Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last Minute Gift Idea: Cake Mix Cookies! And, Free Downloadable Gift Labels

So I made a gift guide a few weeks ago, but I know most of us spent the past week or so running around like crazy trying not to succumb to the horrors of Finals Week. Now that it's over with, let's all breathe a big sigh of relief (PHEW!) and then try to scramble around and figure out what to give everyone for the holidays!

Picture of Retorte's Cake Mix Cookies
The easiest, most wonderfully delicious and inexpensive idea I've come across this year are Cake Mix Cookies. What are cake mix cookies? Well, exactly what they sound like - cookies made from cake mix! Except they don't bake like cake, they bake like delicious cookies, and then when they're done you don't have to decorate them. The reason I love these cookies and am making them in spades this year is because they are easy and cheap. A box of cake mix is typically around $1.00 - don't pay any more than that for it. Hit up your local dollar store or Wal Mart to snag a couple boxes. I highly recommend getting a Butter Yellow or Golden Butter mix, from any brand - it's MUCH better than regular old yellow cake, and it's the most adaptable mix out there. Duncan Hines, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker all have their own version of Butter cake mix. If you're a chocolate person, get some sort of chocolate mix, and if you're adventurous, try a Spice Cake mix or a Cherry Cake mix or Funfetti or whatever catches your fancy!

Here's what you need:
- 1 Box of cake mix (any kind)
- Eggs
- Oil or butter
- Water
- Chocolate chips, M&Ms, nuts, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, dried fruit, candy, ANYTHING you want to put in your cookies

Here's How to Do It:
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Dump your cake mix in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup oil or butter (if you're using butter, that's half of a stick.) Add 1 egg if you want cookies that rise but don't spread much (they will be puffier and fluffy inside),  2 eggs if you want your cookies to spread and flatten out more (they will be slightly more crispy). Mix furiously. The dough will be sticky and tough, that's perfectly normal. Work those arm muscles, and pretend you're burning off some of the calories of the 92862768276 delicious cookies you're going to be eating later. Once your dough is all mixed together, add whatever mix-ins you want to add and mix again. Now that you're all mixed and ready to go, grease a cookie sheet and form little dough balls/clumps on the baking sheet, spaced about an inch or two apart to allow for spreading. Try to make them as roundish as possible, because especially if you only used 1 egg, they probably won't spread enough to become magically round on their own. Once your cookie sheet is all filled, pop those suckers in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the tops of the cookies have hardened and the bottoms are slightly browned. Wait for them to cool before eating one!

Here Are Some Interesting Cookie Ideas:
Chocolate Cake Mix Sandwich Cookies from Annie's Eats
- Peppermint Holiday Cookies! Stick an Andes mint inside each cookie, or crumble up some candy canes to use along with chocolate chips.
- Cookie Sandwiches! Ice your cookies and stack them on top of one another. Roll the edges in holiday colored sprinkles.
- Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches! Sandwich ice cream between your flattened, cooled cookies. Roll the edges in holiday colored sprinkles and freeze before wrapping.
- Pinwheel Cookies! Make 1 batch of "white" dough and one of chocolate or red velvet dough. Using this technique,  roll out your dough onto a big rectangle of wax paper and place in fridge until firm. Stack your doughs one on top of the other - place any fillings you want rolled inside on top - and roll carefully into a log. Wrap log in wax paper and roll on surface to achieve optimal round log shaping, and firm in fridge again if necessary. When log is well shaped and firm, slice cookies. A knife might flatten your log so you may want to use unflavored dental floss instead. Voila!
- Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies! Add dried cherries and chocolate chips to your cookies, and possibly walnuts too.
- Chocolate Caramel Cookies! Get some chocolate caremel candy such as Rolos or Milk Duds and roll one inside of each cookie to create a melty chocolate caramel center when cookies are baked.

Package your cookies by putting them in a cookie tin from the Dollar Tree, or sticking them in plastic sandwich baggies and tying those up with ribbon. Gifts for everyone!!

Also, for those of you who ventured down the homemade alcohol route I discussed in my gift giving guide, I've made some labels for my gifts that I want to share with you all to download and use on yours! I created these in Adobe Illustrator, but they are all converted to plain .JPGs that you can color in yourself. The Skittles basic logo is easily customization just by using the "Paint" fill bucket tool in any photo editing program (heck, even MS paint will work). I added the flavor names for my labels and I've included a .zip file of all of those labels, which are for the "Blenders" Skittles. The Apple Pie Moonshine label is pretty much ready to go, you can fill in the background with a color if you want and then just slap it on your mason jars! Note: the images are very large, so make sure to measure your containers and then scale the labels down to the correct size.

To Download: Click to open full-sized in a new window, right-click and "Save As."
To Download these labels as a .zip compressed set of files: Click Here
To Download: Click to open full-sized in a new window, right-click and "Save As."

Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday break!
- The Broke Student Guide

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