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If you’re looking for inspiration for food gifts you can make at home and share with family and friends, here’s a list of some of my favorite treats to make and give to anyone on my list.
The cashew brittle is amazing and seriously comes together in about 15 minutes. The granola is a great option if you want to give something that will be welcome to someone who’s ready for a break from Christmas cookies. (Though if you want Christmas cookie inspiration I’ve got you covered.)
This cashew brittle can be made from start to finish in about 15 minutes. It's simple, but it does require organization. You must measure everything out ahead of time and move quickly when the sugar comes to temperature.
You can substitute any nut here, but I really like starting with something that has already been roasted and salted to get a nice balance of sweet and salty.
The corn syrup is essential to the texture, so don't leave it out or try to substitute it.
You need a candy thermometer, a deep pot, and a rimmed baking sheet for this recipe. I like to line my baking sheet with a silpat mat, but if you don't have one, you can spray it with nonstick spray or line it with parchment paper (or if your baking sheet has a nonstick coating you can leave it unlined). I strongly encourage using a flaky sea salt like Maldon for topping this.
These mint chip cookies are so easy to make. They use oil instead of butter, which means there's no mixer required. You can use any mint or mint chocolate chip you like here. I think they look prettiest with the green mint chips Guittard makes (not sponsored, just a fan). You can find them online and they're often available at World Market. This recipe calls for slightly less than one bag (annoying, I know)--don't be tempted to use the whole bag because the dough won't hold all the chips and you'll be left with oily chips at the bottom of the bowl. While they don't require any special equipment, I do recommend lining your baking sheets with parchment paper. And your life will be easier and your cookies will bake more easily if you use a disher/cookie scoop.
These cranberries are more than the sum of their simple parts. They are excellent on oatmeal, in yogurt, as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or french toast. They are also wonderful with cheese. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries here. I always buy an extra bag or two of fresh cranberries to stash in the freezer to have on hand for times like these. I like to make these with raw cane sugar, which adds a little more complexity than white sugar, but whatever granulated sugar you have on hand will be fine. If you are comfortable with water bath canning, feel free to do that with these. They should be processed for five minutes and will keep for a year. If not, you can just jar them and store them in the refrigerator where they’ll keep for several weeks.
This is granola is almost always present in my kitchen. When I run out of it, I don’t quite know what to do for breakfast, so I quickly go out to get the ingredients to make more. Granola is so easy to make, and it’s easy to scale up or down to suit your needs (I usually make a double batch). The real maple syrup is essential to the flavor here. It looks like a lot, but this granola isn’t too sweet. I look for the darker, more flavorful grade B maple syrup when I can find it. The vanilla bean is nice if you have it, but these days I usually make this with vanilla extract and it’s delicious. I discovered that I get better clusters when I use half of the finer quick oats along with the old fashioned rolled oats. If you don’t want to buy two kinds of oats, you can zizz some rolled oats in a food processor to approximate quick oats. Look for unrefined coconut oil, which has more coconut flavor than the refined versions. This is vegan as is and it could be gluten free if you use certified gluten free oats. Because nuts can go rancid, I like to store this granola in the refrigerator to prolong freshness.
This sauce is a twist on classic hot fudge with halvah, which is a sweet sesame candy, and milk chocolate, and a hint of coffee in the background. It's sort of like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, but more surprising. Use a good quality milk chocolate here. I used Guittard 38% cacao here, but I'm also a fan of Tcho milk chocolate baking discs and Ghirardelli milk chocolate baking bars, which can be found in most grocery stores. This sauce has a wonderful thick, gooey consistency. You will need to use golden syrup (or glucose or corn syrup) to get the texture right (sugar on its own won't do the trick here). The sauce keeps for at least 6 months in the refrigerator.