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Going the DIY route for gifting this holiday season? Good call. Here's your guide to making (not-lame) food gifts your loved ones will actually use and enjoy. No matter how crafty you are in the kitchen or how limited your budget, we have you covered this year.

Hannah Burkhalter
December 01, 2016

Let me guess. There are a lot of wonderful people in your life you want to give a little something special to this holiday season, but, like most of us, you don't have unlimited resources like time, money, and limitless creativity to make it happen?

 I hear you, loud and clear. And I would advise you to turn to your own kitchen. DIY food gifts are heartfelt for sure, and can be exciting to receive, as well as easy and inexpensive to give. And no, I'm not talking about baking another batch of cookies (look, cookies are great and I'm sure yours are fantastic... but we all have cookies coming out of our ears this time of year). I'm talking edible gifts that are actually useful, and feel special, too. To help guide you to the right gifting option for you, the ideas compiled below are categorized by how difficult and expensive they are to make. 

Syrups and Extracts

Difficulty Level: 2; Expense Level: $$ 

Homemade syrups add instant brilliance to coffee drinks, tea, and cocktails. Give your friends and family natural, delicious flavored syrups that they can enjoy while entertaining during the holidays and beyond. Package your syrup in a sleek, slender glass bottle with a tag. For an extra decorative touch, tie a cinnamon stick to the tag if it's chai syrup, dried lemon for lemon syrup, a honey stirrer for honey, or a sprig of rosemary for an herb syrup.

Syrups last a few weeks in the refrigerator, while homemade vanilla extract will last in the pantry for months. Recipients can actually extend the life of vanilla extract by adding more alcohol to the bottle with the vanilla bean for as long as the bean has flavor to give. For a deeper dive into making your own vanilla extract, read this

Photo: Karry Hosford

 

Dry Mixes

Difficulty Level: 1; Expense Level: $

Homemade cocoa mix is a guaranteed hit for chocolate lovers, families with kids, or teacher presents. You can even include homemade marshmallows. While a homemade dry mix for making waffles is a thoughtful gift that allows the recipient to enjoy a scrumptious and effortless Christmas morning (and really, any morning) breakfast. This makes for a great hostess gift; they took care of dinner and you provide their breakfast the next day. Give dry mixes in an air-tight container, like a Mason jar or a jar with a hinge lid.

It takes only minutes to assemble, but this combo of mini chocolate chips, crushed peppermint candies, cocoa, sugar, and milk powder makes a festive hot cocoa mix that's bound to be one "hot" holiday gift.

Recipe: Peppermint Stick Cocoa

 

Nut Mixes

Difficulty Level: 2; Expense Level: $$$ 

Give the gift of easy entertaining with a killer roasted nut mix. They are a must for cocktail hour, which does and should occur often throughout the holidays. A nut mix like this will stay fresh for a week or two stored in a container with a lid, so the giftee has a fairly wide window to enjoy them. This crunchy, salty snack is perfect to balance out all of the sweets that are out on the table during December, and can be stashed in the freezer if anyone wants to save some for later. 

Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Paige Hicks

 

Granola

Difficulty Level: 2; Expense Level: $$ 

The holidays are hectic and granola makes a versatile gift that comes to the rescue, preventing snack-less afternoons and sad breakfasts. Your friends can eat it with milk, yogurt, alone, or use it to top muffins during the other 30 days during December. Granola is an excellent option for gifting given that the main ingredient, oats, are super inexpensive, it’s easy to make in large batches, and people will actually eat it (unlike the excess of stale cookies they’re racking up right about now). Granola from the grocery store ain't cheap and homemade versions have much more flavor and are endlessly customizable. Granola lasts about 2 months in an airtight container and can also be frozen for later.

Becky Luigart-Stayner; Leigh Ann Ross

 

Popcorn

Difficulty Level: 1; Expense Level: 

Homemade sweet or savory seasoned popcorn is a delicious alternative to those large store-bought, 3 compartment tins of caramel + cheese dusted + plain butter popcorn. If you are nervous about making popcorm from loose kernels on the stovetop, keep in mind that it's basically the same thing as  making it in a microwave. Just remember to remove the kernels from heat after most have popped or if you begin to smell the signature burnt popcorn smell. Popcorn will stay fresh in a tightly sealed container for about 5 days, so this gift be prepared right before you plan on gifting it. Package your popcorn in a tin, paper chinese takeout box, or a sealable bag.

Photo: Kate Sears; Styling: Elizabeth Blake

 

Appetizers and Dinner Mains

Difficulty Level: 3; Expense Level: $$ 

Give the gift of an easy dinner the week after Chirstmas. Homemade marinara means that only noodles are needed and homemade soup means that only a salad is needed for a complete meal. And sometimes a break from the kitchen is just the thing a busy friend wants most from Santa this year. Any shortcut you can provide that will make getting dinner on the table or entertaining guests  during the holidays easier will be greatly appreciated. Deliver a sauce or soup in a large sealed, clear jar that reveals the delicious contents. Include a tag with suggested sides or quick encouragement to relax.

Photo: Jonny Valiant; Styling: Blake Ramsey Murray

 

Sweet Sauces

Difficulty Level: 2; Expense Level: $

Rather than giving another baked good, give them something to make the desserts they mae even better. Homemade fudge and caramel sauces can be incorporated into pie, brownies, coffee drinks, ice cream, and hot chocotale to make these treats even more delighfully decadent. Give your sauce in an airtight jar and let the recipients know that their can sauce can be refirgerated for up to 2 months.

Photo: Daniel Agee, Food Stylist: Rishon Hanners, Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

 

Nut Butters

Difficulty Level: 2; Expense Level: $$$

These nut spreads feel like a very special gift and bring spunk to everyday foods like biscuits, toast, cookies, crackers, and more. They can also be used as a part of a sophisticated appetizer while entertaining. Before you get started, be sure to read up on our pro-tips for making flawlessly smooth nut butters at home. If you wanted to go above and beyond, you could gift a jar of nut butter with a batch of our All-Purpose Entertaining Crackers

 Photo: Greg Dupree

 

Jam

Difficulty Level: 2; Expense Level: $$

Preserves are chunks of fruit jarred in juice, syrup, water, or jam. Jam is is fruit cooked with sugar, acid, and a thickener so that its more spreadable. Either way, they're fruity, sweet, and pretty easy to make. Jam makes a good gift because it lasts and it's not something that people commonly take time to make for themselves. Friends can enjoy it at breakfast with toast, biscuits, and bagels or serve it on a cheeseboard during cocktail hour. Not to mention, a homemade jam could inspire some extra-awesome thumbprint cookies being made. If you seal the jar, a homemade jam lasts up to a year. Once it is open and the seal has been broken, the jam should be refigerated and used within the month.

Photo: Gentl & Hyers; Styling: Kendra Smoot

 

 

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