‘Round the Table: Homemade gifts from the Heart

There are many reasons to gift from the kitchen this Christmas. Homemade gifts are always more personal and appreciated, after all you are giving a little piece of your heart. Gifts from the kitchen are creative and inexpensive and can be so thoughtful. Everyone appreciates a homemade gift.

Pretty packages need not be complicated, check dollar store and discount marts for cute jars and packaging.

Be on the lookout for food safe decorative jars and tins throughout the year; ‘tis the season to skip that last-minute dash to the store. Consider writing or printing the recipe on a Holiday card for an extra special touch. Be sure to think of the recipient when preparing gifts from the kitchen. Would they prefer a food gift that is ready to eat or do they enjoy baking? Are they on a special diet or do they have food allergies?

Everyone is watching their budget this season, so dust off your creativity, gather your children to help and give a few gifts from the kitchen and your heart.

Flavored Finishing Salt is so easy, it borders on not really being homemade at all, but no one has to know.  Flavored Finishing Salts can be made with any number of flavorings, Meyer Lemon, matcha, rosemary or sundried tomato. Just be sure that whatever flavoring you choose will get very, very dry in a low oven.

 Basic Finishing Salt

Yield: approx. 1 cup

  • 3 parts sea salt
  • 1 part flavoring

Dry the seasoning/flavoring in a 250°F oven for 6 hours or up to overnight. Make sure the flavoring of choice is bone dry without an ounce of stickiness. When the flavoring has cooled, place in a coffee grinder and grind to a power. Add to the sea salt and place in pretty jars. Trim with a Christmas ribbon and a recipe or two.

A gift of lemon curd is a beautiful way to let someone know how much you love them.

Lemon Curd

Yield:  1 1/3 cup

Lemon curd is like jam, only better. It’s decadent and rich and will make your friends and loved ones feel like royalty. The secret to lemon curd’s richness is butter and egg yolks and lots of tart lemon juice.

This recipe goes together in a flash and is positively foolproof.  It’s delicious spread on scones, as a filling between the layers of a stately Christmas cake, spooned into phyllo shells and topped with a raspberry. Your only regret will be not making a double batch so you can stash some in your refrigerator.

  • ½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • (2 to 4 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 3 large farm fresh eggs
  • 6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and eggs in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Add the butter and place the saucepan over medium low heat and cook, whisking very frequently until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and the first bubbles begin to burst on the surface, about 6 minutes.

Transfer the lemon curd to a bowl, place plastic wrap on the surface of the curd to keep a skin from forming and refrigerate until completely chilled. Transfer the mixture to decorative jars and gift.

Lemon curd keeps refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Garlic Herb Butter

Yield: about a cup

Whip up a batch of this easy Garlic Herb Butter, place in 4 ounce canning jars, add a cute label and pretty bow. Give this thoughtful gift with a loaf of homemade bread or even store brought French bread. This is a simple, inexpensive gift that shows how much you care.

  • 2 stick of unsalted butter, softened*
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh pars
  • ley
  • minced chives
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill weed
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl whip the butter with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes, do not allow the butter to heat. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.

Transfer to gifting jars with tight fitting lids.

Garlic Herb Butter stores refrigerated for up to 1 month.

*If using salted butter, omit the sea salt called for in the recipe.

Gingerbread Spiced Nuts

Yield: 3 cups

Use your favorite mix of nuts for Gingerbread Spiced Nuts. I choose pecans, almond and cashews.

I don’t think I know a single person who would be disappointed with a gift of Gingerbread Spiced Nuts. Don’t think gifts from the kitchen must be given away; don’t hesitate to gift yourself this season as well; a handful of Gingerbread Mixed Nuts with a cup of tea is a lovely respite on a busy day.

Serving suggestions include: used as an extra special holiday salad topper; tossed with morning granola or yogurt; served on a cheese plate with a decadent soft triple crème and grapes.

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of raw mixed nuts (any combination you like)
  • Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until frothy. Add the sugar and spices and whisk until combined. Add the nuts to bowl and stir until the nuts are coated.

Transfer the nuts to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the nuts. Reduce the oven heat to 250°F and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the nuts are medium brown.

Remove from the oven and stir again while the nuts are hot. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely. The nuts will crisp significantly as they cool.

Place in airtight containers for gifting.