Gift Givers, Start Your Ovens...
What's the perfect present? One that won't need to be returned. Last year it was the shirt in the wrong color; the holiday before, there was the book he already owned. But we have a solution: seven easy recipes guaranteed to please even the Scrooge-iest people on your list. "Finding presents for people who have everything can be a real challenge," says Liz Pearson, who developed the festive recipes on the following pages. "So I do food gifts—it's so much easier and less stressful. Everyone eats."
Even the process of shipping breakable, perishable items can be mess-proof if you keep these recommendations in mind: First, let everything cool completely. "Don't jump the gun; that's when things smear and break," Pearson says. Then make sure you have a container that's functional (food-safe and airtight) and nonbreakable. Next, arrange the food snugly inside—cookies packed too loosely are likely to arrive as crumbs—and put the container in a shipping box with plenty of packing material, like Bubble Wrap.
Want one more excuse to clear your countertops and spend a few hours in the kitchen, listening to holiday music? "People remember the gifts you made yourself—and remember you for them," Pearson says. "It's a sure bet."
A taste of summer's best and brightest flavors, strawberry and lemon, is a welcome gift in cold winter months. (The secret is in the freezer aisle—this recipe uses two bags of frozen berries.) Skip the traditional canning process and simply refrigerate the marmalade in glass jars. Tie a ribbon around the neck, and add a thinner metallic twine on top for extra glitter.
Get the recipe: Strawberry–Lemon Marmalade
Mixed Bean Soup Mix
Layers of chickpeas, cranberry beans, lentils, curry powder, and herbs are artfully arrayed in a tall glass jar, and presented along with a duo of vibrantly colored spoons. The mix is made to be cooked with aromatic coconut milk and vegetables for a hearty, warm-you-up dinner.
Get the recipe: Mixed Bean Soup Mix
Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola
Commercial granolas are often full of fat. This homemade version is healthier, with a mix of old-fashioned oats, pumpkin puree, olive oil, nuts, and dried fruit. To make these festive boxes, deconstruct a Chinese takeout container by pulling out the wire handle, then glue decorative paper on the inside. Trim excess edges with an X-Acto knife, then reassemble the box. (If the glue and paper are not food-safe, first put granola in a plastic bag.)
Get the recipe: Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola
Orange-Scented Scottish Shortbread with Dark Chocolate
This giant cookie breaks into wedges come dessert time, but the real magic is in its few, yet decadent, ingredients: just butter, sugar, orange zest, chunks of dark chocolate, and flour. If you're hand-delivering, present the cookies on vintage plates, found at flea markets and garage sales.
Get the recipe: Orange-Scented Scottish Shortbread with Dark Chocolate
Butter Toffee Nuts with Sea Salt
Pecans, walnuts, peanuts, and pine nuts are swirled with luscious butter toffee, then topped with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. A large handful fits in a gold origami box (available at KatesPaperie.com
) lined with tissue paper—just the right size for an afternoon treat.
Get the recipe: Butter Toffee Nuts with Sea Salt
Gingerbread and Lemon Sandwich Cookies
A tower of gingerbread and lemon sandwich cookies is wrapped in parchment paper, then tied with baker's twine in a contrasting color.
Get the recipe: Gingerbread and Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Dulce de Leche Pound Cake
Make this dulce de leche pound cake in mini loaf tins for easy wrapping: Slide the cake, tin and all, into a cellophane bag, then close with a ribbon.
Get the recipe: Dulce de Leche Pound Cake
Create Your Own Cookbooks
A compilation of favorite recipes is a gift that keeps giving long after the snow melts. Jot down directions (and related memories, like when the oven caught fire while Grandma was making her famous roast chicken) in a notebook, or try one of these websites for professional-looking results (allow a week for processing and shipping).
- TasteBook lets you use tested recipes from popular Internet sites, browse those uploaded by other site members, and build your own library for future use (from $20). (From $20; TasteBook.com)
- The super-customizable program on Lulu offers several bindings and sizes (including a purse-friendly wallet option), an easy-to-fill-in template, and millions of photos. (From $15; Lulu.com)
Bonus Web-Exclusive Holiday Recipes
Goat Cheese Flatbreads with Red Onions and Cherries
Ginger-Scented Grape Upside Down Cake
After-Dinner Cream Mints
Plus: 8 More Easy Homemade Gifts
- Download Blurb's sophisticated (and free!) design program, or hire a pro from their directory to help you take your recipes from box to book. If the recipient has a favorite food blog, you can download entries from it for a print edition. (From $5; Blurb.com)