Home cooked treats for holiday gifts (with restrictions)
December 4, 2020 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions please for edible treats i can make and gift to my family. Various family allergies make this complicated: treats must be dairy-free, gluten-free, with no soy.

My first idea was to make pickles but pickles are not a very Christmassy present. So maybe toffee, but that's so sweet and sticky. Ideas please please.
posted by anadem to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Those restrictions don't sound too bad!

How about granola bars that you customize to each person's liking?


Chocolate Truffles

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies
posted by oxisos at 2:52 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

What about candied nuts or nut brittle? I don't really know anything about making them, but I think that there are versions that are basically sugar, water, nuts, egg white and/or fat (usually butter, could use oil) and maybe a bit of salt?


https://natashaskitchen.com/5-minute-candied-walnuts/ (sub crisco or oil for butter)

posted by mercredi at 2:53 PM on December 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Spiced nuts are very wintery. My GF coworker swears by nuts.com for nuts and baking mixes, though GF-certified spices are hard to come by.

Fresh homemade granola is delicious and could be made Christmassy by adding warming spices and using wintery fruits and nuts like dried cranberries and pecans. This is my favorite granola recipe, though I skip the sugar and use 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup maple syrup, nuts of my choice until I have 3 cups, and double the cinnamon.
posted by esoterrica at 2:54 PM on December 4, 2020

Bon Appetit's Spiced nuts

Even easier: heat up some oil, add some nuts, stir in some hot sauce (eg sambal oelek or sriracha), then some maple syrup, and cook for about 4 minutes.
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:54 PM on December 4, 2020

I just recently had a full-body memory of one year when I was a kid in the 80s that my mother discovered this "fruited rice" mix as a holiday gift. It is surprisingly tasty, and obviously you could riff on it a little bit - I would use Basmati or Jasmine rice, and you could go with a blend of biryani-type spices instead of the generic spice rack curry powder.

It's not especially Christmassy either, but they're not likely to get the same thing from anybody else!
posted by Lyn Never at 3:06 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Meringue Kisses. Can be colored and flavored in all kinds of ways!
posted by ChristineSings at 3:11 PM on December 4, 2020

You know what? I think pickles sound amazing. I am inundated with sweet treats during the season and receiving pickles would be similar to a god-send. I don’t need or want more candy or cookies. An amazing jar of pickles sounds divine. PLUS! If they can’t eat them right away, they will keep for a good long time, whereas most sweet treats will go bad or stale. Pickles! The answer is pickles!! For the love of god - pickles.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:13 PM on December 4, 2020 [15 favorites]

I am currently addicted... ABSOLUTELY ADDICTED... to this vegan, gluten free, nut-free black bean brownie recipe which I am eating straight from the tub without cooking as I type this, spoon-in-mouth (but also it is delicious when made into brownies). I don't have a single allergy, mind, I could be eating "real" brownies, but I won't. Because unlike most modified recipes this one is ridiculously good PLUS it gives me the option of eating brownies in one additional way (cooked OR uncooked).

1 can (15 ounces) black beans drained and rinsed very thoroughly

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup mashed avocado (no srsly trust me)

1/4 cup tahini (IMPORTANT: some brands of tahini contain thickeners which may have gluten, please check ingredients before buying. You'll have the best luck buying from south asian or middle-eastern grocery stores. They tend to have tahini made of pure sesame and nothing else.)

2 tbsps maple syrup

4 Tbs cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350°.

In a food processor combine all ingredients except for the chocolate chips and mix until smooth and creamy (if batter is too thick for your liking add 1 Tbs of vegetable oil or some excess oil from your tahini).

Add in vegan chocolate chips and mix.

Eat it. Eat it now. Do it. At least eat a couple of tablespoons. I command you. (Add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter, add more chocolate chips just because you can never have enough.)

Get a well greased pan and scrape what remains of the batter into it. This will be thicker than normal brownie batter. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes.

Serves 8 extraordinarily self-restrained people, which is equivalent to about 1.5 people like me.


However for the record I would like to say I agree with the commenter above, pickles are the best answer for gifting during the holiday season when everyone is already quite sick of sweets!
posted by MiraK at 4:17 PM on December 4, 2020 [10 favorites]

I'm making some variations on Alton Brown's Peppermint Patty recipe (my variations are ginger with chili chocolate / orange / wintergreen), if you're careful with your chocolate choice it can be gluten-free and dairy free.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:26 PM on December 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I agree that pickles sound amazing and like a welcome change from all the sweets. I think you are underestimating how divine homemade pickles are.

If you do end up making sweet treats, though, I encourage you to include 1 or 2 of these homemade apple cider sachets in each box. My best friend makes these and they are my favorite holiday drink. It's super easy to pour the cider into a slow cooker, pop in 1 or 2 of these sachets, and have a lovely, hot drink to serve people on the holidays. If you do it in the slow cooker, it stays hot for hours and doesn't burn.

Apple Cider Sachets

Microwave 1 tablespoon grated orange zest on a paper towel for 3 minutes.

Mix with 1 tablespoon each crushed cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole allspice and black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon of whole cloves.

Divide among 4 cheesecloth squares and tie with twine.

1 sachet to 1 qt of cider.
posted by diamondsky at 4:26 PM on December 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, um, Ashwagandha? Can you please give us the adjustments you made to that Alton Brown recipe? That sounds like a perfect flavor combination.
posted by diamondsky at 4:28 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Truffles aren't a bad idea, and there are several recipes - but fair warning that some recipes involve cream, which you obviously would want to avoid. However, not all.

But you could do super-simple candies made of chocolate, dried fruits, and nuts. If you want to take the time to figure out how to temper your chocolate (it's not that complicated, just a little fussy), or if you have chocolate that is suited to making candy, then the French candy mendiants might work - you just make little discs of melted chocolate and then place two or three different toppings on it (traditionally, they used a mix of raisins, hazelnuts, figs, and almonds, but you can use whatever). If that seems too fiddly, then just stir the chopped dried fruit and nuts into melted chocolate, get a bunch of mini baking cups and fill them up with a couple spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture and let set. Or just drop them onto a baking sheet and let set in lumps like that. (I often use a mix of dried cranberry, slivered almonds and candied ginger in mine when I do this.)

Or go with different kind of chocolate barks - melt chocolate, mix stuff in, spread out on a baking sheet, and let set until solid, then break up. Or melt chocolate, spread out on a baking sheet, and throw stuff on top, then let set until solid and break up.

Or peanut brittle! I use Mark Bittman's recipe which is simple; the only problem I've ever had is not pouring it out onto a baking sheet fast enough, and it starts cooling into thickish bits before I can spread it out. But that's solvable with practice, and if you break it into bite-size pieces people may not even care.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 PM on December 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and nthing the "don't write off pickles just yet". If you make a couple different KINDS of pickles, and make little gift baskets with one small jar of each kind with some nice crackers and fancy nuts, that's like halfway to them having an appetizer plate sorted for their next party. You've given them a homemade gift AND catered their New Year's Eve party in one fell swoop!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:33 PM on December 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Another vote for pickles! But one year my SIL made granola and it was very allergy-friendly and delicious.
posted by gryphonlover at 4:43 PM on December 4, 2020

Popcorn balls with vegan caramel.
posted by kingdead at 5:08 PM on December 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can you please give us the adjustments

The only differences are in the chocolate and the type (and amount) of oil used. For the ginger chili one - ginger oil is the main flavouring and the chocolate is flavoured with a small amount of medium heat finely ground red chili powder. For the orange one, I use sweet orange oil with a pretty dark chocolate (80%). Wintergreen is still in the experimental stage, I have the oil but not sure which chocolate to use with it. I'm just using decent quality grocery store purchased chocolate rather than the expensive imported chocolate (which I think is just better as eating chocolate).

Note that Alton uses peppermint oil in the recipe - meaning peppermint essential oil which is a super confusing world to enter into because things like "food grade" or "pharmaceutical" grade are kind of meaningless (its completely unregulated so you have to determine which ones are safe to ingest) which is pretty frustrating. In any case you're only using a small amount - Alton Brown uses 1/8 tsp but you might even be able to get away with a smaller amount, say a drop, depending on the potency of the flavour you're trying to get. FWIW it looks like Alton used Now Foods brand peppermint oil in the show where he does this recipe (I could be wrong though).
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:27 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Jamaican sweet potato pudding. It tastes kind of like a dense square made of pumpkin pie filling.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:01 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Three ingredient peanut butter cookies (use dark chocolate and read carefully for dairy)

I made fudge for my sister and I last year with soy free Earth Balance instead of butter and it turned out really great.

Rice Krispy treats with Earth Balance and GF Rice Krispies (or corn flakes, SO GOOD)

pistachio bark with dark chocolate
posted by joycehealy at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2020

I made David Lebovitz’ spiced nuts with pretzels- my husband didn’t like the pretzels, so you could just leave them out. So delicious.
spiced nuts
posted by dbmcd at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2020

Pecan pralines are festive and totally suit your requirements.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on December 4, 2020

Rice Krispie treats - use oil or vegan margarine in place of butter.
posted by theora55 at 7:54 PM on December 4, 2020

The ginger macaroons here (scroll down to the bottom of the page) fit your requirements and are easy to make and very good indeed. They are the only thing I've ever made that came out looking exactly like the picture. Also, if you replace the ground almonds with ground hazelnuts and the ginger pieces with dark chocolate chips, you get a hazelnut praline version. The plum jellies on the same page would also fit, but I haven't tried them.
posted by Fuchsoid at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

You can make caramels vegan as long as everyone is ok with coconut milk. When I make caramels I put in a flavor that cuts the sweetness - salt, something tart like blood orange or pomegranate, spices on the spicy side like a gingery gingerbread spice mix, or herbs. This year I’m making them with rosemary and salt.

Also: pickles are SO festive. I’m sending all my people homemade pickled garlic scapes from my garden, and they’ll be fabulous on a cheese plate/in bloody marys/scrambled with eggs. A lot of people tell me those are their favorite thing I make.
posted by centrifugal at 9:33 PM on December 4, 2020

Just popping in to say that a good dairy free, soy free chocolate brand is Enjoy Life. They are specifically marketing themselves toward the food allergy community so they are extra extra careful to make sure it’s completely dairy free and soy free (and the rest of the Top 8 free including wheat free).
posted by bananacabana at 9:46 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sweet + Salty is a vegan confectionary cookbook that is _amazing_ It's seriously so good and everything is obviously dairy free, almost everything can be soy free if you use chocolate with sunflower lecithin instead of soy, and nearly everything in the book is gluten free. I've made the honeycomb, toffee, and caramels and they all turned out perfectly (I've had the versions they sell in their store and mine were indistinguishable).

Smitten Kitchen has a great chocolate covered almond recipe that's been a hit for me too.

But, also n'thing everyone who's saying pickles sound like a really good choice this, and any, time of year.
posted by snaw at 4:29 AM on December 5, 2020

If you stumble upon this book, it may give you other ideas. It's a cookbook with food gift ideas of all sorts; some will not suit (there's a chapter on quick breads and one on cookies), but some might suit (the chapter on jams, the one on pickles and other condiments, the one on liqueurs, the one on tea or spice mixes).

One thing they also say is that presentation goes a long way - that's one reason I suggested the gift basket idea. Like, they have a recipe for a spice blend for homemade chai (which is easy, you just get some different whole spices, just-barely crush them, toast them, and mix together and you're done), and they suggest packing a bottle of some of the chai blend with a box of nice quality tea and a couple of mugs. Or, pair a jar of homemade salsa and a jar of pickled jalepenos with a fancier-than-Tostitos bag of corn chips and some good beans. Or make two or three different kinds of jam, but pack them into those tiny 4 ounce jam jars and then make "jam gift sets" by bundling one of each kind together.

And pickles are definitely something they have in that book.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on December 5, 2020

I do homemade vanilla marshmallows, just made my first batch of the season last night.
posted by beignet at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2020

Maple Glazed Walnuts! These are so incredibly easy, and spectacularly good.
posted by belau at 1:08 PM on December 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Kettle corn!
posted by yawper at 7:13 AM on December 7, 2020

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