Edible Gifts

‘Tis the season for that dreaded and sometimes painful ritual of exchanging gifts, faking surprised joy at unfortunate choices such as underwear and socks, and later making covert exchanges for things slightly less loathsome. As much as I try to appreciate how “it’s the thought that counts,” I can’t help but think of each Hannukah party with vague trepidation, even going so far as to practice my “happily surprised” face in the mirror before leaving. Though things have certainly improved since previous years, thanks to the advent of this little thing called the internet, where I have a handy little wish list all set up to direct those well-meaning but misguided gift givers. I, however, have found that the tables have now turned, and I’m on the other side of the equation, awkwardly handing out presents that may or may not hit their mark, sometimes to comical degrees of failure.

So here I sit, right on the precipice of holiday baking, utterly unsure about where to begin. There are the relatives, friends, and coworkers, all so completely different that they each may as well have a magnetic force that repels them apart, so impossible would it be to ever see everyone in one place together. No matter, there is one thing that unites them; a love, or at least appreciation, of good food. Figuring that just about anything homemade, sweet, and delicious couldn’t go too far wrong it’s just a matter of narrowing down the options…

Caramels are always a nice choice- Easy to make scads at a time, and very adaptable in terms of adding flavors for your own unique spin, too. This recipe has served me well before, with the simple substitution of soy or coconut creamer for the cream, and margarine for the butter. Already fantastic as is, I can’t help but toy with the idea of using molasses instead of corn syrup, with the addition of a hefty dose of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Gingerbread caramels, anyone?

Of course, there’s always the classic brittle, simple enough to whip up in about 5 minutes and always well received (baring nut-allergies, naturally.) The original peanut is definitely tasty, but my Pistachio Chai version (recipe in Nov/Dec VegNews) was such a hit around the house, and the warm spices are perfectly appropriate for winter, this might be the perfect thing to make in mass quantities.

Having recently received the above peanut butter cups myself from the ever-thoughtful and talented Mimi Clark, I remembered how absolutely wonderful such a simple treat can be. Hers were near flawless, perfectly tempered and with just enough salt in the filling to really bring out the fresh peanut flavor- It’s the little touches that really count. These would be fantastic to make and give as well.

Two years ago, I made my family members their own full pans of cinnamon rolls, nestled into cute little brown and gold paper rounds and topped with sticky maple glaze. Though they wouldn’t travel or ship as well as many other options, they were met with such rave reviews, I feel practically obligated to mention them once more.

Oh, and how could I chat so long about homemade gifts without mentioning the chocoholic’s holiday staple, fudge! Also infinitely adaptable, easy to store, send share, and makes about a million servings per pan because just a little square should do you. This one is simple enough to whip together at the last minute, even for someone a bit more challenged in the kitchen.

Speaking of all this candy, don’t forget that any Halloween candies can easily be converted into a more seasonally appropriate treat, too. Imagine how wonderful it would be to discover a Cashew Joy in your stocking on Christmas morning! Just pick out festive wrappers and bags to present your goodies in, and no one will be the wiser.

It seems silly to suggest cookies, since they’re probably the first thing that anyone considers, but it’s worth poking through the archives to unearth a few gems. Turns out, I have two types of peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies with a malty twist, spicy animal crackers, ultra-chocolatey little numbers, rocky road bars, and even some biscuits for the four-legged friends among us. And that’s just on this little old blog! For more options, my favorite online recipe resources is VegWeb, and they have cookies galore to choose from.

Now, I know that some people on your gift list can be tricky, and claim to not have a sweet tooth. Craziness, I know! Anyway, you can still humor them and make them something they’ll enjoy, too. A homemade blend of dukkah would be just lovely, and especially well-suited to someone who likes to cook and may come up with creative uses for it. Along those same lines, homemade spice mixtures are great for the “cook with everything,” because while they may not buy such things for themselves, they really are fun and convenient to have around. Plus, you may even be able to introduce them to new flavors altogether! Don’t forget to toast your spices and grind them yourself to make the mix extra special and flavorful.

Well, those are the first things I can think of off the top of my head… but I’m still not sure what I’m what to make!  What are you cooking, baking, and giving this year?

45 thoughts on “Edible Gifts

  1. This is a great post. I’m super broke this year and thus am resorting to edible gifts for a pinch of people. So far, all I’ve come up with is candy cane brownies and gingerbread biscotti, but these ideas really help fill in the gaps.

    Also, anyone trying to give festive edibles on a budget: the dollar store is a veritable wellspring of seasonal tins, boxes, wrappers… – basically, cheap easy (and often surprisingly tasteful) ways to dress up any treats.

  2. Those are some really awesome suggestions, Hannah! I think I’ll go for the caramels this year. I know that many of my family members will love them.

  3. Whoever gets your goodies is lucky!

    I’m making granola and banana nut bread for gifts this year, nothing as awesome as your stuff:)

  4. We’re tight on money this year so people are mostly getting food. My father-in-law is diabetic so he’s getting his usual fruit bag (I just go and buy some winter fruits and he doesn’t have a stocking so he gets a pillow case), and then some home made soup mixes in a jar because he’s a bachelor who doesn’t cook.

  5. I love doing homemade treats myself. I usually go for themes. Last year was chocolate so I gave my coworkers homemade chocolate liquer and truffles.

  6. Spice mixes! What an awesome gift idea! Thank you, thank you! I am totally using that one. I have been starting to make a variety of chocolate truffles, as well as some infused vodkas for gifts this year. The vodka looks really pretty in nice glass bottles.

  7. Great gift ideas. I’d been thinking about making caramels this year–there are so many different recipes in all the magazine. I love the molasses idea, I might have to try it out!

  8. What a perfectly timed post–thank you!

    Do you have a favorite brand of unsalted margarine to use for the caramels? I’ve yet to stray from Earth Balance but don’t know if a substitution of salted margarine would work (I’m a novice candy-maker).

  9. I love all these wonderful gift ideas, YUM! I’ve never made edible gifts before, it sounds like a lot of fun to make them with my son. Thanks for sharing such a fantastic idea, Hannah:)

  10. Great ideas! The pistachio brittle looks delicious. I’m giving away lots of little jars of jam I made last summer. They make great gifts–compact, easy to pack, and everyone loves them. I’ll be making even more next summer!

  11. Homemade vanilla extract is what I’m going with this year – it’s hands-down better than storebought, and so much easier than people think! I’d be happy to receive any of your choices though :)

  12. Thanks for featuring my chocolate peanut butter cups, Hannah! We made a gazillion of them in my Holiday Gifts class yesterday. BTW, I have been successfully substituting brown rice syrup for corn syrup in candy recipes. -Mimi

  13. All of your edible gifts look so good I wouldn’t know how to choose…. I do have a weakness for peanut butter cups though- but I would be afraid to make them as gifts because I would end up eating way too many before I sent them out.

  14. oooh penut butter cups for me please, oh wait, no, the nut brittle. No, no, no, the fudge- WAIT the cinamon rolls. Great ideas all of them. I can’t decide on one.

  15. I always love getting homemade gifts such as these. I think they are my favorite gifts to give as well. Thank you for the great ideas!

    1. I’m trying to switch things up this year, from the usual cut-out cookies, random quick bread, and whatnot… I’ll definitely be making that brittle and candy cane fudge (and the peppermint latte patties from VegNews!). But there is one staple that if I didn’t include, would likely elicit disappointment from all my friends and family — chocolate crinkle cookies! One batch makes a ridiculous amount (like 60 or something), they’re easy to make, and everyone seems to love them!

      Thanks for so many awesome ideas!

  16. I’m drooling! (no, literally). Such amazing sweet treats! I think molasses/spice caramels would be heavenly-and there would be no need to feign happy surprise! Can’t wait to see your recipe (hint, hint). ;)

  17. Love, love, love the gingerbread caramel idea!! I have to try that with my caramel recipe. Were you thinking of replacing all the corn syrup or just some? I bet it would awesome with nuts mixed in!!

  18. I was at Mimi Clark’s Holiday Treats and Gifts class where we made her Peanutbutter Cups….so nice to know the easy secrets behind making these elegant little things now! I’ll be making a bunch for friends and neighbors, with Trader Joe’s awesome organic peanutbutter.

  19. I think baked good’s and/or candy/chocolate makes the best gifts, because its thoughtful and considerate and who doesn’t love sweet goodness!
    I have years in the past and will this year as well, pass out chocolates and candies to families and friends as gift’s from the heart instead if something that has no thought to it at all.

  20. Thanks for such a great post! This really helped me on picking my gifts :)

    A couple of questions for you on the fudge:

    Do they have to be stored in the fridge & how long do they last?


  21. Great ideas!

    FYI you can replace the corn syrup in caramels (and most other candies) with agave as it works as an invert sugar to prevent crystallization. I used it for my salt caramels and it worked great.

  22. Your pistachio chai brittle looks absolutely amazing. I would love to try the recipe, but I have no idea where to find VegNews in Australia.

  23. Where can I find the recipe for the pistachio chai brittle if I don’t have the copy of veg news? It sounds amazing!

  24. Gingerbread caramels sound like they’d be amazing! Lots of great gift ideas here. I thought about making caramels but didn’t end up doing it.

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