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Easy Handmade Food Gifts for Christmas

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

What foods can you easily make for Christmas?

What foods can you easily make for Christmas?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!... Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!

— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Do You Have a Long Christmas List?

Christmas gift-giving . . . This joyful activity can, at times, be a source of stress. Maybe you are short of cash, short on time, or have people on your list who are simply impossible to buy for because they already have everything.

A gift from your kitchen might be the answer. But what if you're also short on talent in the kitchen? You don't need to be a master chef to make these treats. In fact, you don't even need to turn on the oven.

Just get some labels, measuring spoons, simple ingredients, and pretty jars with lids.

Hot cocoa

Hot cocoa

Hot Cocoa Mix for the Ones Who Love Sweets

On a cold Winter's day, is there anything more comforting than a mug of creamy, rich, luxuriant cocoa? Of course, anyone can make cocoa with some hot water and a packet of powder. But what if that mug was filled with the flavors of deep, rich chocolate? Maybe a bit of warming peppermint, earthy coffee, or a bite of cinnamon?

Here are four cocoa mixes you could assemble for your loved ones. For each one, you will use a 1-quart (4-cup) jar and layer the ingredients. (Quart jars are a standard size pickling jar and are easily available at grocery stores. You might also find them at a bargain price at your local Thrift Store.)

The ingredients listed are for 12 servings, which fit nicely in a 1-quart jar. Layer the ingredients in order. Attach a tag that says:

"Mix contents of this jar in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 cup of the mix into mug. Stir in 1 cup boiling water."

Of course, you could break this down into smaller gifts. For example:

Two 1-pint (2-cup) jars. (Divide the ingredients equally, in order, between two jars) Each jar will hold 6 servings

Four half-pint (1-cup) jars. Each will hold 3 servings.

Deep Rich Cocoa

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of small marshmallows

Peppermint Cocoa

  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy (candy canes)

Coffee (Mocha) Cocoa

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup espresso powder
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Mexican (Cinnamon) Cocoa

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup Mexican chocolate, chopped
Homemade tacos

Homemade tacos

Seasoning for the One Who Needs Easy Meals

Prepackaged seasonings for tacos, spaghetti sauce, and meatloaf are convenient but expensive (considering how little there is in that envelope) and high in sodium. To save some money and create a cute gift, package these spice mixes in a jar with a lid and attach a tag with instructions.

Taco seasoning

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

Instructions for use

Brown one pound of ground beef or turkey in large saute pan. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning mix. Pour in 1/3 cup water; stir and simmer on low for a few minutes.

Plate of spaghetti with homemade sauce

Plate of spaghetti with homemade sauce

Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

Instructions for use

Brown one pound of ground beef or turkey in large saute' pan. Add three 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce, one 6-ounce can of tomato paste, 2 1/2 cups water, and entire jar of seasoning mix. Stir to combine; reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meatloaf seasoning

Meatloaf seasoning

Meatloaf s\Seasoning

  • ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage

Combine all ingredients ina jar and shake to combine.

Instructions for use

In large mixing bowl combine 2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and seasoning mix. Press into a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven 1 hour.

Homemade Vanilla Extract for Bakers

Do you know someone who loves to create cakes, cookies, and other mouth-watering desserts? True baking aficionados will tell you that there is no comparison between artificial vanilla flavoring and real, honest-to-goodness vanilla extract. Did you know that you can make your own?


  • 1 750 ml bottle unflavored Vodka
  • 1 cup dark rum (not the silly spiced version)
  • 24 vanilla bean pods

Other Equipment

  • liquid measuring cup
  • sharp knife for splitting vanilla pod and scraping seeds
  • narrow funnel


  1. Open the vodka bottle and remove 1 1/2 cups of liquid from the bottle; reserve it.
  2. Split all the vanilla beans and scrape the vanilla seeds from the beans.
  3. Using a narrow funnel, push all the vanilla seeds into the bottle of vodka. Cap and shake to distribute.
  4. Remove the cap and put the scraped beans into the bottle. Top off the bottle with rum and cap once more.
  5. Stash the bottle in a cool, dark place and let it infuse and mellow for 4 to 6 months. You know it's done when the vodka is dark, nearly syrupy and fragrant with the scent of vanilla.
  6. To give as gifts, divide the extract between smaller jars or bottles (making sure to include at least one or two beans with every portion) and distribute.

If time is short (and you don't have 4–6 months between now and Christmas), simply attach a note with the date when it will be ready.

The gift of your time is the most precious thing you can give.

The gift of your time is the most precious thing you can give.

Time—the Ultimate Gift You Can Give

The gift of your time is the most precious thing you can give. My next-door neighbor is 83; his wife of 63 years is in the end-stage of Alzheimer's disease.

Donn and Trish were the first people we met when we moved to this area; we were moving from the "big city" to a tiny, quaint town with a population of about 6,000. We got "lost" while looking for the house we were hoping to buy. Donn and Trish lived next door; we turned into their driveway by mistake.

Not only did they steer us in the right direction, but they also offered to give us a tour of the neighborhood. We were total strangers, but they lovingly greeted us, accepted us, and made us a part of their family.

Over the years, we have shared many milestones. Together we have celebrated weddings, promotions, and retirements and have comforted each other in times of loss and sorrow. In our day-to-day lives, we have worked together in shared interests--gardening, cooking, baking, and sewing.

At this point in time, Donn doesn't need Christmas stockings filled with candy or sweet treats. Instead, I've given him a personal "gift card", with a promise that I will deliver to him a homemade meal once a week. I know it needn't be fancy. Just a simple home-cooked meal, a promise that one day out of 7, he can relax a bit and receive back a bit of the love he and his wife have so generously given over the years.

Is there someone you know who could benefit from a home-cooked meal? Maybe a single parent, a widow or widower, a shut-in?

Sometimes the best gift you can give to someone is YOU.

Christmas bucket list

Christmas bucket list

© 2016 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 14, 2016:

Thank you Bravewarrior - Yes, real vanilla extract has a definite KICK to it. I wish you a blessed Christmas.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 14, 2016:

Now I know why they say vanilla extract has an alcohol level. I had no idea it's made with vodka and rum!

All of these simple gift ideas and wonderful and will be appreciated by anyone who receives them, especially the gift of self or time.

Merry Christmas, Diva!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 07, 2016:

Rachel - What a clever idea. Long after the cookies are gone (unless they settle on your hips which is my fate), you still have the oven mitt. Love it.

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on December 07, 2016:

Hi Carb Diva, I always did like home made gifts. I love the ones you mentioned here in this hub. My sister gave me one last year with the cookie ingredients packed in an oven mitt. Thanks for your ideas.

Blessings to you.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 07, 2016:

Thank you Bill. Your words mean a lot to me.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 07, 2016:

I loved the last part, Linda. Bravo! Bev and I try to be that type of person and give those types of gifts. I just love this. My favorite of your hubs.

Brrr, it's cold out!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 06, 2016:

Eric, you are so kind. I sincerely appreciate your comments and your friendship. If you happen to make any of these, please let me know.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 06, 2016:

Some one once said that "Variety is the Spice of Life". Oh so true as far as it goes. But that was before Carb Diva. Truly Linda brings the spice of life into my home.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 06, 2016:

Hi Flourish. I'm always so happy to hear from you.

At "Christmas time" we focus on giving, and loving, and sharing. Why just then? We need to share our love and ourselves every day. I hope and pray that those who read this will come away with the idea that we all can do more to help.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 06, 2016:

What a kind gift to your elderly neighbor. We need to reach out more to one another in such a way. Your cocoa ideas were superb. I recently discovered how amazing tiny M&Ms can be in hot cocoa. We had a hot cocoa and don't bar for the high school kids I volunteer for at my daughter's school. Me oh my!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 06, 2016:

Thank you RTalloni. I can't take credit for the bucket list. I found it on Facebook today, and it just seemed to "fit". I'm glad you like the ideas.

RTalloni on December 06, 2016:

These are great ideas and your closing makes the hub superb. Love the bucket list!