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Special section Thrifty gifting

We've searched to the North Pole and beyond for easy, yet impressive, things you can make at home.

Best homemade gifts

7 splendid homemade holiday gifts

The best gifts come from the heart, not the wallet, so if you're looking to cut costs this Christmas, consider making homemade presents that can wow the recipient.

"It's really meaningful and really important in today's world to think like that," says Sandra Magsamen, author of "Living Artfully."

People want to do things quickly and want them to be beautiful and affordable, says Carol Field Dahlstrom, author of numerous books on crafts, decorating and preparing for the holidays.

Here are seven perfect presents that offer quick, inexpensive ways to show someone you care.

Show some heart
It's the spirit of giving that's important -- not how much it costs. You can show friends and relatives you really care with these special holiday gifts.
7 splendid homemade gifts:
1. A special salsa
2. A perfect purse
3. A personalized cookbook
4. A sensational recipe kit
5. The '100 Things I Love About You' box
6. A passel of pecans
7. Classic candles

1. A special salsa
Items that can be made quickly and in one step -- such as in a food processor or blender -- work well. Andy's Stolen Salsa, included in Anne Byrn's "What Can I Bring? Cookbook" is one. "It tastes like the really good salsa that you get at a restaurant," she says. For a cute packaging idea, recycle long-neck beer bottles, funnel the salsa into them and find corks that fit into the neck of the bottle. Holiday wrapping is icing on the cake.

The recipe:
3 medium-size or 2 large cloves garlic, peeled.
2 jalapeno peppers (with or without seeds), chopped.
1/3 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
teaspoon salt.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes, undrained.

Using a food processor fitted with a steel blade or a blender, with the motor running, drop the garlic through the feed tube and process until minced. Stop the machine. Add the jalapenos. (For milder palates, remove and discard the seeds and veins. For a hot salsa, remove the stem ends and add the peppers -- seeds, veins and all -- to the food processor.) Add the cilantro and process the jalapenos and cilantro in short pulses until minced. Stop the machine and scrape the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the vinegar, salt and oil and process in pulses until well combined. Add the tomatoes and their juice and pulse briefly until the mixture is still slightly chunky. Spoon the salsa into a dish. The salsa can be made up to a week ahead of time and must be kept in the fridge.

2. A perfect purse
Head to a local flea market or check out yard sales to find boxes or tins to turn into a one-of-a-kind purse, says Jennifer Farrell, host of "Find & Design" on the A&E television network. Pick up a decorative purse clasp and handle at a craft store. Attach the clasp in the front to keep the purse closed and add the handles on the same side of the box as your clasp. Use a vintage tablecloth, dish towel or pillowcase to line the box (hot glue will hold it in place). You can also embellish the outside with sequins or ribbon. Farrell says the project should take only half an hour and will cost about $15. One tip: Cigar boxes are hinged in the back, which saves a step. If you choose a box with a separate lid, attach two small brass hinges in the back to hold it together.

-- Posted: Nov. 21, 2007
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