‘Tis the season for giving! My favorite part of the holidays (other than staring at the pretty lights in our tree) is preparing gifts for our loved ones. As we grow older, it can be hard to find a gift that won’t end up in someone’s Goodwill pile. Unless you know exactly what someone wants (and what’s the fun in that?), you really are risking wasting your money and burdening the receiving person with the guilt of having to keep whatever knick-knack you might offer.
Several years ago, I started preparing baked treats for our loved ones. It started in 2010 with a few simple things I wanted to try making and decided to share. Every year, it grew a little bigger, until it became our main gift to everyone. When we were able to hand-deliver all the treats, we went all out, even including items that needed to be refrigerated. When we moved, we had to be a bit more cautious of what we would give as we had to mail them out to family members.
To me, making these treats is an occasion to share some of my favorite go-to recipes, as well as an opportunity to try my hand at new baked goods. It will also vary based on our plans each year. If we have to travel, for example, I might make smaller quantities and easier items than if I know I’ll be home and available to make more.
First, ask yourself…
- How much time can I allocate to the treat-making this year?
- Is there a treat that people seem to particularly enjoy every year?
- Is there a treat I’ve been wanting to try making? How can I challenge myself?
- Is there a family/cultural goodie that I want people to try?
- How will the goodies be distributed? By mail? In person?
- How many people do I want to share the treats with?
- Which treats will be for close family vs co-workers/friends? (this is especially the case when adding a small cake or pie)
I’m no Martha Stewart and most ideas I see on Pinterest seem reasonable until I try them and fail miserably. To me, it is all about adding a personal touch or a bit of originality. If all else fails, you can find cute tins at the Dollar Tree. I like to buy a variety of plastic bags, small boxes or mini cupcakes liners that are neutral enough to last me a few years if needed. I also like to keep around an array if ribbons, twine and label stickers. They always come in handy. I’ve used a variety of containers for the goodies: fabric-covered clementine boxes, metal tins, wicker baskets and…most boring of all, USPS boxes. Nothing a little tissue paper or properly placed ribbon can’t fix. I would also recommend adding a list of the goodies on or inside the box so people have an idea of what they are eating.
This year, our boxes included the following
- Dublin Fruit Cake
- Maple Macaroons (I swapped the sugar and vanilla extract for maple sugar/extract)
- Peppermint marshmallows
- Skor Squares
- Florence Lace Cookies
- Palets Bretons (French Butter Cookies)
- Georgia Pralines
Some other treats we’ve made in the past
- Mini sugar pies (my recipe for sugar pie is here)
- Popcorn seasonings
- A wide variety of cookies (maple jumble cookies, peppermint chocolate cookies, gingerbread cookies, cookie sandwiches, chocolate crinkle cookies, maple bacon shortbread…)
- Homemade marshmallows (flavors vary: peppermint, vanilla, chocolate, maple…)
- Chocolate bark (melting chocolate with dried fruits, nuts, chopped candy cane…)
- Breakfast spreads (grapefruit marmelade and homemade Nutella)
- Rum cakes
- Blondies, brownies
- Dog treats
The beauty of holiday treat baskets is that you can make them as complex or simple as you want and still show the person receiving it that you cared enough about them to spend all this time in the kitchen, making this especially for them. They don’t need to know how many times you failed and threw a pan full of treats in the trash bin (3 times this year, in my case), how many treats your cat broke while you were sleeping (Rest in peace, first batch of pralines…) and how much marshmallow gunk will forever be stuck under your cabinets. Best of all, you get to taste everything you made because you wouldn’t want to give people something that taste terrible, right? 🙂