Santa’s Little Helper: The Easiest Last-Minute Gift Ever

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A couple of years ago, we had a family move in across the street with young kids who looked to be around my kids’ ages. Score! I figured I’d pop by with some “Welcome to the ‘hood!” cookies – ’til I remembered that I don’t bake. And buying cookies from the grocery store didn’t felt very neighborly – or at least it wouldn’t help with the whole “Look at me, I’m so together” first impression I was hoping to make.

But then a close friend let me in on her dirty little secret. She goes the grocery store, buys Pillsbury ready-to-bake cookie dough, throws it in her oven for eight to 12 minutes and then passes them off as her own. She’s done this countless times – for neighbors, teachers, hairdressers – and has not once been “caught.” In fact, quite the opposite: she has a reputation for being a fantastic baker (ha!).

The holiday season is upon us – Hanukkah starts tonight! – and most of us are still scrambling to buy gifts for everyone on our list. And many of us are also freaking out over how much money we’ve spent so far. Which is why this whole faux-homemade cookies thing is a brilliant and inexpensive last-minute gift idea.

The trick is to deliver same day and to package them nicely. For example, my friend uses cellophane bags wrapped in twine. Cheap and cheerful. She’ll add a homemade gift-tag for color, or you can even personalize a basic white label. If you’re feeling ambitious, package them in a cookie tin (I found some cool graphic ones at IKEA – inexpensive yet bold).

The best part is that your home will smell like freshly-baked cookies, allowing you to close your eyes for a minute or two and imagine that you’re that working, gym-going, school-volunteer mom who loves to bake, too.