Finding the prefect holiday gift doesn’t have to depend on grabbing a doorbuster sale or an Internet deal. Often, the best gifts are those handmade from your kitchen.
The tradition of baking and gifting cookies may be the first culinary gift that comes to mind, but I urge you to think beyond the cookie jar. Get creative. Bake tea breads or muffins using seasonal flavors as pumpkin, cranberry or dates. More experienced bakers can bake fruit stollens or cakes; both are a welcome change from the usual holiday cookie box.
I'm a fan of cheese, gourmet mixes and sauces. Consider making a flavored cheese or create your own spice rubs for steaks or barbecue, then package your culinary gift in a decorative jar/container. Remember to tag what the food gift is and include a recipe or serving suggestion before tucking it in a basket or gift bag.
Before doing any holiday cooking and heading off to the store to buy your ingredients, check the pantry. Use the items you have on hand. Perhaps you have a few cans of pumpkin or fresh cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving.
Now is the time to inventory your spices. You might have the makings for a great seasoning rub just waiting to be mixed and gifted. Check your supplies first, then shop. This tip that could prevent you from over buying ingredients you may have forgotten you already have, which in turn will save a few holiday dollars.
Assembling a collection of family heirloom recipes is another gift to consider. You'll be happy to have them one day.
“I’ve lost a lot of recipes through the years,” said Pat Insalaco of Oakville. “ We just didn’t take the time to write them down. I wish I knew how my grandmother made her pierogi dough. I would give anything to have that recipe.”
Self published cookbooks become family treasures as Hard Rock Café manager Chad Grimm can attest. A few years back his family collected recipes and created a cookbook that was given as Christmas gifts. “That cookbook has the best recipes. I always cook from it,” said Grimm, of St. Louis, who considers his family’s rural recipes a vital element in the preservation of his heritage.
The holidays are the perfect time to solicit those cherish old recipes. Ask family members to write down their favorite recipes and email them back. With self-publishing software it’s easy to make a booklet of recipes to gift before the holidays are past.
Celebrate the season with homemade gifts you can savor. And don’t forget to include the recipes. It’s the only way to ensure the tastes of Christmas present will be carried on to Christmases yet to come. The following recipes are from my holiday classes presented at St Louis Community College and Dierberg's School of Cooking.