Seeking DIY food gifts that can be packaged
December 16, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

What great DIY food gifts are out there that can be made on short notice, don't contain pricey specialty ingredients, and can be packaged in cellophane or something similar, to be transported and given out as individual treats?

Here are my (hopefully doable) guidelines:

1. Can be made quickly/on short notice (no homemade vanilla extract)
2. No pricey one-off ingredients like walnut oil or feuilletine or who knows what else
3. Can be packaged individually, preferably in a cellophane bag, or could also do mason jars.
4. Semi-nonperishable (nothing refrigerated like lemon curd or jarred cheesecakes)
5. Not a cookie

Some ideas I've come across that are possibilities but not thrilling: unique/fun rice krispy treats, muddy buddies, rosemary crackers. I'd love to do homemade caramels but don't have a candy thermometer.

Would prefer sweet stuff, but good savory suggestions are alright too.
posted by rachaelfaith to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
If you're willing to do mason jars, you can do something like homemade hot chocolate or cake mix where the recipient just adds eggs and fat.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 1:53 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fudge made from marshmallow fluff is easy, and doesn't need a candy thermometer (unlike marshmallows, which I was totally going to say otherwise). Also, you can make a variety pack by adding nuts to one batch, mint to another, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 1:53 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pinterest is great for stuff like this. They have a search function and here's the search page for "inexpensive food gifts". You can also try "gifts in cellophane" etc.
posted by raisingsand at 1:54 PM on December 16, 2014

Oh, if you have a place to get shaped cellophane bags, these hot chocolate mix gifts shaped like ice cream cones are awesome and simple.
posted by aimedwander at 1:55 PM on December 16, 2014

posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:56 PM on December 16, 2014

Response by poster: Oh, should have said, I definitely do not want to do any 'kits' or 'mixes'- I dislike gifts that leave others to do any work to enjoy it. Other than eat it, that is.
posted by rachaelfaith at 1:56 PM on December 16, 2014

I am in the middle of making a ton of granola for exactly this.

101 cookbooks muesli - I usually leave out the sesame seeds. In fact I just use whatever nuts and fruit I have on hand; pretty much the only constant is oats, oil and honey.

Peanut butter chocolate chip granola

Pumpkin spice granola

There's also chocolate granola, apple butter granola, cinnamon granola, rose petal granola ...
posted by bunderful at 1:57 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am making peppermint marshmallows this weekend for my cousins. I did it several years ago and they were a hit. No weird ingredients, easy to make, package up nicely, unusual but also a crowd pleaser. I add a bit of food colouring to tint them pink or green.
posted by quaking fajita at 1:59 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Homemade mustard! In adorable jars, with or without pretzels. There are tons of recipes. I'd go with something hot & sweet or whole-grain.
posted by juliplease at 2:02 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Granola
Chex mix
Spiced nuts
Homemade crackers
Spice blends

Also, homemade caramels are totally doable without a candy thermometer, you just have to watch them really carefully. I know this because I do them every year, and there's not a single working thermometer of any sort in my house.
posted by MeghanC at 2:02 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, caramel corn! But use air- or oil-popped corn (not microwave).
posted by juliplease at 2:05 PM on December 16, 2014

Candied pecans, sugared cranberries. I hear ya on the kits or mixes, but a fancy hot chocolate mix, with real bits of chocolate and they just add hot milk is an awesome gift.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:08 PM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Cowboy bark is fast, easy, and crazy delicious.
posted by stefanie at 2:14 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I make oatmeal bars instead of buying them so I always have moderately healthy snacks. You can use honey and chocolate chips to add just enough sweetness.
posted by starbreaker at 2:19 PM on December 16, 2014

Best answer: Pioneer Woman's ridiculously easy peppermint fudge is super easy, quite tasty, and looks nice, too.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:21 PM on December 16, 2014

Christina Tosi's Cornflake Crunch. (Scroll down, it's right below the cookie recipe.)

The recipe calls for making clusters, but if that's too cookie-like you could just spread it out on the baking sheet.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:30 PM on December 16, 2014

Peppermint bark is super-easy and fun for this time of year. This is my rough not-really-a-recipe:

- A bag of white chocolate chips
- A bag of semisweet chocolate chips (or good dark chocolate chopped up)
- Peppermint extract to taste
- Crushed candy canes

Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30-45 seconds to keep from burning. Spread it out over a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Freeze for about a half hour, until it's hard but not brittle. Melt white chocolate the same way as the dark chocolate, and stir in peppermint extract. Spread over the dark chocolate. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top, pushing some in so they're good and embedded in the white chocolate. Freeze again until it's hard. It's OK if it's brittle this time, because now you're going to break it up.

One cookie sheet makes enough for 3-4 nice, smallish packages.
posted by lunasol at 2:35 PM on December 16, 2014

Roasted hazelnuts with rosemary (if you or someone you know has the rosemary bush).
So easy in a toaster oven:
1. rub nuts generously with your choice of oils (something with a high-ish burn point is good
2. Strip rosemary needles from several springs and toss with rubbed nutes
3. arrange in single layer on a tray, put in toaster oven at about 350 and watch carefully! take out just as they get toasty looking, and before they smell too strongly.
#3 is the key - a moment too long and they burn.
4. Cool to eating temp, and put in jar/bag - a little gourmet sea salt is nice to add at this point too.
If you want to be extra fancy, you could rub the skins off!
posted by dbmcd at 2:35 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

how about homemade pickles?
posted by monologish at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did this with glass candy. You can make a few bathes and mix the colors and flavors. You can find a recipe online. You'll need Karo syrup, sugar, candy flavoring, candy thermometer, etc. it's super fun to smash it with a hammer after it sets!

On preview you don't have a candy thermometer but you should be able to easily find one at most grocery stores or at worst a craft store that has baking supplies. Glass candy is easier than caramel.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:44 PM on December 16, 2014

If you do Glass Candy, you can put a joke label on it for Bag O'Glass!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:45 PM on December 16, 2014

Peanut (or other nut) brittle. It's delicious and doesn't have to look pretty by design.
posted by quince at 3:00 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Candied nuts. Simple, but so damn tasty. Raw peanuts are a bit tricky to find (found them at an Asian market), but raw almonds are fairly easy to come by.
posted by O9scar at 3:00 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jumping on the nut bandwagon: Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts. YUM.

I'm also a huge fan of making jam or pickles or hot sauce in the summer, water bath canning them for shelf-stable-ness and gifting those. Zero work in the winter, just snag, apply cute ribbon or cloth or label as desired and bam! Insta-gift!
posted by carrioncomfort at 3:10 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Orangette, AKA candied orange peel. Can do with any citrus --- you have to blanch grapefruit a couple times extra since it's so bitter. Can do with ginger as well. Can roll 'em in sugar or dip in chocolate, or do half-and-half, looks very pretty either way.

Cheap as chips, too -- $10 bucks worth of fruit, bag of dark chocolate chips for melting and some sugar, you'll have enough of the stuff to feed an army. Pick a couple different ones --- some oranges, a lemon, a grapfruit, you get a lovely sunset effect in the bag.
posted by Diablevert at 3:33 PM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm big on parmesan crisps, they require only a grater, parchment paper, and ten minutes and they're really tasty and snack-y and go well with a fruit jam.
posted by The Whelk at 3:56 PM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: From a recipient perspective, my SIL makes little gift baskets with stuff like this for everyone for Christmas and I love the candied orange peels and the candied nuts!

I'm not very good in the kitchen but I have successfully done chocolate-dipped stuff and that goes over really well. You can dip/drizzle/coat a lot of things with chocolate. Pretzels are always popular. Potato chips (especially Ruffles) are really good (I know it sounds gross but I promise it's great!). You don't have to use a double-boiler or anything, you can buy these big chocolate chips at the grocery store that are meant for melting in the microwave! You can also do the fancy pretzel sticks and add sprinkles and such.
posted by radioamy at 3:59 PM on December 16, 2014

How about caramel apples? You can be fancy and do chocolate swirled over it, or add nuts, or add M&Ms or whatever. It's all freaking delicious and is something that most people would never make for themselves, which is my personal rule about giving food gifts.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:29 PM on December 16, 2014

Piggy-backing on Ruthless Bunny's suggestion: If you make rice crispy treats with cornflakes and a little green food dye, you can make festive wreaths.
posted by dogmom at 6:44 PM on December 16, 2014

I made these candied nuts last week and everyone loved them:

I used pecans and raw almonds because that's what i had in the cupboard. Also cinnamon, sugar, vanilla extract, and an egg white. Mix, bake, stir. Butt simple and very tasty!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:07 PM on December 16, 2014

posted by mon-ma-tron at 7:55 PM on December 16, 2014

I made a bunch of chocolate covered coffee spoons this year. Very fast and easy.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:48 AM on December 17, 2014

Yeah, I wouldn't write off caramels or caramel-esque sweets. While I get the best results with my caramels (I usually use a variation of David Lebovitz's) when I watch the temperature on my thermometer like a hawk, you can in theory do it without one. Also, I don't know if this is what is holding you back, but if you have to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients anyway, you can easily get a candy/fry thermometer for less than $5. Probably more like $2-3. It's not awesome but I have this one, and also this one, and they're perfectly fine for caramel-making purposes. They have them in normal grocery stores, usually with the muffin pans and measuring cups and small kitchen things.
posted by spelunkingplato at 11:17 AM on December 17, 2014

skillet toffee
posted by bunderful at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2014

Here is a super easy microwave caramel recipe. I made it yesterday and added a teaspoon of salt for salted caramels, and since my microwave is old and underpowered, I added one minute of cooking time. Seriously, this could not be easier: mix ingredients together, microwave for 6-7 minutes, stirring at 2 minute intervals. Easy and delicious. (I poured them into rubber ice cube trays from ikea, but I've also had good luck pouring into silicon mini muffin tins or pouring into a cookie sheet and cutting into squares.)
posted by instamatic at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2014

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