You’ll be everyone’s favorite guest from now on.
Credit: Getty / Mark van Dam

Spontaneity is a wonderful thing. There is just something a bit extra special when a friend calls up to see if you are free for dinner that evening or the next night. But it also presents a bit of a dilemma. Since you never want to show up empty handed, what to do about a last-minute host gift? There are always the old standbys, a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers, but homemade is always so much better. Here are my three top cheats for wonderful homemade host gifts that are easy enough for last minute soirees!

Pralined Nuts

Be forewarned, these candied treats are deeply addictive! They are also simple to make. You can do it with any nut you like—a single nut like pecans or walnuts, or a mixed nut blend. They also freeze well, so when I make them I often double or even triple the recipe and keep a stash in the freezer for last minute needs. Here's all you do:

1. Heat your oven to 350° with a sheet pan in the oven.

2. For every pound of nuts you want to praline, you will need two large egg whites, beaten until foamy.

3. Toss the nuts in the egg whites until fully coated, then add a cup of granulated sugar and toss to coat.

4. Put a stick of butter on the sheet pan to melt. Once melted, remove from the oven, and carefully spread the nuts over the melted butter.

5. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250° and bake an additional 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the nuts are dry and separate.

6. Transfer to a clean sheet pan and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Spicy Dipping Oil

If you have a bottle of olive oil and some dried spices on hand, you can quickly make a homemade condiment that will elevate everything from dunked pieces of bread to salads. Here are the easy steps:

1. Heat a cup of olive oil to shimmering.

2. Add ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of dried herb blend like herbes de Provence or Italian herbs, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. The herbs should fizzle when they hit the hot oil.

3. Turn the heat off, let the oil cool to room temperature, and transfer to a pretty jar or bottle for gifting.

Citrus Sugar

If you have any kind of citrus fruit lying around, you can quickly whip up a batch of homemade citrus sugar. It couldn't be easier:

1. For every cup of sugar, you want 2 tablespoons of citrus zest.

2. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers or a spatula until the sugar looks damp and is fragrant.

3. You can pack into a pretty jar for use as is, or you can spread it out on a sheet pan and leave uncovered at room temperature for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until it is dry. Dry citrus sugar is pantry stable.