Homemade Holiday Gifts to Share

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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!

Interesting containers can be found at most dollar stores, things like small mason jars, or other decorative jars, also holiday cellophane bags, or small holiday boxes.
Nothing says special function in the South like homemade cheese straws, these make terrific gifts. Here is a great basic recipe.

Cheddar Cheese Straws


  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound block sharp orange Cheddar cheese, shredded (be sure not to buy this pre shredded)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • ½ paprika
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Ground red pepper, optional to taste for heat


  1. Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer until blended. Gradually add flour, beating just until combined.
  2. Use a cookie press with a star-shaped disk to shape mixture into long ribbons, following manufacturer’s instructions, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Cut ribbons into 2-inch pieces.
  3. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Cheese Wafers

  1. Combine ingredients as directed; chill dough 2 hours. Shape dough into 4 (8- inch-long) logs; wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill 8 hours.
  2. Cut each log into 1/4-inch-thick slices; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 350° for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container 1 week.

Yields: 10 dozen.

Super-Chunky Christmas Cookies in a Jar


  • 1 ½ -liter glass jar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup red and green M & M’s
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped cashews
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup toasted shredded coconut


  • Layer in the order above. Seal the jar and add this recipe card.

For the recipe card

  1. Beat 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 stick butter with a mixer until fluffy.
  2. Beat in 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  3. Add the Super-Chunky Christmas and mix until well combined.
  4. Scoop big round cookies (about 2 heaping tablespoons each) onto a baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F until set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Pecan Pie Bars


  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup light-color corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For crust, in a medium bowl combine flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pat crumb mixture into an ungreased 11x7x1-1/2-inch baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until light brown.
  3. Meanwhile, for filling, in a medium bowl stir together eggs, pecans, brown sugar, corn syrup, the 2 tablespoons melted butter, and the vanilla. Pour over baked crust, spreading evenly.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes more or until filling is set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

To Store

Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Spiced Apple Tea Mix


  • 2 tablespoons loose green tea
  • 2 tablespoons snipped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 6 crisp dried apple chips or dry your own apple slices
  • 6 3-inch cinnamon sticks


  1. In a small bowl, combine tea, crystallized ginger, allspice, and cloves. Divide tea mixture and dried apple chips among six paper tea filters. Tie tops of filters with kitchen string, tying a cinnamon stick at the top of each. Place filled tea filters inside six decorative heat-proof cups.
  2. Attach directions for serving:
    To make Spiced Apple Tea: Add 6 to 8 ounces hot water to filled tea filter in each cup. Let tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard tea filter.

Makes 6 gifts.

To Dry Your Own Apples


  • 2 small red apples
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with nonstick baking mats.
  2. Core apples, then slice paper-thin with a mandolin or a very sharp knife.
  3. Arrange slices in a single layer on prepared sheets. Sprinkle evenly with sugar.
  4. Bake, turning twice, until dry and edges begin to curl, about 1 hour, 5 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Dried apple slices can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.

Spicy Lime Nuts


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½-1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 6 cups roasted salted pistachio nuts, whole blanched almonds and/or cashews (I used pistachios)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lime juice, maple syrup, salt, and crushed red pepper. Add nuts; stir to coat. Spread nut mixture onto two large-rimmed baking sheets in a single layer.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until nuts are toasted and appear dry, stirring occasionally.
  4. Spread nuts on a large sheet of foil; cool completely. Let stand 2 hours before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Holiday Cranberry Butter

This easy to make flavored butter tastes great on toast, muffins, buns or anything you would put butter or jam on. I know you will love it when you taste it. It even smells heavenly and makes a great gift. I shared tastes of this recipe at the Farmers Market and it was a big hit!


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt


  • Blend the ingredients one at a time, in order given. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or part of it can be frozen and thawed for later use.

Buffalo Wing Party Mix


  • 4 cups Corn Chex
  • 4 cups Wheat Chex
  • 2 cups cheddar-flavored snacks
  • 2 cups potato sticks
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. In a large bowl, combine the cereals, crackers and potato sticks. Combine the butter, pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Drizzle over cereal mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salad dressing mix and cayenne pepper; toss to coat.
  2. Microwave half of the mixture on high for 2 minutes, stirring once. Spread onto waxed paper to cool.
  3. Repeat. Store in an airtight container.

Cowboy Candy


  • 1 pound jalapeno peppers, cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced garlic cloves, about 4 bulbs
  • 3 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups red wine vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon mustard seed
  • ¾ teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cayenne pepper, minced, optional


  1. Pack jalapenos and garlic into three hot 1-pint jars to within 1/2 in. of the top.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring sugar, vinegar, seasonings and, if desired, cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
  3. Carefully ladle hot liquid over pepper mixture, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool.