Holiday gift list. Those three words can make me more stressed out than hearing “OMG! You borrowed my shirt again without asking!” I honestly do not love trudging around shopping malls, looking for parking and standing on looooong lines at this time of year. I would rather sit in my pajamas with a cup of tea and order gifts online like a civilized person. And even better is being in my kitchen cooking up something delicious for the special people in my life. That, to me, is a pleasure.
Today’s Five Friday Favorites are the edible gifts I love to give during the holidays. Everyone will love receiving these treats and you don’t have to worry about things being out of stock or not arriving in the nick of time. You can also make everything organic and with the natural ingredients you would want to share with people you care about. Go put on your slippers and some relaxing holiday music and get busy!
Biscotti are perfect cookies to give out as gifts because they are hearty by nature- they are actually meant to be slightly dry and can last for over a week in the pantry! This ensures that your recipient will have plenty of time to indulge in these tasty treats. Biscotti are perfect for a dunking in a morning cup of espresso or a late sweet liqueur nightcap- both of which take place frequently during the holidays. Their unique shape lends itself to fun gift packaging, so you can really make these cute with a little cellophane and ribbon. Or arrange a bunch in a lovely mug and wrap it all up. My favorite biscotti of all time are these gingerbread biscotti, which couldn’t be more perfect for the holidays!
Other biscotti recipes that look great:
Deep Dark Chocolate Biscotti with whole wheat flour, flaxseeds and almonds at Cooking Light
Whole Grain Cinnamon Nut Baby Biscotti from King Arthur Flour
Nut and Seed Biscotti from 101 Cookbooks
Gluten-free Lemon and Pecan Biscotti from Gluten-free Girl
If you are short on time, chocolate bark is just about the simplest and quickest treat you can make plus everyone LOVES it! I think chocolate bark of any kind looks so pretty and is fun to break off and eat piece by piece. There are two ways I make bark — either by stirring some of the ingredients into the melted chocolate and sprinkling some on top or just sprinkling everything on top. I like a little mixed into the chocolate, personally.
I like to stick with dark or semisweet chocolate since those contain less sugar than milk chocolate. I also prefer using organic chocolate which should be guaranteed non-GMO (sugar is often genetically-modified unless it is label organic or non-GMO.) Good brands are Enjoy Life and Dagoba, but if you are in a pinch, Trader Joe’s has well-priced, good-tasting 1-pound chocolate blocks.
My favorite version of chocolate bark right now is this one with dates, hazelnuts, and sea salt (don’t forget my favorite flavor combo is salty-sweet!,) but the possibilities are endless. You can customize each batch of bark to whomever you are gifting it! Crushed peppermint candies, dried cherries and pistachios, salted almonds, etc. Of course the best part about making homemade treats is that you can control the ingredients. So you can use all organic everything if you want! And since it’s meant to come in broken pieces, it travels easily and no need to worry about being delicate with it. My recipe for Dark Chocolate Bark with Hazelnuts, Dates and Sea Salt is below. So good!
- 1 cup whole, raw hazelnuts
- 1 pound dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), chopped
- ½ cup diced dates (about 6)
- 1 ½ teaspoons flaky sea salt (such as fleur de sel)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a pie plate or baking sheet, toast the hazelnuts until the skins blister, about 15 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel and let cool, then rub to remove the skins. If you don’t mind hazelnut skins, you can skip this step. Coarsely shop the nuts and set aside.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until smooth.
- Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9-by-10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper face-down on the baking sheet.
- Once the chocolate is melted, place half the dates and half the chopped hazelnuts into the bowl with the chocolate and stir to combine.
- Pour the chocolate mixture onto the parchment, into the middle of rectangle you drew, and spread out to the edges of the rectangle using a spatula.
- Sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts and dates evenly over the chocolate, followed by the sea salt.
- Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or in the fridge for 1 hour to harden, then chop into desired shapes.
- Serve at room temperature and store in tightly sealed container for up to a week.
Here are some other bark combinations around the web that look irresistible:
Swirled Bark with Salted Peanuts from Martha Stewart (someone make this for me — looks fantastic!)
Nutty Chocolate Bark with Cardamom and Coffee from Saveur sounds so interesting!
Trail Mix Chocolate Bark from Eating Well
Superfood Chocolate Bark from ThePlantStrongVegan
A nice change from the traditional Christmas cookies, homemade granola is a perfect gift for the holidays. It is not quite as sugary as all of the usual holiday treats, but still has such a satisfying salty-sweet crunch. It also has so many uses- it can be eaten plain as a snack, finished with almond milk for breakfast, or served over yogurt with a little drizzle of maple syrup for a healthier dessert. Plus, you can buy cute little jars in all different shapes and sizes that can be repurposed by the recipient and look so darling with a little ribbon or twine. I give a little jar of homemade granola to all my kids’ teachers and coaches, etc. and I am always so delighted with their responses. So many of them are health-conscious and they appreciate an edible gift that isn’t dessert. I have also given large jars of granola with a small metal scoop inside as a hostess gift during the year! Click here for my gluten-free, vegan granola recipe.
Custom Almond Butter (or any nut butter)
As I mentioned in my last Friday Favorites post, high quality nut butters are hard to find in any local market right now. And considering the fact that I have been obsessing over Solstice Canyon’s flavored almond butters, I thought this is a perfect time of year to give away homemade almond butter as gifts! First order some wide mouth mason jars like these. Then go here with my homemade almond butter tutorial, and then feel free to mix it up with other nuts, flavors, spices, and add-ins. Try adding vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Or you could add raw cacao and hazelnuts. Coconut butter or oil would make it really smooth. Or dried figs, honey, and chia seeds. Orrrrrrr, you can cheat and buy plain almond butter and doctor it up with some of the add-in I just mentioned. Think DIY almond butter nutella! Regardless of what you put in, homemade almond butter is so delicious and good for you – and everyone will be shocked that you made it yourself!
Infused Olive Oils and Vinegars
Infused olive oils and vinegars are quick and easy gifts with a personal touch. There are so many different flavor combinations and these can really be fun with all of the different types of bottles that you can find at stores like Cost Plus World Market, The Container Store, Pier One or, of course, amazon. Infused oils and vinegars are great for special salad dressings, drizzling over pasta or seafood, or even just as an appetizer with some crusty bread for dipping. Although I hear that you should never use garlic in infused oil since it can cause botulism! Yikes! I often buy Napa Valley Naturals organic, unrefined cold-pressed olive oil, but you can use whatever is your favorite. Whatever recipe you use, warm the olive oil on low heat instead of high to protect the antioxidants in the oil. Once it’s bottled, cork it well and let it sit for about a week to fully infuse the flavor. If you don’t have that kind of time, the oil will still be flavored after a couple days, but mention to the recipient that he or she should allow the flavors to meld for about 2 weeks for best results. A good idea might be to put a “use by date” just so they remember when it was given. I would store infused oils in the fridge after a month. Check out these how-to’s and different flavor combinations.
Rosemary-Infused Oil from Giada de Laurentiis
Basil-infused Olive oil from Martha Stewart
Lemon-infused Olive oil Video