Aren’t homemade gifts the best?
It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re the gift giver or the recipient, gifts crafted with a personal touch offer an intimate air that you just don’t find in commercially produced items.
As the recipient, you get a lovely gift along with a small sample of the giver’s personality – their talents, personal passions and artistic ability. And as the giver, you get the opportunity for connection – a chance to say “I see you,” and to create an individualized treat you know they’ll appreciate.
Of course, items that are made in the kitchen are always a big hit. And shopping for kitchen gifts is really easy, too – the grocery store pretty much covers everything you’ll need.
The 9 ideas on our list can be made in just a few hours or even less, all mostly from the comfort of your own kitchen. They’re economical, attractive, fun to make, and can easily be personalized with your own creative flair.
Double up on some of the recipes and ideas below, and you can cross a whole bunch of names off your list in one fell swoop.
1. Cranberry Chutney
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of cranberries.
This gorgeous berry-red chutney is little bit tart with a touch of heat, slightly savory and a little bit sweet.
It’s not the same as cranberry sauce, but goes very well with leftover turkey or ham on a sliced baguette, and it also serves up well with a sharp cheese.
For the best results, make this chutney a few days ahead of time to let the flavors meld before serving.
2. Hot Pepper Jelly
This piquant jelly is a delightful ruby red color that’s perfect for the holidays. It’s a great hostess gift, and the sweet heat pairs wonderfully with crackers or baguettes and a soft cheese like Brie or Camembert.
Make the jelly in advance and wait to serve it for at least one day to allow the flavors to blend and develop fully.
3. Mulled Wine
Nothing says “Christmas cheer” quite like a fragrant glass of mulled wine. Resplendent with holiday spices, this heady concoction will warm the heart of even the humbuggiest of Scrooges.
Let everything warm up low and slow for the spice and citrus flavors to mingle with the wine. Keep a pot on a low simmer, then ladle into glasses when guests arrive.
Pack the spices and dry ingredients into a clear jar, tie the fruit in some burlap, then pack everything into a basket along with the wine bottles.
Tie it all together with a bright ribbon and write up a tag with directions for mulling. Cheers!
4. Hot Chocolate in a Jar
For those who prefer a non-alcoholic drink, a jar of hot chocolate mix is a nice option.
Layer the ingredients in a jar, topping it with homemade marshmallows. Add a seasonal ribbon and you have a simple and handsome gift.
Baking mixes serve equally well as jar-based gifts.
5. Orange & Clove Pomanders
Not all gifts from the kitchen have to be edible! The gift of fragrance has an old-timey charm that’s still welcome today.
Pomanders were an early form of aromatherapy, originally worn on the body or carried in a case to protect against infection from pestilence and plague, or simply to mask unpleasant odors.
Today, they take a variety of forms from sachets of fragrant herbs and floral-blended potpourri to spice-infused aromatic fruit.
A popular contemporary style comes in the form of citrus fruit studded with whole cloves and infused with a blend of warming wintry spices. Carve a niche in the top for a tea light and your home will be filled with the sweet scents of citrus and spice – a natural during the holidays.
For gift giving, nestle the saucer and pomander in tissue paper in a small, open gift bag – with the candle unlit, of course!
- 1 small to medium-sized fruit (orange, apple, lemon or lime)
- 1/4 -1/2 cup large-headed whole cloves *
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves **
- A stiletto for poking holes – i.e. a slender knitting needle, bamboo skewer, an awl, toothpicks…
- A fine-tipped permanent marker or a hobby knife for marking your design
- A florist’s frog to stabilize the pomander
- A sharp paring knife
- A flat candleholder or saucer ***
- Tea lights
1. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. Set aside.
2. Using the base of a tea light as a guide, lightly mark a circle on the top of your fruit with the marker or a hobby knife.
3. Starting at the top, lightly mark any lines or patterns on the fruit to create your design. You can use the hobby knife to just scratch the surface, or use a marker. If you make a mistake with the marker, wipe the surface clean with rubbing alcohol and a tissue.
4. Using your stiletto of choice, poke holes in the fruit along the lines of your design – take care not to make the holes bigger than the stems of the cloves.
5. Using a sharp paring knife, make a shallow, diagonal cut into the center for the tea light, using the outline that you have marked to guide the knife. Gently work out the plug of fruit and discard.
6. Using your stiletto of choice, poke holes along your pattern lines from the top to the bottom, inserting the whole cloves as you go. Leave only a scant 1/4” between cloves.
7. Continue until the fruit is covered. If you’ve used a marker to create your lines, wipe the ink off at this time with rubbing alcohol.
8. Firmly insert the florist’s frog into the base of your fruit and place on a shallow candleholder or saucer.
9. Just before lighting the candle, sprinkle a small amount of the spice mix onto the open flesh where the tea light will sit – as the candle warms up, the fragrance of the spices and fruit will be released with the heat.
* The amount of cloves you’ll need will depend on how densely you pack the fruit, and your chosen design. Look for whole cloves in the bulk section of your grocery store for a better bargain.
** If presenting as a gift, you’ll need a small container or crafter’s bead bags to hold the mixed spices. Write up a tag with the instructions, “Sprinkle a small amount into the candle niche before lighting.”
*** If you plan to make several pomanders, a trip to your local thrift shop will usually provide a good selection of inexpensive saucers to choose from.
6. Spicy Toasted Nuts
Nuts are another favorite during the holidays. They can be served in the shell if you’re armed with a good nutcracker set, pre-shelled and served raw, roasted with a sweet glaze, or toasted with warming spices.
Bowls of spiced nuts and seeds are a tasty snack to serve when company arrives, and they make a healthy gift.
Loaded with nutrition and a variety of health benefits, adding sugar to seeds and nuts will negate a lot of those important benefits. Instead, roast nuts and seeds with a variety of spices to enhance their flavor, and their nutritional properties.
Spiced nuts also freeze very well, so you can prepare a large batch ahead of time and pull out portions as needed.
Package in small clear jars or confection bags decorated with a seasonal ribbon for a nutritious and healthy gift.
7. Fresh Herbs in a Basket
The gift of fresh herbs is welcome at any time of year. If you grow your own, take cuttings in the spring and replant them in small terra cotta pots.
If you don’t, head out to your local garden center or find a greenhouse that sells to the public.
Write up a tag with directions for growing, or include a few favorite recipes that use your herb of choice.
Select a suitable basket (thrift stores are great for sourcing a good selection of inexpensive baskets), place a saucer on the bottom, nestle the potted herbs inside with tissue paper and adorn the basket with seasonal ribbons or a bow.
Simple, attractive and fragrant, herbs make a gift that will be appreciated by cooks and gardeners alike.
8. Homemade Preserves
Particularly appropriate for those in your life who enjoy home cooking, but who don’t cook themselves.
Raid your pantry to see what you have on hand, cover the lid with scraps of wrapping paper, then tie it up with some ribbon.
Load jars into a decorated basket or box with a selection of crackers, cheese, or a bottle of wine for a simple, tasty and easy gift.
9. Chili Pepper Chocolate Bark
Chocolate bark is a crowd-pleasing favorite. This recipe has no additional sweeteners, with the chili adding a lovely touch of heat to the dark chocolate.
It’s also very versatile – add slivered nuts, citrus peel, dried cranberries or cherries to suit your tastes and create a personalized gift. For an extra splash of seasonal color, top with pomegranate seeds before chilling.
Pack into a wide-mouthed decorative jar, or a gift box with a pouch of full-bodied coffee.
If you’re a big chocolate fan, make a double batch… otherwise, it may not last long enough to be given as a gift!
- Rectangular rimmed baking pan
- Double boiler
- Air-tight container(s)
10. (Bonus) The Gift of Health
As a bonus idea, it’s hard to beat the gift of health. If someone on your list is trying to improve their overall health and fitness levels or lose some weight, avoid tossing temptation their way in the form of high-calorie, sweetened goodies.
Instead, show your support with healthy ideas and food choices from your kitchen. There’s any number of ways to tailor edible gifts to suit particular eating plans. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices started:
- Find a funky bottle and mix a batch of sugar-free herbed vinaigrette, along with a few recipes for fresh salads, to encourage eating healthful greens.
- Write up your favorite nutritious low-fat/gluten-free/vegan/etc. recipes on index cards and put in a small ornate box suitable for keeping on the countertop. If they’re in sight, they might get used…
- Share some motivation with a hand-crafted promissory note. In it, offer to be a buddy for a monthly healthy meal swap, a weekly swim, a daily walk, or any shared activity – it’s easier to keep a new fitness schedule with a partner, and you’ll get some exercise too.
- Fill a jar with layers of colorful beans and lentils, and a recipe for meatless chili or a hearty soup. It makes a satisfying alternative for those trying to reduce their red meat intake, which is encouraging when trying to change habits.
- Mix up a batch of healthy breakfast muffins (like Sue’s Savory Muffins) or fill a jar with fresh granola for those trying to develop a healthy breakfast habit.
And that concludes our look at 9 gift ideas from the creative foodie’s kitchen – hopefully, it’s stirred up your own creative process.
And if you do have some ideas of your own, please share them in the comments below for all the readers to enjoy.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. Last updated: November 27, 2018 at 19:20 pm.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.