Gifts from the kitchen are the easiest and among the most inexpensive of all holiday remembrances.

I've not yet found someone who didn't completely appreciate a little sweet bite of something, or sweet bites of a couple of different kinds.

You may want to set aside a whole weekend day and do all of your cookie baking and gift baking at one time. I prefer to knock it off in small chunks, one per evening. And since I'm the only human on the planet who doesn't bake "Christmas cookies" -- (what is wrong with me?) -- these three small chunks are completely manageable in terms of time spent.

I'd love to give you three completely new recipes, but I just can't. And the reason is that the first two recipes here are sure-fire gold star No. 1 hits. If I didn't send these in a box to Wisconsin or Texas, I'd be disowned. And if I didn't take them to some very special neighbors, they might never speak to me again. They are that good -- but they are also that easy.

The third is a find from a gathering last Christmas time. It's a new version -- or at least it was to us -- of cereal mix, but this one is sweet and not savory.

Mix and match to fit the tastes of those for whom you bake -- last year, I amped up Page 72 (without question the best recipe in the entire "Eatin' with Sal cookbook) by making batches the traditional way and then with white chocolate and crushed peppermints instead of semisweet chocolate and nuts. The recipients thought that I had completely gone over the top.

Buttery Cracker Candy (or just Page 72)

  • About 40 Keebler Club crackers
  • 2 sticks of butter, not margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Line a 10- by 16-inch cookie sheet with nonstick aluminum foil. Arrange crackers on top of foil, covering entire cookie sheet.

In medium saucepan, bring butter and brown sugar to a boil, stirring often.

Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add baking soda to butter mixture.

Stir well. Pour the mixture on top of arranged crackers. Smooth out so all crackers are covered.

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Bake at 375 for 6 or 7 minutes. Watch carefully so crackers do not burn.

Remove from oven, sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts on top of crackers. Allow to cool, then break into pieces to serve or store. You may cool in fridge before breaking.

This is easy and wonderful! Makes a great gift. You may use white or milk chocolate chips instead of the semisweet, and/or crushed peppermints and chopped almonds.

(Recipe courtesy of Janice L. Thompson, Casper, in "Eatin' with Sal")

Four-Chip Fudge

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons plus 3/4 cup butter (no substitutes), divided
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package (11.5 ounces) milk chocolate chips
  • 1 package (10 ounces) peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Line a 13- by 9-inch pan with foil and grease the foil with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter; set aside. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the remaining butter over low heat. Add the next six ingredients. Cook and stir constantly until smooth. Mixture will first appear separate; continue stirring until fully blended. Remove from the heat; stir in the marshmallow creme and extracts until well blended. Stir in nuts.

Spread into prepared pan. Refrigerate until set. Lift out of pan and remove foil; cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: About 4 1/2 pounds.

(Recipe courtesy of "Taste of Home Chocolate Lover's Cookbook," Reiman Publications)

Christmas Crack

  • 1 (12.8 ounce) box Rice Chex
  • 1 (12-ounce) box Golden Grahams
  • 1 7-ounce bag shredded coconut
  • 1 4-ounce bag slivered almonds
  • 1-1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup

Combine cereals, coconut and almonds in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. In a large saucepan, cook butter, sugar and corn syrup to the "soft ball" stage, about 234 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour over cereal mixture and stir until all is well coated. Pour mixture out onto two large cookie sheets to cool. Stir it around occasionally to prevent clumping. Store in an airtight container.

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