LIANE HANSEN, host:
The holiday season is up and running. And that means parties, potlucks, presents and empty pocketbooks. You want to bring a dessert to dinner and exchange gifts as well, but your inner Ebenezer Scrooge is wary of spending. Baker extraordinaire Clare Crespo suggests making sweet treats yourself. As part of "Eco-nomical Holidays," our series on saving money and the environment this season, we've called on her for some baking tips. And Clare Crespo joins us from our studios at NPR West. Hey, Clare.
Ms. CLARE CRESPO (Creative Cookbook Author): Hi.
HANSEN: OK. Give us some crowd-pleasing, home-baked items for a dinner or a party that don't take too much time to make.
Ms. CRESPO: OK. How about an igloo cupcake?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. CRESPO: This is a cupcake that's frosted completely and made to look like a little igloo. You could bring it on a platter with powdered sugar and a little penguin, and there you have a centerpiece as well as something sweet to eat.
HANSEN: Oh, that's cool. Do you have another?
Ms. CRESPO: Dinner rolls disguised as little mice. So you slice a dinner roll with two little cuts, and you put Melba toast ears and clove nose and rosemary leaf whiskers, and you put them on your cheese plate.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. CRESPO: I'm really into bringing the thing that is the conversation starter, is the project you could do with the kids.
HANSEN: What would you recommend as a big treat as a gift? I mean, what kind of treats make the best gifts? The cheap ones, the durable ones, the ones that aren't perishable?
Ms. CRESPO: You know, don't make it too hard. Use the boxed cake mix, use the canned frosting, concentrate on how you're decorating it, how you're going to present it to make somebody smile or make somebody's day brighter. So if you brought, for example, a box of teddy bear cupcakes - and these are just chocolate cupcakes frosted with chocolate, two little Peppermint Pattie ears, a little nose that's made out of a jelly bean. Super, super, super easy. Not a lot of time, but just that effort to make it amusing or make it whimsical will show that person that you're giving it to that, you know, you thought about them. You put a little love in there.
HANSEN: One can get really, I mean, involved in this sort of thing. And, you know, you can go to the craft store and there's, like, these colorings and these sweeteners and these decorations. And they cost a lot of money. What alternative ingredients do you have, say, in your cupboard?
Ms. CRESPO: All of my ingredients are from the grocery store or the 7-Eleven. So don't go too far. Don't make it hard.
HANSEN: So there's no need for those expensive Belgian, you know, chocolate...
Ms. CRESPO: No. Get some pretzels. Stick them in a cupcake.
HANSEN: Clare Crespo is the author of "The Secret Life of Food" and "Hey There, Cupcake." She joined us from NPR West. Clare, thanks.
Ms. CRESPO: Thank you.
HANSEN: Clare Crespo's Web site is YummyFun.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Pies, cakes and cookies make a holiday dinner complete. But the cost of buying them can put a damper on the holiday spirit. Here's how to spend less and bake more.
Pies, cakes and cookies make a holiday dinner complete. But the cost of buying them can put a damper on the holiday spirit. Host Liane Hansen talks to creative cookbook author Clare Crespo about how to spend less and bake more.