Holiday Gifting Made Easy – These are a few of My Favorite Things

Holiday Gifting Made Easy
Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String…



T’was the week before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… except me, of course! Stirring great vats of sugary, bubbling goo… making candy, and baked goods, and sweets to share with you!

I’ve always loved making homemade gifts and goodies around the holidays. It’s rare that I find that ‘perfect gift’ for someone, that thing I know they’ll love, and I refuse to mull around guessing at things nobody wants or needs. Making gifts is not only easy and inexpensive, but it’s a foolproof way to know you’re giving someone something they’ll enjoy. And because I’m, well… me… that usually means food!

I’m also pretty bad at planning ahead on things like this. The whole year can go by slow as a slug, then all of a sudden it’s two weeks to Christmas and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, buying boxes and ribbons and bows, and generally strewing things around the living room until everything is covered in some kind of gifting gear. If you can relate to this, rest assured that your last-minute gifts can still be amazing. Think of this as prime-time for treat making – fresh is best, after all!

Here are a few of my favorites, along with some ideas for packaging them up:

#1 – Mixed-Nut Brittle with Sea Salt

This is one of my favorite edible gifts to make – it’s incredibly easy, versatile, and makes people think you’re some kind of candy wizard. Also, it’s kind of absurdly delicious… who doesn’t love nuts and caramel?

click image for recipe
For candies and smaller things like this, I like to buy boxes or tins from the dollar store. They’re festive, can easily be re-used, and mean less wrapping for me! (Just be sure to seal your food in a cellophane or zip-top baggie inside the container to keep it airtight.)
Making your own hot cocoa mix, whether as a gift for someone or not, is always a good idea. Nothing compares to using a good quality chocolate, plus you can control the amount of sugar, and any flavorings, that go into it. For the holidays, I packaged mine up with cute little peppermint marshmallow snowflakes, but the recipe includes a few notes on making other flavors as well.
click image for recipe

Simple pint-sized mason jars make for very affordable goody containers, and can easily be spruced up with a nice label and some ribbon. To go along with the peppermint marshmallows and holiday theme, I added a candy cane to each jar as a drink stir.

#3 – Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Cookies in a Jar

These are really simple to put together, and a great way to give someone something sweet they can enjoy on their own time. Kind of like a store-bought mix, only a million times better because you can put it together however you like. I had to play around with my oatmeal cookie recipe to fit into the jars, but after a few tweaks it worked out just right – feel free to use mine, or try making your own!

click image for recipe

These are just your every-day quart-sized mason jars. You can  buy jars at the craft store that have nice smooth sides (no embossed label) but they’re quite a bit pricier than the regular ones. I used some simple print-and-stick labels to make them look nice, and included a sticker on the top with directions for how to make the cookies.

#4 – Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

These are the perfect gift for your favorite furry friend, or any pet-lover. They’re tummy-friendly, made with just a few simple ingredients, and have been quite a hit with all the pups I’ve shared them with!

click image for recipe

I usually wrap these up in baggies with a little ribbon, but they’d be great in little latch-shut jars that could be re-used as future treat containers.

#5 – Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans, for the coffee lover in your life

These are only for the true coffee-holics you know. I know a lot of people who say they like coffee, when really they mean coffee that’s been stirred up with milk and sugar… these beans are not for them! They are strong little bursts of espresso flavor, covered in dark, luxurious chocolate, and have been a long-time favorite treat of mine. Plus they’re easy to make on a moments notice!

click image for recipe

Be sure to store this in a cool dry place, or in the fridge, so the chocolate doesn’t melt!

#6 – Homemade Gluten-Free Flour Mix – vegan, soy-free, nut-free

If you know anyone who’s gluten-free, or loves to bake, this might be just the thing. I started making my own gluten-free flour last year, and was amazed to find that the flavor is so much better than most of the store-bought brands. I’ve used it to make cookies, cakes, and even savory dishes like gnocchi, all with great success. Like any gluten-free four, recipes may need to be adapted to use a little more liquid, or to bake at a slightly lower temperature.

click for recipe

#7 – Chocolate Covered Candied Ginger

Just like the chocolate covered espresso beans, these are for true ginger lovers. They’re a breeze to make, and for anyone who likes ginger as much as I do, they’re a real decadence. Be sure to use good-quality chocolate for these ones!

To make: melt dark chocolate in 20 second intervals in the microwave,
stirring in between until just melted. Dip slices of crystallized ginger, and
place on a sheet of parchment paper to dry. Once chocolate has set,
transfer to a baggy or airtight container and store in a cool dry place.

#8 – Reinbeer!

Okay, so we all know that guy or girl who loves beer… but I always feel a little lame when I hand over a poorly-wrapped six pack. I got this idea from this post by Life of a Modern Mom, and knew I had to give it a try. Making the beer bottles into ‘reindeer’ couldn’t be easier – simply wrap the tops with brown pipe cleaners, and hot glue little red pom-poms and googly eyes to each bottle. These are just a few dollars at any craft store, and make for such a cute presentation!

Another beer-buying tip – if you don’t know the giftee’s
favorite brew, try buying something local, or seasonal,
that they won’t find anywhere else.

#9 – The Budding Baker Basket

So, I kind of made this one up… but if you know someone who’s just beginning to get into cooking or baking, this is a fun way encourage them, or give them a head-start. This could easily be changed-up to fit the needs of a more experienced chef or baker, as well. Just add a cook book, a couple of tools, and some basic ingredients and you’re good to go!

#10 to – The Sky’s The Limit

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

There is no end to the possibilities when it comes to putting together homemade giftables. Here are just a few more ideas I’ve found that would be perfect for the holidays (click the titles to find the recipes):

  • Homemade Holiday Granola, from Lunch Box Bunch – granola is another perfect holiday gift. It’s easy to make, can be made vegan and gluten-free, and comes in a wide range of flavors. In this post Kathy shares four different recipes for granola, plus a few tips on how to package it up all nice and pretty!

  • Cranberry Orange Preservers, from The Gingersnap Girl – we all know jams and jellies can make great gifts, but usually they have to be made in the summer when fruit is at it’s peak… and who can plan that far ahead? Not me, that’s who. This recipe for Cranberry Orange Preserves might have me changing my tune, though… it sounds perfect for the season!

  • Honey Roasted Almond Butter, from me – if you’re going to make some jam, you might as well have some nut butter to go with! This is a simple recipe I made back at the beginning of this blog for honey-roasted almond butter, but the technique could be applied to peanuts, or other nuts, as well. Or, for straight up nut butter, just buy roasted nuts, blend until smooth, and salt/season to taste!

  • Cinnamon Toasted Almonds, from One Charming Party – yep, this is them… just like the ones that come wafting down the aisle from the mall kiosk  only this time they came out of your own kitchen. These would be great for wrapping up in little baggies with a bit of ribbon.

  • Homemade Salted Caramels, from Katherine Martinelli – these little salty/sweet candies are easy to make, and even easier to eat (watch out that you don’t eat the whole batch right out of everyone’s stockings!). Katherine has also put together a Christmas Blog Hop – a round up of great holiday-themed recipes from around the web – so if you’re looking for even more ideas, I suggest you ‘hop along’ over there!

Just to name a few.

Oh, and don’t forget the sweetest gift of all… gathering ’round with family and friends! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Got any more quick and easy holiday gift ideas? Share them in the comments below!

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12 Responses to Holiday Gifting Made Easy – These are a few of My Favorite Things

  1. Rachel Hull December 19, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Has anyone told you how AWESOME you are? Really…I just am enthralled at your creativity. ❤

    • Willow December 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      *Blushes* – thanks, Rachel!

  2. Kavey December 19, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Fabulous selection, so many delicious ideas. I’m tempted by several of them but countered by being lazy and having stinking cold. (Figure best not to make any food gifts whilst full of germs). Am saving them for next year though!!

  3. wildbluewonder December 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    These are fantastic ideas! I also think I might try this: http://www.readingmytealeaves.com/2012/11/giving-boiled-apple-cider-syrup.html

    Happy holidays to you!

    • Willow December 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Wow, that sounds incredible! I’ll have to try that one sometime. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes December 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Great round up Willow – LOVE the reinbeer idea and I ADORE all of your labels, where did you find the great printables?

    • Willow December 19, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks, Heather! The labels are called “Design and Print”, and I found them at a craft store. They have a website here: http://www.momenta.com. You can choose the shape of label you’re using and upload your own image (which is what I did) onto the template and print. There were a few hiccups along the way – it seems like your image has to be perfectly square (which is tough when the labels aren’t square) and you have to be sure de-select any settings like ‘fit to page’ when printing, otherwise the image doesn’t line up with the stickers. The company had great customer service, though, so I’ll definitely use them again. Or you can also find plain sheets of sticker paper at any office supply store or online, print whatever you want, and then cut or stamp them out. :)

  5. Gloria - The Ginger Snap Girl December 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    What great ideas! I’m always looking for inspiration with creative packaging. I clicked on your link from Foodgawker (via Facebook). I was totally blown away to see one of my recipes in your suggested ideas section. That’s so awesome. Thank you for including me.

    Anyone on the receiving end of your holiday treats is a lucky person! Hope you have a fantastic holiday!

    • Willow December 19, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

      Haha, thanks! That cranberry jam sounds so unbelievably good… I think I’d put it on everything! I adore cranberries and orange together, so I’ll probably be making that for myself sometime soon. :)

      Happy holidays to you, as well!

  6. Alison December 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    LOVELY post!

  7. Laura December 20, 2012 at 1:35 am #

    Thanks for the mention! These are some great ideas…

  8. Courtney J December 21, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    Awesome ideas!!! :) I want to make everything! *haha* I think I;ve run out of time … :(

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