Homemade, handmade gifts of food are always more special, aren’t they?
Cookies and fruit cake and gingerbread and fudge. Candies and spiced nuts and popcorn and pickles. In brightly colored packages tied up with strings, these are a few of our favorite things.
The suggestions we’re offering would make lovely presents at a holiday celebration, as a thoughtful hostess gift or for your office Secret Santa pick. This is food of love, after all, that you’ve prepared with your own two hands and a generous heart.
But you could also serve the olives at your own festive gatherings, such as a Hanukkah latke-palooza. Bring the snack mix to a potluck. Prepare the rice as a colorful side dish to complement your Christmas ham. Sprinkle the spiced salt — with its ornamental flecks of red and green — over popcorn to enjoy as you watch sentimental seasonal specials. And pour the gingerbread syrup over pancakes at a bountiful brunch.
To paraphrase the classic song by Perry Como: If you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can’t beat homemade gifts of food.
Snowflake Snack Mix
Use plain candies, or substitute with peanut, crispy, or other flavors and themed colors
3 cups rice square cereal
3 cups corn square cereal
1 cup small pretzel twists
1 cup honey-roasted peanuts
2 16-ounce packages vanilla candy coating
1 11 or 12-ounce package candy-coated milk chocolate pieces
In a very large bowl combine cereals, pretzels, and peanuts; set aside.
Melt the candy coating according to package directions. Pour candy coating over cereal mixture and stir gently to coat. Spread on a large piece of waxed paper, parchment paper, or a silicone liner. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Cool and break into pieces.
Yield: 16 cups
Source: Adapted from midwestliving.com
Fruited Rice Mix
Use this as a guide to make a lovely gift, or prepare the rice to serve as a holiday side dish in your own home.
1 cup long-grain rice
1 bouillon cube, crumbled (chicken or vegetable)
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1½ teaspoons minced orange zest
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ cup finely chopped dried apricots
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup slivered almonds
In a mixing bowl, stir together the rice, bouillon cube, parsley, orange zest, and onion powder; place into the bottom of a pint jar. Top with the apricots, followed by the cranberries then the almonds.
Place lid on the jar and be sure to include cooking instructions.
Cooking instructions: In a medium saucepan, bring 2½ cups water and 2 tablespoons butter or oil to a boil. Add the jar of Fruited Rice Mix. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed. Serves 6.
Yield: Makes 2¼ cups
Source: Adapted from Diane Phillips, The Perfect Mix
“Stir a tablespoon into coffee, tea, or cider; drizzle it over pancakes, hot cereal, or yogurt; or use it as a glaze for chicken or pork chops,” says Darlene Brenden.
2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches), broken into pieces
16 whole cloves
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh gingerroot
1 teaspoon allspice
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place the first four ingredients on a double thickness of cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and tie with string to form a bag.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, honey, nutmeg, and spice bag; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes or until syrup reaches desired consistency. (It will thicken as it cools.)
Cool to room temperature. Discard spice bag; strain syrup into bottles. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Yield: 1½ cups
Source: Adapted from Darlene Brenden, tasteofhome.com
Fennel-spiced Roasted Olives
For a savory gift in a season of sweets, these olives are perfect. Crackers, cheese, and/or a small serving board complete the set.
6 cups assorted brine-cured olives
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 3-inch-long strips each lemon zest
4 3-inch-long strips each orange zest
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 400F.
On large rimmed baking sheet, toss olives, garlic, lemon zest, orange zest, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and black pepper. Spread in single layer. Roast 30 minutes, shaking pan once.
Divide olives, garlic, and zest among 4 jars; add fennel seeds to each. Pour vinegars and remaining olive oil over olives to cover. Store in refrigerate up to 1 month.
Yield: 5 cups
Source: Adapted from goodhousekeeping.com
Chili Lime Salt
Sprinkle on steak, burgers, chicken, fish, french fries, popcorn, or anything else that could use a little bit of festive flair.
1 cup coarse sea salt
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Using a microplane zester, remove the outer zest from the limes. Make sure not to peel off the bitter white pith.
Lay zest on a towel and allow to air dry for a few hours, then combine with salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Pour salt into a pretty jar.
Yield: 1 cup
Source: Adapted from mommypotamus.com
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.