Looking to give something different this year?

Make your own themed gift baskets

We all go through the usual holiday gift-giving dilemma: What to give that will be appreciated but not too expensive. Well, we have a few ideas. 

In previous years we’ve talked about homemade holiday food gifts like easy hot chocolate mix, infused oils, flavored spirits and the usual cookie tins. This year, we hit upon another good idea. 

Make your own gift baskets that give the receiver everything needed to make some good snacks, entertain guests or just enjoy. You do not need to put them into a basket. You can use a simple box and cover it with holiday wrapping paper and ribbon if you want to get fancy. 

Family Favorites. Big chocolate bars and artisan cheeses and crackers highlight this theme. Add in a box of mixed nuts, a small jar of gourmet jam or something else that goes with it all. Choose items that will keep without refrigeration.

Local Goodies. Does your hometown have any specialty items that are unique? Those items make a good gift basket, especially for friends and family that have moved away. Get a few items, add a couple of gift cards and send it off. Very easy. For example, if I were to choose a Saint Louis theme, I would include a gooey butter cake mix, Provel cheese, Volpi sausage and a gift card for Cardinal baseball memorabilia. Or maybe a few bottles of a local beer, some Gus’s Pretzels and homemade mustard. 

DIY Cookie Kit. This one will require a few supplies, but it is great for those with small children. A craft store should be able to give you some important ingredients. First, you need a cookie jar with an airtight lid, a clear one is preferred. From the craft store, you need little 4-ounce squeeze bottles and 2-ounce portion cups with lids. Next, you need various kinds of sprinkles and colorful icing. And finally, you need some sugar or gingerbread cookies, preferably homemade. Put the sprinkles in the portion cups and icing in the squeeze bottles. Stack the cookies in one column into the jar, then a stack of the sprinkles cups and three or four of the icing bottles. Repeat for the other jars if any.

For some DIY baskets, you might need to add some directions and/or a grocery store gift card for any perishable items needed. Like the next two ideas. 

Home Baked Jelly Donuts Kit. A reusable well-sealing jar filled with a donut baking mix is the centerpiece here. Surround it with jars of interesting jelly or jam and a jar of icing or powdered sugar. A gift card will help the receiver buy the fresh ingredients in this recipe: milk, eggs and butter. Include a pastry bag for filling the donuts. 

Lasagna Anyone Kit. Instead of a basket or box, this one is great for giving someone a nice casserole dish. Start with a 9-by-13-inch casserole and some packing, like leftover Easter grass. Add in a can of spinach, a jar of pasta sauce, some jarred sliced mushrooms, a jar of minced garlic, a box of regular lasagna noodles, Italian seasoning, a recipe and a gift card for the fresh ingredients. 

The Holiday Cheer basket uses a bottle of wine and other goodies for a festive gift. You can make it a mulled wine kit by adding some spices, apple cider, juice,  honey and cognac to be heated gently into a good winter cocktail.