6 Food Gift Ideas for this Holiday Season

6 Food Gift Ideas for this Holiday Season

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DIY Holiday Bark

DIY Holiday Bar/Photo: Blue Plate Catering

Holiday gifts can be hard. You know what’s not? Food. That + holiday gifting = the best holiday gift idea ever. This holiday, take a tip from Blue Plate’s culinary and creative team for six food gift ideas to get you through the holiday season.

1). FOOD & DRINK PAIRINGS

Food and drink pairings have been gaining stride as a hot trend, and this year saw an increase in pairings from the standards (cheese and wine, pretzels and beer), to the not-so-standards using locally-sourced ingredients, pairing iconic menu items with classic cocktails and even beer/food collaborations. Take a look at our rum and chocolate mash-up in our DIY Holiday Bark and Cranberry Rum Old-Fashioned recipes from pastry chef, Ashley Harriger and in-house Mixologist, Lov Carpenter.

DIY Holiday Bark
16 ounces dark melting chocolate
1 ounce dried cranberries
1 ounce dried candied orange peels
0.5 ounces coconut chips
optional: choice of aged rum

Before starting the bark, soak the dried cranberries in the rum overnight. Place on a paper towel to soak up the extra liquid. Chop the orange peel into small pieces and set aside. Melt the package of chocolate pieces in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until fully melted. As an alternative method, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over several inches of boiling water. Pour the melted chocolate on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and spread out with a spatula. Working quickly, sprinkle all of your dry garnishes on top.

Rum Cranberry Old-Fashioned
2 ounces aged rum
0.5 ounces cranberry syrup
2-3 dashes orange bitters
dried cranberry garnish

Combine rum, syrup and bitters in a mixing vessel of your choice with a few cubes of ice. Stir for about 30 seconds, or until vessel is cold. Strain drink into glass, add a few ice cubes and garnish with dried cranberries. For the cranberry syrup, use equal parts sugar and water to make your syrup. Add sugar to boiling water, and stir until dissolved. Add cranberries, using 1/3 cup for every cup of syrup. Let steep until cool, then remove cranberries. Store in refrigerator in sealed container for up to two weeks. (For regular simple syrup, simply omit the cranberries.)

♥Gift it

Assemble all ingredients or the finished bark with a local rum or whiskey. Handwrite individual recipe cards and package it all in a custom box.

 

2). HOMEMADE JAM

Homemade Jam

Peach Tarragon Jam/Photo: Blue Plate Catering

Show your friends that you can flex your culinary muscle without having to do any heavy lifting with homemade jam. Chef de Cuisine Melissa Chickerneo offers her recipe for her Tuscan Strawberry Jam below. For a seasonal, holiday twist, swap strawberries for cranberries.

Tuscan Strawberry Jam
2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

In a heavy saucepan, mix the strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C). Remove from heat and add rosemary. Transfer to a jelly jar. Refrigerate until cool. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Serve with grilled meat, soft cheese or on rustic bread.

♥Gift it

Package your jam in a glass jar then pair it with a variety of crackers and cheeses and a bottle of wine for a ready-made holiday entertainer gift. Or create a bar kit bag to recreate our Gin and Raspberry Jam Cocktail.

Related: Find more jam uses and tips at our blog post In the Kitchen with Blue Plate Catering: Jams.

3). SOUP IN A JAR

Soup in a jar

Photo: Evermine.com/Stephanie Rose

Next to cheesy macaroni and cheese and decadent hot cocoa, soup is likely one of the most common, if not quintessential, comfort foods that’s the cure for any chilly, winter day. Making soup, on the other hand, can be quite daunting when all you want to do is cuddle up to a steaming bowl of a metaphorical food hug. Make your giftee’s day with our recipe for ready-to-cook Rustic Autumn Soup.

Rustic Autumn Soup

For Jar (layered bottom to top):
1 tablespoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
5 chicken bouillon cubes, ground
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup uncooked white rice
¼ cup uncooked farro
½ cup red lentils
¾ cup dry split peas

For Soup:
Place contents of jar into a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Add three slices thick cut bacon, whole, 1 cup medium diced ham and 10 cups water. Tighten cover and cook on low for approximately 8 hours or until soup is thick and lentils are tender. Remove bacon slices and serve with toasted country bread.

♥Gift it

Layer the ingredients in your jar of choosing and create unique labeling with different sized stickers. Pair it with a pottery or ceramic bowl from a local artist and oyster crackers. Kitchen tip: look for taller vessels to better layer the ingredients.

 

4). READY-BAKE POUND CAKE

Holiday Pound Cake

Holiday Pound Cake/Photo: Blue Plate Catering

The debate on fruitcake is a hot topic — some love it, some loathe it; we say, to each their own. Pound cake on the other hand, with its subtle density and more approachable flavor, is a crowd pleaser. Start with our basic pound cake recipes below. Find additional variations on our blog post Pound Cake Four Ways This Holiday Season.

Pound Cake

For the pound cake:
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 stick of butter
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 325° F and grease pan with butter. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. With a mixer, cream the butter and shortening together then gradually add the sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture after each addition. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the mixture, starting with the flour mix and ending with the flour mix. Add the vanilla. Pour into a greased pan and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from pan and finish cooling on the rack. When the cake is completely cool, prepare the icing by whisking together all the ingredients. Pour over the top of the cake and let sit until the icing has completely dried.

♥Gift it

Package all dry ingredients in small tins with a recipe card and a kitchen tool or utensil or bake up a few loaves in mini pans then wrap in Kraft paper. Tie with cooking twine attached to a small note card for a special touch.

 

5). CUSTOM SPICE BLENDS

Custom spice blends

Photo: Flickr/Valentine Svensson

Everyone has that friend with the secret spice rub that makes the best ribs or Sunday gravy. You can never have too many spices, and custom blends are the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Our Italian Spice Mix is a versatile blend for using in vinaigrettes, marinades and even to create herb butter. If you have a spice blend from a dish your friends rave about, package it so they can recreate your unique flavors.

Blue Plate’s Italian Spice Mix
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1 pinch chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon celery salt
¾ teaspoon salt

♥Gift it

Pour premade mixes into spice shakers or spice jars and pair it with a package of dry pasta, cans of tomato sauce and tomato paste, a beautiful wooden mixing spoon and a small jar of parmesan cheese for a fun, Italian feast.

 

6). INFUSED SPIRITS

Infused spirits

Photo: Jackson Stakeman

Everybody loves the gift of alcohol. But infused alcohol? What, what! Vodka and gin are great bases says Blue Plate mixologist, Lov Carpenter, and you can infuse vodka with almost anything. She suggests rosemary and thyme or tarragon, and you can even infuse your spirit with various teas. For herbs, Carpenter cautions not to let it sit for more than a day and instructs to remove the herbs after infusing. For tea, Carpenter recommends infusing for only a few hours. For a sweeter infusion, melt caramel or chocolate into vodka and let it infuse for 3-5 days, shaking regularly.

♥Gift it

Bottle your infused spirit in a vintage bottle and pair it with a selection of unique, local mixers, tonics and various bitters. Include a classic mixing vessel and bar spoon for the complete mixology touch.

For more tips on planning a holiday party read our How to Throw the Perfect Holiday Bash.