Help me avoid the mall this holiday season!
December 21, 2010 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Please help me with some homemade food gift ideas (with a few restrictions)!

It's down to the wire and I have no (well, a couple, but not enough) ideas as to what foodstuffs to make for my family as gifts. I'll be seeing them on Saturday. Here are the restrictions:

- No dessert or heavily sugary stuff (one person is a diabetic and another is trying to cut out sugar)
- Food must be okay to sit out unrefrigerated for at least a few hours, as things will be sitting under the tree before being opened
- Preferably nothing that will go bad after only a day or two
- Vegetarian
- I'm afraid of poisoning my family, so no pickling/canning recipes unless it's so easy a monkey can do it and doesn't require any special equipment

I've seen threads here and on other sites about food gifts, but the majority of suggestions, while delicious-sounding, tend to violate at least one of the above rules. Can y'all help me with some ideas? Thanks, everyone!
posted by kitty teeth to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
- Vegetarian

Hmmm...Do you prohibit eggs, then? If not, how are your baking skills? I make a couple of different types of biscotti for xmas giveaways every year.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:39 PM on December 21, 2010

Homemade bread, in its many forms. And it's pretty freezable, so once it's open, it can be popped in the freezer.

I'd go with some decadent olive/cheese/sundried tomato thing.

Or granola! Granola doesn't need to be very sugary, and you can use alternate forms of sweetener (like agave; not sure if that's okay for diabetics.) Plus, you can make a master batch and then have a bunch of different mix-ins, tailored to each person.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:40 PM on December 21, 2010

Chex Mix. Spiced pecans.
posted by Gilbert at 1:44 PM on December 21, 2010

A good old "nuts and bolts" type snack mix is often appreciated. Throw in any kind of nuts or small crunchy savory objects you like (e.g. Cheez-Its or Goldfish crackers), use Cajun seasoning instead of of garlic salt; it's all good! You can make mass quantities, put it in pretty tins, and it will keep just fine.

Cajun spiced pecans would also be good! (Both crock pot and stove instructions included.)

Good luck!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 1:52 PM on December 21, 2010

Here's a thread at The Kitchn about non-sweet foods to make as gifts. Not all of them will meet your other requirements, but it's a good list of suggestions.

This year, I'm making:
- Chex Mix. Not the putatively "old-fashioned" recipe currently on the Chex website but the actually old-fashioned kind, without bagel chips and with an absurd amount of butter, so much that a few squares of cereal from the bottom of the pan get all dark and shiny with cooked-in fat.

- caramel corn. I make mine with twice the recommended amount of popcorn, so it's much less sweet than you'd expect, and I toss in savory crunchies like cashews and pretzels.
posted by Elsa at 1:56 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Chex mix chex mix chex mix. Make sure to get vegetarian worcestershire sauce.
posted by booknerd at 2:02 PM on December 21, 2010

Well, it's a little bit unorthodox, but I like to make big batches of homemade soups and freeze them for the giftees in Tupperware (sometimes one big container, sometimes a few individual ones, depending on the recipient) along with reheating instructions and a copy of the recipe. I usually leave them in the car or outside and only put them under the tree right before the gift opening commences (but I live in Minnesota, so YMMV).
posted by anderjen at 2:03 PM on December 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thorzdad, eggs/cheese/milk are all fine, but I rarely bake so I'm not sure I can be trusted to not ruin a complicated baking recipe. I had not considered biscotti, though, so I'll definitely look into that. Thanks!

Thanks everyone else for the suggestions so far, and keep them coming!
posted by kitty teeth at 2:05 PM on December 21, 2010

Seconding granola! I did this a few Christmases ago and it was a big hit. Throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg for a seasonal feel.
posted by ODiV at 2:09 PM on December 21, 2010

I'm about to make these cinnamon spiced nuts in a day or so. Haven't tried them personally but the recipe is originally from Cook's Illustrated so they should be good.
posted by Fin Azvandi at 2:27 PM on December 21, 2010

What about some compound butters? Buy a good quality butter, let it soften, divide it up and flavor it with some of the following things:

cinnamon sugar, honey, minced garlic, roasted garlic, jalapenos, chives, dill, blue cheese, maple syrup, lemon zest, etc.

You can roll it up in wax or parchment paper, and it should be fine if it sits out too. Plus it's customizable (you can give sweet butter to the people who like sugary things) and easily used. They can use it on top of steak, chicken, fish (for the non-vegetarians) or vegetables. Sweet butters are awesome on pancakes and scones.

And if you freeze the compound butter before you wrap, it should be fine to sit under the tree.
posted by kerning at 2:55 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Instead of spiced nuts, try herbed nuts like rosemary roasted cashews which I'd all but forgotten about until this thread.
posted by knile at 3:07 PM on December 21, 2010

Granola! this recipe uses egg whites instead of oil, and you can decrease the sugar as much as you feel. I usually use honey or maple syrup, which is possibly marginally better for you then regular sugar, but is easier to incorporate into the oats. you can totally go wild with variations: gingerbread and sesame honey were favorites of mine.
posted by genmonster at 3:23 PM on December 21, 2010

Another vote for popcorn or spiced nuts - you can do caramel corn type things and a savory one (there are lots of recipes out there for spicy things, for example, here's a lazy link to a good place to start looking) and just give twice as much of the savory one to the diabetic. Assuming diabetics can eat popcorn, that is. Ditto for nuts.
posted by maryr at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2010

I've seen lots of beautiful jars layered with dry ingredients in a "kit" sort of way. Soups or cookies, or cocoa dry mixes. So you give a jar plus instructions/recipe for making it into something by adding a few fresh or wet ingredients.
posted by Swisstine at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2010

I'm doing granola this year and folks are loving it! As long as you keep watching and stirring while baking, it's pretty no-fail.
posted by unlapsing at 5:29 PM on December 21, 2010

As I went to click the search window I used for the above lazy link, I came across this as well - Suggestions for Non-Sweet Holiday Food Gifts?
posted by maryr at 6:07 PM on December 21, 2010

Some of the suggestions you're getting aren't great for people trying to watch carbohydrate intake -- crackers and Chex aren't sweet, but they often have plenty of sugar. You should also read the labels on any seasoning mixes you use.

Kale chips are vegetarian, low carb, don't require refrigeration and are pretty easy to make. They aren't holiday-lovely, but I suspect most potato chip addicts on a low carobhydrate diet wouldn't care after the first bite.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:09 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

My four year old was able to (with help) make a lovely soup mix: lentils, rice, pasta, spices, all in a jar. It's very pretty and yummy to eat later.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:49 PM on December 21, 2010

I am going to be making cheese straws today. They are so easy and delicious. I'm not sure how long they last, but I imagine in an airtight container they'd last a few days.
posted by schmoo at 1:26 AM on December 22, 2010

Time consuming, but green chile tamales fit all your criteria. If you look at the recipe, there's really nothing to go bad in the time frame you've given. After they've been steamed, they will last for a week in the fridge, three months in the freezer.

If you like, you can swap out the butter for shortening, and omit the sour cream (but why?) Sub the chicken stock with vegetable; there's some really good ones available in those waxed boxes. Since you said cheese is alright, add some to the filling.

Not just for dinner, a couple of these, with fried eggs, and black beans make a great breakfast.
posted by JABof72 at 8:43 AM on December 22, 2010

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