7 Ways to Unwrap the Gift of Food This Holiday Season
You don’t need to have an Etsy shop filled with crafts to impress friends and family with homemade gifts this holiday season. With a little preparation and effort, you can pair food and craft to create a one-of-a-kind gift.
Either element can be as complex or a simple as you want. If you love crafting, but can’t stand baking, use the wrapping techniques for store-bought cookies. If you’re a baker and not a crafter, take ideas from the recipes that have limited involvement with the hot glue-gun.
Check out the following 7 ways you can give the delicious gift of food this year.
A Christmas cracker is traditional part of holiday festivities in the UK, but less popular in the U.S. The crackers are cardboard tubes that contain jokes or small toys. When pulled apart, it makes a popping sound. Martha Stewart’s version takes the shape of a cracker, but instead, inside you’ll find cookies or other treats. It is a great, easy, festive way to transport food during the holidays that can elevate a hostess gift or stand out on the dessert table.
You’ll need: a plastic tube, cookies or candy, tissue or crepe paper, fast-drying glue (Stewart recommends Magna-Tac), and ribbon.
Directions: Print clip-art bands, and cut out. Fill plastic tube with cookies or candy; place caps on ends. Cut a 4-by-12-inch piece of tissue or crepe paper. Apply glue around 1 end of tube, attach paper, and wrap around twice. Secure end of paper with a dot of glue. Repeat at other end. Using scissors, fringe paper ends. Gather with ribbon; tie. Glue clip art around tube so it covers where fringed paper was attached.
Short on plastic tubes but still looking for a festive way to wrap your cookies? Make this Taste of Home recipe for peppermint pinwheels. After the cookies have baked and cooled, create the look of peppermint candies using saran wrap. Wrap the cookie, twisting the ends of the saran wrap, and keep them in place by tying red ribbon on each side.
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon red liquid food coloring
Directions: In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Divide dough in half; add extract and red food coloring to one portion. On a work surface, roll out each portion of dough between waxed paper into a 16-inch by 10-inch rectangle. Remove waxed paper. Place red rectangle over plain rectangle; roll up tightly jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or until firm.
Unwrap the dough and cut into 1/4-in. slices. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 14 minutes or until set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: about 4 dozen.
3. Homemade Spices
Spices are easy, can be sweet or savory, have a longer shelf-life than cookies, and take less time to put together. It is also an incredibly budget friendly gift, because the ingredients, and jars are relatively inexpensive.
Apple Pie Spice Mix (yield, 2 tablespoons): In a bowl, combine 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon ground cardamom. Store in a sealed jar.
Pumpkin Pie Spice (yield, 8 tablespoons): Combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons ground ginger, 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, and 3 teaspoons ground allspice in a bowl. Store in a sealed jar.
Sweet Spice Blend (yield, 6 tablespoons): In a bowl, combine: 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons dried ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or cinnamon). Store in a sealed jar.
Looking for a bigger kick than a spice mix? A homemade liqueur can be placed in a glass bottle and labeled with hand-written note. You will need to plan ahead for this one because the recipe says to let it age for two weeks.
2 1/2 ounces coarsely ground coffee (about 3/4 cup)
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup aged rum
1/2 vanilla bean
Directions: Place the coffee grounds in a 2-cup measuring cup or small pitcher, add 1 3/4 cups of the water, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day. Line a fine-mesh strainer with a standard coffee filter and fit it over a medium bowl. Working in batches, slowly pour the coffee into the filter until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer (the coffee will pass through in a slow stream; don’t force it through); stop when you reach the solids at the bottom of the pitcher — don’t pour them in. Discard the grounds and the contents of the strainer. Transfer the coffee to a 1-quart container and set it aside.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup of water and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat and bring it to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Add the cooled syrup and rum to the container with the coffee. Using a knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out of the bean, add both the seeds and pod to the coffee mixture (make sure the pod is submerged), and stir to combine. Tightly cover the container and let it sit at room temperature in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks, shaking once a week.
The author of this recipe notes that they test best while still slightly warm, but maintain their addictive qualities for up to one week. Give them as one gift, in a jar, or individual presents handed out in smaller jars — like those used for spices — or treat bags tied with holiday ribbon.
1/2 pound roasted, unsalted cashews
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast the cashews on a baking sheet for 5 to 8 minutes until they are warm and fragrant. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until the butter begins to turn golden brown and smell nutty. Add the sage and cook, stirring, for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter is dark golden and the sage is frizzled but not burnt. Remove from heat and add the honey.
Toss the cashews with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt while still warm. If you are concerned about the not-fresh-from-the-oven taste, or want something sweet, check out this recipe for absolutely addictive, Sugar Coated Pecans, which can be gifted in the same manner.
The perfect topping for that piece of pie’s side of ice cream (or maybe even the pie) is a jar of this hot fudge sauce by Southern Living. Once again, the jar makes it totally transportable, and easy for both non-bakers and non-crafters alike. The jar can be decorated anyway you like, but a simple ribbon and label will give it a classic, nostalgic feel.
1 (8-ounce) package unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Directions: Melt chocolate and butter in a large, heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. (Do not boil.) Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Cover and chill leftover sauce up to 2 weeks. Yield, 3 1/4 cups. To reheat, microwave sauce in a glass bowl at HIGH 1 minute. Stir and microwave at HIGH 1 more minute or until sauce is thoroughly heated.
Already have you hostess and holiday party gifts sorted out for the season? Get in the spirit of giving by donating food to a local charity or food bank. See who is collecting in your area and what their needs are. It won’t check any items off your Christmas list, but it will help someone have a happier holiday.