in life while cooking and in the kitchen is essential. The ability to swap ingredients or alter recipes, especially for the kosher cook (or anyone with dietary guidelines to follow, be it for allergies, intolerance etc) comes hand in hand with prepping meals! When that versatility expands to cookbooks, you know this Itsy Bitsy Balebusta is thrilled!
I rarely accept an invite to a meal without offering to contribute (unless Y is having a particularly fun – read 'challenging' – week, oh teething!). Also, living on a budget, we usually opt to bring a baked good, plated and wrapped, as a hostess gift, when we make it out. Special occasions from Chanukah to birthdays also always include a little baked treat from our kitchen! I love the personal touch it adds to a gift, and I always make an effort to include favorite flavors, themes and recipes! Who doesn't love a fresh homemade dessert?
Given all of this, I was thrilled to receive this stunning cookbook. Alison Walker’s, Handmade Gifts From The Kitchen, is a beautiful, instructive, creative collection of recipes, ideas and tips. Not only is this book filled to the brim with fantastic recipes, notes on packaging, presentation and assembly, it inspires and encourages you to get into your kitchen!
While handmade gifts are a treasure all year round, what better time to refer to such a wonderful collection, than with Purim around the corner? All it takes is a quick glance through these gorgeous pages to have enough ideas to spark a multitude of themes and additions to your Mishloach Manos! (On Purim, we gift food and treats to our friends, in the spirit of love, friendship and brotherhood, and to ensure that everyone has ample food for the Purim seudah or feast, that is held later in the day! These Mishloach Manos, can be theme-oriented, sweet or savory, and must be ready to eat items.)
One of my personal favorite recipes, is simple and classic, and sure to become a go-to. The Poppy & Sesame Seed Crackers, are super easy to make and with a bit of parchment paper and a lovely gift box, you have a great gift ready to go! Add a few packets of tea, maybe some fruit or a Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake, also in the cookbook, and a wonderful Mishaloch Manos for a teacher, neighbor or friend and relative is set! This would also make for a great end-of-year gift for teachers, with a special personal touch!
The creativity continues with Chocolate Button Shortbread Cookies. These would be a fantastic addition to a teddy bear themed Mishaloch Manos, or alternatively as a treat for a new Mom, with a little "Cute As A Button" gift tag attached!
That’s the wonderful feature about this cookbook. You aren't just flipping through pages, finding ideas for dinner or dessert! Each page brings you inspiration for gifts and treats to share with your family and friends, beyond your dining table! And with some of the later recipes, that require time to sit after they're made, Alison is helping you to stock your pantry for, as she put it in her introduction, those moments when you need an impromptu gift. How many times are you running out the door to an event that was supposed to be in the calendar but somehow got mixed up and have to plan extra time to stop and pick up a little hostess gift? With these incredible recipes, you'll have an arsenal of gifts ready at a moments notice (or as a special treat for yourself too, on those especially long days!).
The recipes are not only sweet based. There are plenty of simple, savory options as well! These range from marinated olives to BBQ sauce, pumpkin relish, and a variety of chutney and mustard! There is even a From the Garden section as well as the Raise a Glass chapter, which includes recipes for liquors and vodka. Yes. This book literally has everything! An exceptional lineup of gifts you can make from your kitchen is tucked between these pages! And not only are the treats gorgeous in their own right, they're also versatile and can be used as decor! The Stollen Wreath for instance, doubles as a fantastic centerpiece! By the last page, you're so inspired that you see multiple uses for common gifts and have plenty of your own packaging & gifting ideas as well!
There are recipes that are simple enough to include the whole family, and what better way to get everyone involved in Purim preparation, and help kids add their own personal touch, than in the kitchen! Sure, there will be some mess, and it may take a bit longer, but the memories and pride of presenting their friends and family with something they've made is totally worth it! As Alison shares in her introduction, and I agree, "true pleasure comes from sharing food!"
And yes, anyone who's made a hostess gift or Mishloach Manos can tell you, that while prepping all of these items is time consuming, it's also oftentimes less expensive than purchasing gifts. Add the bonus of the joy of sharing something made with a personal touch and love and what could be more special? This cookbook also goes above and beyond to help make the whole process as easy as possible, with resource guides to where to buy packaging and materials, as well as ideas for how to plate and present the items! There's info on when to bake before gifting, how long in advance items need to be prepared, or how long they should marinate/ sit before being given and so much more.
Overall, this is a gorgeous book, brimming with inspiration and absolutely stunning images, any of which I'd love to have framed in our kitchen! It's versatile, both inherently with the multitude of recipes and ideas included, and in the sense that you'll be pulling it off of your shelf every Purim to add that special, unqiue treat to your Mishloach Manos, as well as for any Shabbos you find yourself going out, any time you're a guest or any time the opportunity to brighten someone's day with a little baked treat presents itself! And the great thing about this book is that you'll find yourself looking to do so more often, just to flip through the beautiful pages and experience the joy of sharing Handmade Gifts From The Kitchen!
Disclaimer: This cookbook was provided to me by Appetite by Random House. All opinions contained within my review are solely mine.