Wow your friends and family with yummy homemade goodies that show you care (even if you can’t bake!)
Tech toys and designer duds make great gifts, sure, but nothing says a sincere “Happy Holidays” quite like homemade treats. “It’s like giving those you care about a little piece of yourself,” says Heidi Larsen, the creative force behind the FoodieCrush blog and online magazine.
Want to give the homemade-gift thing a whirl but aren’t thrilled to create the same old cookies or candies? Get your gift list ready, because we’ve got mouthwatering ideas that manage to be unexpected and impressive. Best yet, many require zero culinary skill. Now that’s the stuff happy holidays are made of!
Coffee cake in a mug: Start with your favorite coffee cake recipe and a festive, microwave-safe mug. Spray the mug with cooking spray; pour your batter into the mug, leaving room for the cake to expand; sprinkle the top with brown sugar and cinnamon; and microwave on high for about 45 seconds. (Since microwave ovens vary, you’re wise to do a test run. Adjust the cooking time in 10- to 15-second increments.) Let your creation cool for a few minutes, but while it’s still warm, wrap it in a cellophane bag, tie it up with a pretty ribbon, and attach a gift tag. Great for: teachers, bus drivers, mail carriers
Roasted veggie chips: Scrub, trim, and peel an assortment of root veggies (sweet and white potatoes, celeriac, parsnips, turnips, purple or golden beets, carrots) and slice them thinly, about ⅛ inch thick. Soak the slices in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes (this helps them crisp up later). Pat dry with a paper towel. Brush or spritz the slices on both sides with extra virgin olive oil lightly season them with salt. Bake in a 425°F oven, turning every 5 to 10 minutes, until crisp and golden, 15 to 30 minutes. Note: Some vegetables will cook faster than others, so keep a close eye on the oven to avoid burning. Allow the chips to cool; then pack them in a holiday tin lined with parchment paper. Great for: the gang at the office
Infused sea salt: In a food processor, pulse to combine 1 cup of coarse sea salt with 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves and the zest of one lemon. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and heat it in a 170°F oven for 2 hours, stirring often. Cool; then transfer the salt to pretty jars with handmade or computer-generated labels. (Other seasonings to try include fennel, lavender, other fresh herbs, and garlic.) Great for: your hard-to-buy-for aunt or sister
Spiced citrus olives: In a bowl, combine Kalamata and green olives (about 1 1/3 cups total) with 2 teaspoons each of thin orange and lemon zest strips, 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves, and ⅛ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate the olives overnight (or at least 2 hours); then carefully transfer them to a gift jar. Note: These need refrigeration, so time your giving accordingly! Great for: your sophisticated neighbor
Brunch in a box: Dress up a batch of basic biscuits by adding two or three of slices of cooked, crumbled bacon and a splash of maple syrup to the batter. A fresh-fruit cup, flavored butters and jams in cute containers, fresh-squeezed juice in a pretty bottle, and some flavored coffee (make your own by adding a couple teaspoons of pumpkin- or apple-pie spice or cocoa to a 12-ounce bag of ground coffee) round out this clever gift. Put some oomph into the presentation by lining your gift box or basket with a seasonal vintage tea towel or shredded holiday wrapping paper. You can also add your recipient’s favorite Panera Bread® breakfast treats, such as Cinnamon Crunch Scones and Bagels. Great for: a hostess gift