Handmade Food Gifts

Updated on July 30, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

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 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 -- they already have everything.

A gift from your kitchen might be the answer. But what if you're also short of "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 pretty jars with lids, labels, measuring spoons, and these simple ingredients.

For the One Who Loves Sweets

Hot Cocoa Mix

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 the 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 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 suagar
  • 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

For the One Who Needs Easy Meals

homemade tacos
homemade tacos

Prepackaged seasonings for tacos, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf -- are convenient but expensive (when you consider how little there is in that envelope) and high in sodium. Package these 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 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 jar and shake to combine.


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 with scalloped potatoes
meatloaf with scalloped potatoes

meatloaf seasoning

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

Combine all ingredients in jar and shake to combine.


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

For the Baker

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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 you will need

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


  1. Open 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 to 6 months between now and Christmas) simply attach a note with the date when it will be ready.

For Those Who Need Nothing But...

Christmas love
Christmas love

The gift of your time. 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; they 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, 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, 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.

© 2016 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 15 months ago from Washington State, USA

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

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 15 months ago from Central Florida

      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!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      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 profile image

      Rachel L Alba 15 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      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.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 15 months ago from Washington State, USA

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      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!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      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.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      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.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 15 months ago from USA

      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!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      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 profile image

      RTalloni 15 months ago from the short journey

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