Due to current economic woes, many of us are being frugal when it comes to holiday spending. My solution? Think like a chef!

Last, year, my inner pastry chef decided to give cookies to extended family and friends. After making and decorating about 100 gingerbread men and women, I was exhausted. But then I realized it's amazing the kind of happiness homemade goodies can bring.

I decided this year would be a homemade gift-giving year for me as well. I will be making cookies, brittle, cakes, breads, and jellies to hand out to friends and family instead of heading to the nearest mall or shopping plaza. I dropped off my first gifts this morning at the orthodontist's office. Those women were so excited to see that peppermint cake come through the door, you would have thought I was Paula Dean!

Yes, homemade gifts can be a bit time-consuming, but the warm feeling that comes from making your loved ones happy makes it worthwhile. So I say to you, channel your inner chef. Go dig into your copy of the 2008 Holiday Cookbook or check out the online version. Either way, your friends and family (not to mention your wallet and your local grocer) will love you for it. And don't be surprised if your gifts turn into regularly requested items for family gatherings.

Take a look at our Holiday Gifts section for ideas, recipes and inspiration.

Happy Holidays!