Lovingly packaged homemade edibles are truly personal gifts. Recipients will know that your tender loving care has gone into their homemade food gifts. And you'll benefit as well: by making gifts at home, you get to avoid bad weather, crazy traffic and the crowds at the mall.
Gifts that are going to be shipped will require special attention during the packaging process. If you're shipping biscotti or other cookies, they can go into tins or into reusable containers made from dishwasher- and freezer-safe number 5 plastic. Put a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper between each layer of cookies. Ship the tin or container inside a sturdy cardboard box. If you're not reusing a box you already have, look for a shipping box made from 100 percent — or a very high percentage — post-consumer recycled material. Cushion the contents with repurposed packaging material, such as yesterday's newspaper or some plastic grocery bags, to protect them from jostling during shipping.
For gifts that you'll be dropping off with the neighbors, packaging your homemade food can be as simple as paper bags tied with ribbon. Fold the top of the bag over two times, punch a hole in it, loop some ribbon through, and tie. Tie ribbons around labeled jars of chutney or preserves. Basic preserving jars are available at supermarkets and hardware stores; they're inexpensive and can be reused in all sorts of ways once the contents have been enjoyed. You might want to also include serving suggestions with your homemade food gifts; for example, the simultaneously sweet and sour chutneys below are great with cheddar cheese, on sandwiches, and with grilled meats. Be sure to alert recipients to the fact that their chutneys and preserves need to be refrigerated.
The Rodale Recipe Finder has lots of great ideas for edible homemade holiday gifts. Here a few standouts to try this weekend; you can also search for recipes for all sorts of cookies, pies, breads, snacks and more.
1. Chocolate Almond Biscotti. Since biscotti are great for dipping, package these festive, crunchy Italian cookies with cocoa mix or a pound of coffee beans. For more biscotti recipes, try Hazelnut Cappuccino Biscotti and Almond-Orange Biscotti.
4. Apple Butter. Dark, rich and spicy, apple butter is basically applesauce cooked down and reduced until it's thick and highly concentrated. It makes a great topping for toast, yogurt or cottage cheese.
5. Candied Spiced Nuts. Sweet and spicy nuts are always a hit. Spiced Nut Clusters have additional pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. For a more savory offering, make Spicy Roasted Nuts, Curried Peanuts or only slightly sweet Chili-Roasted Peanuts with Cilantro.