Thanksgiving came early this year in the States, a relief for folks who fret over how to spread cheer through thoughtful gifts for loved ones during the winter holiday season. While I don’t have nearly as much free time for homemade gifts as I did during those halcyon days of my 20s, I do like to try my hand at knitting and food-related gifts when I can. Last year I had time for neither, but I personalized some gifts with DIY wrapping paper.
Since I’m keeping my knitted gifts under wraps this year (unless you follow me on Instagram), I thought I’d share a few homemade holiday food gifts I’m working on to share with friends and loved ones, as well as food-related gift ideas you can purchase for the folks in your life who fall in the “live to eat” camp.
For the intrepid DIY folks who want to create food gifts in the coming weeks, you still have time. First, decide on your angle and then work out the decorative packaging. I’ve always been partial to the mighty condiment, whether it comes in sweet, salty, or spicy form. If you, too, think life tastes better with a sidekick, it’s time to read up on how to make jam/preserves, mustard, or a personalized hot sauce. I’ve made all three this fall (well, the mustard is in progress as I type).
While canned jam is the most persnickety of the three (it’s all about getting that rolling boil hot water bath in your canning pot), all three of these “condiments” have simple recipe instructions and allow for main ingredient variety, depending on what is available at your grocery store this time of year. I can vouch for this peach preserves recipe, this hot sauce recipe, and (I may be presumptuous, but…) this fermented mustard recipe.
If you want to provide more of a “full-package” food experience, homemade cookies (this one, this vegan one, this one, and this one travel well if you’re sending via mail), nicely packaged homemade trail mix and granola (recipe at end of post), and baked treat mixes go a long way in sharing some food love this winter.
Have no time to get crafty this year? There are plenty of food-related gifts worth purchasing.
For loved ones who enjoy a fine cup of coffee, a coffee delivery subscription is a great way to improve someone’s morning and support a small business trying to make it in our hardscrabble world. Check with your favorite local coffee roaster (or one near the loved one’s home) to see if it sells a coffee subscription/membership. (Cameron and I are thinking about getting a a short-term subscription to Corvus Coffee, a small-batch roaster not too far from our neighborhood.)
If a local roaster subscription is not feasible, this site offers some great online subscription recommendations. Also, I’m forever indebted to Stumptown Coffee for introducing me to coffee when I was 22 and was happy to learn they also do coffee subscriptions. (Yes, I was well into adulthood before I drank coffee. I also didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21 years. #iamasquare.) Their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe flipped a switch in my brain that changed my morning wake-up routine and my afternoon writing regimen.
Meal-prep Delivery Services
For the loved ones in your life who value home-cooked meals but have little time to make food from scratch or who have a hard time motivating to make food from scratch, meal-prep delivery services are here to help. From Blue Apron and Green Chef to Sun Basket and Hello Fresh, no matter the dietary restrictions, there’s probably a meal-prep delivery service that would work well for your hungry loved one.
Food Magazine Subscriptions
For the aspiring home chef in your life, a subscription to a food magazine like Bon Appétit is a gift that keeps on giving. If you’re lucky, you might get a delicious thank-you meal for your thoughtful gift.
Useful Kitchen Appliances and Accoutrements
Want to help out a new or well-seasoned home cook? Cooking paraphernalia is a quick way to his or her heart. I try not to buy specialty cooking appliances and equipment unless I know I’ll use it frequently. I also spend time researching any new appliance before I make a purchase to make sure whatever I buy is quality. This dual approach helps me avoid filling up the landfill with an appliance made to break (don’t get me started on the racket that is the modern light bulb.)
When it comes to appliances, you can’t go wrong with a quality blender, food processor, or (big spender alert!) a stand mixer. I have not saved enough pennies to invest in a Vitamix, but we have had good luck with Cuisinart and Ninja blenders. Over the summer I bit the bullet and invested in a Cuisinart food processor, and even with our current hectic (We’re raising an endlessly energetic toddler!) lives, we use the food processor at least once a week to make food prep easier and faster.
As for a stand mixer, we were gifted a Kitchen Aid for a wedding gift, and I have used it for everything from quick sweet treats to fluffed up whipped cream and meringues to yeasted rolls, breads, and pizza dough. (For the amount of homemade pizza we eat in this house, the dough hook on the mixer has paid for itself several times over.)
Another essential to up a loved one’s cooking game? At least one quality chef’s knife. Cameron came with a small set of fancy kitchen knives (it’s not the only reason we got hitched), and a few years ago, he bought me a nice Opinel multi-purpose chef’s kitchen knife. No more sighing loudly when you realize your significant other has snagged the only sharp chef knife in the kitchen.
For dreamy (yet functional) kitchen tools, I inevitably visit Food52’s online shop and imagine how much classier my kitchen would be if I had a pair of matching oven mitts or a stove spoon rest that didn’t come from the dollar bin at Target.
Last but not least, for the home cook on your holiday shopping list who’s in the market for beautiful cookbooks that are filled with easy-to-follow recipes that also taste delicious, check out Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Deb Perelman’s baked good recipes are the best of the best), and Thug Kitchen’s debut cookbook (entirely plant-based). I own copies of each of these books and use them often, and while I have not had time to review more recent cookbooks, I’m excited about picking up a copy of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, so that I can become more confident when cooking without a recipe.
And because I’m making more of an effort to earn money from my writing, if you decide to buy gifts (or anything, actually) at Amazon, please click through the links/banners on my site. It’s confidential so I don’t receive access to your personal information, and you don’t even have to buy the item or service you click on. Just clicking through my site and making your normal purchases provides a small kickback to me on goods and services purchased (at no additional cost to you), which helps pay for my site’s hosting fees and maybe even puts a little money in my bank account. Think of it as a secret Santa gift when you make a purchase via Crafty Cook Nook. As a writer in a world where so few businesses want to pay for well-written and well-edited material, even the small amount of money earned through this site helps me to stay motivated as a writer. Thank you to friends (and strangers!) who already do this, and thanks in advance to anyone who decides to help in the future.
Below you’ll find an easy homemade granola recipe that keeps well in a sealed container and would work great as a wholesome gift for someone who likes a little extra chewiness with their coffee in the morning.
Homemade Coconut Maple Granola
(adapted from a Smitten Kitchen Cookbook recipe)
Makes 7 cups
– 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
– 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
– 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
– 1/4 cup wheat germ
– 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup maple syrup
– 2 TBS olive oil, melted
– 1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins.)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl stir together the rolled oats, coconut flakes, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt. Add maple syrup and oil to granola mixture, and stir to combine.
3. Spread granola in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning pan half way through baking to evenly bake.
4. When granola is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack and cool completely. Once granola is cooled completely cool, stir in dried fruit and transfer granola to an airtight container. The granola will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for up to 3 months.