Easy Food Gifts
Date Quick Bread with Pecan Streusel
Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels
F&W’s Grace Parisi experiments with ever-versatile caramel to make these chewy candies.
F&W’s Melissa Rubel Jacobson sets out bowls of flavored ganache and dishes of coatings so guests can create their own truffles to give as gifts.
Apricot Pâte de Fruit
In France, pâtes de fruits (fruit jellies) are sold in high-end pâtisseries or pastry shops. The French roll them in sanding sugar, which has large crystals that cling to the candy without melting. Table sugar also works, as long as the jellies are rolled in it just before serving.
To preserve the garlic, Grace Parisi simmers the cloves with dried red chiles and fresh thyme in olive oil under tender, then packs them in the oil. Mash the garlic confit in butter and spread it on bread or slip it under chicken skin before roasting.
Graham Cracker Pound Cake
This clever pound cake, from Megan Garrelts, has crushed graham crackers in the batter. Garrelts serves it with sage-glazed figs and spiced walnut gelato. This cake is already easy to make, but omitting the figs and gelato makes it easier still.
Mom’s Nutty Granola
This granola recipe from Jessamyn Waldman’s mother is more nutty than sweet. Says Waldman, “I love it because I’m not a sweet breakfast person myself.”
Spicy Herb Salt
The flavor of sturdy herbs like thyme and rosemary is too strong for pesto, but it works beautifully in a seasoning salt. The mildly spicy salt is delicious rubbed over big cuts of meat like leg of lamb or thick steaks, but it’s also terrific sprinkled on buttered bread or corn on the cob.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Emily Kaiser Thelin devised this simple, fail-safe recipe while living in Oakland, California, with two excessively productive Meyer lemon trees. Likely a cross between an orange and a lemon, the Meyer lemon give this sweet-tart marmalade a bright citrus flavor.
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles Rolled in Spices
Black Pepper Jerky
Real beef jerky isn’t a smoky stick of preserved mystery meat. Rachel Graville’s handmade versions are an exemplar of the artisanal-jerky trend. This classic recipe gets a double dose of peppery flavor from both cracked peppercorns in the marinade and coarsely ground peppercorns on top.
Brazilian Pecan-Cinnamon Truffles
Aged Gouda Biscotti with Walnuts
These crunchy biscotti are surprisingly rich-tasting thanks to aged Gouda and chopped walnuts. Try other hard cheeses, too, like aged Prima Donna, a lighter Gouda-style cheese from the Netherlands.
Best-Ever Nut Brittle
Tina Ujlaki adapted this crunchy, buttery, slightly salty brittle from a recipe by pastry chef Karen DeMasco. When her children were younger, Tina would make it as a holiday gift for their teachers.
Roasted Fresh Chile Salsa
You can think of this salsa as a not-too-smooth, fresh version of your typical rusty-orange hot sauce—fresh chiles replace dried ones, fresh lime juice replaces vinegar. The roastiness of the fresh chiles adds sweet richness, plus a powerhouse of heat should you choose a chile like cayenne or habanero. The not-too-hot jalapeño is a good chile to start with, as you’re getting to know this approach to salsa; its natural, juicy sweetness makes a salsa that’s well rounded and utterly delicious—a favorite of market stall cooks in Guadalajara.
Perfect Blueberry Syrup
A huge virtue of homemade syrup is that, unlike the store-bought kind, it can taste much more like fruit than sugar. This blueberry syrup will last long enough to give as gifts during the holidays; simply transfer it into tall, pretty bottles using a funnel and store it in the refrigerator.
Dark-Chocolate Bark with Walnuts and Dried Cherries
Beauty Guru Bobbi Brown finds that a small piece of bittersweet chocolate is the perfect indulgence. Not only is dark chocolate full of antioxidants, it is mood enhancing in its own right. This recipe, from F&W’s Grace Parisi, gets an extra boost from walnuts (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids) and dried cherries (high in fiber and minerals).
Spicy Dill Quick Pickles
Ginger Sandwich Cookies
Nick Malgieri adds a puckery note to his gingersnap cookies by sandwiching them with a fresh lemon cream.
Store-bought mulling spices are often muted. In this vibrant version, oranges and fresh ginger are dehydrated and blended with whole spices. Each spice packet is designed to flavor one bottle of apple cider or a soft, fruity red wine, such as Zinfandel.
Crispy Whole Wheat-Maple Crackers
These sheets of pastry are made with maple syrup and sprinkled with maple sugar, then broken into shards.
“I like to take something that’s generally ordinary and do it really well,” Bronson van Wyck says about these nuts. “With cinnamon, salt and sugar, they hit a lot of spots on the tongue.”
Soft Apple-Cider Caramels
These chewy treats are like caramel apples in candy form, combining the tangy-sweet flavor of cider with buttery caramel. To create your own spin on them, use a flavored apple cider or add different spices, like ground ginger or black pepper.
Aunt Julia's Barbecue Sauce
Linton Hopkins’s aunt Julia—“my paternal grandmother’s sister-in-law,” he says—made giant vats of this barbecue sauce on her farm in Alabama, then drove around delivering it to everyone in her extended family. Hopkins likes to spoon it over coffee-cured pork shoulder. “To have a meal in the South without roast pork is not really a meal,” he says.