed.
The difference between the gift baskets and others gifts that sit under our tree is that the baskets center around relationships. There is no obligation to give; just the joy to sharing with others. This is one gift tradition that I love to do and look forward to each year.