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Gifts From The Kitchen

Looking for creative gift ideas to celebrate the season? Simply turn to your kitchen!

With a little effort, you can give a treasured present that will mean so much to anyone on your gift list. These seven unique ideas are great, economical ways to show how much you appreciate friends, family and colleagues.

Spiced Cancakes

Mini spice cakes are not only baked in soup cans, but the soup in the batter makes them extremely moist and flavorful. For gifting, return the iced cakes to the cans they were baked in then wrap in clear or colored cellophane and tie with a ribbon. Attach a gift tag and a copy of the recipe if you’d like.

Special Seasoning Blends

Create and share your own seasoning blends by purchasing dried herbs and spices from the bulk section of the grocery store then mix and package them in purchased spice containers, metal spice boxes or shaker-type jars (like those used to hold Parmesan cheese at pizza parlors). Personalize the gift even more by creating your own spice labels or stickers for the containers (consider using labels or tags commonly available at an office supply store, they often come with links to online templates that you can personalize). And don’t forget to include a recipe for using your special seasoning!

  • Italian Herb Mix: blend equal parts of dried oregano leaves, dried marjoram, dried thyme, dried basil and dried rosemary together. This spice mix is great blended into marinara sauce or sprinkled over vegetables or Mozzarella Cheese Bread Sticks .
  • Coffee Steak Rub: combine 1 cup ground coffee, 1 cup chili powder, ½ cup paprika, ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup dry mustard, ¼ cup kosher salt, ¼ cup black pepper, ¼ cup ground coriander, ¼ cup garlic powder, ¼ cup dried basil and 3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper for kick (omit the cayenne for a milder rub). The bold flavor of this rub is perfect on thick, juicy steaks for the grill.
  • All-Purpose Barbecue Rub: stir together 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup paprika, ½ cup black pepper, ½ cup kosher salt, ½ cup chili powder, ¼ cup garlic powder, ¼ cup onion powder, 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. This blend is great for chicken breasts or any cut of pork before roasting or grilling.
  • Cinnamon-Sugar Shake: blend ¾ cup sugar with 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Tuck a whole cinnamon stick into each gift jar (use jars with shaker-style lids) to infuse the sugar with more cinnamon flavor. A jar of cinnamon-sugar is great to have on hand for dusting cookies or the tops of pies before baking and, of course, for cinnamon toast in the morning! (Tip: to prevent the sugar from “leaking” out the holes, cover the mouth of the jar with a small piece of plastic wrap before securing the lid. The recipient can remove the plastic before using.)
  • Vanilla-Sugar Mix: coarsely chop a vanilla bean pod and blend with 2 cups granulated or confectioners’ sugar. (Tip: buy vanilla bean pods at specialty food stores, making sure they’re soft and pliable, not hard and brittle.) Let the sugar stand for at least two days to infuse the sugar with the delicious essence of vanilla. Use vanilla sugar to sweeten a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or lemonade, or sprinkle it onto cookies or pastries before baking.
Cookie Vases

Straight-sided round- or square-shaped vases, jars or glasses are perfect containers for gifting holiday cookies. Bake a favorite cookie or bar recipe, shaping the cookie dough or cutting the baked bars to fit inside the vases. Stack the baked goods in the vase, separating them with individual pieces of parchment paper or colored tissue if desired. (It’s best if the cookies or bars have minimal, if any, decoration or frosting on them.) Surround the vase with clear or colored cellophane, tie with ribbon and add a tag.

Share Your Dough

Everyone loves freshly baked cookies, so why not give the gift of ready-to-bake cookie dough? Roll a batch of your favorite cookie dough (such as chocolate chip, gingersnap, shortbread or sugar cookie ) into logs, wrap in plastic and parchment paper , followed by a festive holiday dish towel or wrapping paper, then tie the ends of the logs with pretty ribbon. Attach a gift tag along with a recipe and baking instructions. For a really exceptional gift, give small logs of three different cookie doughs. So the dough stays fresh, it’s a good idea to store the assembled dough in the freezer until you’re ready to give it away. And present them to your friends frozen as well—this way they can store them in their freezer until they’re ready to bake.

Grand Gift Baskets

From soups to snacks, a gift basket based on a simple theme is easy for the gift giver to put together and always appreciated by those who receive it! These three ideas are just a few of an endless variety of options—try these or let your imagination go and see where it takes you!

  • Glorious Soup
    Make a favorite soup recipe, such as French Onion, package it in canning jars or freeze it in individual containers then include a baguette and wedge of Swiss cheese for making the toasts that go on top. Or give Roasted Tomato & Barley Soup, Pepperidge Farm® Baked Naturals™ Wheat Crisps and a wedge of Cheddar or Gouda cheese.
  • A Taste of Italy
    For a touch of Italian flavors at home, package up a jar or two of Prego® sauce along with a pound of artisan-style dried or fresh pasta in any shape and a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. For a bit more money, a bottle of Chianti is a lovely addition.
  • Night at the Movies
    Snacks are the name of the game in this basket! Tuck packages of microwave popcorn inside a theater-style popcorn bucket (available at many hobby and party stores) along with theater-size boxes of candy, individual containers of trail mix and bottles of V8 V-Fusion® juices or V8 V-Fusion® + Tea beverages.
Joy in a Jar

Glass jars of all shapes and sizes make terrific containers for dry ingredients of simple cookies, brownies, pancake, muffin and drink mixes. (Antique stores are great sources for vintage-looking jars and bottles. Check out craft supply stores for more contemporary styles.) Simply measure the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, leaveners, spices, etc.) of your favorite baking recipe into jars—for visual interest, aim for a layered look by alternating light and dark colored ingredients as well as those with texture (chocolate chips, oatmeal, marshmallows, candied chocolate pieces, etc.). Secure the lid on the jar, tie a decorative ribbon around it along with a recipe “gift tag” so the recipient knows what ingredients still need to be added as well as any mixing and baking or cooking instructions.

Another great gift is homemade caramel sauce, hot fudge, even barbecue sauce! Prepare a big batch of your favorite recipe and divide it among small jars then add a personalized label (there are lots of online sources with holiday themed templates), including any suggestions for using the sauce. Let the recipient know to store the gift in the fridge and to use within a week or so for the best flavor.

Or, create your own blend of whole coffee beans! Buy your favorite combination of light and dark roasts, or “half-caf” with a touch of a flavored roast, like hazelnut, from your favorite coffee house, then package the beans in jars. On the gift tag be sure to tell the recipient what your special blend is. (Jars of hot chocolate or mocha mixes make great gifts too!)

For the Hostess

The holidays are prime party season, and it’s not unusual to find ourselves at lots of celebrations this time of year. Of course, a bottle of wine is always an appreciated host or hostess gift, but why not incorporate a little special something from your kitchen along with it? Here are a couple of our favorite ideas:

  • Spiced nuts, pastry straws and seasoned crackers are simple to do in batches, and make a delightful gift. It’s fun to package them in simple, creative ways too: Wrap a small sheet of decorative paper or natural colored parchment around several pastry straws and tie with a ribbon or piece of string. Or fill an inexpensive wine glass with seasoned crackers or spiced nuts wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bit of raffia or ribbon. Include ideas for using the gift on the flip side of the gift tag—“sprinkle onto your favorite soup” or “makes a delicious addition to salads”.
  • Tie a sachet of mulling spices and a recipe for mulled wine onto the neck of a bottle of wine. A few homemade chocolate truffles or candied nuts are a nice addition to the mulled wine as well.