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Best homemade food gifts?

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  • galka Nov 19, 2006 11:42 PM
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I would love some suggestions, please

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  1. Martha Stewart's recipe for spiced almonds is actually delicious, easy, and very popular. The trick is finding whole blanched almonds as the base ingredient. Here's the recipe:

    Spiced Nuts...(a good thing)

    Makes 2 cups

    2 tablespoons peanut oil (scant)

    2 cups whole almonds, blanched

    1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

    1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    (1) In a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan (cast iron is best), warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the almonds, and stir with a wooden spoon, coating each thoroughly with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar, and continue to stir until the almonds become golden brown and the sugar caramelized, about 4 minutes. (the almonds will continue to darken some after they are removed from the heat)

    (2) Remove the pan from heat. Sprinkle the remaining sugar, salt, cumin, and the red-pepper flakes over the nuts, and toss well. Work quickly for this and the following step.

    (3) Pour the spiced nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or waxed paper, and separate into a single layer with a wooden spoon. Allow nuts to cool for about 30 minutes. Spiced nuts can be stored up to two weeks in an airtight container.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rcallner

      I have been making these for years and they are wonderful. I use three different nuts, almonds, walnut and pecans just for variety.

      1. re: rcallner

        I do this, but with pecans. Always a big hit. And lovely in a salad.

      2. Here's one that I received last year:

        Friendship Soup Mix - Layered Soup Mix In A Jar

        1/2 cup dry split peas
        1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
        1/4 cup pearl barley
        1/2 cup dry lentils
        1/4 cup dried minced onion
        2 tsp. italian seasoning
        1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
        1/2 cup alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni (can be put in a plastic sandwich bag to make it easier for the recipient to get out of jar )

        Additional Ingredients:
        1 lb. ground beef
        3 qts. water
        1 (28-ozs.) can diced tomatoes, undrained

        In a 1-1/2-pint jar, layer the first eight ingredients in the order listed. Seal tightly.

        Yield: 1 batch.

        Instructions to attach to jar:

        Friendship Soup Mix:

        To Prepare Soup: Carefully remove macaroni from top of jar and set aside. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, brown beef; drain. Add the water, tomatoes and soup mix; bring to a boil Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add reserved macaroni; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until macaroni, peas, lentils and barley are tender.

        Yield: 16 servings (4 quarts)

        3 Replies
        1. re: rmperry

          Sometimes a batch of homemade granola is nice. You can easily find a recipe on epicurious or a google search. Very easy to make & has a good shelf life.
          I send cookies for Thanksgiving & Christmas but I'll usually add a bag of homemade cocoa mix &/or depending on if they have a dog some homemade dog biscuits.

          I have a friend who is not a big sweet eater but I'll send her a "coupon" for whatever sweet she would like on her birthday or other special occasion...be it a cake or truffles..etc.

          1. re: sugarbuzz

            Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa granola recipe is very good. Rich and tasty. Those I have given this to seemed to really enjoy it.

          2. re: rmperry

            How did it taste? I want my kids to make something like this for relatives but wasn't sure if it would taste good.

          3. A very favorite for those on the receiving end are chocolate truffles, which are easy to do but can cost a bit if you use high quality chocolate (which I think is key). You can make a few different kinds, either keeping them traditional or venturing into the modern interpretations using a little chile powder, or infusing the cream with Earl Grey tea or fennel seed, etc.

            Other sweet ideas are cashew brittle, peppermint bark, sugar and cinnamon coated pecans.

            Savory ideas include a variety of puff pastry twists with different combinations of cheeses and toppings, old-fashioned cheese straws, homemade crackers delivered with an herbed soft cheese ball. One of my favorites is to make 3 varieties of nuts -- spicey, herbed and sweet.

            If you have experience and supplies for canning, you could do a variety of things like salsas, chutneys, curds.

            Because I like to grind my own spices, I have developed a few blends like a barbeque rub, a curry powder, garam masala, pork rub, etc. I have made packets of each in a basket and included an easy recipe card on each mix.

            Homemade infused alcohalic drinks are also popular.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Terrie H.

              Yes..bbq rubs are a great gift. My brother sends me his secret recipe every summer & I really love it.
              Jacque Torres has a great recipe for candied nuts. caramelized in sugar & then tossed in chocolate & then cocoa or powdered sugar.
              A fellow chef friend always send me some infused vodka every year. Last year was star anise..the year before was vanilla. Screwdrivers never tasted more like creamsicles ever.

            2. If you are giving gifts to alcohol-drinking folks, homemade limoncello is nice. Of course, I live in a lemon-growing area, so the lemons are free for me. :) That star anise vodka sounds good as well.

              One year when my sister was in college I made her the base for ginger pancakes and sealed it in a bag. All she needed to do was to add the wet ingredients.

              2 Replies
              1. re: burnt toast

                can you please post a recipe for lemoncello, thanks

                1. re: galka

                  This is the limoncello recipe I used:

                  http://hedonia.seantimberlake.com/hed...

                  My own notes: I use 100 proof vodka. I would not recommend putting the zest directly into the vodka bottle, as he suggests -- when I tried that, there wasn't enough room in the bottle. I just use a mason jar. I've made a batch using Eureka lemons, one using Meyer lemons, and one using a mix of the two, and they've all come out well. I'm also making some "Buddhacello" using the same recipe.

                  It takes a couple of weeks at least to infuse, so you'd better get going if you want to give it away for Christmas!

              2. My gifts for Christmas include:

                Brandied Fruit Cake

                Spiced nuts

                Preserves and Chutneys

                Mahagony Toffee from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Christmas book

                3 Replies
                1. re: Fleur

                  How is her toffee? I have always looked at the recipe but never gotten around to making it. Is it much different from others? Some recipes I have found make the toffee sticky on my teeth. Does this one?

                  1. re: sam21479

                    The toffee from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Christmas book is delicious. I make it every year. The only change I make to the recipe is adding a little bit of salt to the hot sugar before pouring it over the chocolate.

                    Edit: I just realized this thread is 4 years old, but the toffee is still delicious.

                    1. re: potato or yam

                      I am just realizing how old it is, too. However, I always read old threads for recipe ideas so I don't see any reason to not add comments. Right? And I was also looking for a toffee recipe. So it worked out well for me. Thanks.

                2. This year, I'm making most of my gifts. Different types of truffles, pomegranite jelly, fig spread, peppermint bark, spiced nuts and maybe some maple walnut brittle. Oh, and ginger infused vodka and limoncello. I hate to say it, but Martha Stewart's guide to holiday gifts have some great foodie ideas to make and give. It's where I got the pomegranite jelly recipe (very awesome) and limoncello recipe from.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rockchick

                    Could you post a recipe or a link for the pomegranite jelly? I bet it's a lovely color.

                  2. I dont know if you folks who make these homemade food gifts know it or not, but I have heard a large percentage of people dont eat these gifts and throw them away.

                    I know I am very cautious of food made in others kitchens without me seeing what was going on during preperation..(hand washing, finger licking,pets, and other sanitation issues). I more often than not accept the gift politlely, and throw it away once I get home.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: swsidejim

                      I agree with that to a point. I have several friends who are teachers and they get tons of food gifts which they toss when they get home. I make things only for my family and friends (who know and trust my hand washing skills, etc.!)

                      1. re: bananie

                        Im not trying to offend anyone, because I know the effort, and care folks put into these gifts. Just letting folks know what may happen. happy holidays all.

                        1. re: swsidejim

                          I'm amazed. You must not eat out in restaurants very often, either. After all, who knows what's really going on behind the scenes, right?
                          I, personally, would trust and treasure any handmade food gifts from friends.

                          1. re: walker

                            I agree with you, Walker. I think it's very odd that folks would trust grocery store employees and restaurant workers more than friends....unless you don't eat at your friends' homes, either. Oh well, to each his own (though if I had friends who made it a practice to not eat homemade food gifts, I'd appreciate getting a heads up, so I didn't waste it on them....)

                            1. re: girlwonder88

                              I feel like swsidejim. If it's a close friend and I know how they do things, I'm happy to accept it. But if we're talking about coworkers I don't know well, or others whose habits I'm not sure about, I'll throw it away. There are laws in restaurants, but none in home kitchens. I've worked in restaurants, and I'm happy to eat in them.

                      2. re: swsidejim

                        Yeah, one year I made mustard. Very nice mustard. Nine months later I pet-sat for one of my friends. The mustard was still in the fridge, unopened. I did her a favor and threw it away. Cookies are okay, I think. Anyhow, I always eat them!

                        1. re: Glencora

                          I think after all of our discussions in the other gift thread, that I'm just going to give my homemade gifts to people who I know will enjoy and use them! I've kind of adapted that motto in my other gift giving methods as well... I spend A LOT of time thinking (read obsessing) of "the perfect" gifts for people and then I will hear about that cousin who took everything back to the store to get a refund and I just get irked! So, some people will get "that perfect present" because I know they will throroughly enjoy it and others will get grapefruits or giftcards!! ;-) See there, now you got me all riled up!

                          1. re: Katie Nell

                            I'm right with you, Katie Nell! I have a similarly-tiered gift giving system. Some just don't appreciate the homemade touch. Entirely their loss!

                        2. re: swsidejim

                          Interesting - that would never have occured to me.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            maybe because I worked in restaurants for so long I am really picky, and cautious about food because I have seen how even some "proffessionals" do things in a kitchen that turned my stomach...
                            I think food for folks who know you, and how you cook may have better luck, but for coworkers, teachers etc... Maybe not

                            all of the above is my humble opinion, and info I have gathered from talking with others.

                            1. re: swsidejim

                              I totally see your point ... and I guess I probably give food gifts to people who know me well ... but it will make me think twice of giving such gifts to people who don't.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                mm,

                                either way its the thought that counts right..

                          2. re: swsidejim

                            This is a good point... and yet, there is something wrong when the attitude "bought is better than made" pervades everything, even (especially?) Christmas. Anyone who eats at restaurants has probably eaten worse, so why not try spread, or at least adopt, the attitude that "from the heart" is better than from the store?

                            I am going to change my labels this year to list out my ingredients (as is suggested below) on the packaging to my son's teachers, etc. I just can't change to the gift card mentality! :)

                          3. That's an interesting comment (just accepting and throwing away the gift), but I've found that everything I've made is accepted and eaten, usually within my presence! I suppose it wouldn't go over too well with people you don't know, but my co-workers, bosses, friends and family use up my stuff and ask for more.

                            I'll post the recipe for the jelly later. It is a really pretty red ruby color and tastes fantastic. Actually, really good as a tofu glaze!

                            1. Here's an article about homemade food gifts, with recipes:
                              http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.a...

                              I've made these 'light' fruitcakes before & given them to close friends; they're made with dried peaches, pears, pineapple, pistachios, ground almonds etc. Different than the more usual fruitcake.
                              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                              1. For our closest friends, I make "meal baskets". One year I jarred up pints of chili and packaged that with some corn muffins and brownies for dessert. Another year, I did breakfast baskets - I made scones and homemade bear claws and croissants and packaged that with assorted teas, some nice coffee and flavored butter and small jams.

                                1. I think sometimes how you package food gifts makes a difference also. On my canned goods, I prepare labels that could easily pass the Health Department grade. I list the ingredients in order, the ounces, a use by date, etc. They look nice and there is no question about what is in an item or when it will expire. Cookies and brittle are wrapped in cello bags separately. If you take the time to make your gifts look nice, I think they will be more readily consumed. I know that when I receive cookies on a paper plate loosely wrapped with plastic wrap, they generally taste stale and do not get eaten. I know my gifts get eaten since I am usually asked to share recipes with the recipients.
                                  Here is one of my gifts that will be given this year. Careful though, as it is highly addictive. You can leave out the cayenne pepper for a delicious version of peanut brittle, but the subtle heat from the cayenne is what I find addictive about it. I am working on a spicy version of truffles also that I can post when I get it formulated, if you would like it. Enjoy!


                                  * Exported from MasterCook *

                                  Gayle's Spicy Peanut Brittle

                                  Recipe By :GayleMO/Dawn
                                  Serving Size : 1 Preparation Time :0:00
                                  Categories : Candy Christmas
                                  Peanut Brittle Thanksgiving

                                  Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
                                  -------- ------------ --------------------------------
                                  2 cups sugar
                                  1 cup light Karo syrup
                                  1 cup water
                                  2 cups raw peanuts
                                  1/4 teaspoon salt
                                  1/2 teaspoon vanilla
                                  1 tablespoon butter
                                  1 tablespoon baking soda
                                  1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

                                  In a large heavy pan combine: sugar, Karo Syrup and water.
                                  Boil this mixture until it reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.
                                  Then add raw peanuts. 1/4 tsp salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently.
                                  Continue cooking and stirring until thermometer reaches 290 degrees - hard crack - remove from the burner and add: vanilla and butter.
                                  Quickly stir together and add: baking soda and cayenne pepper.
                                  Mix well and, working quickly, pour onto buttered cookie sheet. Use two if you want it super thin. Spread quickly and let cool.
                                  Break into pieces and store in airtight tin or canister. I have doubled this recipe but mostly I make a batch and a half as it fits in the pan better when boiling up.
                                  Gnote:I have made this with cashews and other nuts, too. Good stuff and not hard on the teeth!
                                  Dnote: I prefer to make this on two sheets, much thinner.

                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                  1. Homemade Bailey's Irish Cream is easy, fun and always much appreciated. Present it in nice bottles with ceramic stoppers (think Grolsch beer bottles). Make sure to use Jameson's Irish Whiskey in your recipe. The homemade version is much better than what you buy in the store. You can vary the alcohol content to your taste.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: CDouglas

                                      I make Irish Cream at home too for gift-giving during holidays...and I agree, you need the real deal with Irish Whiskey.

                                      1. re: Val

                                        My friends and I love Irish Cream - would either of you consider posting your recipe?

                                    2. If they have dogs, dog biscuits are always good.

                                      1. I make a huge batch of pesto-it's always a hit

                                        1. Cheese blintzes - impressive, tasty and holidayish, but so easy, especially the recipe with the Pepperidge Farm bread.

                                          1. homemade dusted champagne truffles

                                            1. Here's the pomegranate jelly recipe (had some with french toast today - very good)

                                              4 cups of pomegranate juice
                                              2 tablespoons lemon juice
                                              6 cups sugar
                                              1 1/2 pouches liquid pectin

                                              Put pomegranate juice, lemon juice and sugar into a large stockpot. Bring to a rolling boil. Add liquid pectin; return to a rolling boil and cook one minute.

                                              Immediately transfer jelly to jars and use a boiling canning method to properly seal the jars. Alternatively, transfer jelly to a large bowl set over an ice water bath to cool and then refrigerate in an air tight container.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rockchick

                                                rockchick -- do you make the jelly with bottled pomegranate juice or do you juice your own?

                                              2. Well I've had great luck ordering a variety of gourmet gifts at http://www.food-gifts.com. They offer top quality seafood, fruits, wines and organic products. Their delivery is quick, and customer service is very responsive.

                                                1. I've been thinking about the "will they throw out my homecooked gift?" quandry for a while.

                                                  For teachers I'm going to mix up a big batch of roasted, salted nuts, dried cranberries, chocolate-covered almonds, and white chocolate chunks. I figure they're less likely to throw it out if it's identifiable and somewhat healthy, and my kids (aged 3 and 6) will be able to help mix, fill containers, and add bows.

                                                  For people I know who will love it (or do love it and sometimes beg for it), I'm making toffee. I've nearly given up baking in favor of toffee-making because it's been such a huge hit.

                                                  1. Hot sauce bottled with your own label.

                                                    1. I was angry by swsidejim's comment about people throwing away homemade food gifts but I think it I've resolved it. People get lots of gifts at Christmas, many that they can't or won't use. Sometimes they are bought in haste but they are still an expression of love. It's the thought that counts right?

                                                      I think the thought and effort put into a homemade gift says a lot. My coworkers and I exchange cookies and jams every year and they all get eaten.

                                                      Thinking of making freezer cookies this year, and mango chutney for Indian food lovers.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: wenjo

                                                        Four year old thread but what the hey -

                                                        If I was a teacher I'd throw out everything handmade "For teachers I'm going to mix up a big batch of roasted, salted nuts, dried cranberries, chocolate-covered almonds, and white chocolate chunks. I figure they're less likely to throw it out if it's identifiable and somewhat healthy, and my kids (aged 3 and 6) will be able to help mix, fill containers, and add bows." That teacher has probably seen your kids with fingers up noses and will dump said handmade thoughtfulness. Just sayin'.

                                                        1. re: MplsM ary

                                                          I too have found this to be a frustrating situation: I'm a pretty good home cook and so are a couple of good friends with whom we exchange "small" gifts. One is a bread baker and the other cans all kinds of jams (buys jars by the pallet). So baked goods or jams/jellies are out.

                                                          The last couple of years I've made different things for these 2 couples. Never have they said a word about what I've made & given them - so this year I don't believe I will be making anything. Things I've tried: an assortment of flavored nuts. Previous years: toffees & brittles, and another year an assortment of flavored olives... I always go to great lengths to package these attractively and include labels identifying contents.

                                                          I've read a jillion recipes/suggestions for food gifts to make. This year I think I'll just give them each a Penzey's spice assortment (we're lucky enough to have one of their retail stores in our area).

                                                          1. re: MplsM ary

                                                            I work in schools and get *lots* of homemade treats, birthday cupcakes, etc. While I am always appreciative of the gesture, I am very selective about which ones I consume. If I know a family pretty well I will likely consume the item, but I do wind up ditching most of these gifts/treats from the kids. Most of my co-workers feel the same...though not all. However, if I was given a homemade food gift from a friend, or family member I would definitely consume the item happily.

                                                        2. Well all the good ideas are already posted like truffles, candy, cookies and spiced nuts but here are a few that might add to the mix.

                                                          mustards
                                                          ketchups
                                                          coconut brittle
                                                          popcorn balls
                                                          Flavored popcorn -- fresh not that 6 month old stuff in the can.
                                                          beef jerky
                                                          chocolate coated coffee beans
                                                          candied orange rinds
                                                          a christmas theme cup filled with chocolate spoons, candies, candy cane reindeer
                                                          pettifores
                                                          cake pops
                                                          infused oils
                                                          vanilla infused maple syrup
                                                          vanilla infused simple syrup
                                                          chili or soup mix

                                                          Make your own samplers by buying fairly large quantities of various food items and putting them into smaller containers like the following: (It's a good excuse to assemble your own sampler)
                                                          fancy salts from around the world
                                                          olive oils
                                                          maple syrups - I suspect there is an entire generation that has never had real maple syrup.
                                                          honeys like Tupelo, orange blossom, buckwheat
                                                          salsa
                                                          chili powders

                                                          Ok. I'm done

                                                          Oh, regarding people that would throw away a food gift. It seems to me, these people would be relatively easy to spot. They are the same people that don't participate in pot lucks. They are the ones that wipe the top of the vending machine soda can. They are the ones that never take a piece of whatever Marge brought into work this week. Get them socks. After you see them wearing them, tell them you got them from a leper colony.

                                                          1. Homemade Almond Roca. Weirdly fun to make, and very, very yummy.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: SherBel

                                                              Candied orange, lemon, and grapefruit peel, in thin strips. Great with coffee or tea.

                                                              1. re: SherBel

                                                                Recipe for that homemade Almond Roca or a link to it, please? Sounds great.

                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  Years back I had a smoker smack in the middle of a pear and apple grove . I gave smoked turkey with either ginger pears or spiced crab apple. ...............Homemade mixes
                                                                  brownie,pancake.,cornbread etc. I always welcomed

                                                                  .