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Alma's Simple Homemade Holiday Gifts


I love the holidays. I love the the food, the music and the family time. I love the vacation from homework, or at least checking my kids' homework. And I love showing my love and appreciation for all the special people that touch my family throughout the year.

What I don't love, however, is spending crazy amounts of time and money to show that appreciation and love. I have four children, which translates to about 30 gifts for them to give out at school. There are teachers, teaching assistants, speech therapists, bus drivers, crossing guards... you get the gist.

Does stressing about this make me a less giving person? I don't think so. Truth be told, the stress just forces me to be a little more strategic in my gifting. One very useful strategy is to give homemade edible gifts.

I, like many people, find good holiday food to be comforting and festive. Giving it as gifts frees up time and money, yet still allows you to create intimate tokens of love for those special people in your life. Here are some of my favorite homemade edible gifts, all of which can be made in bulk.

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Butterscotch Sauce

Butterscotch sauce is one of my favorite go-to edible gifts. It's quick and easy to prepare in bulk and drips with holiday spirit. Feel free to splash a bit of rum in there if it seems appropriate.

(Makes enough to fill 2 6 - 8-ounce Mason jars.)

Supplies for gift packaging:

* 6 or 8-ounce Mason jars

* Sticker labels

* Ribbons


* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

* 2 cups light brown sugar, packed

* 1 cup heavy cream

* Dash of salt

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 - 10 minutes.

2. Keep stirring, add in the heavy cream and salt.

3. Keep stirring until combined.

4. Add the vanilla extract, stir and let cool.

5. When cooled, store in a Mason jar (or any glass jar with a lid) and put in the fridge.

Photo Credit: Alma Schneider

Spiced Pecans

I've been making this festive and frighteningly addictive recipe for about 15 years. They're always a huge hit at parties and as hostess gifts. I always include the written-out recipe, so recipients can make them on their own. And they usually do.

(Makes about 6 cups of nuts.)

Supplies for gift packaging:

* Chinese food takeout containers (colored ones are available at any craft or dollar store) OR

* Cellophane bags with ribbons

Ingredients (pecans):

* 6 tablespoons butter

* 1 cup brown sugar

* 1/4 cup water

* 6 cups shelled, halved pecans

Ingredients (spice mixture):

(Note: You can make the spice mixture in advance or give it as a gift with a note containing the rest of the ingredients and the recipe.)

* 1 tablespoon chili powder

* 1 teaspoon ground cumin

* 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon dried oregano

* 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Lay out parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet.

3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

4. Add all the spices, brown sugar and water and stir until the sugar dissolves, a couple of minutes.

5. Once the mixture becomes syrupy, add the pecans and stir until the pecans are coated with the delicious syrupy mixture.

6. Spread the nuts on the parchment paper-lined baking tray in a single layer.

7. Bake about 20 minutes or until the nuts are starting to turn brown. Check frequently to make sure they're not burning.

8. Let nuts cool completely on the counter and then break apart and put in an airtight container.

9. Package in Chinese food takeout containers or cellophane bags tied with ribbons.

Photo Credit: Alma Schneider

Chocolate Truffles

Do I really need to explain why chocolate truffles are a special gift? Who wouldn't want to receive such a delicacy? The delicious little secret about chocolate truffles is that they are E-A-S-Y to make. And a touch of creativity — a few spices or some chopped, dried fruit and nuts — can even make them extra fancy.

(Makes about 40 truffles.)

Supplies for packaging:

* Chinese food takeout containers OR

* Cellophane bags with ribbons


* 8 - 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chocolate chips or high end like Scharffen Berger) finely chopped in a food processor

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 1/4 cup heavy cream

* 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (for dusting)

* 1 cup chopped, crystallized ginger or chopped nuts (optional)

* 1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)

* 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)


1. Simmer heavy cream in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.

2. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate and butter. Stir gently until smooth.

3. Once chocolate is cooled, transfer to a glass or stainless steel bowl and place in fridge for 2 hours.

4. Once chocolate is hardened, use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop teaspoon-size balls of chocolate.

5. Roll chocolate into as many balls as you can while keeping hands cold (touch the outside of a stainless steel bowl filled with ice).

6. Place balls on the wax paper-covered baking sheet.

7. Place cocoa powder in a shallow bowl. Add cayenne or cumin powder, if desired, and stir.

8. Roll the balls in the powder.

9. Roll the balls in ginger or nuts, if desired (or just in ginger or nuts without the powder).

10. Keep in fridge until ready to package.

11. Package in Chinese food takeout containers or cellophane bags tied with ribbons.

Photo Credit: Alma Schneider

Check out other Holiday Gift Guides.

Alma Schneider is a licensed Clinical Social Worker helping individuals overcome their psychological and practical obstacles to cooking and parenting on her blog and consulting business, Take Back the Kitchen. She is a native New Yorker transplanted to the suburbs with her husband, four children and loving yet stubborn Beagle Shiloh.

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