Cheers! I was thrilled to share my ‘Gifts From The Pantry’ ideas on Canada AM with Ben Mulroney.

Tis the season to be stress free.  No crowded malls, or swiping of debit or credit cards. Yes, it is possible.  How you ask?  With thoughtful, homemade gifts from your pantry.  I developed the following DIY ‘Gifts From The Pantry’ as fun-to-make: teacher/coach/neighbour/grandparent gifts, hostess gifts, stocking stuffers or little party favours placed at each table setting. These festive recipes are simple to prepare, use ingredients you likely already have on hand, and will not have you regretting gift giving come January.

Grab the kids, roll up your sleeves, crank up the holiday hits and get busy in the kitchen!

Peanut Butter Truffles 


Peanut Butter Truffles. Gift giving never tasted sooo good!

Creamy, delicious and decadent – a perfect gift!  Click here for more delicious recipes featuring peanuts.

1 ½ cups (375 mL) finely chopped milk chocolate – about 8oz (250 g)

½ cup (125 mL) whipping cream

¾ cup (175 mL) smooth peanut butter

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

1 ¼ cups (300 mL) peanuts, preferable honey roasted

Place chocolate and cream in a small saucepan set over low heat. Watching very carefully, stir continuously until chocolate is nearly melted. Remove from heat and whisk until completely melted. Whisk in peanut butter and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until firm enough to form into balls, 21/2 to 3 hours.

Meanwhile, place peanuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Then place in a wide shallow dish (a pie plate would work well). Using your hands form mixture into 3/4-inch (2-cm) balls then roll in peanuts to cover. Refrigerate on a waxed paper lined tray until firm. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week or freeze.


Chipotle Lime Cheese Ball Mix

I know it’s 2015, but cheese ball mixes are still a popular hostess gift purchase and retail for $5 to over $10!  Instead of breaking the bank on a Cadillac version of dried herbs (fancy packaging!), be the Henry Ford and make your own.  This recipe costs literally pennies to prepare, therefore makes a perfect homemade treat to give with a bottle of wine. Because the mix is a bit spicy, I like to pair it with a wine that is a bit sweet.  Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling is a reasonably priced, and easy drinking wine that pairs well with cheeses and dishes with a bit of “heat”.

2 tbsp (30 mL) dried chives

2 tsp (10 mL) dried cilantro

1 tsp (5 mL) dried chipotle powder

1/2 tsp (2 mL) cumin

¼ tsp (1 mL) sea salt

Stir together all ingredients and place in a small candy bag (found at craft/bulk food stores). Tie with decorative ribbon and attach recipe card with instructions.  Tie to neck of wine bottle.

Recipe Card Instructions:  Combine prepared mix with: 125 g (1/4 lb.) cream cheese, 125 g (¼ lb.) goat cheese, 1 cup (250 mL) grated aged cheddar cheese, 1/2 tsp (2 mL) finely grated lime zest and 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lime juice.  Form into ball.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to two days).  When ready to serve, roll ball in 1 cup (250 mL) chopped mixed salted nuts.  Serve with an assortment of crackers, flatbreads, apple and pear slices.


Running Room Hot Chocolate

A gourmet twist on a classic cold weather drink.

Salted Dark Chocolate Spiced Cocoa 

A sophisticated, festive sip.

½ cup (125 mL) quality cocoa powder

¼ cup (60 mL)  finely grated (or finely chopped) quality dark chocolate

3 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar

1 1/4 tsp (6 mL) sea salt

¼ tsp (1 mL) cayenne pepper

Stir together all ingredients and place into a 1 cup (250 mL) mason jar with lid. Tie with decorative ribbon and attached recipe card with instructions.

Recipe card instructions:  Whisk 2 tbsp (30 mL) of prepared cocoa mix with 1 cup (250 mL) milk in a small pot over medium heat until desired temperature. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  Sip, relax and enjoy the holidays.  Makes one, 1 cup (250 mL) serving. *cocoa mix recipe will make eight, 1 cup (250 mL) servings.*


Homemade Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup (125 mL) quality dark rum

1 small piece of vanilla bean (approx 2 inches/4.5 cm)

Place rum and vanilla bean into a small (125 mL) mason jar with lid.  Decorate with festive ribbon.

Recipe Card Instructions:  Use vanilla extract as you would in any baked good recipe.  Or, add to coffee, hot chocolate or eggnog for a cozy holiday swig.


Vanilla Sugar

Fill a mason jar (any size – however, I find 250 mL size jar appropriate for gift giving) with granulated sugar.  Cut a  piece of vanilla bean (approx 3 inches/7.5 cm) and place in jar with sugar.  Place lid on jar and decorate with festive ribbon.  Within a day, the sugar will take on the flavour of the vanilla.

Recipe Card Instructions: use sugar in baking, stir into coffee, tea, or sprinkled over morning oats.

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Holiday baking and gift giving does not have to be complicated.  Adding a few festive ingredients to a basic cookie recipe is fun, and makes a joyful holiday gift from the kitchen and heart.

1 cup (250 mL) softened butter

1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups (375 mL) all purpose flour

3/4 cup (175 mL) rolled oats

1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda

½ tsp (2 mL) quality salt

2 cups (500 mL) semi sweet chocolate chips

Beat together butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and beat (or stir) until well combined.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll batter into 1.5 cm (approx)  balls and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (about 2 inches apart).  Bake in 375 F (190 C) for about 8 to 10  minutes or until edges are golden and middle is a bit under baked (you will likely need to bake in batches).  Remove from oven and cool slightly on baking sheet.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.  Makes 30 (approx) cookies.

Candy Cane Cookies: add ½ tsp (2 mL) of pure mint extract to batter and bake according to directions.  Once cookies have cooled, drizzle each cookie with melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Ginger Studded Cookies: add ½ tsp (2 mL) ground ginger and ½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped candied ginger to batter.  Bake according to directions.  Once cookies have cooled, drizzle each cookie with melted white chocolate and sprinkle with additional finely chopped candied ginger.



Cute as a button – Peanut Butter Buttons.

Peanut Butter Buttons 

Peanut Butter Buttons.

Pairing peanut butter and chocolate is always a crowd favourite and this irresistible button cookie recipe will delight.  Click here to learn more about the heath benefits of peanuts.

½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature

⅓ cup peanut butter

½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar plus 3 tbsp (45 mL)

2 egg yolks

2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla

1 ½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour

27 mini peanut butter cups

icing sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place butter and peanut butter in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until very creamy.

Beat in ½ cup (125 mL) sugar until well blended. Then beat in egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down sides as needed. Beat in vanilla and then flour until combined.

Place 3 tbsp (45 mL) sugar in a shallow dish. Form dough into 1-inch (2.5-cm) balls, and roll in the sugar. Place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Use your finger to press into centre of each dough ball to form an indent.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Place a peanut butter cup in indent and continue to bake until golden and set, about 6 to 8 more minutes.

Remove to a rack to cool completely. When completely cool, dust with icing sugar.

Tip: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They also freeze well for longer storage.

I hope some of my festive gifts from the kitchen have been helpful, but most of all I hope you take the time with loved ones (children, siblings, spouse or parents) to prepare them.  As we enter a hectic time of year, I want to wish you all a Happy & Healthy holiday season.

Charmaine is a regular guest on Rogers Daytime York Region and food writer for Running Room Magazine sharing DSC_1081her love and enthusiasm for all things food, cooking and running.

Charmaine is a proud ambassador of Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon: a celebration of Women & Fitness, come join in the FUN June 6th, 2016.  Hope to see many of you at the start line in 2016!  Click here to register.

Most importantly; Charmaine is the mother of two active boys, Tyler & Colgan.

Charmaine understands the importance of preparing healthy, wholesome dishes all while keeping budget and time in mind. For more tasty recipes visit

Follow Charmaine on Twitter @runnercharb