It is December 23 in the Philippines and malls are overflowing with shoppers. Speedy tried to enter the biggest grocery in our part of the suburb but he couldn’t even find a parking spot. If you still haven’t completed your gifts for the lucky people in your holiday list, don’t panic. There is always a solution—handmade food gifts. You’ll be amazed at what lovely gifts you can make from pantry staples like olive oil, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate, nuts, ground spices, and empty jars and bottles.
Here’s the trick:
1. Take a look at your pantry and list down what you’ve got.
2. If you grow herbs in your garden, check how much you can manage to pluck and cut without uprooting the plants.
3. Collect empty jars and bottles. Choose the ones without too many scratches and with rust-free caps. If labels are still attached to the glass, read tips on how to easily remove the sticky labels.
4. Prepare festive ribbons and stickers.
Now, see which of the following you can make.
Dulce de Leche
Indulgent and totally addictive, you can easily make dulce de leche with canned sweetened condensed milk. Cool without opening the cans. Once cool, transfer to pretty jars.
Dark Chocolate Truffles
If you’re a weekend baker, chances are you keep a constant supply of chocolate, cream powdered sugar, nuts and cocoa powder. Those are all the things you need to make chocolate truffles.
Mix crushed wafers, chocolate, a little honey, powdered sugar and rum to make rum balls. Make sure the label says they contain alcohol.
For friends, relatives and colleagues who like to barbecue, take out those jars of ground spices and mix them to make spice rubs. Choose from the many recipes online. I have one for Cajun spice mix.
Sweet Chili Sauce
Friends who love Asian dipping sauces will thank you forever for a jar or bottle of homemade sweet chili sauce. Unlike commercial stuff thickened with starch, my homemade sweet chili sauce is naturally thickened by boiling sugar and water with the spices until reduced to a syrup.
Make pesto with basil leaves, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Get fancy or keep it simple. The ones found on grocery shelves are super expensive and they’re not even half as good as homemade pesto.
Let’s go back to dried spices. Combine them with dried herbs and salt then use a pepper mill to make herbed salt. This is gourmet quality and if you buy it in specialty food shops, you’ll pay with an arm and a leg. Make herbed salt at home and you cut down the expense tremendously.
Herb-infused Olive oil
Picture-pretty with the herbs and spices showing through the jar or bottle, herb-infused olive oil can be used for cooking, baking bread and for mixing salad dressings.
Are there people on your gift list who are avid fans of Mexican food? Make a huge batch of guacamole, spoon them into jars, seal and label.
As a final tip, make sure that everything is properly labeled. If your food gift requires refrigeration, make sure that the label contains instructions like “keep chilled”.
And since homemade food gifts contain NO PRESERVATIVES, it would be useful to include a notice about the shelf life of your gifts.
Happy holidays, dear readers!