There’s still time to make gifts from your kitchen

(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Are you tired of the shopping frenzy? How about making gifts instead of buying them! There is still time to make gifts.

Most people have way too much stuff. Homemade treats and handcrafted gifts are appreciated far more than store-bought trinkets made across the ocean which just sit and gather dust. Because food is consumable, it won’t end up at the dump because someone didn’t like it. Food gifts are personal, yet unlikely to make the recipient feel obligated or awkward.

Everyone needs to eat, so consumable food gifts are a great choice. Making presents in the peace and quiet of your own home reduces the stress and gets you out of the shopping frenzy. Gain valuable family time by getting everyone involved in the process! Many things are simple and easy to make, and don’t require a lot of time.

Pamper the recipient of your gift with luxurious flavors. Exotic, scrumptious foods make wonderful splurges, allowing the recipient to indulge.

Even if you don’t cook, a personalized food basket of cheeses, wine, crackers, jams, popcorn or candies is always appreciated. Assemble a nice fruit basket or an assortment of various crackers and cheeses.

Here are some ideas:

≤Baked goods like cookies, scones, muffins or holiday breads

≤Baking mixes for cookies or breads

≤ Pancake mix in a jar

≤Homemade cereals like muesli or granola

≤Beverage mixes like fancy hot chocolate blends or spiced teas

≤ Homemade soup mixes

≤Mac & Cheese mix

≤ Sweet or spiced toasted nuts

≤Spice blends or rubs

≤Jams & jellies

≤Fruit ‘shrub’ syrups

≤Candy – homemade fudge, caramels, toffee, truffles, etc. (or from a candy store)

≤Chocolate: buy assortments or make your own chocolate bark

≤Pickles, stuffed olives

≤ Kimchi or kraut

≤Flavored salts

≤Herb-infused honey

≤Herb-flavored olive oils

≤Local cheese & wine

≤ Basket of fresh fruit & cheese

≤ Local products, like maple syrup or maple cream

≤Fancy local mustards or other condiments

These are just some possibilities. I’m sure there are many others.

When making your own food gifts, there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure the gift fits the recipient. Know their dietary needs, likes and dislikes. Don’t give hot sauce to someone who doesn’t like spicy food, or spiced nuts to someone with a nut allergy. With such a wide variety of things to make, you’re bound to find something that fits!

Remember that food is perishable; keep timing and packaging in mind. Metal or plastic containers can help keep baked goods fresh longer. Attach a label specifying how soon it should be used and how long it can keep.

Use festive containers to package your gifts. Jars are great for pickles, jams, seasoning mixes, or sauces. These can be decorated with holiday ribbons. Bright ribbons come in many colors and sizes, and add a special touch when wrapped around bottles and boxes. Parchment paper works well for wrapping quick breads; it is both pretty and practical. Colored holiday ribbons can make it look like a boxed gift. Cloth bags or clear plastic bags with colorful ribbons are another option for nuts, candy or cookies. Metal tins are available at hardware stores and flea markets; these are good for cookies.

The thought and care that goes into making these gifts touches people more than another sweater or DVD. Food gifts are something we can all use over the holiday season and beyond.

Cocoa Dusted Almonds


2 cups raw almonds

1 tablespoon cooking oil of your choice

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place almonds in a large, shallow bowl. Drizzle with oil. Use your hands to coat the almonds in the oil. Place in colander to drain excess oil.

While almonds are draining, mix together cocoa, sugar & salt. Sprinkle over the almonds and toss them in the bowl using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until all of the almonds are lightly dusted with cocoa. You can also do this by holding the bowl on either side and tossing the almonds in the air. It takes a good 10 or more turns to adequately coat the almonds.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the almonds onto the parchment and spread in a single layer. Bake at 300°F until toasted, 15 to 20 minutes. When you start to really smell the almonds, they are probably done.

Cool. Place in bags or jars and decorate with ribbons for gifting.

Makes 2 cups.

Note: For spiced almonds, combine 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt in place of the cocoa and sugar. After coating almonds with oil, coat almonds with this mixture and bake as above.

Holiday Cranberry-Nut Bread or Muffin Mix

A healthy, whole-grain holiday treat.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 cup oats

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup brown sugar


In a small bowl, sift or blend the all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

Pour remaining ingredients into decorative jar in this order:

Oats, cranberries, nuts, whole wheat flour, the flour, salt & baking powder which you had set aside, brown sugar.

Seal jar and decorate; write out directions for the recipient and attach.

For the recipe, to accompany the jar:


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup cooking oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins by either lining with paper wrappers, spraying with cooking spray or spreading with butter. Or use 1 bread tin coated with cooking spray.

In a bowl large enough to hold contents, beat eggs with rotary beater. Beat in milk, then oil. With a wooden spoon, gently stir in the jar mix ingredients. When blended, pour into bread tin or divide among twelve prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350°F until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean — about 1 hour for bread, 20-25 minutes for muffins.

Wrap bread in parchment and tie together with colorful ribbons.”

Cocoa Mix


3 cups powdered milk

1/2 cup cocoa

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt


Sift the ingredients into a large bowl. Pack the mix into a Ziploc bag or other airtight container. Package in a nice tin. Add a large mug and a package of mini-marshmallows (find recipes online for making homemade marshmallows!). Print recipe labels:

Hot Chocolate

Serves 1

4 tablespoons Hot Chocolate Mix

1 cup (8 oz.) boiling water

Marshmallows or whipped cream


Place the Hot Chocolate Mix into a mug. Pour in the boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Garnish with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at, or on Facebook as Author

Yvona Fast.