So-called DIY (Do It Yourself) gifts are increasingly popular in these days of fiscal austerity. Creativity is stepping in where once the mighty credit card stood. We feel this should apply to food as well. In fact, we think homemade food gifts can be the most delightful and welcome. After all, you don’t have to worry about sizes or returns. More than likely, you won’t be repeating someone else’s gift, either.
One of the best food gifts you can give is something preserved with home canning. There was a time when such gifts were common. The only problem here is that you have to plan ahead. This could be a good idea for next year, but you’re running out of time for this year, even if you had the locally-grown produce to use.
Cookies are a popular holiday gift. If you’re thinking along these lines, look into some types of cookies that are not the usual. Fortune cookies aren’t too hard to make and you can include lots of homemade fortunes geared exactly to your recipients. Know a busy mother who needs a little help now and then? Make some of the fortune coupons to exchange for babysitting or play dates. Is your boyfriend or girlfriend the recipient? Make fortunes expressing your feelings and offering romantic evenings. Just remember to write out your fortunes ahead of time, because you’ll need to work fast when they come out of the oven.
Also, avoid cookies that need refrigeration or that might touch off an allergy reaction.
Even the smallest apartment can handle a small window herb garden. You can use a series of little clay pots (with saucers) containing common herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, or cilantro. If you can find a long ceramic or clay tray, even better.
How about a meal in a box? Load it with cheese, crackers, smoked salmon, nuts, bean dip, tortilla chips and salami. Throw in a bottle of wine and you’ve not only got a nice gift but maybe a suggestion for a quiet evening.
Or you can do a breakfast basket, with teas, gourmet coffee beans, dried fruit, homemade granola, rice or soy milk, muffin or scone mix, honey, and fresh oranges or grapefruit.
If you know someone who enjoys ethnic or unusual flavors, you can put together a gift bag with all the hard-to-find ingredients, ordered over the Internet or from a specialty store. This shows that you gave your gift some thought, which will always mean a lot. For example, you can put together a bag of Latin flavor with homemade salsa, tortilla chips, mole sauce with a recipe for a favorite dish, and a bottle of tequila with some fresh limes.
For the busy Bachelor, you can do a dried soup mix in a jar. Just mix together dried alphabet or other small pasta, bouillon granules, dried split peas or small beans, barley, rice, and spices like dehydrated onion, oregano, basil, and parsley. Add a label to the jar with instructions and suggestions for fresh add-ins.
We have plenty of other ideas. If you have some, leave us a comment.