During the holidays, making homemade treats to give to friends and family—or to that UPS guy who carries heavy packages to the top of your stairs—captures the spirit of the season. But with nearly endless to-do lists, time can get away from you. If you want to give something from your kitchen but don’t have the luxury of time, focus on easy DIY recipes that deliver on flavor, and try our foolproof packaging ideas to make it festive.
In short? Forget about making hand-stamped wrapping paper and three kinds of complicated chocolate bark (unless that’s your specialty). Thoughtful giving is the point, not perfection! The best part of this whole idea? You’ll delight those around you and have time and patience to spare—a surefire way to end up with the happiest holidays ever.
1. Go granola
Who wouldn't want to receive the gift of an easy, delicious breakfast? Homemade granola is foolproof to make (okay, just don’t forget to set the oven timer) and easy to package in self-sealing jars, which are practical, pretty and ideal for reuse.
2. Quick breads
Another great option is baking quick breads with decadent flavor twists that suit the season: cinnamon pumpkin, zesty orange studded with walnuts or double chocolate with dried cherries. To wrap a loaf, use parchment paper (it’s wider than waxed paper and folds more effectively), tie with kitchen twine, and attach a rustic craft paper label.
3. Savory rubs
Big batches of hand-mixed seasoning make a terrific gift that lasts long past the holiday. Whether it’s a spicy jerk rub, a flavorful barbecue blend, or a delicious Mexican fajita seasoning, your handiwork will draw oohs and ahhs when the fragrant spices are opened. It’s just the thing to help friends make an everyday meal of ribs, steak, chicken or fish into a finger-licking good dinner. Spice jars (think five ounces) are generously sized but not so large you can’t fill them to the top—if you’re feeling ambitious, nestle three together in a handsome rectangular basket.
4. Holiday cookies
Sugar cookies with festive sprinkles are a delicious classic but can be brittle and easily broken. As an alternative, try buttery shortbread or almond biscotti, which are sturdy enough to survive any hand-off and keep well in the pantry. Nestle the treats in tins lined with parchment simply tie them with a ribbon. Or, if your kiddos are budding artists, take advantage! Making high-quality custom stickers featuring a holiday drawing or photograph is easy through online vendors, and they make an adorable way to decorate tins.
5. Delicious snacks
Candied pecans with a touch of cayenne, whole almonds with fresh herbs, cashews with salt and chili powder—the only sure thing about snacks like this is that you’ll be asked to make them again! Package simply in mason jars or look for rectangular tins with hinged lids; the type with a clear window on top will show off your mouthwatering recipe. Savory popcorn salts are also an easy gift. Make a trio of options, like cinnamon sugar, savory herb and spicy Cajun, and package them in small ribbon-tied tins.
6. Sweet toppings
If you happen to have a stockpile of homemade jam in your pantry, package it for the ideal handmade gift. If not, don’t fret! Delicious dessert sauces, like hot fudge or even homemade Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread), offer another excellent option. Simple recipes are easy to find online, and making them takes a fraction of the effort of canning. Plus, they taste absolutely decadent! Package it in small clear glass jars with ribbon attached at the neck, and be sure to label whom it’s from so your handiwork doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Kate Chynoweth is a former editor at Chronicle Books and Girl Friday Productions, and was the food editor at Pittsburgh Magazine. She has written several books on food and lifestyle, including The Bridesmaid Guide.