Christmas is right around the corner, and with the average American spending close to $1,000, Sous Chef Bryan Nader from Mercy Health Saint Mary's show you how you can create some homemade holiday gifts that can help you save money and time this holiday season.

Snowflake Mix

3 cups rice square cereal
2 cups corn square cereal
1 cup pretzel twists
1 cup honey-roasted peanuts
24oz. white baking squares
12oz. package candy coated chocolate pieces


  1. In a very large bowl combine cereals, pretzels and peanuts; set aside.
  2. Melt baking pieces according to package directions. Pour melted chocolate over cereal mixture. Stir gently to coat. Spread on a large piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 1 month. Makes 16 cups.

Blondie Mix

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup chopped pecans
½ cup toffee pieces
¼ cup butter melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla

Layer in a 1-quart glass jar or canister the following ingredients: brown sugar, chocolate pieces, flour, baking powder, salt, pecans and toffee pieces. Tap jar gently on the counter to settle each layer before adding the next. Cover jar.
Store at room temperature up to 1 month. Or, attach baking directions and gave as a gift.
Baking directions: Grease an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir in jar contents. Spread into prepared pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until set and golden brown and edges just begin to pull away from pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Chocolate Bark

12oz. chocolate chips or white chocolate chips
Favorite candy toppings


  1. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds, stir and heat again in increments of 10 seconds stirring after each, until chocolate is melted.
  2. Pour chocolate out onto a parchment lined baking tray and top with candy.
  3. Allow to cool and then break into pieces

Peppermint Bark

1lb. vanilla flavored candy coating
¾ cup crushed candy canes

Line a cookie sheet with some waxed paper and set aside.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, place candy coating. Heat, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every minute until soft enough to stir smooth. (Or, in a large saucepan, heat candy coating over low heat until melted, stirring constantly.)
Stir in peppermint candy (if you like, reserve 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top). Spread onto cookie sheet. Cool; break into pieces. Makes 1 pound (16 pieces).

Nut Brittle

1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 ½ cups nuts

Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to high and cook until the bubbles get smaller and the mixture turns a light amber color, about 10 minutes. Stir in the nuts and cook for 1 more minute. Quickly pour the mixture onto a baking pan lined with a silicone baking sheet (or buttered parchment paper) and spread it out evenly with a spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture cools quickly so work fast. Let cool and break into pieces.

Infused Vinegar

2 cups rice vinegar
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 strips orange zest
2 cloves garlic

Special equipment: a 20-ounce bottle with a tight-fitting spout with rubber stopper; a funnel
Pour the rice vinegar through a funnel into a 20-ounce bottle. Gently add the rosemary, orange zest and garlic cloves to the bottle until completely submerged. Add a tight-fitting spout with a rubber stopper. You can use the vinegar right away or refrigerate it for up to 1 month to allow the flavors to marry and infuse the vinegar. The longer the vinegar sits, the more the flavors will infuse.

Spice Rub

3 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
3 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small airtight jar. Store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Curried Lentil Soup

2 bay leaves
1 dried chile pepper
2 tsp. turmeric
1 ½ tsp. curry powder
5 sundried tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
1 cup yellow lentils

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 4 smashed garlic cloves and 1 diced red onion; sauté 6 minutes. Add the contents of the spice bag, the bay leaves and chile pepper from the Curried Lentil Soup Mix and cook about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the soup mix and 8 cups water or chicken broth; simmer until the lentils are soft, about 1 hour. Season with salt.

Cranberry Vinegar

12oz. bag of fresh cranberries
2 cups white vinegar
12 sprigs fresh thyme

Special equipment: Four 32-ounce bottles
Rinse and pick over the cranberries, discarding any leaves and stems. With a paring knife, make an X in the skin of each cranberry.
Heat the vinegar in a saucepan until just steaming. Using a funnel, add a quarter of the cranberries to a clear wine bottle, then add 3 sprigs of thyme. Repeat 3 more times with the remaining cranberries and thyme in 3 more bottles. Fill the bottles to the top with the vinegar and cool completely, uncovered. Cover and allow to sit in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks, gently shaking every few days to help the vinegar to completely infuse.