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Aug 17, 2011 02:08 PM

What homemade edible thing do you most commonly gift?

I'm trying to do some early brainstorming for Christmas gifts this year... and am giving myself enough time to do trial runs.

I'm looking for your 'go-to' gift - the tried and trued gift, that makes people squeal with delight! Ideally, it can be made in advance, keep well, be festively packaged, and likely to be consumed.

All ideas and recipes are appreciated!

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  1. A few of my past favs included:

    bake a fruited breads ie: panettone gifted along with a recipe card for making french toast using it.

    create flavored oils & vinegars in nice glass bottles

    baked a batch of lavender shortbreads gifted along with a bag of lavender buds

    homemade vanilla extract or vanilla sugar with a bag of vanilla beans

    I can't wait to read the CH's ideas!

    3 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Oh, will you share your favorite lavendar shortbread recipe? I grow 4 types of lavendar and itching to cook with it. Gracias.

        1. re: HillJ

          Yum--love shortbread and lavendar, so it's a great sounding combo. Thanks.

    2. I have a number of things that seem to be favorites--savory blue cheese cookies, home-made croutons, seasoned pretzels, candied spiced nuts. The nuts are probably most popular and I get requests to make them often.

      I was just thinking about this very thing--I have made a few things recently that would make good gifts and need to start focusing in on a plan. A couple of new things (for me) that I am contemplating are pickled grapes and home-made potato chips. I've also thought about doing my own sampler pack, but that sounds like a lot of packaging effort and I hate to get stressed out (more than usual) about this kind of thing at the holidays.

      The candied nuts definitely best fits your criteria.

      18 Replies
      1. re: jlhinwa

        Savory blue cheese cookies?! Be still my heart! Those sound amazing. Would you please share the recipe?

        I'd also love to know what goes into your candied spiced nuts. I tend to stay away from any sort of candied nuts after several failed attempts at caramelizing pecans.... it always turns into a clumpy mess.

        1. re: The Oracle

          Sure, I will find them both when I get home and post them. The savory cookies were a lot of fun and very different. The nuts were really easy, and when I followed the directions, they turned out perfectly.

          1. re: jlhinwa

            Okay, I found the recipe for the nuts - I got it on the Smitten Kitchen website. I tweaked it a bit and have made those notes below:

            Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
            Adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country

            1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
            2/3 cup white granulated sugar
            1 teaspoon kosher salt - Note: I used 1-1/2 tsp
            Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
            1 teaspoon ground cinnamon - Note: I doubled to 2 tsp.
            1 pound walnut or pecan halves or whole peeled hazelnuts - Note: I switch up the nut combinations every time--my favorite is cashews
            1 egg white, room temperature
            1 tablespoon water

            Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

            1. re: jlhinwa

              And here is the cookie recipe:

              Blue Cheese and Fig Savories

              You’ll find fig preserves at the grocery – it may be shelved with the “fancy” jams and jellies. You can make these a day ahead and keep them in two layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container.

              1 cup all-purpose flour

              ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

              4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

              Ground black pepper

              Fig preserves (about 3 Tablespoons)

              Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

              Place the flour, butter, blue cheese and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.

              Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull the dough together. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch cutter and transfer the rounds to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

              Using the back or a round half-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indention in the top of each dough round. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of fig preserves into each indention, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentions.

              Bake the savories for 10 – 14 minutes, until the preserves are bubbling and the pastry is light golden on the bottom.

              Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, the remove to a wire rack to cool.

              Makes about 3 dozen

              1. re: jlhinwa

                I want to make these now. thank you so much for posting this!

                1. re: kubasd23

                  You are welcome! I really enjoy them...might be time to make them again!

                2. re: jlhinwa

                  Thank you so much for the recipes!

              2. re: The Oracle

                These are not spiced, but very easy and really yummy. Come out great every time.

                Caramelized Walnuts
                1/2 Pound walnuts, about 1 3/4 cups
                1 egg white , beaten
                1/3 Cup sugar

                Preheat oven to 350º. Mix walnuts, egg white and sugar together in a medium bowl. Place on sheet pan and bake at 350º degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool, then break into pieces if necessary.

                1. re: The Oracle

                  Hi Oracle - Try this cheese crackers recipe: It is amazing and highly versatile. It gets rave reviews over and over and over again - I make them often for gifts or as snacks to serve with wine as a light appetizer.

                  1. re: Tehama

                    Excellent!!! Thank you very much!

                    1. re: The Oracle

                      I really liked the crackers, but they didn't keep very well. They seemed to loose their crunch overnight. Any tips for keeping them fresh and crisp?

                  1. re: HillJ

                    I don't know if Molly Wizenberg's recipe for pickled grapes is the one jlhinwa is thinking of making, but I've been intrigued by it since I saw it in her memoir A Homemade Life (as you're big into food bloggers, HillJ, I'm sure you know she's one who made good with a book deal). Anyway, the recipe is at the bottom of this article/excerpt:

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Yes, that is the recipe, though I found it on Smitten Kitchen. I also add powdered cinnamon to the mix because I like a strong cinnamon flavore.

                      1. re: jlhinwa

                        I like a strong cinnamon flavor too. Always find myself at least doubling it.

                      2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Some women marry for love, and some women marry for money. I'm marrying for pickles.

                        Ok, she had me with this line! Thanks, CMcG. I can't say I follow the blog Orangette regularly but the pickled grapes sounded so interesting...and grapes always seem so plain in taste & texture alone...curious.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          I've been making the pickled grapes regularly as we seem to go through half of what we buy to eat out of hand. People have a very strong reaction to them, they either love them or truly hate them ("I never want to eat those again" is a memorable and at-the-time funny quote from a good friend). Of the pickles I make regularly, this is not my top choice as a gift.

                          However, the pickled zucchini in the Zuni cookbook and this Parsi Tomato chutney are both winners. We're seeing the last of both crops here in the Bay Area and I'm making each of these as holiday gifts.

                          1. re: bernalgirl

                            I didn't care for pickled grapes so I guess I'm in the no thanks camp on that recipe but it was worth experiencing them. I'll take a good look at the link you provided later today. Thanks, bernalgirl.

                  2. I hate to be cliche...but I bake an assortment of cookies every year for my clients. I enjoy every minute of the baking, and then curse myself as I'm driving around in the freezing cold dropping off of the Gift Bags. The phone calls and emails thanking me remind me why I look forward to it every year. My assortment always includes chocolate chip, coconut macaroons & my grandmothers' french chocolates. I add and take away a few items each year. This year I will be adding homemade brownies bites and mini apple pies.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: noelsilver2002

                      Some cliches are good ones! I was going to say:


                      There's a reason they have their own monster.

                      A good home-made assortment will bring delight to all except those few who don't enjoy sweets.

                      1. re: visciole

                        It's funny, I am definitely not a sweets person (I'd choose a cheese plate over a dessert any night), but I have new balance cookie monster sneakers. I guess thats the 'hound in me :P

                    2. Makes 3 pints

                      FRESH GINGER JELLY

                      1/4 pound fresh, juicy ginger root (about 1 cup sliced) Try to find the thinnest-skinned roots which means they're young.
                      1 cup water
                      6 T strained, fresh lemon juice
                      3-1/2 cups granulated sugar
                      1 pouch (2 ounces) liquid pectin

                      1. Scrub the ginger. No need to peel. Trim any dry spots or ends. Rough chop.

                      2. Combine the chopped ginger and 1 cup water in small food processor or blender and with on-off bursts mash the ginger. Do not totally puree it, but give it a good smash.

                      3. Pour the mixture into a very fine sieve or sieve with several layers of dampened cheesecloth and press and/or squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the pulp. Let the liquid stand for at least 1 hour to settle.

                      4. Carefully pour the ginger liquid off the starchy sediment into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. You should have 1-1/4 cups. If not, add enough water to equal that amount. Discard the sediment.

                      5. Combine the ginger liquid and lemon juice in a non-reactive pan. Heat to simmering over medium-high heat. Add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. When the mixture reaches a boil that can't be stirred down, stir in the pectin. When the mixture returns to a full boil, start counting. Boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat.

                      6. Skim off any foam and pour into hot, sterilized 8-ounce jelly jars. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Clean jar lip and seal with new 2-part lids according to manufacturer's directions.

                      I've never hot water processed these, just waited for the seal to "ping" me.
                      This is great on any buttered toasted bread, scone, or muffin. Warm to melt, then brush on to glaze a fruit tart. Make "grown-up" PB&J's (PB or Nutella). Top crackers spread with cream cheese for an appy. I imagine it would work in a ham or pork glaze, or maybe even in an Asian-inspired BBQ sauce.

                      This jelly is a surprisingly lovely pale pink color -- looks pretty in a gift basket.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: nemo

                        This sounds amazing. If it's more mature ginger, would it be best to peel it?

                          1. re: mollyomormon

                            No need to peel, Molly, because you strain it eventually. Rough chop, then buzz in the processor. Just try to get the smoothest skinned ones, not dry and wrinkled.

                          2. re: nemo

                            Oh my gosh, that sounds absolutely wonderful!

                            1. re: nemo

                              Oh my. I must make this. Perfect for when I'm in a canning sort of mood but didn't get any fruit in my weekly bag from the gleaners.

                              For anyone with more canning experience than me - any ideas how long I need to process this in a hot water bath?

                              1. re: JasFoodie


                                I think half pints take 5-10 minutes after the water has come back to a boil. I think jam or jelly gets too solid after a hot water bath., so I usually skip it, and tell the recipients to put in the fridge and use within 2-3 months.

                                1. re: nemo

                                  Just curious, is ginger high acid?

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    Don't know but guessing not since it's used to settle upset stomachs and calm acid reflux. I gave ginger candy to a friend undergoing chemo to help with the nausea.

                                    1. re: nemo

                                      Yes I know about the miraculous affect that ginger has on the stomach. What a wonderful well thought out gift... and, May the God you worship or whatever is your choice, Bless You for such sweet gifts! I agree it does work well for nausea, ginger tea comes to my mind...

                                  2. re: nemo

                                    Life tends to be too crazy for me in the months leading up to the holidays which is why I'm making an attempt at getting all my gifts made in advance if at all possible. For this reason I need to make items that can be made well in advance. The recipe uses simple and cheap enough ingrediants that I'll give it a shot and process a couple of jars to see how they turn out. If they get too touch, I'll jsut keep them for myself to use warmed up as a glaze over meats.

                                2. re: nemo

                                  Thanks, I saved this. It sounds like the ginger jelly I used to buy at the Union Square Greenmarket when I lived in NYC.

                                  1. re: nemo

                                    I saw the new ginger in Manhattan Chinatown a couple of weeks ago - pale, thin-skinned, with pinkish nubbins. Bet it'd be terrific in this.

                                    1. re: nemo

                                      nemo -
                                      I gave your recipe to my sister who is a ginger fiend. This is what she just emailed me:
                                      "I also made the ginger jelly and OMG!!!! I licked ladle. Then I licked the spoon. Then I licked the pot. It is soooooo good. It tastes like candied ginger only in spreadable form. Would be awesome on scones, biscuits, pancakes, cheese, or just plain straight out of the jar. SOOOO yummy. I have to make more."

                                      So thanks for sharing the recipe and I'm looking forward to receiving the ginger jelly as a gift from my sister during the holidays! :)

                                      1. re: nemo

                                        Okay, I know NOTHING about ginger, other than the fact that it is an absolute requirement for some of my cookie recipes. :-) is there a ginger "season"? Or should I be able to find good young ginger roots anytime at the grocers? I'd love to try this for Christmas gifts this year. I'm on a super tight budget now with my son in college, so I thing homemade gifts are going to have to suffice this year!

                                        1. re: FitMom4Life

                                          I saw young stem ginger in the farmers market in Copley Square Boston last Friday. The farmer said they would have it for two weeks. I am going to pick up some to make crystallized ginger for my dad who adores it.

                                      2. The most recent favorites have been Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles and Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Brittle.

                                        I've only done this once so far, but last Christmas I made my in-laws their own personalized ice cream flavors and made personalized labels for them too, and it's been one of my favorite gift ideas so far. I'm going to do that this year for my brother-in-law, because he doesn't seem to like anything else we give him, and who doesn't like ice cream?! ;-)

                                        And a little more involved, but I've done the Cookie of the Month Club in the past for people, and most everyone loves that! And then last year, I gave my brother dinners around the world, and a sweet treat from each country: four countries, four meals throughout the year, and four sweet treats.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: Katie Nell

                                          Would you post the recipes for both, please? (The truffles and brittle). They sounds delicious!

                                          I l-o-v-e the idea of making ice cream, but I know that's a bit beyond what I'm willing to do...

                                          1. re: The Oracle

                                            Sure, but don't judge... the brittle was in Rachael Ray's magazine! ;-) It really is good though; my friend at work moans and calls it orgasmic!

                                            Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles:
                                            Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Brittle:

                                            1. re: Katie Nell

                                              I'm FINALLY getting around to making these (so much for doing things early for Christmas) and am having trouble figuring out where to find the dark chocolate candy coating for the truffles - what do you use and where do you get it? Any particular brand, etc?

                                              1. re: The Oracle

                                                I just chop up either semi-sweet or bittersweet (depending on the giftee) chocolate and melt that in a double boiler. I've used chocolate chips before too.

                                                P.S. I made some peanut butter cookie dough pretzel truffles the other day too, and those went over really well!
                                       I made them smaller (maybe 3/4") because they were so rich.

                                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                                  Thanks a bunch! I'm trying these out tonight. Thanks also for the link to the peanut butter ones!!! :) :) I'll report back!

                                                2. re: The Oracle

                                                  Probably too late for this time, but you can buy candy coating wafers at any craft store that has a candymaking an cake-decorating section (a la Michael's or AC Moore). They're also often sold at stores that sell bulk nuts and candies. Merckens is one brand, but the craft stores around me sell another brand whose name I don't really know.

                                                  1. re: ca262626

                                                    I tried this last night and made them WAY too big (using a small cookie dough scooper). It made about 40 from the batch, so they weren't SO big, but I think they should have been much smaller.

                                                    I also had the most ridiculous time with the chocolate coating, using the microwave to melt vs. keeping it warm over a double boiler. I used up a 1/2 bag of chocolate chips on only 13 balls! On my second batch, I made the novice and fatal mistake of adding heavy cream to my already melted chocolate (d'oh!) and the whole thing seized up immediately. At that point, I gave up and have the uncoated and too large cookie dough balls in my fridge. I may throw the whole thing out.... the chocolate coating was the death of me! (they look SOOO pretty though! I put a few colored sprinkles on each of the coated ones... delightful!)

                                                    1. re: The Oracle

                                                      The candy melts are worthwhile, I think, for the sheer ease of use... they supposedly melt a little thinner and the coating is easier, and they set up better. Again, the taste is not great if you eat the wafers straight, but in this particular application, the coating is so thin and the filling so rich that many people won't tell the difference.

                                                      When I work with candy, I use real chocolate and temper it, but to be honest, working with chocolate in small batches as a home cook can be a real pain in the ass. I've come to enjoy the process but it does take me a while and I always make a huge mess.

                                                      For future reference, if you add liquid and your chocolate seizes, it won't be usable for your original use but you can always add MORE cream (closer to 1:1 ratio with your chocolate) and make ganache, which you can do something else with and not waste the chocolate. :)

                                                      1. re: The Oracle

                                                        Ugh, I've done that before too! Baking at midnight, knowing full well what happens when you had heavy cream to melted chocolate... don't know what I was thinking either! I always use a (makeshift) double boiler for the chocolate... I'm too slow! :-) I hope the results you got with the ones you did finish worth worth the pains! I'm making them tomorrow, along with the chocolate peanut butter brittle, and sugar cookies, much to my chagrin... I do not like doing frosted sugar cookies, but my husband's boss keeps requesting them!

                                                        Also, I've frozen the dough balls before and have made the truffles a couple of weeks later... worked like a charm!

                                              2. re: Katie Nell

                                                sign me up for all of those please. How do I get to be your friend? haha I am very impressed by your giving nature, that ice cream idea sounds fantastic :)

                                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                                  Such thoughtful gifts! Might steal this idea!!