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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Warm people’s hearts and bellies with these homemade holiday gifts

Gifts in jars can be made for all tastes and dietary concerns without too much extra time and expense. Cranberry Curd, Coffee-Caramel Sauce or Spicy Bean Soup are great gifts for teachers, hosts or anyone else on your list this holiday season. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)

Gifts from the heart are always a welcome part of this season.

Wrapping up a tasty treat from the kitchen is a great way to thank teachers for their hard work, treat a friend you don’t see nearly often enough or connect with the neighbors over something besides a power outage.

There are plenty of ways to spend a lot of money making and wrapping up gifts, but a simple jar of homemade strawberry jam or quick bread tied up with a tag and twine will be just as welcomed as an expensive jar stuffed with exotic ingredients.

Take care to find out the diet preferences of your recipients and gift accordingly. There is an endless ocean of ideas online and entire Pinterest communities dedicated to DIY food gifts from the kitchen. That is what I’ve been doing with my free time the past few days. Here are a few of the recipes I found and tried.

Spicy Black Bean Soup is vegetarian as long as vegetable bouillon cubes are included. If you’ll be giving it to someone who is must avoid gluten, take care to find gluten-free cubes. Also, there are vegan bouillon cubes.

Cranberry Curd is a tangy, yet creamy take on its lemon-based cousin. Just be sure to note that it contains eggs and must be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a week or so. The recipe is from Cooking Light and is lighter on calories and fat than traditional curd because it is thickened slightly with cornstarch and fewer eggs.

The Coffee-Caramel Sauce isn’t exactly in line with the healthful eating goals behind Dinner Together, but a simple tweak can make it a tad better for you. Substitute evaporated fat-free milk for the whipping cream in the original recipe. The sauce is a bit thinner, and not quite as creamy, but you can give it unapologetically to anyone who loves caramel and/or coffee.

Follow the instructions carefully and the reward is a delicious sauce that can be used to top apples or frozen yogurt. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. Include a note on the tag that the sauce must be refrigerated.

Spicy Black Bean Soup

Adapted from

This blog has roots in Indiana and includes links to great jars, spoons and even includes a free PDF of the tags for the jars.

1 wide-mouth quart jar with lid

3 cups black beans (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup dried navy or great northern beans (about 1/2 pound)

12-by-12-inch piece of parchment paper and rubber band

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons cumin

1/4- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you’d like it)

1 teaspoon celery seed

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chili powder

4 chicken or veggie bouillon cubes

Cardstock and a printer, for the tag


Fill clean jar with 3/4 cup black beans, followed by 1/3 cup white beans, and then repeat, ending with the last 3/4 cup of black beans.

Place all the spices in the middle of the piece of parchment paper. Then, roll up the sides to make a little packet. Secure the packet closed with a rubber band. You can also use a small zip-top plastic bag for this, if you prefer.

Place packet of spices inside the jar and close with lid.

Make tags for the jars with these instructions: In a large stock pot, combine the beans, spice packet contents, and 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the soup is thick. You might need to add more water as the beans cook. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve topped with sour cream and diced avocado. Great with tortilla chips or cornbread on the side.

Tie a tag to the jar lid.

Yield: 6 servings

Coffee-Caramel Sauce


The recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit in December 1998.

8 tablespoons water

4 teaspoons instant coffee powder

1 1/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup whipping cream (or an equal amount of evaporated fat-free milk)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Pinch of salt

Stir 2 tablespoons water and 4 teaspoons coffee powder in small bowl until coffee powder dissolves. Stir remaining 6 tablespoons water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.

Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with pastry brush dipped into water and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Add whipping cream, butter and coffee mixture very carefully (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to heat and bring to boil, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in salt. Divide sauce between two 8-ounce canning jars; seal jars tightly with lids. (Sauce can be prepared 2 weeks ahead; refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.)

Cranberry Curd


The recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough to fill two 8-ounce canning jars or four 4-ounce jars. It can be doubled, just be sure to add extra time to allow the curd to thicken.

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop. Place cranberry mixture in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Strain cranberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.

Combine sugars and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the cranberry mixture, cornstarch and salt. Place mixture in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160 degrees and mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in liqueur. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.

Yield: 20 (2-tablespoon) servings