Homemade Holiday Gifts to Share

— Written By

The Holidays are a terrific time to say a big thanks and of course Merry Christmas to many friends, family, and co-workers. What better way than to give the gift of food! Here are several ideas, some are a bit healthier than others but all are fun and will be enjoyed by those special to you!

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix

Makes one 12-serving batch of cocoa mix (about 1 quart). Can be multiplied, as necessary. 

Ingredients
1 cup instant dry milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup crushed peppermint candies (such as starlight mints or candy canes)
5 large marshmallows (optional)

Instructions

  1. Equipment: 1-quart glass jar with tight lid (such as a mason jar).
  2. Optional for decoration: small scoop, kitchen twine, card for labeling
  3. Gently layer each ingredient into the jar in the following order: dry milk, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, crushed candy, marshmallows.
  4. Seal and label or decorate jar as desired.

Include the following instructions with the mix:

“To Prepare: Whisk together contents of jar in large bowl then return to container. For each serving, combine 1/3 cup mix with 1 cup boiling water or hot milk. Store in jar at room temperature up to 6 months.”

Curried Cashews

Ingredients
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons curry powder
4 teaspoons kosher salt
6 cups unsalted cashews

Instructions

  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 250°F.
  2. Whisk lemon juice, curry powder and salt in a large bowl. Add cashews; toss to coat. Divide between 2 large rimmed baking sheets; spread in an even layer.
  3. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until dry, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Yields 48 servings. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Mayme’s Cinnamon Sugared Pecans

(This one I am sure that I have shared before but it is my favorite to make and these nuts are addictive!)

Ingredients
1 lb. shelled pecan halves
1 large egg white
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¼ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat the vanilla and egg white together until foamy.
  2. Pour this mixture in a 2 gallon Ziploc bag, add the pecans and shake to coat them with the mixture. Mix together the sugars, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Pour into bag with the nuts, shake again to coat.
  4. Place the sugar-coated pecans on a sprayed baking dish.
  5. Bake at 250 degrees for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Southwestern Soup Mix

Ingredients
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
⅓ cup dried black beans
½ cup pearl barley
⅓ cup dried kidney beans
⅓ cup dried great northern beans

Instructions

Layer chili powder, cumin, oregano, black beans, barley, kidney beans, and great northern beans in a clean, dry, 2-cup jar or bag.

Include with gift:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add 1 diced large onion, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 diced carrot; cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 9 cups water, 4 cups broth and the soup mix.
  4. Bring to a lively simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1¾ to 2½ hours (adding more water, ½ cup at a time, if necessary or desired).
  5. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste.

Infused Vinegars make a great gift and a beautiful display. You can find bottles at the Dollar Store and if you are really crafty you could do some painting on them.

Rosemary, Oregano and Marjoram Vinegar

This vinegar can be drizzled over tomatoes and fresh mozzarella or combined with olive oil and a little Dijon mustard to make a quick dressing for pasta salad.

Ingredients
6 cups distilled white vinegar
9 sprigs fresh oregano
9 sprigs fresh rosemary
9 sprigs fresh marjoram
Additional fresh herbs for decoration (optional)

Instructions

  1. Wash 3 pint-size (2-cup) heatproof glass-canning jars (or similar containers) and their lids with hot soapy water.
  2. Rinse well with hot water. Fill a large, deep pot (such as a water bath canner) about half full with water.
  3. Place the jars upright into the pot; add enough additional water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil; boil jars for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the lids to the pot, and then remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Let the jars and lids stay in the hot water as you prepare the flavoring and vinegar. (Keeping the jars warm minimizes breakage when filling with hot liquid.)
  6. Thoroughly rinse herbs with water.
  7. Remove the jars from the water bath with a jar lifter or tongs.
  8. Divide the herb sprigs among the jars.
  9. Heat vinegar in a large saucepan to a bare simmer (at least 190°F).
  10. Carefully divide the vinegar among the prepared jars, leaving at least ¼-inch of space between the top of the jar and the vinegar.
  11. Remove lids from the water bath, dry with a clean towel and screw tightly onto the jars.
  12. Store the jars in a cool, dark place, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 weeks.
  13. Strain vinegar through cheesecloth into another container.
  14. Repeat as needed until all the sediment is removed and the vinegar is clear. Discard all solids and pour the strained vinegar back into rinsed jars or divide among sterilized decorative bottles. Decorate with a few well-rinsed sprigs of fresh herbs, if desired.

Refrigerate for up to 1 year.

Cilantro, Chile, and Garlic Vinegar

Stir this vinegar into a mixture of chopped fresh tomatoes, onions and fresh cilantro for an instant salsa. Or combine with an equal portion of canola oil and a generous pinch of salt and use as a marinade for steak or chicken. 6 cups distilled white vinegar.

Ingredients
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
3 small hot chile peppers, such as serrano, red jalapeño or habanero, halved
12 sprigs fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Wash 3 pint-size (2-cup) heatproof glass canning jars (or similar containers) and their lids with hot soapy water. Rinse well with hot water. Fill a large, deep pot (such as a water bath canner) about half full with water. Place the jars upright into the pot; add enough additional water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil; boil jars for 10 minutes. Add the lids to the pot, and then remove the pot from the heat. Let the jars and lids stay in the hot water as you prepare the flavoring and vinegar. (Keeping the jars warm minimizes breakage when filling with hot liquid.)
  2. Thoroughly rinse chile peppers and cilantro with water. Remove the jars from the water bath with a jar lifter or tongs. Divide garlic, the peppers, and cilantro among the jars. Heat vinegar in a large saucepan to a bare simmer (at least 190°F). Carefully divide the vinegar among the prepared jars, leaving at least ¼-inch of space between the top of the jar and the vinegar. Remove lids from the water bath, dry with a clean towel and screw tightly onto the jars.
  3. Store the jars in a cool, dark place, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain vinegar through cheesecloth into another container. Repeat as needed until all the sediment is removed and the vinegar is clear. Discard all solids and pour the strained vinegar back into rinsed jars or divide among sterilized decorative bottles. Decorate with a few well-rinsed fresh sprigs of cilantro, garlic and/or chile pepper, if desired. (Note: Adding a fresh chile pepper to the strained vinegar will intensify the heat level.)

Refrigerate for up to 1 year.

S’mores Chocolate Bark

Yields 36 servings

Ingredients
2 cups chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or chips)
¾ cup small graham cracker pieces¾ cup mini marshmallows

Instructions

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. (Take care to avoid wrinkles.)
  2. Place chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium, stirring every 20 seconds, until melted. (Alternatively, place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.)
  3. Combine graham crackers and marshmallows in a small bowl. Stir half of the mixture into the melted chocolate. Scrape the chocolate onto the foil and spread it into a 9-inch square. Sprinkle with the remaining graham crackers and marshmallows, pressing any large bits in. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
  4. Transfer the bark and foil to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1½-inch pieces.

Refrigerate airtight for up to 2 weeks.

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Cherries

Yields 48 servings

Ingredients
¾ cup roasted, shelled pistachios, (3 ounces), coarsely chopped
¾ cup dried cherries, or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, divided

Instructions

  1. Line the bottom and sides of a jelly-roll pan or baking sheet with foil. (Take care to avoid wrinkles.) Toss pistachios with cherries (or cranberries) in a medium bowl. Divide the mixture in half; stir orange zest into 1 portion.
  2. Melt 18 ounces chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. (Alternatively, microwave on low in 30-second bursts.) Stir often with a rubber spatula so it melts evenly.
  3. Remove the top pan and wipe dry (or remove the bowl from the microwave). Stir in the remaining 6 ounces chocolate, in 2 additions, until thoroughly melted and smooth.
  4. Add the pistachio mixture containing the orange zest to the chocolate; stir to mix well. Working quickly, scrape the chocolate onto the prepared pan, spreading it to an even ¼-inch thickness with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the remaining pistachio mixture on top; gently press it into the chocolate with your fingertips. Refrigerate, uncovered, just until set, about 20 minutes.
  5. Invert the pan onto a large cutting board. Remove the pan and peel off the foil. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the chocolate lengthwise with 6 parallel lines. Break bark along the score lines. Break the strips of bark into 2- to 3-inch chunks.

The bark will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.