We’ve all received the dense fruit cake or the processed cheese and sausage gift box set. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the gesture, but it’s just that those gifts aren’t cheap…but they so often go to waste. This year, give your friends, family, and coworkers gifts they will actually use, and as they do, they’ll think fondly of you for thinking practically. Never underestimate practicality in gift giving.
Photo credit: SprinkleBakes.com
Did you know making homemade vanilla is super easy and delicious? Yep, it only takes two ingredients, a cute bottle, and a little time. And who doesn’t use vanilla? Even your non-foodie friends use vanilla sometimes. There are tons of recipes for homemade vanilla online, but I’m kind of in love with the special touch of the wax seal Sprinkle Bakes uses on her bottles. For a simple gift like vanilla, the packaging goes a long way in making it feel especially special. Get a head start on this because the longer it sits, the darker and richer the flavor gets. 8 weeks is optimal, but don’t let that stop you from gifting it. Just stick a “Best after” date on the bottle.
Spices and Seasonings
The last few years, I’ve picked up a few of my favorite spices and given them as little stocking stuffers for the moms in my life. In past years I’ve given smoked paprika, chipotle powder, my favorite curry powder, smoked salt, and saigon cinnamon. If you have a favorite recipe that uses a unique spice, print the recipe on a cute note card and tuck it in a basket with the spice and maybe one or two other staple ingredients. Or you can make your own spice blends, such as Taco Seasoing or Steak or Chicken Rub. Put them in a cute jar and your friends will love you for it. This BlogHer post has links to lots of different homemade spice blends.
Photo Credit: Cory Baldwin and Saveur.com
Homemade Irish Cream
This only keeps for two weeks, which makes it the perfect gift for your teacher friends to enjoy over Christmas break! It would also be a great hostess gift for a holiday party. Much like a bottle of wine, hosts will often open it at the party to be enjoyed by other party guests too.
Cocktail Gift Baskets
Last year, I gave my son’s preschool teachers these Pomegranate Spritzer gift baskets with all the ingredients, including homemade simple syrup, to make a refreshing holiday drink. I didn’t include alcohol and it’s totally optional for the recipe I attached, but you could always add a small bottle of rum for friends who you know enjoy a little pizazz in their spritzer. And you can’t go wrong by adding a cocktail glass full of chocolate covered almonds. One of my son’s teachers sent me a picture of her and her husband toasting in the New Year together with the cocktails. How’s that for a meaningful gift?
Try a mojito gift basket with limes, simple syrup and fresh mint plant. To really impress, add a muddler and a tall thin tumbler.
Simple syrup, like I used in the recipe above also makes a great stand alone gift. You can infuse it with all sorts of flavors like mint, lavender, or orange, or just gift it plain in a pretty bottle. It’s great to have on hand for sweetening iced tea, coffee, cocktails, and more. It will keep for at least a month in the refrigerator.
Homemade Beef Jerky
Instead of one of those processed meat and cheese platters, how about some homemade beef jerky? Alton Brown has never failed me and his recipe for beef jerky using flank stank is rated five stars and includes a unique alternative to a dehydrator using a boxed fan and air conditioning filters (though some commenters give oven directions too, if you’re not into building contraptions and don’t have a dehydrator).
Photo credit: Jose Picayo and CountryLiving
I would guess that most people have never tasted a real homemade marshmallow, which makes this gift idea especially unique. Country Living.com has recipes for plain, chocolate, coffee, and peppermint marshmallows. Pick one or try all four!
Rachel Randolph is a mom to a busy toddler boy and a wife to an even busier high school football and baseball coach. She is co-author ofWe Laugh, We Cry, We Cook, a food memoir written with her mom, and their upcoming book Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness, and a Full Night’s Sleep(Zondervan, January 2015). She also blogs at www.TheNourishedMama.com and www.laughcrycook.com.