Rather than throwing precious money at anonymous retailers, consider making gifts yourself. In a world that’s pre-made and mass-manufactured, handmade gifts have even greater charm and significance. There are many thoughtful gifts you can make right in your own kitchen, costing just a little money, inspiration and creativity.
A gift from the kitchen is a particularly thoughtful gift for those who may not have the time – or inclination – to cook, bake or create for themselves. Many years ago, I received – as a gift – a book called, “Gifts of Good Taste,” by Anne Young. It contains recipes (and creative and attractive representational ideas) for gifts you can create in your own kitchen, running the gamut of sweet to savory flavors.
My favorite recipe from the book is for Keeping Cake. I like to present it to friends because it incorporates seasonal flavors (cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves…), makes a tasty, wholesome breakfast or snack and keeps well past the holidays (thus its name).
3 cups cranberries (rinsed and divided)
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon grated orange peel
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup sour cream
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups cranberries, sugar and orange peel. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until berries pops and mixture thickens (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Chop remaining cranberries and add to the cranberry mixture; cool.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, beat eggs with sour cream. Stir egg mixture into dry mixture. Stir in butter, cranberry mixture and pecans. Pour batter into two greased and floured 8 ½ x 4 ½ loaf pans and bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the pans 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on wire racks. Wrap cakes in aluminum foil and allow to age 1 week. The flavor will continue to improve over several weeks. The cakes will keep for up to 3 months in a cool, dry place.
Yield: 2 cakes
To help get your creative gift-giving juices flowing, the book also includes recipes for homemade:
Pancake / baking mixes
Candies and Fudge
Seasoned oils and vinegars
Marinated vegetable blends
Flavored butters and spreads
The best gifts appeal to the recipient’s senses: In addition to edible gifts, many people make lovely and fragrant homemade candles and soaps from the kitchen. A particularly lovely idea is a growing gift. Plant herbs in an appropriate container, like a coffee cup or soup bowl as a gift of flavor.
Perhaps these ideas will inspire you to create your own gifts from the kitchen. If you have a “gift” for creating something wonderful in your kitchen, you can create your own homemade gifts. Your talents and creativity are a gift you can – and should – share at the holidays and all year around. It’s the most affordable – and ultimately the most thoughtful – way to give gifts.
What gifts could you cook up in your kitchen?