Cooking Tips · Techniques

Great gifts from your own kitchen!

I have written prior Cooking Tips on great stocking stuffers for a cook as well as culinary books that would make a great gift. Those contain wonderful ideas but sometimes the best gift is one you make yourself in your kitchen. Yes, you can certainly go with cookies, brownies or bread. However, why not try something a bit different? That is the subject of this Cooking Tip. Read on for some great suggestions for all cooking levels.


Probably one of the easiest holiday food gifts is nuts. Not just plain nuts but flavored nuts. You might want to flavor them with sweet and holiday-like spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and orange. Or, you might want to go the savory and even spicy route. Any nut can be used but almonds, pecans and cashews are especially tasty. Flavored nuts might be made stove-top or in the oven or sometimes, a combination of the two methods.


Another easy but impressive food gift is chocolate bark. Melt your desired chocolate, pour into a lined pan and smooth out. It is fun to do two layers – one of dark chocolate and one of white. Also, add-ins make all the difference. Try crushed-up peppermint canes, dried fruit or nuts. Some people even add potato chips or breakfast cereal. Not sure I would like the latter but someone would.

Use a good quality chocolate and not a chocolate coating. Ideally, you would temper the chocolate but I have found you can get by without this step. Just realize that the bark might melt a bit in your hand and not be quite as shiny.

Hot Cocoa Bombs

These became popular a few years ago and are still going strong. They do take a bit more work but are worth it. You will need some sort of mold that you use to make the exterior shell. Once again, I prefer to use a great tasting chocolate but that does require the tempering step. If you are not into that, try a quality coating chocolate such as Ghirardelli or Merckens.

Put whatever hot cocoa mix you like inside but to make it extra-special, make your own mixture and use that. Mini-marshmallows are a must for most people. Decorate them as you wish, box them up and watch the smiles!

Hot Cocoa Mix

It is so easy to assemble your own hot cocoa mixes using quality cocoa and chocolate. When packaged festively along with directions on how to use, it makes a great gift.

Toffee and Brittle

These are a bit more labor intensive and definitely require the use of a candy thermometer. For those of you who live at high altitude, take a look at this Tip for adjustments you will need to make. These two items are very similar with the major difference being that toffee uses butter whereas brittle usually does not or at least not as much.


Take a break from the candy-like gifts and give something like a homemade chutney. Chutney is a savory condiment typically made from fruits, veggies and/or herbs with vinegar, sugar and spices.

I make a great holiday-themed chutney with fresh cranberries, apples, raisins, sugar, orange juice and fresh ginger. Not only is it delicious, it also looks very festive especially when packaged in a beautiful gift jar.

Spice Mixtures

If you have read my Cooking Tip on spices, you will know I prefer to make my own spice mixtures rather than buy pre-made ones. Why not take that a step further and package up your favorite mixtures as gifts? It can be anything but a BBQ mixture is always popular. Other possibilities are Jerk Seasoning, Fajita Seasoning, Cajun Seasoning and Lemon Pepper. You can get pretty little spice jars and make your own tags to make this gift extra-special.

Flavored Syrups

A sugar syrup is just a mixture of sugar and water that is cooked until the sugar is dissolved. When you add things such as candied ginger or herbs to it, it takes it to another level. Or, use a fruit juice such as pomegranate juice for all or part of the water. Give your gift recipients ideas on how to use it such as in drinks or drizzled over ice cream or desserts.

Homemade Marshmallows

If you have never tasted a homemade marshmallow, you need to make some just for yourself. After you do, you will see how they could make a delightful holiday gift. They are so different than store-bought ones both in terms of flavor and texture. For more info, see this prior Cooking Tip.

These ideas just scratch the surface of Homemade Holiday Food Gifts. Let me know if you try any of them or have your own favorites. Your friends and family members will thank you!