Homemade Holiday Food Gifts

Enjoy the warmth and friendliness of your own home while your prepare presents you know will please.

Amaretti

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Amaretti

Package these crunchy, 5-ingredient cookies in a gift box with a pound of your favorite coffee beans. Look for almond paste on your supermarket's baking aisle, and for best results, don't substitute marzipan, which is sweeter and more finely texture, in place of the paste.

View Recipe: Amaretti

Gingerbread People

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Gingerbread People

For a whimsical presentation, arrange these cookies in a lunch box lined with colorful packing paper. Use a variety of cookie cutter sizes to create “families.” If you don’t want to cut the dough into shapes, roll it into two logs, cover, chill, and slice into 18-inch rounds. Refrigerate the dough up to three days, or freeze up to one month.

View Recipe: Gingerbread People

Sun-Dried Tomato Jam

 Becky Luigart-Stayner

 Sun-Dried Tomato Jam

Spoon this sweet-savory jam into a pretty glass jar, and tie with a ribbon. You can also attach a rosemary sprig and a card with serving suggestions―as an appetizer spread on baguette slices with goat cheese; as a chutney over chicken, beef, or pork; or as the sauce for a pizza with shredded chicken, goat cheese, and chives.

View Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Jam

Chocolate Shortbread

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Chocolate Shortbread

Rich shortbread is easy to prepare and keeps for several days in an airtight container. Softened butter should be pliable but not easily spreadable. Because this mixture is already dark, it’s hard to tell when the shortbread browns. Check your oven temperature using an oven thermometer, and bake just until the shortbread is set.

View Recipe: Chocolate Shortbread

Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Becky Luigart-Stayner

Porcini Mushroom Risotto

To give as a gift, pour rice in a jar and top with dried mushrooms. Bundle the thyme and bay leaf in a cheese cloth sachet, and place in a jar. Along with a copy of this recipe, you could also give a bottle of red wine like Barbera or pinot noir or a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

View Recipe: Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Vanilla Buttermilk Pound Cakes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Vanilla Buttermilk Pound Cakes

You can also prepare these cakes in two (8 x 4–inch) loaf pans. Bake at 350 for one hour or until done.

View Recipe: Vanilla Buttermilk Pound Cakes

Limoncello

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Limoncello

This Italian liqueur is good ice cold on its own, in a lemon drop martini, mixed with sparkling wine, or splashed over a bowl of fresh fruit. Since it takes two weeks to infuse the bracing citrusy flavor into the vodka, start this gift early and decant it into pretty sterilized glass bottles.

View Recipe: Limoncello

Yogurt Cheese Torte

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Yogurt Cheese Torte

Drain yogurt of most of its liquid to create a soft spread similar to cream cheese. One cup of yogurt yields approximately 12 cup cheese. Serve with crackers, croutons, or baguette slices. If you’re planning to give this torte as a gift, layer the cheese and herb mixture in a small glass container that can double as a serving dish.

View Recipe: Yogurt Cheese Torte

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

These are good as a snack or dropped into a mug of hot chocolate. The mixture for the marshmallows becomes quite thick and requires substantial beating time, so you’ll want to use a heavy-duty stand mixer instead of a handheld mixer. Using a stand mixer also makes it safer (and easier) to gradually add the hot gelatin mixture to the beaten egg whites. Use a dough scraper to cut the marshmallows into squares with a quick vertical motion (avoid dragging it as you cut the marshmallows). If the dough scraper sticks to the marshmallows, dust it with powdered sugar.

View Recipe: Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

Cranberry-Sweet Potato Quick Bread

Photo: Howard L. Puckett, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Cranberry-Sweet Potato Quick Bread

As the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea, friends will savor this cranberry-studded quick bread. It’s made with antioxidant-rich sweet potatoes and contains less fat than most tea breads. When served with a glass of milk, a slice also makes for a healthy start to a busy day of holiday preparations. Wrap the loaf in holiday plastic wrap or brown paper; tie with raffia or a colorful ribbon when presenting as a gift.

View Recipe: Cranberry-Sweet Potato Quick Bread

Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

Made with whole-wheat flour, whole-grain oats, antioxidant-rich dried cherries, and dark chocolate, the healthful ingredients in these cookies combine to make delicious treats for a lucky recipient. Place them in a see-through holiday gift bag and then secure with a ribbon to keep airtight. Attach a recipe card so your friends can make the cookies as a snack to start off a healthful new year.

View Recipe: Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies  

Bagels

Text: Serena Ball, RD

Bagels

Restaurant bagels can weigh in at a hefty 350 to 400 calories; but these home-baked bagels, infused with the rich yeasty flavor of beer, are a welcome breakfast treat at just 211 calories. To achieve the signature chewy texture, the bagels are boiled and then baked in a simple process that will warm up your kitchen on a chilly afternoon. Package in a brown paper bag. 

View Recipe: Bagels  

Indian-Spiced Roasted Nuts

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Indian-Spiced Roasted Nuts

The featured nuts in this recipe, almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts are packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin. Antioxidant-rich warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves are sprinkled on the nuts along with just a touch of honey. Pack them in airtight jars decorated with ribbons.

View Recipe: Indian-Spiced Roasted Nuts  

Crispy and Spicy Snack Mix

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Crispy and Spicy Snack Mix

When shopping for ingredients for this zippy snack mix, choose crunchy crackers and cereals made with whole grains. Make the mix especially festive by adding dried cranberries. Allow your kids to help mix up the snack for friends and teachers by scooping into holiday plastic bags and tying with string.

View Recipe: Crisp and Spicy Snack Mix  

Raspberry-Almond Jam

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Raspberry-Almond Jam

Stirring fruit into jam is simple and, when packaged in pretty jars, is a welcome holiday gift. Place the ribbon-decorated jars in a basket and include a note that the jam should be refrigerated. Also include some healthy serving suggestions such as stirring into Greek yogurt, spreading on whole-wheat pancakes, or melt and pour over a fruit tart.

View Recipe: Raspberry-Almond Jam

Maple Chile Popcorn

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Maple Chile Popcorn

Better than the colossal tins of sodium-heavy popcorn, this sweet and spicy treat from your kitchen is packed with the goodness of whole grains. Scoop this snack into individual airtight tins and top with a festive bow.  

View Recipe: Maple Chile Popcorn  

Spicy Pickled Vegetables

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner, Text: Serena Ball, RD

Spicy Pickled Vegetables

Amongst all the sweets and treats of the holidays, these spicy pickled green beans, pearl onions, jalapeño peppers, and carrots will be an appreciated refresher. The crunchy pickles are delicious with nachos, so place jars in a basket with baked tortilla chips and a jar of salsa (and a note that the pickles should be refrigerated).

View Recipe: Spicy Pickled Vegetables

Bean and Barley Soup

Text: Serena Ball, RD

Bean and Barley Soup

A pretty jar of colored beans (and barley) is the gift of time in a bottle. After all, what’s more welcome than helping your friends out with a healthy dinner in a hurry during the busy holiday time? Beans, such as kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and black beans, are naturally low in fat, provide protein, calcium, iron, folic acid, potassium, and contain even more fiber than many whole-grain foods. Write the simple soup preparation instructions on card stock and attach with a ribbon; you could also include a few of the soup spices in zip-top plastic bags. 

View Recipe: Bean and Barley Soup  

Cranberry Curd

Photo: Brian Woodcock

Cranberry Curd

Cooking up a batch of this gorgeous, creamy curd will definitely bring some brightness into the life of anyone who receives it. It's thick and smooth like a cream, but tart and low in fat. It begs to be spooned over rustic whole-grain bread and is delectable swirled into Greek yogurt or oatmeal.

View Recipe: Cranberry Curd

Mailing Food Gifts

Mailing Food Gifts

Follow these tips to ensure your goodies arrive intact:

•  Cool off. Allow any baked goods to cool completely before packaging to prevent moisture from condensing inside the package.

•  Wrap for freshness. Wrap quick breads or cakes in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, and seal inside a zip-top plastic bag. Keep quick breads, brownies, or bar cookies in the pan they baked in, and wrap with plastic wrap and foil; if you can, seal the pan inside a zip-top plastic bag. Place cookies or spiced nuts directly into a zip-top plastic bag.

•  Cushion the food. Place food into one container (a zip-top plastic bag or metal tin lined with tissue paper, for example), and place inside a larger box lined on all sides with crumpled tissue paper, bubble wrap, or other packaging material.

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