Good morning, Washington!
There’s still plenty of time!
This collection of food gift ideas was hand-picked to fit the bill: they all feature seasonal flavors or scents, can be made in bulk, and are a step outside the box of the cookies you make every year. (You should still make those too…I’m all about traditions that evoke those warm, nostalgic feelings!) So grab a friend or prep ’em solo – you can knock all of these out together in just a few hours…use individually as little host/hostess gifts, or make a elegant gift basket for a huge hand-crafted surprise. Check out my Pinterest board for more versions! Click the pics below for the full instructions, and see the spot I did on Good Morning Washington to talk about the recipes!.
1. DIY soup in a jar
You’re giving the gift of warm soup on a cold day…and it’s beautiful to boot! There are lots of great recipes out there for these self-mixed dry ingredient jars, just remember if you go off book that everything you put in should have roughly the same cooking time (ie either all beans or no beans, look for quick cooking versions of grains, and always include some instructions in a note!). Pro-tip: layer smallest ingredients first and the larger ones last; otherwise tiny pieces will slip through layers and mess up your stripes. It has to be functional and beautiful!
2. “Artisan” dark chocolate bark
There are lots of pretty chocolate barks in stores now…and let me tell you, they’re pricey! Here are the secret cheats: you be the artisan, and get a high-percentage dark chocolate bar (I like Trader Joe’s 73% dark bar; $1.99 – and over 70% is where the heart-health benefits are!) and add your own nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, coconut…check your pantry, I’m sure there are lots of things you could add! A sprinkle of cayenne or salt, some leftover candies, or even peppermint tea leaves could be easy adds. Skip melting chips, tempering, and dirtying bowls and just use a 300F oven to melt the bars right in their foil – 3-5 minutes is usually enough to soften! Just make sure you press all the toppings in a bit so they stick. See my full instructions here or do it the old fashioned way.
3. Rosemary-spiced nuts
Another easy diy that has about a million variations to choose from – I like this one because the rosemary is a unique twist, but of course there are gingerbread, cocoa-coated, and candied options that are equally delightful.
4. Coconut-vanilla salt scrub
I have a whole Pinterest page dedicated just to foods you can use for your skin too – but salt scrubs are one of my favorites because they’re SO easy, inexpensive, and darn effective! This one is three simple ingredients: 1 cup of salt (coarser for a foot scrub, finer for hands), 1/3 cup of coconut oil (unrefined), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I keep this one in my shower to use after the soap stage – just rinse with lukewarm water and towel dry for glowing, fresh (and beautifully smelling) skin!
5. Fruit & nut loaf (the REAL fruit cake!)
I wish I could remember who gave me this recipe…like most people, I was not a fan of fruit cake. Especially the weird gummy bits! But this recipe changed my view: they’re delicious and decadent when made with just nuts, dried fruit, and enough flour and egg to hold it together. The recipe easily doubles, so you could churn out lots of mini loaves or a few big ones if you’re hosting. So please, this season give a fruit cake a second chance (and just call it a nut loaf so people aren’t scared!).
- 3/4 c all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 3 cups roughtly chopped nuts
- 3 cups coarse chopped dried fruit
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
Mix flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. Toss nuts & dried fruit in flour mixture to coat. Add brown sugar and mix well, then add eggs and vanilla and use handes to work into a sticky dough. Spray a loaf pan or oil with canola oil, line with parchment, and spray/oil parchment too. Pack the dough into the pan, pressing down until even on top. Bake in oven at 300F for 1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on size of pan. Cake is done when golden brown on top. Tent with foil if it starts to get too dark. Remove from oven, allow to cool,a nd remove from pan to wire rack. Slice when completely cool.
6. Frankincense scented salt-dough ornaments
This one I can’t take credit for…the lovely folks at Simply Earth sent me an essential oil subscription box to try and I simply LOVE it! You can opt for a one-time box, a quarterly box, or a monthly box – all come with a variety of oils, recipes, and other goodies to make their concoctions. This box was perfect for the season: the oils it came with were pine, rosemary, and frankincense, along with an orangey blend called “Happy Joy.” I’m sharing their recipe for ornament dough here because it’s SO easy and the texture is amazing. I decorated mine with stamps, paints, and some little plastic bedazzles. Here’s the process, 5x faster than real time:
- 15 drops Franckincense oil
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup water
Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir continuously and allow to boil until a dough forms. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (I cooled mine wrapped so it wouldn’t dry out). Roll out dough, using extra cornstarch if it’s sticky, and use cookie cutters to make ornaments (I used a chopstick to make the ribbon hole). Dry for 24 hours, flipping after 12. (I also found you could bake them for ~10 minutes at 300F to dry them out enough to decorate; this can cause bubbles in some so drying is preferable!)
Some more shots of my ornaments are below; you should note that Simply Earth gives 13% of its profits to help end human trafficking (I love a company with a cause!) and they’re very passionate about their customer’s experience being positive and engaging. So check them out!