Real Food Tips: 12 Homemade Holiday Gifts (that aren’t cookies!)

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Admit it. When you think of “making” or “baking” some type of holiday gift you think of cookies. Or maybe candy. No matter what it is I guarantee it’s full of sugar, and collectively there’s just too much of that going around this time of year (in my opinion)! I personally think there are many other little holiday gift ideas that are more exciting – and more original – than cookies, and since I like to play by my own rules here’s some of what I will be giving out this year…

  1. Homemade Vanilla Extract

One of my favorite things about this gift (other than how cute the bottles are!) is that you can make them in advance. In fact – this is a gift that will actually get better with time, which is quite the opposite of a lot of other homemade goodies. Simply slit two vanilla beans down the middle, drop them into 375ml of vodka (I used the red Smirnoff) and within a few weeks you will have infused pure vanilla extract that someone can use in all sorts of recipes like granola, pumpkin bread, French toast, and oatmeal. And save some money by ordering your vanilla beans online (Amazon is cheaper for large quantities while J. Crowe’s Marketplace is better for small orders) instead of buying them at the grocery store!

  1. Assorted Whole-Grain Muffins

I adore all those cute treat boxes this time of year, and the ones pictured below from Michael’s Craft Store (that I purchased with a 40% off coupon) are no exception. But just because they are “treat” boxes doesn’t mean you have to fill them with cookies, sweets, and cupcakes…try thinking “out of the box” instead! Okay, kidding. There’s nothing like a cheesy joke to lighten the day. :) Anyway, pictured is an assortment of whole-grain pumpkin, zucchini, corn bread, and blueberry muffins or you could also add some banana nut or cinnamon raisin muffins to the mix as well. As far as I am concerned you can’t go wrong! (Hint: Make your muffins in advance, and store them in the freezer until gift-giving time.)

  1. Seasoning Mixes

Whether it’s a meat rub for chicken or pork or a spice mixture for homemade ranch dip (or all three!) this could be yet another unique holiday present. Craft stores like Michael’s and A.C. Moore sell cute little containers and jars – meant for wedding favors – and with one of their weekly 40% or 50% off coupons it could be a rather affordable gift idea as well. Attach a recipe card detailing how to use the spice mixes and you end up with another creative gift idea!

  1. Homemade Granola Cereal or Granola Bars

This is what we eat (and love) for breakfast almost every single day so I can’t think of a better reason to share it with others. You could give the granola cereal version in a jar or gift bag or make some granola bars with dried fruit and put them in little treat boxes (which is what I gave out last year). Don’t forget a little recipe card to go along with it because you know you’ll leave them wanting more!

  1. Homemade Bread

If you make your own bread either in the oven or in a bread maker you have an advantage because that’s just one more very thoughtful and tasty holiday gift you can offer. Whether you want to make the standard Honey Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread or a Cinnamon Raisin Loaf I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed. I’ve actually given out loaves of bread as “thank you” gifts before, and they were very well received!

  1. Glazed/Candied Nuts and Popcorn Mixes

This Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn recipe is easy to make and a crowd pleaser. I also have a standard glazed pecan recipe that we love, but don’t be afraid to mix it up by adding extra pepper or even making something with a stronger flavor like Thai Curry Cashews. You could also add in extras like plain popcorn, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, or unsweetened coconut to make more of a spiced trail mix. The possibilities are endless!

  1. Homemade Whole-Grain Pasta

If you have a pasta machine (like me!) then don’t be shy because just about anybody would love to get some fresh, homemade whole-grain pasta as a gift. You could pair it with a jar of organic and/or local tomato sauce and block of good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you really want to get fancy. It would make a very nice – and memorable – holiday gift.

  1. Home Canned Goods

I personally have never canned anything (it’s on my to-do list!), but if your pantry is stocked with homemade pickles, salsa or whatever else you were busy making this summer then wrap a red bow around it and call it a day!

  1. Frozen Meals/Soups

I do happen to have a lot of homemade soups in my freezer (in both small and large jars), and if you were giving a gift to someone that could refrigerate or freeze it again right away I think this so-called “meal in a jar” would be very much appreciated. Even a cold soup (or assortment of soups in small jars) that had not yet been frozen would be nice to offer as well. Think of those teachers that have to try to avoid the lunch line every single day!

  1. Meals in a Jar

Rather than giving someone premade soups you could also create a jar full of pretty layered dried beans and spices along with a recipe card for making homemade soup. Also, I saw a picture on pinterest where someone made their meals at the beginning of the week in attractive layers in big clear glass jars (would love for someone to do that for me!). Once again if you are giving a gift to someone that could keep things cold this could be a very unique and useful idea.

  1. Dried Fruit or Beef Jerky

If you have a dehydrator or know how to make your own beef jerky or dried fruit (cinnamon spiced apple chips, anyone?) in your oven this could also be packaged up in cute little bags and given as a holiday gift. I might have to experiment with this idea myself for next year!

  1. Advent Calendars

This is a little off-topic since it isn’t a gift you give to others, but it actually is sort of a “gift” you give to your children as you count down to Christmas. I’m sure we’ve all seen those pre-filled advent calendars with a piece of candy or chocolate for each day, and two years ago I followed suit by filling my own little advent house with everything from skittles to M&Ms to gum, etc. Well, last year was our first holiday season since our switch to real food so I was racing all around town looking for little gadgets, figures, and toys that were small enough to fit in the little doors of our advent calendar. It ended up being a bunch of plastic junk that the girls quickly lost interest in…or actually just “lost” because they were all so small! So this year I’ve been inspired by an idea from This Lunch Rox to turn our advent house into a “giving house.” She created a gorgeous little “giving jar” with some amazing ideas, and since I don’t want to over commit our already busy family we are going to do a scaled down version of her brilliant idea! I am going to get a set of blank business cards from the office store and write little suggestions on them that my daughters can do each day on their own. Some examples might be writing a nice letter to their teacher, making holiday cards for children who are ill, writing a letter to a soldier overseas, or even giving extra hugs or compliments to others that day. I figure those little cards will fold up and fit in the doors of our new “giving house” nicely, and if I intertwine them with a few fun gadgets (similar to last year) it will hopefully be a smooth transition!


If you have any other “real food” homemade gift ideas please leave them in the comments below!

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216 comments to Real Food Tips: 12 Homemade Holiday Gifts (that aren’t cookies!)

  • deborah kristensen

    I pick all the Herbs in my garden in late summer, dry them in the oven a few days, then blend together With some coarse salt and put it in decorative little jars, voila! herbal salt, Perfect little gifts!

  • Kate

    Another idea for the Advent calendar house especially if you have girls is to buy 24 colorful, pretty beads for each child, and put them in the drawers. In the first drawer also put a piece of cord or elastic. Alternatively you can put small items which combine to make a craft item & instructions re: how to make them. Or pieces of a 24-piece Nativity or other Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzle.

  • [...] Homemade Vanilla Extract (plus a few other goodies) [...]

  • Erin

    Great ideas. I love getting and giving homemade gifts. The holidays can be stressful when trying to find gifts for adults who “have” everything they “need,” or are in the position to simply purchase it if they need it, and often do. Last year I gave my parents a recyclable grocery bag full of food goodies from Trader Joes and some local markets (in Chicago) that they are unable to source where they live for a week long trip they take to a woodsy cabin in February. They loved it so much that requested it again this year. So this year we are gifting gift baskets made from the bounty of my Dad’s extensive garden, rounded out with a few locally made goodies including some craft beer. Here is what we made….

    Spicy Zucchini relish– have you seen how much zucchini a single plant gives? Try a whole plot of zucchini.

    Apple Butter- I make it in the crock pot an add 1/8 – 1/4 the amount of sugar called for and it is still quite sweet.

    Spicy Tomato Jam- you’ll never go back to ketchup

    Chestnut Cream- Simply chestnuts, cream, a little sugar and vanilla boiled and canned. A great alternative to nutella.

    And we also made some delicious caramel corn.

    Once you hop on the canning bandwagon it is hard to stop.

  • Manuel

    Hi, questions regarding the Vanilla Extract.

    I highly doubt this ever becomes Non-alcoholic so,
    Is this safe for children
    And, if I decided to take shots of this , how likely will I get intoxicated? I mean, does the alcohol changed?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Manuel. The tiny amounts of this you would need to use in recipes is not of concern. However, I would not recommend doing shots of it. It is mostly vodka and the alcohol extracts the vanilla flavor from the bean. It would be potent. :) ~Amy

  • Ok, I’ve got all the things I need to make the vanilla..I just want to double check about the 375ml amount of vodka that you add to the 2 vanilla beans…is that about 1 1/2 cups (one and a half) of vodka? How long do you need to leave the beans in before you toss them?

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi. It is a bit more than half a cup. You do not ever “have” to remove the beans. The flavor will continue to develop for many weeks and the beans look nice in the bottle. ~Amy

  • Amber

    So, since I use a ton of Vanilla extract in recipes, i’m thinking I will just throw a total of 4 beans into a 750ml bottle of vodka(approx. 2 full beans for every 12 oz. of vodka), Decorate over the label and call it a day? Is there any drawback in doing a large amount at one time that you can think of? I would assume not.

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