Homemade holiday goodies are hard to beat and they bring good cheer to all who receive them. Who doesn’t enjoy something that is made with love and care? We all have our favorite cookies, bars and candy recipes that we go to when we want to create some good cheer. However; it’s really fun to step outside the box and give some food gifts that might be unexpected. Here are a few of my picks this year.
Starting at the top left Chocolate Dipped Apricots with Nuts, Vanilla Sugar, Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Seasoning Mix, Blueberry Pecan Pancake Mix, Apricot Thyme Glaze, Chocolate Dipped Figs with Nuts, Chocolate Peanut Butter Dipped Pretzels and in the center Sugared Cranberries. This is a long post so you might want to grab a cup of something hot right now, sit back, relax and take it all in!
Dried fruits are natures candy. Although they are amazing as is, they can be made extra special by dipping them in a little melted chocolate and rolling in chopped nuts. Choose your favorite chocolate, milk, semi-sweet, white or my favorite dark chocolate. Then choose a favorite nut, toast them if you wish and chop them. Many health food stores sell dried fruits in the bulk bins and they are a good value when purchased that way. Last year Marisa posted a photo of chocolate dipped figs on her blog Loser For Life and I thought it was a brillant idea. I have dipped other dried fruits in chocolate and even carob chips but never figs. I love how the dried figs stand up so pretty and look amazing once plated.
Look how adorable these dipped apricots are. Try rolling them in pistachios or pecans, they taste as good as any candy bar but are much healthier. A plate of chocolate dipped dried fruits makes a delicious gift alone or pair it with a package of your favorite coffee or tea.
Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
- 2/3 cup chopped nuts - your choice – toasted or not
- dried fruit such as figs, apricots, pineapple, mango (about 24 pieces depending on the size)
Line a cookie sheet or a large tray with wax paper, parchment paper or a silpat mat. Place chopped nuts in a shallow container and set aside.
Melt chocolate in a microwave safe dish – microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring every 15 seconds until chocolate is melted. Time will vary depending on your microwave. Or you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler on the stove top.
Working with the dried fruit one piece at a time, reshape the piece of fruit if needed, holding one end dip into the chocolate about halfway, letting the excess chocolate drip off, roll in the chopped nuts, place on prepared pan. Repeat until all fruit has been dipped. Let sit in a cool place to set the chocolate, for a quick set place tray in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then remove and keep at room temperature.
At this time I only have the nutritional information for the figs using semi sweet chocolate.
Per 1 fig: 90 calories, 4.5g total fat, 1.5 g sat fat, o mg cholesterol, o mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 2g fiber, 1 g protein WWPP 2
Recipe inspired by Marisa and Whole Foods.
Sugared Cranberries are little gems that go “pop” when you bite into them! Don’t tell anyone what they are – let them discover the joy of eating these all on their own. Sugared Cranberries are super easy to make but do require a little time.
It alls starts with a hot simple sugar syrup that the cranberries get to hang out in overnight. This simple step seems to tame their tartness.
Once drained the berries are dusted in superfine sugar and let to dry. If you don’t have superfine sugar no worries – you can make some by putting regular sugar in your food processor for about a minute. How cool is that!
Leave them on a tray sitting out at room temperature for several hours or overnight.
They look like frosty little berries and add so much color and variety to a dessert or appetizer buffet. Not only are these tasty and fun to eat but they are super economical to make and only require two purchased ingredients. I bought a huge 3 pound bag of cranberries at Costco for only $2.50. These are best eaten within a few days of making them. So if you want to gift them be sure to wait and make them just a day or two before you plan on delivering them.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups fresh cranberries ( I used 3 cups of berries)
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar
Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.
Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place (not the refrigerator) for up to a week. The reserved syrup can be used again to make another batch of sugared berries. Just heat it up again. Or it can be used as a cocktail mixer.
Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup) (12 servings if you use 3 cups berries)
CALORIES 118(0.0% from fat); FAT 0.0g(sat 0.0g,mono 0.0g,poly 0.0g); PROTEIN 0.1g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 2mg; SODIUM 0.0mg; FIBER 0.9g; IRON 0.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 30.4g WWPP 3
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2003
My friend Maggie who is an amazing chef and caterer shared some vanilla beans with me that were gifted to her. They are the most amazing soft, fresh and fragrant vanilla beans I have ever used. The aroma is intoxicating to say the least. Hubby Tom came into the kitchen and caught me inhailing the aroma coming from the jar of vanilla beans! What can I say – I love it! Vanilla Bean sugar has been on my list of things to make forever and now I wish I had done this a long time ago!
First it’s super easy to make and second the flavor is amazing! If you have a baker on your gift giving list they would enjoy this special sugar. Give them a large jar filled to the brim so they can bake to their hearts content.
Even non bakers will enjoy a little jar of Vanilla Bean Sugar to add some sweetness to their coffee, tea or a little touch of vanilla goodness in their morning oatmeal. Little glass jars like this are available for around $1 each. Check at Cost Plus World Market, Target, Whole Foods, Walmart and stores that carry housewares. Make up a nice little gift basket with a bag of coffee, tea or a package of steel cut oatmeal and of course a jar of Vanilla Bean Sugar.
Vanilla Bean Sugar
2 vanilla bean pods
3 cups sugar
Slice vanilla beans lengthwise, scrape the seeds into a bowl with the sugar. Using a wire wisk incorporate the vanilla bean seeds until it is well mixed. Transfer to a clean, dry, air tight glass container, adding the vanilla bean pods. Secure with the lid. Allow to sit for several days. The flavor becomes more intense as it sits.
Note: I have read that if you use the seeds for a recipe you can still make vanilla sugar from the pods – it will take a little longer for the flavor to develop but it will still work. Add the empty bean pods to a container of sugar and allow the flavor to develope for a few weeks.
Vanilla Bean Sugar can be used for baking sweets, sprinkled on the tops of scones or muffins before baking,stirred into coffee, hot or cold tea, used in hot chocolate or to add sweetness to hot cereals.
Sometimes it’s nice to give non sweet food gifts. They are always well recieved as everyone seems to be on a sugar overload during the holidays. How about homemade hummus with pita chips, homemade salsa - Easy Red Salsa or Adan’s Grandma’s Green Salsa with a bag of blue corn tortialls chips, Cornmeal Scones with a honey butter. Divide the recipe for the Gorgonzola Fruit Torta into two containers and give each one along with some water crackers on a holiday plate. For the calorie watcher on your list give them a bag filled with Baked Kale Chips, a jar of Spicy Roasted Chickpeas and some Cuties Mandarin Oranges. I could go on and on but you have probably run out of your hot beverage at this point in time! Ha ha! This was starting to become another one of those “epic” posts so I am making it into two posts! The rest of the recipes will be up over the weekend.
I have been busy in the kitchen this week! No – my Christmas cards are not mailed they are still untouched! I might get to them this weekend. The Christmas tree is decorated so I am making progress. A little stop off at Trader Joes is on my list today. It will be crazy busy there but I have to do it. Crowds and long lines make shopping a chore but you have to expect it this time of year.
Wishing you a lovely weekend!
Add Your Thoughts
Do you have any savory food gift ideas to share?
What are you having for Christmas breakfast and dinner?
I always make a big breakfast for Christmas morning including Aebleskivers and Carol’s Shortcut Eggs Benedict. I just get finsihed cleaning up from that when it’s time to start dinner. This year I want to do something different for our main meal. Katy suggested we all make our own pizzas. We could have the dough and toppings ready and let everyone get creative. Or we might have a big pot of soup with some savory scones. I don’t know yet.