December 18, 2013 in Food

Make a lasting impression with homemade culinary gifts

Noelle Carter Los Angeles Times
 

Gifts are a lot like greeting cards. Store-bought is nice, but nothing compares with homemade and the sentiment it conveys. Not only can you tailor a handmade gift to each recipient, but you can also choose ideas that will fit your budget, whether large or small. And when it comes to food, there is nothing like the taste of something lovingly made from scratch.

Here are some food-related homemade ideas perfect for giving. From intricate projects to simple nibbles you can fix in an afternoon, there is something for every level of craftiness. A number of the ideas even make great projects for kids.

Whether you’re thinking of family or friends, neighbors or co-workers, every handmade gift can be personalized and packaged in many ways. And the sentiment will last long after the present itself has been devoured.

Candied nuts: Simmer shelled raw nuts in simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) until the syrup has infused the nuts, 20 minutes or so. Drain the nuts and spread them out on a baking sheet, then bake at 250 degrees until toasted and dried. For spicy nuts, toss the drained nuts in sugar mixed with a little cayenne pepper before toasting.

Chocolate-covered pretzels: Coat pretzels or dip pretzel sticks in melted chocolate, then drizzle over colored sprinkles or other candy decorations.

Colored sugars: A perfect gift for the avid baker. Place granulated or coarse sanding sugar in a bag along with a few drops of food coloring. Seal and shake the bag to distribute the color, adding additional coloring for richer shades. Mix and match to create a set of vivid colors.

Flavored popcorn: Looking for something a little more calorie-conscious? Toss fresh popcorn with smoky chili salt or an herbal rosemary garlic seasoning for a quick, healthful gift.

Granola: Toss 4 cups oats with 3 cups mixed nuts with cup each oil, brown sugar and maple syrup along with a touch of salt and vanilla (or tweak the spices to suit your tastes), spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees until golden brown. Cool, then stir in 4 cups dried fruit.

Caramel corn: 14 cups popped popcorn is tossed with rich caramel – 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup butter, ½ cup corn syrup and a little salt boiled to 255 degrees and then tossed with a teaspoon of baking soda – and spread out on a sheet pan to bake until set. Cool the popcorn and break into clusters before baking. For a little something extra, add nuts to the popcorn before tossing with caramel.

Infused liquor: Start with gin, vodka or tequila. Zest a few oranges using a vegetable peeler (rind only, no pith) and add to the liquor along with a cup of sugar and a little spice (choose either a couple of cinnamon sticks, a few whole cloves, a chipotle pepper or two, or a few cardamom pods). Shake every day for a couple of weeks, then leave in a cool place. The flavor only improves with age.

Seasoning blend/dry rub: For the barbecue enthusiast, give a homemade rib rub. Combine 1 tablespoon each kosher salt, celery salt, black pepper, onion powder, dried oregano, New Mexico chile powder and cumin with 2 tablespoons each garlic powder and sweet paprika. Whisk in ¼ cup brown sugar. The rub will keep for months tightly wrapped in a cool, dark place.


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