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A week or so till Christmas and you have no gifts? Here's help

By Mary Beth MartinSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / November 13, 1984



How anyone can get enthusiastic about making clever little Christmas gifts in the middle of August has always puzzled me. But when, at most, there are 10 days left before the Big Day, then I can become creative.

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Although there are many people who plan for holiday baking, my ideas are for those who haven't done so.

Here are nine last-minute projects that require a minimum of ingredients and possibly one trip to the grocery store.

Sometimes finding containers in which to present these creations can be a problem, so it helps to be imaginative about that, too.

Sturdy disposable-type plastic plates are useful for packaging candies, cookies, and similar foods and can be easily decorated with a doily and a sprig of holly. If you have no doily, cut a round of aluminum foil and scallop or notch the edges.

Secure packages in plastic wrap for freshness, then add a decorative wrapping with colored paper and a big bow.

For packaging nuts, herb blends, or scented vinegars, recycle appropriate bottles, jars, and cans.

Make labels with paper and glue. It's easy to dress up jar lids with a circle of fabric held in place over the lid with a rubber band. Add a ribbon and bow. That's just how it's done in those fancy gourmet shops.

Chocolate truffles pack more elegance per pound than any other candy. For all their bittersweet glamour, they are easy to make. French Chocolate Truffles 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate 3 ounces butter 3 egg yolks 1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring Unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt chocolate and butter together over low heat. Beat egg yolks in small cup , then gradually beat into melted chocolate. Add flavoring of your choice, listed below. Let mixture cool until firm enough to hold its shape.

Dust hands with cocoa and form chocolate into irregular balls about the size of a walnut. Dust with more cocoa.

Arrange truffles in fluted paper candy cups or on doily. Store covered and refrigerated so truffles do not dry out. Or they may be frozen.

Flavor variations: For mint truffles, add 1/2 teaspoon mint extract. Or add finely chopped nuts, shredded coconut, chopped raisins, chopped dates, chopped dried apricots, grated orange peel, candied ginger, or diced candied chestnuts. Bengal Curry Blend

Cooks welcome this fragrant gift. Pack in a small jar.

Grind together in a blender or coffee grinder: 1/3 cup whole coriander seeds, 1/2 cup whole cumin seeds, 1/3 cup whole black peppercorns, 3 three-inch sticks of cinnamon, seeds from 30 cardamom pods, 2 tablespoons powdered ginger, 2 tablespoons turmeric powder, and 6 whole cloves. Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups. Herbal Bouquet Garni

A delicious addition to soups, stews, and broths. Fill a small basket with packets of this instant seasoning for your favorite chef.

Make a mixture of 1/2 cup dried parsley, 4 tablespoons thyme leaves, 4 tablespoons marjoram leaves, 10 crumbled bay leaves, and 4 tablespoons dried celery flakes.

Tie 2 teaspoons of mixture into packets made from several layers of cheesecloth.

Drop a bundle into soup or stew as seasoning. Remove before serving. Raspberry Vinegar

Here's the latest gourmet vinegar for salads and sauces:

Empty two 12-ounce packages of unsweetened frozen raspberries and 1/2 cup sugar into a one-gallon glass, plastic, or stainless steel container. Pour in 2 quarts white distilled vinegar. Cover and let stand at least 24 hours. Strain and bottle.

Include the recipe on a card with the gift. Raspberry Vinaigrette 1/2 cup salad oil 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar Salt and pepper to taste 4 tablespoons sour cream

Combine ingredients (using preceding vinegar recipe) and shake well.

Serve with green salads or fruit salads.