Right after Thanksgiving, mother fires up her oven. It blazes straight through until Christmas. Her kitchen counters bow under heavy loads of loaf bread, sweet, cinnamon and croissant rolls. Today my brothers and I pass on the tradition she started by churning out goodies from our own kitchen and gardens.

Here are a few inexpensive ideas for your special friends and neighbors.

Herbed Vinegars:  Herbed vinegars add wonderful flavors to salads and vegetables. Use the leaves, seed or flowers singly or in combinations. Pour one pint good cider or wine vinegar over one cup herbs. Put mixture in a glass or ceramic jar. Seal. Set in a sunny window for two weeks. Or, heat vinegar and pour it over the herbs. Let mixture steep overnight. Strain and bottle.

Herbed Oils:  Herbed oils make tasty basting oils for barbeque or great meat marinades, or a quick pasta sauce or salad dressing. Use olive, canola or sunflower oil. Strip herbs from their stems and rinse. Dry on paper towels, blotting lightly. Mix one cup herbs to two cups oil. Shake three times a day for the first two days to release to flavor in the herbs. Strain through a paper coffee filter into a clean jar. If cloudy, repeat the process. Seal and refrigerate. Try these tasty combinations: garlic, basil, thyme and red pepper; shallots and tarragon.

Other Gifts:  A blank journal to record plantings, ideas, soil conditions and changing seasons is a wonderful gift for gardening friends. Add calligraphy or computer labels for headings in the journal, such as early spring flowers and trees, birds, butterflies, vegetables planted and harvested, ideas for next year, etc. Write a personal message or favorite quote on the first page with your name and the date. Include ribbon bookmarks and use a gold or silver fabric pen to write a favorite garden verse on them.

Fran Cooper, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

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