Every year around this time, I find myself in the same little boat–wondering where the year went, how it’s possible we’ll need a new calendar in just a few short weeks, and what on earth am I going to give people for Christmas? I’m not a big fan of the mass-produced holiday gifts you can find at your local discount store. I am, however, a fan of letting the people you love know they’re appreciated. Fortunately, that’s easy to do with a minimum of effort if you head for the kitchen rather than the mall.
I know what you’re thinking. Foodie, I’m a very busy person. I have no time for making gifts. I swear to you, none of these gift ideas will take very long to prepare. Certainly much less time than you’d spend prowling the mall in search of inspiration. The only secret to making gifts in your own kitchen is being prepared ahead of time: check out the recipes, make a list of what you need, and rest assured that you have it on hand before you even get started. Buy a package of canning jars (usually four to package) at the grocery store, and run them through the dishwasher so they’re ready to fill as soon as you’ve finished cooking. Buy some small plastic bags with zipped tops–craft stores like Hobby Lobby often carry these in their baking section. Also, think creatively about packaging; don’t spend time wrapping gifts when you can use festive containers (like colorful but inexpensive mugs or bowls) that serve this purpose. That’s thoughtful and eco-friendly. Go you!
Flavored Sugars. Vanilla Sugar and Lemon Sugar make the perfect gift for people who love a sweetened warm beverage on a chilly winter afternoon. To make Vanilla Sugar, measure two cups of granulated sugar into an airtight storage container. Cut a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the insides. Stir to distribute the vanilla bean “caviar” throughout, then bury the bean pod in the sugar. Seal the container and let the vanilla bean stay buried for about two weeks before measuring the Vanilla Sugar into zip-top bags. For Lemon Sugar, zest one large lemon directly into the sugar; stir to distribute the lemon zest throughout, then let the mixture dry, uncovered, for about an hour. That’s it! Your Lemon Sugar is all ready to package. Tuck a bag of Lemon Sugar and an assortment of teabags into a cute holiday mug and you’re ready to gift. Alternatively, a sample-size package of coffee and a bag of Vanilla Sugar will also delight your caffeine-addicted friends.
Butterscotch Sauce. I recently discovered how very easy it is to make this Super Simple Butterscotch Sauce (just in case the name didn’t tip you off.) If you know someone who enjoys a dish of ice cream in the evening, line a festive bowl with a cute napkin and nestle a jar of this sauce inside for a thoughtful present. This sauce is also a great compliment to fresh fruit slices, so a small gift bag filled with an assortment of pears and apples would be a terrific alternative to that ice cream dish. Be sure to remind your loved one that this sauce needs to be refrigerated.
Pumpkin Butter. It’s delicious spread on toast, stirred into oatmeal, or as the featured ingredient in a pumpkin spice latte. This recipe for Pumpkin Butter makes enough for four 8-oz. jars, which means you can share the love with four friends or family members. Tuck a fresh loaf of artisan bread into a gift bag, add a jar of Pumpkin Butter, and you’re ready to gift. Again, be sure to mention that Pumpkin Butter needs to be stored in the fridge.
Lemon Curd. Recently, this has become my go-to recipe for lemon curd–it’s made in the microwave. What could be easier? This recipe makes enough for two jars, so you can take care of two loved ones at once. It’s terrific with shortbread cookies. Add a teacup and some teabags and you’ll be gifting someone the perfect afternoon snack break. (And–you guessed it–don’t forget to mention that the lemon curds goes in the fridge.)
Jam. If you tried this Vanilla-Fig Freezer Jam last summer, you might have a few jars left in the freezer. Thaw them out and share them as gifts, along with a nice package of crackers and some fresh goat cheese. The combination of figs and goat cheese can’t be beat.
Cookies. The old standard is always welcome. These Key Lime Pie Drops require no baking, just stirring and chilling, but they’re tart and chewy and delicious. If you’re in the mood for something slightly more involved, Skillet Cookies are a crunchy, buttery, coconutty option for the holidays.
None of these gift ideas will take you more than an hour to make–considerably less time and energy than it takes just to fight the traffic at your local mall. On top of that, a home-made gift tells the people you love that you’ve thought about what they might like and prepared a gift especially for each of them.