I’m a big fan of homemade food gifts, which in my mind include alcoholic items, condiments, spices, etc. In fact, my mom recently told me that one of her favorite gifts in years past was a jar of Bronzed Chicken Spices that I mixed together in a big batch and doled out to family members along with the recipe. Mom said it took the hard part out of making a yummy dinner, and it was a thoughtful and helpful gift. Bonus! That conversation greatly influenced my selections when I sat down to choose the items in this year’s Foodie Gift Guide. It can take just pennies to make a gift that’s likely to end up as someone’s favorites list this year, so why pick products that cost a fortune, no matter how cool they are? Sure, we’d all like to have a fancy mixer or espresso machine, but in today’s economy, a nice whisk or a pound of good coffee are just as welcome. So here’s a baker’s dozen of food and kitchen items that you can either make as gifts this holiday season, or pick up without emptying your larder, er, pocketbook. (Puns definitely intended!) I’d love to hear about other gifts you plan on making or buying for the foodie in your life. Please tell us about them in the Comments! Merry merry, happy happy!
Homemade Vanilla I tried this last year after we ran a how-to article in Craft, Volume 07. It was surprisingly easy, and I found organic vanilla beans for a great price on eBay. It needs to sit several weeks, so start this soon if you’re going to give any as gifts. Homemade Coffee Liqueur A few years ago we made two different versions of coffee liqueur, dutifully marking them brew #1 and brew #2. Some recipes call for instant coffee and some call for a pot of brewed java. The bad news was that we forgot which recipe went with which number. The good news was that both batches were tasty, and our friends and family really appreciated the gift, especially when certain name brands can be quite pricey. This also needs to sit for a month, so factor in the time this needs to sit on the shelf aging to perfection.
Russian Doll Measuring Cups Can you imagine anything cuter?! Buy one for your best friend and one for yourself! Available at Fred Flare for $16. Limoncello Ciao Chow Linda is one of my favorite Italian food blogs, and her recipe for homemade limoncello, a lemony liqueur, is a great example of her friendly recipes and lovely photographs. You’ll need to let this age on a shelf for several weeks, so if you start the process too late and still want to give some limoncello as a gift to your favorite foodie or alcohol aficionado, try Danny DeVito’s (yes, that Danny DeVito) own organic limoncello elixir.
Chalkboard Tablecloths and Placemats Chalkboard cloth has joined the ranks of chalkboard paint and custom refrigerator faces, and adds even more possibilities for fun at the dining room table. I first found out about this phenomenon on The Kitchn website, and thought their idea for taking notes on the tablecloth at a wine tasting was genius. And these awfully cute $12 placemats on Etsy will come in handy for all the holiday traveling we’re doing this year!
Blooming Tea A marvelous stocking stuffer is this Chinese blooming green tea. Budding Flower is made of green tea leaves painstakingly scented with fresh jasmine then hand-tied over a perfect globe amaranth and a single chrysanthemum. This tea “blooms” as it steeps, offering a magnificent show for the lucky gift recipient … or guests at your holiday gathering. And for less than $11! Ideally brewed in a glass teapot, both are available at Far West Trading Company (and, don’t miss the hand-blown double-walled glass cups). (BONUS! Craftzine readers, use coupon code SHIPFREE when purchasing $25 or more, and gift wrap for only $5) Garlic Masher or Mojito Muddler You can’t get much cheaper than this — free being the operative word. Take a walk on the beach or in the woods, and watch for driftwood and sticks of a certain shape and size. I’ve had my “garlic masher” piece of driftwood for literally 15 years, and the only maintenance it requires is very infrequent oil rubdowns. I’ve used another piece of driftwood as a mojito muddler for about 3 or 4 years, and it works great, too!
Bittersweet Chocolate Tiles and Artisan Chocolate Bars This chocolate maker hits the mark with delicately engineered flavor combinations developed over a period of years. These tiles are gently embellished with superior quality ingredients like ginger, almond, burnt caramel, and salt (yay!). The most complex and satisfying might be “Aztec Chile,” which contains a hint of cinnamon, green chile powder, and pumpkin seeds. Order a box of 16 tiles (excellent hostess or corporate gift for $34), or buy a single tile ($2.50) at farwesttradingcompany.com. If you’re looking for artisan chocolate in the more traditional bar variety, check out their selection of Amano and Patric, two U.S. chocolate makers who produce from “beans to bar” in small micro-batches.
Hand-Painted Glasses and Bottles For our first wedding anniversary, my mom hand-painted 2 champagne flutes and a bottle of champagne with roses, hearts, and our wedding date. We used the empty bottle for years after as a vase. Last year, she sent us some hand-painted martini glasses, and a few summers ago she and I spent a weekend painting clear bottles we found at antique stores. All you need are some glasses, paint made for painting on glass, some brushes, your imagination, and usually an oven. If you don’t want to paint freehand, tape a piece of art to the inside of the glass as a template. Microplane Rasp My mom often buys my sister and me the latest, greatest gadget to hit the kitchen store aisles, and remarkably, a large percentage of her gifts are an improvement on some older tool. The microplane rasp is one of my favorites, and one of the most indispensable tools in my kitchen. You can use it for grating hard cheeses, lemon zest, chocolate, ginger, and nutmeg, as well as grating garlic cloves (although I have yet to try this method). Buy one for your sister who’s just moved into her own place, or as an “I’ve finished my holiday shopping!” reward for yourself if you don’t already own one. A single rasp will run you about $15 whether you get it at a big box store or at a kitchen boutique.
Hot Chocolate on a Stick This idea is amazingly ingenious and so nice looking! You can make your own, which sounds like fun and gives me an excuse to use my Ikea ice trays that never really worked when I tried to make frozen straws. Or you can buy them ($9.50 for 6) from SweetNuzz on Etsy in three decadent flavors — toffee, dark chocolate mint, and milk chocolate. The possible present-giving scenarios that spring to my mind include stocking stuffers (my own included), hostess gifts, and office parties. Yerba Mate They say yerba mate, a herb brewed like tea, has caffeine that affects the circulatory system. Instead of a buzz you get a physical calm with heightened mental prowess. The smoky astringency is sure to please, and this wild harvested whole leaf variety is not the traditional grocery store mate. It’s available as “original” or scented with spearmint, chai, and more, at Far West Trading Company. Each packet is less than $4 and might just be the perfect stocking stuffer you’ve been searching for.