Going to a holiday party or need a last minute small gift for a teacher or neighbor? Try one of these quick and easy foodie gift projects. A pretty package makes these simple gifts even more special, so invite your little ones can to add their creative flourishes to jazz up containers and decorate gift tags.
1. Homemade Granola – Homemade granola is loads cheaper and tastier than the supermarket stuff, and it also makes a great gift. Start with a basic homemade oven-toasted granola (if you don’t have a favorite recipe, try Ria’s favorite Berry Speedy Granola recipe and have fun switching things up adding in your favorite blend of dried fruits, nuts and seeds to make your own custom granola flavors. Try minced candied ginger, dried blueberries and toasted sliced almonds; cinnamon, chopped dried apples and walnuts; flaked coconut and dried mango. Enlist the kids to come up with creative names for your granola creations and be sure to include an ingredient list for your recipient.
2. A Handcrafted Spice Blend – For people on your list who love to cook, consider making a handcrafted spice blend that they can add to their pantry. This project is especially easy if you have a market that sells spices in bulk, like Rainbow Grocery here in San Francisco. Older kids can help you do the math to scale up spice blend recipes and even little ones can help weigh and measure with a bit of help.
Remember to toast your whole spices in a dry pan (just until fragrant) before grinding and packaging them. An inexpensive coffee grinder reserved just for spices will do the trick nicely. Since spices are at their peak when freshly ground, a small package (enough to flavor one or two meals) is a perfect amount to give and don’t forget to include an ingredient list with your spice blend as well as recipes or ideas for ways to use it. Here’s a few we love:
- Napa chef Michael Chiarello’s fennel spice is amazing on roasted vegetables and meat.
- Simran’s Indian gobi masala is a favorite on roasted cauliflower or carrots
- This West-Indes spice blend is packed with flavor. It’s great as a dry rub, or becomes a fabulous marinade when mixed with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
- A homemade celery salt might be the easiest of all since you probably have all the makings at home right now. No toasting required, just a few minutes and a microwave.
3. Cocoa Kits for Chocolate Lovers – If you need a quick homemade gift for a chocolate fanatic, assemble a hot cocoa kit. Purchase your favorite cocoa (or make your own using a recipe like this, then add pretty packages of peppermint or cinnamon sticks stirrers, fancy marshmallows, chocolate curls, and a cute mug or two.
4. Infused Sugars and Simple Syrups – For those on your list who have a sweet tooth, an infused sugar takes only minutes to make, will last a long time on the pantry shelf, and is very versatile. You can use infused sugars to sweeten a cup of coffee or tea, to bake with, or as a substitute anywhere you would sprinkle a bit of sugar. Try infusing a small jar of sugar with a vanilla pod, thin curls of citrus peel (keep the pieces large so they are easy to pick out), or even take cinnamon-sugar to the next level by adding a few pinches of chile powder to taste.
Without much extra effort you can also make an infused simple syrup (great for iced tea, cocktails, or my family’s fave….. homemade shave ice!) by simmering a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. When the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear, “infuse” it by simmering it with a generous amount of spices or herbs of your choice for 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning then strain into small mason jars or bottles with tightly fitting lids.
5. Stovetop Potpourri – Stovetop potpourri kits to bring a little relaxing holiday aromatherapy to an often schedule-packed season. A fresh orange, a handful of cranberries and whole spices of your choice are all you need. Consider a blend of cinnamon sticks, allspice or star anise pods, whole cloves and/or ground nutmeg and be sure to include directions for use. (Quarter the orange then place it and remaining ingredients in a sauce pan. Cover with water and simmer gently, adding more water as needed.)
Voila! Now you’re all set to sit back and enjoy the holidays. 🙂
[This article was originally written for Savvy Source, check out our other articles here where we’ve assembled lots of great round ups, tips and ideas.]