For many, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without sharing sweet treats with family, friends and co-workers. Cookies, fudge, peppermint bark, caramel corn, snack mixes a plenty. What starts out as a couple of plates here and there becomes a spread that will last well into the New Year.
Instead of giving fresh baked goods, consider giving treats that can be enjoyed a couple of months later, when the winter blues have set in. There is nothing like a mug of hot chocolate, fresh baked cookies out of the oven or a pot of soup simmering on the stove on a snow day. Or a dinner ready to pull out of the pantry on a busy weeknight.
A popular food gift is the layered canning jar. Flip through any magazine, web site or Pinterest and you are likely to see many recipes for cookies, brownies, hot chocolate and soup. Canning jars (or pasta sauce jars) are a great way to display layered treats. They are easy for kids to help assemble and make great gifts for teachers and coaches.
You don’t need to search the web for recipes if you already have some family favorites. Use these recipes to make the jars and your friends have the added bonus of getting a time-tested recipe as well as the ingredients to make it the first time!
When preparing the jars, think in layers. Look at the recipe and divide it up by colors. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together before putting them in the jar. If your recipe uses cocoa, put it between the flour mix and sugar layer. Oatmeal, baking chips, candy, dried fruit, and marshmallows also layer well.
Jars are not for desserts alone. Your favorite pancake/waffle mix along with a jug of syrup will be a welcome treat on a frosty Saturday morning. Quick breads and muffin ingredients paired with jam are another welcome treat. Beans, lentils and dried pasta are colorful ways to fill a soup jar for a cold winter’s night.
Finishing touches are simple and make the jar look like it came from a gourmet food catalog. Use pinking shears to cut fabric squares and tie them on the lid with a ribbon for a finishing touch. If you are feeling extra crafty, use holiday fabric to sew bags filled with home-made hot chocolate or mocha mix. Don’t forget to include a card listing additional ingredients required and baking/cooking instructions.
Food gifts are not limited to jars. Themed gift baskets are another great way to give thoughtful gifts. One of my friends is constantly on the road. Her annual gift is a basket with a soup jar, plus all the additional ingredients needed to make it. She can come home and there is a dinner in the pantry waiting for her, no trip to the grocery store needed! I also add a gift card to a bread shop so she can buy a fresh loaf to serve with the soup.
Not a baker or a cook? You can still create a great basket. Pick a theme or a meal and build your basket around it. Take a trip to the grocery store and pick a couple gourmet ingredients that your recipient might not normally splurge on, pasta and sauce, olives and olive oil round out an Italian theme.
Have a family who watches your house while you are on vacation, or a go-to baby sitter? Create a movie theme basket with popcorn and boxes of candy, or a snow-day basket with assorted packets of hot cocoa, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars.
Don’t forget to involve the kids in the process. Picking a theme, selecting ingredients and assembling jars and baskets are all things they will enjoy doing. Have them write a note or draw a picture to include with the gift; it will make it all the more special.
When it comes to food gifts, the options are as endless as your imagination. Forget the gourmet food catalogs, a gift hand selected by you and tailored to the tastes of the recipient will be appreciated long after the holidays have past.
Mary Cornforth Cawood is a Fruita mom married with two daughters. Read her Tuesdays on fruitamoms.com.