Illustration by Daniel Vasconcellos, vasky.com.
Holiday gifts from your kitchen can save you from mall madness. With a single trip to the supermarket, a stop or two in the craft store, and perhaps some online ordering, you’ll be able to create delicious, personal presents that won’t sit unopened in the closet. And your wallet will be a little fatter, too.
These homemade pantry-inspired gifts are gluten free, but they look and taste good enough for anyone. Presentation is important, too. Look for packaging options at craft and dollar stores and online.*
Sweet and Salty Snack Mix
This snack mix satisfies all your cravings. Kids and adults love it.
Make: Combine 5 quarts plain popped popcorn, 15 ounces EnviroKidz Gorilla Munch and 15 ounces corn chips. Melt two bags (12 ounces each) of white candy morsels and drizzle over the mix, tossing to coat. Spread out on baking sheets and cool.
Wrap: Pack the snack mix in sealed or tied plastic bags or containers to keep it fresh, then put the bag inside a large tin. To make a complete movie night gift, add a popcorn bowl, a DVD or a Red Box gift card (you can order these at redbox.com and print them yourself).
Sugar and cinnamon is a tried and true flavor combination, but you can also find recipes that use herbs and hot spices at sites such as foodnetwork.com.
Make: Whisk together 1 egg white with 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add 3 cups almonds or pecans and stir to coat. Mix together ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and
1½ teaspoons cinnamon. Add to the nuts and stir. Spread in a greased jelly roll pan and bake at 250° F for 75 minutes. Stir every half hour. Nuts will be dry when done. Cool in the pan.
Wrap: Cellophane party bags work well for individual-sized gifts. Package a larger amount in a closed plastic bag inside a tin, box or gift bag. Varying amounts can go directly into canning jars with lids. Add a small serving dish to round out the gift.
Dipped Peppermint Sticks
Old-fashioned red and white peppermint sticks are especially festive when dipped in chocolate and rolled in sprinkles or nuts. Since big gluten-free pretzel rods are tough to find or make, peppermint sticks are a good substitute. You can also make this recipe using Glutino pretzel sticks, but the small sticks take a little more time.
Make: Melt white candy wafers according to package instructions. Dip about half a peppermint stick in the coating and then spoon white or colored nonpareils or nuts over the coated end. Lay on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and let cool.
Wrap: Place in a cellophane party bag, fold over the top of the bag and staple a rectangular piece of red card stock over it. Or place inside a wide-mouth jar with a lid and add red and white ribbon. You can also wrap the peppermint sticks individually for a particularly special presentation. Use the plastic sleeves made for pretzels and sold in craft and confectionary stores and tie the end with ribbon, twine or baker’s string.
Onion Garlic Pepper, a simple seasoning mix that can be used on just about anything, makes a great savory gift. You’ll also find numerous recipes for homemade taco, chili and stew mixes with a simple Internet search. You can also make seasoned salt, meat rubs or mulling spices.
Make: Combine 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon ground pepper and 1½ tablespoons garlic powder.
Wrap: You can buy spice shaker jars at a reasonable price from Amazon.com. Then print and apply labels with the ingredients and suggested uses. Dress the jars up with a ribbon or baker’s string and a tiny bell. If you’re giving a larger quantity, 4- or 8-ounce canning jars are perfect.
Almond and Cherry Clusters
Festive and tasty, these treats are very easy to make.
Make: Mix 2 cups whole almonds (preferably toasted in the oven) and 1 cup dried cherries. Melt 12 ounces of chocolate chips and pour over the nut mix. Stir to coat. Drop spoonfuls onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with a little sea salt and unsweetened shredded coconut. Chill and then transfer to a container.
Wrap: Put the clusters in cupcake liners and package them in a small bakery box. Punch four holes on both sides of each corner of the box and lace a ribbon through the ends, finishing with a bow. For nut lovers, pair with candied nuts; for chocolate lovers, pair with truffles.
*Check labels on all ingredients to make sure they are gluten free.
Linda Etherton has been gluten free since she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2000. She shares gluten-free recipes, menu plans and tips at www.GlutenFreeHomemaker.com