To fill up the gaps in your holiday gifts this year, try adding some homemade items to the mix. Homemade gifts are the best gifts, particularly if they taste delicious or add a bespoke kick to your holiday cocktails. The ideas below are simple, inexpensive, and most of all, thoughtful. A homemade gift shows the recipient you put in extra time and effort, and they’ll appreciate the delicious departure from the usual monotony of holiday gifts.
Brittles: This recipe is so versatile; you can add any combination of nuts, chocolate, even peppermint candy canes to the mix. Try the combinations below to get you started. Just lay your chosen ingredients evenly on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, then evenly pour the toffee caramel “brittle” mix on top to bind them all together. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup butter, and 1/3 cup water. Bring ingredients to a boil, and whisk constantly for exactly 12 minutes. That’s it! Refrigerate or freeze the brittle to set, and then break into piece
o Chocolate Pecan & Salted Toffee Brittle: 1½ cups chopped pecans, 6 oz. milk chocolate bars, chopped, 1tsp. sea salt
o White Chocolate & Peppermint Brittle: 1 cup finely chopped candy canes, 3 (1.55 ounce) white chocolate bars
o Toasted Cashew & Bacon Brittle: 2/3 cup cashews, toasted, 8 oz. bacon, cooked till crispy, then crumbled
Compound Butters: Mix up any flavor combination you like to give gourmet flavor to just about any dish on the table. These make the perfect gift for a novice cook looking to expand their repertoire, or anyone short on time to spend in the kitchen. Just add the below ingredients to one stick of softened unsalted butter, then roll into a log, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate. To gift, wrap in parchment and add a note with serving suggestions. They keep for 2 weeks in the fridge, and several months in the freezer
o Bacon-Bourbon Butter: 1 slice bacon, cooked and minced, 1tbsp. bourbon, 1-tbsp. maple syrup, 1tsp. brown sugar, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. black pepper. Note: This is outrageous on pancakes and waffles
o Lemon Herb Butter: ¼ cup mixed herbs (try basil, parsley, tarragon, thyme, chervil, rosemary (sparingly!), dill, or chives, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest. Delicious on fish, steak, vegetables, you name it
o Chipotle Lime Butter: 1 chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce, minced, 1 tsp. lime zest, 1tsp. lime juice, 1 tsp. kosher salt. Takes pork chops and corn on the cob to a whole new level
Infused Spirits: You can go about this gift countless ways. My holiday favorites are Cranberry-Lime Gin and Vanilla Vodka, but use any flavor combinations you like
o Cranberry Lime Gin– fill up a large Mason jar with halved cranberries and the zest of one lime (use a peeler to get big strips). Add 1 tbsp. sugar, and fill to the brim with gin. Seal tightly and shake it up!
o Vanilla Vodka is even easier- just run a knife length-wise down two vanilla beans, put them in a large Mason jar, and fill to the brim with vodka
o “Mulled Cider” Bourbon: Fill up a large Mason jar with two cinnamon sticks, broken in halve, 1 tbsp. cloves, 2 clementines, quartered, 1 vanilla bean, halved, and 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger. Fill to the brim with bourbon
o Shake these every day for a week or two, and gift them with a tag detailing a possible cocktail recipe for their gift. The Cranberry Lime Gin shines when mixed with ginger-ale and a wedge of lime, and the Vanilla Vodka tastes delicious mixed with champagne and a splash of pomegranate juice for a fun celebratory cocktail. The “Mulled Cider” Bourbon is great with cider, served warm
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