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Gifts from your kitchen -- what are you giving this year?

A group of friends and I generally limit our holiday gift exchanges to (1) something homemade, or (2) something we re-gift, or (3) something that is purchased for $5 or less. It always turns out to be fun (some of the re-gifting has been hilarious!) and inexpensive. So I'm looking for a bit of creative kitchen inspiration. Any ideas? Thanks!

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    1. Jars of homemade chocolate/mint cocoa mix with 6-8 homemade marshmallows. Doggie treats for for neighborhood canine pals. Cheesecakes for a special few that have requested them. I may add more as time goes on.

      1. This year I'm putting together goody baskets with a bunch of little things...I'm going to bottle some spices like homemade red pepper flakes, garlic powder and chili powder. My husband wants to make some chili garlic oil and I really want to make hot chocolate on a stick with homemade marshmallows. I may even make some brittle as well.

        1. I've always made truffles or toffee. but after an entire week of making candies for my wedding. i think i'll take a break and make the fam jars of chili oil or harissa.

          1. Oh, I'm so glad someone started this topic. I've tried to search for past posts with no luck. I just don't understand the best way to search on CH.

            I'm looking for preferably savory gifts. Here's what I'm thinking of for this year. Links below for some.

            Spiced nuts
            Bleu cheese pecan or walnut crackers/cookies
            Martha Stewart's macadamia popcorn (choc-almond popcorn on the same link below)
            Breakfast cookies for the freezer (take one or two out per person the night before to thaw)
            Cheese straws (I've often used a cookie press to make these into hearts or Christmas trees)
            Puff pastry twists with Parmesan and black pepper or maybe smoked paprika

            On a sweeter note, I did toasted coconut tea breads last year. Really good. Freezes well.
            Orange or lemon flavored sugar for tea or baking
            Quick breads in mini tin foil pans freeze well if folks are overwhelmed with cookies right now and need to stash something for the future. Pumpkin, Choc-Zucchini, Gingerbread, Glazed Lemon, etc.

            I also found a recipe for Carrot Cake Jam which I haven't made but sounds perfectly seasonal.




            4 Replies
            1. re: nemo

              I'm finding some of your suggestions especially helpful because one of my friends can't have anything that contains sugar. I've got a really wonderful recipe for homemade granola... I just need to find it. :)

              1. re: nemo

                just an idea to add to the savory list - herbed or seasoned salt. you can use any blend of fresh herbs, garlic, citrus zest, spices, seeds, and/or pepper that strikes your fancy. just whizz in the FP with coarse sea salt, spread on a parchment-lined tray, and dry overnight in the oven on the lowest setting. store in sealed glass jars.

                you could even do a few different blends based on regional or ethnic cuisines, and package a small jar of each in a nice gift box.

                1. re: nemo

                  Orange zest goes beautifully in homemade granola, for a Christmassy flavour.

                  I scrape off as much of the pith as possible, finely julienne it, and chop into 1 cm lengths. Then I toss that in with oats, millet (it adds a nice crunch) almond flakes, shelled pumpkin seeds, with maple syrup and a bit of molasses for the sugar, and a mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger for seasoning. The end result has a fantastic orange-spice flavour.

                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    ever try replacing the orange zest with pink grapefruit (or combining the two)? the flavor works surprisingly well, and it's just a little lighter/brighter. i know many people love the orange-spice combo, but sometimes it's a bit heavy & cloying for me. the grapefruit seems to take care of that!

                2. This year, because it's a low-rent holiday for our budget, I'm giving away "sets" of dry rubs; one for beef, one for pork, one for chicken, one for fish, one for lamb. I've been hitting the empty spice-bottle sales at every import store I can this year, in advance preparation - and the total cost per gift is literally just a few dollars. If you'd like recipes I'm happy to oblige.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mamachef

                    I love the idea, and I'd really love to have your recipes.

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      And I will post them for you The Day After, honey.

                  2. We make our own Tia Maria and give it with some Kona Coffee. (I don't drink either, by the way - but DH loves to do this). Otherwise, for those who don't or can't drink, DH makes his home made spaghetti sauce divided into vacuum sealed pouches - which is what our kids ask for for the holidays.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: boyzoma

                      Nice, Boma. I've made Kahlua, but it never once occurred to me to send it along with some nice coffeebeans. What a stupendous idea. I'm stealing it, I don't mind telling you.

                      1. re: mamachef

                        Go for it! Last year my son and his wife gave us their home made Kahlua at Xmas. Seemed like a good trade! So now, we are just swapping ornate bottles back and forth!

                    2. Don't really do individual gifts....but I do platters of chocolate dipped things and cake balls for my hairdresser, coworkers & a friend's Christmas party. Found a recipe for chocolate-covered homemade caramels this year I'd like to try....

                      1. I am going to make vanilla extract for my baking friends and The Barefoot Contessa's carmels with sea salt for those who just enjoy sweets!

                        1. I usually give individual boxes of cookies to coworkers, but this year I think I'm going to make one giant platter with sections of different items.

                          Thinking of:
                          cheesecake squares
                          oatmeal cranberry cookies
                          chocolate dipped dried fruit
                          chocolate chunk cookies
                          sugar cookie cutouts

                          I also wanted to include some kind of drop cluster type thing.Maybe pretzels and nuts with chocolate to hold it together? Anyone have a good recipe?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            How about a pretzel-chocolate bark? Maybe with nuts tossed in?

                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                I buy big bags of melting chocolate tabs from a candy supply shop. Then I just melt in a crockpot until smooth, add my extras, pour onto a lined sheet tray, allow to harden then break it up.

                                One of my most popular chocolate treats is just melted white chocolate tabs and once smooth & fully melted, add in a bit of peppermint oil and crushed candy canes. So simple, but it's been most popular the last few years.

                                I suppose you could also pour out the chocolate then sprinkle the nuts & pretzel chunks on top instead of mixing in.

                            1. re: cheesecake17

                              Ahahahahahahaha! Melt butterscotch chips, and stir in chow mein noodles and salted peanuts. Drop them by the Tablespoonful onto waxed paper or parchment, and your world will never be the same. Crunchy, peanutty butterscotchy goodness, all in one cluster.

                              1. re: mamachef

                                mamachef, we called those 'haystacks' and they ARE delish!

                                1. re: mamachef

                                  That sounds delicious and soo simple to make. I'm going to try to do a test run before I make the holiday platter.

                              2. I like Maida Heatter's "Hermit Bars" -- they keep well, everybody (so far) likes them very much.
                                To me, this is a Christmas cookie, right up there with gingerbread men.

                                1. One year I made cranberry chutney and the next apple butter. Both can be made in the crock pot...so easy. Found some small plastic containers with Christmas decorations in the dollar store. Perfect size for a giveaway. This year I found, when traveling, fig jam in unusual containers. Friends will get these this year.

                                  1. The fruits of my canning labors: jams, roasted chile salsa, tomatillo salsa; fleur de sel caramels (FRICKING AWESOME) wrapped in wax paper http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...; raspberry infused vodka; wild huckleberry infused vodka; and for fun loving foodies, some dehydrated mandarin orange powder.

                                    Here's the deal with the mandarin orange powder, since now is the time of year to do it - so far I've put it on roast chicken, in cookies and cakes, icings --- it's really fun stuff. You slice organic mandarin (or similar) rounds thinly, and dehydrate them on a food dehydrator. Skins, pith and all - totally intact slices. I wouldn't try an oven. Then blitz the completely dried fruit to a very fine powder and package in half pint jars. It keeps beautifully in the fridge and it's so fragrant.

                                    21 Replies
                                    1. re: Vetter

                                      citrus powder is one of my favorite ingredients! Meyer lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange...such a versatile ingredient. try it in spice rubs, and use it for rolling/coating chocolate truffles. i'm thinking you could even tap a little onto those fleur de sel caramels before they cool...

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        Ooh, now you've got me thinking... It's such lovely stuff. I really need to play around with it.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          ok, I give, where do you get it, or how do you 'make' it? \Y/

                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            Here's the recipe I followed except I dried the slices in the dehydrator:


                                            1. re: morwen

                                              Morwen, I loved that. Since my mom has limes tangerines Myers and Ruby Reds in her back yard, I'll be visiting her house soon. Thinking this is wrong time of year but I can get a jump on gift giving for next year, thanks.

                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                As you can see from the photo in the tutorial the mandarins got a wee bit dark in the oven. When I dried them in the dehydrator the color stayed bright and the fruit itself is like little stained glass windows. I saved the perfect slices out for future garnishes because they are just so damn pretty. The second thing I discovered is the dried slices are tasty just snacked on as is.

                                                Gretchen, I do add the sugar and salt. I like the way it balances the flavor in the powder.

                                            2. re: iL Divo

                                              morwen beat me to it :)

                                              give it a shot. it's surprisingly easy and turns out such a seemingly impressive and versatile ingredient. lime, Meyer lemon & grapefruit are my favorites!

                                                1. re: GretchenS

                                                  nope. just pure, unadulterated citrus powder...which i can combine with sugar or salt later depending on where i use it.

                                            3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              is there a place where you've posted contact info?
                                              I haven't asked the owner of the nut recipe if I can share.
                                              I have no contact listing either.
                                              help me out with how to get it to you if she says it's ok. or not, that's ok too.
                                              my gut says she'll be fine with sharing it to anyone who wants it.

                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                well it would certainly be great if she was willing to let you share it with all of us, but if not, i get it, some people are like that. you can always reach me via e-mail - i have a yahoo account with my CH username.

                                            4. re: Vetter

                                              Mandarins were on sale this week and I bought 2 boxes. The first I made into dust like yours except I added 1/4 cup sugar and a very healthy pinch of kosher salt to the FP before pulverizing them. I saved some perfectly round dried slices out for garnishes. The second box will be peeled, segmented and canned and the leftover peels will be candied.

                                              1. re: Vetter

                                                hey vetter you said you wouldn't try an oven...what about a convection oven at the lowest possible temp? 100 degrees? What temp does a food dehydrator reach?

                                                1. re: Madrid

                                                  dehydrator temps usually range from 85 - 155 or so. if your oven goes as low as 100, you can absolutely use it!

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    Yep, I think GHG nailed it. I forgot that not everyone has a piece of cr*p oven like me! :) I know some people also do warm with a spoon in the oven door. I just think it could easily taste cooked if you overdo the heat.

                                                2. re: Vetter

                                                  I know I am horning in on this conversation late (about 4 months) but what kind of things can you do with citrus powder? I'm interested now.

                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                    I use it in marinades and rubs, mix it in with flour for baked goods, sprinkle it on fruits (poached, salads) as an accent or garnish, have whipped it up in cream and creme fraiche, added it to truffles, pretty much used it anywhere an orange accent is nice. I think of it as a spice in the same sort of way I consider the use of spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc.

                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                      Would you say it has the same effect as orange or lemon extract ? -- which I put in certain cake batters. Or is it less strong?

                                                      1. re: blue room

                                                        Mixed into batters I think it's less strong, more subtle. Sort of a scented effect rather than a flavor. I really like the way it mixes with vanilla in pastries and was thinking of powdering the dried out beans from the vanilla sugar jar and mixing that with some of the dust just for baking sweets.

                                                      2. re: morwen

                                                        So it could be used in place of zest in baking? I notice you are using the entire fruit including the pith just beneath the peel. That is supposed to be bitter. Any problems with that?

                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                          When I make the dust I powder it with sugar in the food processor so that may be offsetting any bitterness from the pith. However, we also snack on the whole dried slices and I've not noticed any excessive bitterness there, more like the tang you get in a marmalade, just the dried version.

                                                          When I've used it in baking it has a more subtle flavor as opposed to fresh zest which is, to my taste, a brighter, zingier flavor. It depends on what you want in your final product, something that just hints that it's there or a more "in your face" flavor from fresh zest. So yes, you can sub the dust for zest but the end result will be somewhat different.

                                                  2. My husband is famous for the beef jerky he makes every holiday season. I've started making Chex mix that everyone seems to love. We stick to savory things because neither of us have a sweet tooth. Also, we make both things gluten free since I have a gluten free relative. Our efforts are always appreciated.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: agoodbite

                                                      agoodbite, those of us on restricted diets (GF and otherwise) certainly do appreciate it when thoughtful people like you make the effort...probably even more than you know.

                                                      does your husband use GF tamari for the jerky?

                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                        GHG, yes, he uses tamari - San-J brand. His marinade is pretty simple: worcestershire (Lee & Perrins b/c it's GF), tamari, a little liquid smoke (Colgin brand is GF), a little garlic and onion powder and a wee bit of cayenne. The result is enhanced meat taste. He's famous for it for a reason.

                                                        For the GF Chex mix, I just use the seasoning mixture for the originial that's on the Chex website. I use rice and corn Chex, Ener-G GF pretzels and Planter's deluxe mixed nuts.

                                                        Both go over really well and are easy to make GF with only a few minor adjustments.

                                                        1. re: agoodbite

                                                          that's what i figured - the San-J is one of my favorite products. thanks for the details - i gave up on Lea & Perrins because it contains HFCS, so i make my own worcestershire now...looks like there may be some jerky-making in my future!

                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            When you say you make your own Worcestershire sauce, what are you mixing up? Do you start with fish sauce? (I know you're not fermenting a vat of anchovies in your closet.)

                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              sshh! if my neighbors find out where the stench is coming from, i might get evicted! ;)

                                                              use anchovy fillets & let the entire mixture age in the fridge for a few weeks. i like this Saveur recipe. it's got more of a kick than L&P, but IMO that makes even better...


                                                              oh, and of course i use the San-J GF tamari instead of soy sauce.

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                  my pleasure! BTW, there are simpler approaches, but i think the flavor of that Saveur recipe is worth the effort & the waiting time.

                                                                  fewer ingredients but still needs to age for a month:

                                                                  instant gratification:

                                                    2. Check out Mary Cech's Savory Baking. Lots of great stuff here, not all suitable for gifting...some ake great eating-at-the-table food. I've made with excellent results for gifts sharp cheddar and cherry muffins, thyme, lemon and sea salt shortbread, five spice black and white sesame wafers, black rimmed pistachio wafers, apricot flecked goat cheese straws, and pecan thumbprints. I also love to make southern-style cheese "cookies" and dark chocolate brownies with olive oil instead of butter.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Madrid

                                                        These all sound good. I may have to check out that book.

                                                        1. re: Madrid

                                                          .......um, pardon me but may I please borrow a napkin......I see drool everywhere \^|^/

                                                        2. I'm not sure if it's been mentioned or not, but people love when I give them dried pasta of a few varieties (black pepper, curry, herb-printed, etc) in nice jars with a homemade tag that includes cooking instructions and a recipe for that particular pasta. The jars can be picked up at a decent dollar store, and pasta is really inexpensive to make and easy to do in bulk.

                                                          Also this year I'm buying cute little spice tins and mixing up half a dozen different rubs and spice mixtures for a friend of mine who LOVES steak and meat.

                                                          1. I think eggnog and I try panettone.

                                                            1. A hundred years ago Chef Paul Prudhomme was on a TV show where he told his recipe for Cajon Spice. Now as most of us know it's sold in jars in markets across the country. Since I was watching I quickly jotted it down. I've given that as gifts many times over the years, it's an all purpose great flavored basic spice.

                                                              A friend of mine (just today at work) told me her favorite recipe for sugared nuts, she always uses pecans. The recipe always comes with rave reviews so I'm anxious to open my email and find the printed recipe contents. She buys holiday themed coffee mugs and puts the nuts in cellophane then in the cups. Great idea and so much more appreciated than a tin of aunt Gladys' fruitnut rollups :)))

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                please share the sugared nuts recipe when you get the e-mail!

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    oh I will do, just as soon as I get it. been looking but so far, not there.
                                                                    it's ok though, I have her phone number :)))))

                                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                                      Got the email today. YEAH! I'll stop by Costco or Sams Club tomorrow for the nuts et al.
                                                                      I'll report the results if they ate worth padding around, and if they're mediocre, I'll simply say "don't bother".

                                                                      Plus a bonus for recipe of vegetarian lasagna from "Engine2" Firemans cookbook. If this girls husband loves it although hating anything without meat, I'm game to make it.

                                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                                        i'll be interested to hear how that E2 lasagna works out for you. when i worked for Whole Paycheck they were big on promoting that book, and most of the recipes were pretty underwhelming.

                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                          well GHG, I have no problem posting underwhelming as well.
                                                                          I'm hoping from what she said about her husbands reaction, that my husband will enjoy it as much, but if he doesn't it won't be the first mishap in my kitchen and we'll go from there, in other words, in to the dumpster...........I did read the ingredients, and other than the silken light tofu, which is off putting to me especially since a certain book came out years ago that says that's my first choice of proteins, yea, that and domestic snails [really?] I'm a skeptic. but I'll try it with fingers crossed. I'm not sure what her relationship with that cookbook is but she'd not know anything that suits me either, recipewise....all I can do is be hopeful

                                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                                            i didn't mean to be negative or discouraging. in fact, i'm hoping for your sake that she sussed out a winner from a collection of generally disappointing recipes!

                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                              Oh GHG, I didn't take it that way at all. You're never negative, I've noticed you're very encouraging. Please forgive that I gave you that impression. My bad.......... :(

                                                                              The nuts are out of the oven, cooling before I eat/taste just one.
                                                                              Bought 2 lbs but the recipe is for 1 lb.
                                                                              Since I had the two pounds and wanted to make all of the pecans since husband wants gifts for friends at work, I did two batches, differently. The original is the one that is cooling, the other one is still soaking. Let's see how they turn out. One thing I noticed during the stirring segment, which you do a total of 3 times, is that there seems to be a disturbance of the sugar coating when you stir the nuts to turn, but we'll see how it turns out, hoping the coating remains on and the results are what I'm expecting.

                                                                              Ok, they're done and I just ate "1".
                                                                              OML...........so when I get home from dinner with the husband I'll post the how to's.

                                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                sometimes it's just difficult to tell how others read what we say here...i've been accused of being harsh or judgmental many times on these boards, and i rarely mean to be ;)

                                                                                can't wait to hear the details about those nuts!

                                                                1. My sister made me confitted meat last year. I cannot begin to describe the joy we have had enjoying her gift this year. If you have it in you, that is a gift!

                                                                  I used to make flavored liquor for people, but I find people do not use them. Now I make cookies. Low stress. I make piles of dough ahead and then bake them all over two days. Day three we pack and deliver. This year I bought the cutest boxes and tins for the cookies. Looked all year long and managed to round up over 50 of them! Woot! My favorite is a mailbox box which I am thrilled to be giving our adorable postal lady Stephanie!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                    funny you say that about booze from homemakers.
                                                                    you're right.
                                                                    my sister was in a huge stage of making everyone coffee liquor.
                                                                    but everytime I tried making my husband his favorite Colorado Bulldog using it instead of the real thing, he'd say, "Honey, is this Santina's Kahlua?" oooops, caught everytime.
                                                                    I finally dumped it..............just not the same and bet by the time you buy all to actually make a bundle of the stuff, you've spent equivalant to the original price of it anyway.

                                                                    but I will say the kids would love us to come up with a replica of "Crown" :)

                                                                  2. I'm making mostarda - I just started today - fruit is soaking overnight in an insane amount of sugar - I added white wine (which I can't tell if it's needed) - tomorrow I cook the sugar syrup down once, then soak again overnight then cook down again and add mustard oil - which is pretty powerful stuff.... I think I need about thirty drops - I have about eight oz... I think it might be enough to unclog the sinuses of the entire east coast!!! I need to find 4 oz mason/ball jars - not sure who would carry them around here...(RI)

                                                                    1. I'm liking the chex mix idea personally but my spouse, who has a terrific sweet tooth, tested these out over Thanksgiving with an eye towards teacher gifts:


                                                                      Very tasty!

                                                                      1. Marshmallows -- they are so easy and especially if your friends aren't big cooks/candymakers, they cannot believe you made them at home! (And this year I have a stand mixer so I don't have to stand there for half an hour burning out the motor on my handheld mixer.) I think this year I'll flavor them with peppermint extract and dip some in chocolate. Maybe give them out with homemade cocoa mix.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Pia

                                                                          Martha Stewart has some beautiful homeade marshmallows on her web site--they are swirled to look like candy canes. Speaking of Martha, I am making white chocolate bark with pistachios, dried cranberries and toasted coconut from her latest magazine. I might sprinkle a little fleur de sel on top too.

                                                                        2. All of my gifts are homemade this year, with a theme of "As long as I can buy the ingredients from bulk barn"

                                                                          Younger sister (first year university, a long way away):
                                                                          Microwaveable cake-in-a-jar, so she can "entertain" in her dorm room
                                                                          Homemade quinoa just-add-water pancake mix, cause everyone can always use more protein

                                                                          Homemade chocolate bars. It's my first time melting/tempering chocolate and I'm doing it during my final exams, so it makes me kinda nervous.

                                                                          Fiancee (don't worry, this isn't ALL I'm getting her):
                                                                          Homemade flavoured peanut butters. Nutella-banana, "Good Morning" (coffee), cinnamon-raisin and PB&J
                                                                          Home cured gravlax, mostly because it's the only way she'll eat fish.
                                                                          My beef jerky (by special request)

                                                                          Anybody have any experience with the chocolate making? I'm finding that the hardest to get anywhere on. Any tips? Good recipes?

                                                                          1. I found little mason jars with the clasp closure that I'll put my Pumpkin Pie or Apple Pie spice into. Today, I bought all new large jars of the commoners that go in there.

                                                                            1. Homemade:
                                                                              - mustards
                                                                              - ketchups
                                                                              - jalapeno jelly
                                                                              - lavender jelly
                                                                              - seasoning mixes (i.e. rosemary orange)
                                                                              - salsas (sweet and savoury)
                                                                              - butterscotch sauce
                                                                              - flavoured oils and vinegars
                                                                              - lemongrass syrup
                                                                              - curry pastes
                                                                              - many kinds of preserves
                                                                              - preserved lemons
                                                                              - caramelized onion jam
                                                                              - roasted garlic jam
                                                                              - candied bacon

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                                Your list looks wonderful.

                                                                                I've been interested in trying lemongrass more. What do you do with your lemongrass syrup?

                                                                                1. re: karykat

                                                                                  Thanks! I drizzle lemongrass syrup on a simple fruit salad or over Pavlova. It is also excellent as a glaze for duck, pork, chicken and so on. Where I live lemongrass seems to be incredibly underused which is a pity, really.

                                                                                  1. re: chefathome

                                                                                    I will give it a try.

                                                                                    We have a lot of Asian farmers at our farmers market in the summer and a few have lemongrass. And nice and cheap. So I definitely want to experiment with it.

                                                                                    1. re: karykat

                                                                                      Awesome! Fresh lemongrass. It is amazing how much flavour you can get for 25 cents! :0

                                                                                      Enjoy experimenting.