Holiday DIY: Gifts from the kitchen

Kristin Bogdonas University of Illinois Extension Services

When I think about the holidays, I think about getting crafty in the kitchen. Making food-related gifts for friends and family is a fun way to share your creative side and put a personal touch on the holiday season. In the past I have gifted home-preserved cranberry-orange chutney, herb ornaments, limoncello and my famous homemade chocolate-dipped peppermint-orange marshmallows.

In this post, the focus is on sweet and savory ways you can incorporate herbs and spices into your holiday DIY creations. Think of these as “gifts from the kitchen” or as something you can make at home with your family to enjoy. If you don’t have access to these herbs and spices locally, check online sources and order what you need. Buying in bulk can save you money in the long run, especially if you’re making multiple gifts to give.

Download and print all holiday DIY recipes

Ideas for Spices

Sweet, Savory and Holiday Spice Nuts– One of my favorite smells during the holidays. I have fond memories of walking through the mall as a teen with my mom and picking up a bag of roasted almonds or pecans from one of the many kiosks. The sweet, savory flavors and warmth of the freshly roasted nuts was a special treat during the holiday season. Consider making your own this year! This is a simple process that allows you to get creative with a variety of spice blends.

Pomander Balls– A fun holiday tradition for all ages. This homemade air refresher will last for months to come! The best part is that you only need two ingredients- oranges (or clementines) and whole cloves. The more cloves you use, the longer it will last. Simply poke the cloves into your orange to create a pattern and hang the pomander until it’s dry. I still have the pomander ball that I made last year!

Masala Chai– Masala (spice) chai (tea) is easy to make at home with a few warming spices, ginger, black tea bags, milk and honey to taste. Make the chai spice bags ahead of time, and gift with black tea bags, or have on hand when you’re in need of a warming beverage for those cold winter nights. This beverage would pair nicely with the spiced nuts for an afternoon treat.

Mulling Spices/Stove-top Potpourri- Similar spices can be used to make both mulled wine gift sets and simmering potpourri pouches. They smell wonderfully enticing when simmering on the stove. Common ingredients include cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, orange slices, cardamom, allspice and ginger root. Simply add your spice mix to a muslin bag with drawstrings for easy cleanup.

Ideas for Herbs

Herbal Tea Bags- Create a variety of blends for sleep, energy, and cold season support. In addition to herbs, consider adding dried orange peels and ginger or loose-leaf teas. Some of my favorite combinations include holy basil + spearmint, lemon peel + chamomile, lemon verbena + ginger and rooibos + coconut flakes. Personalize each tea bag with a quote on the tag if you are giving these as gifts.

Infused Vinegars– Brighten up your meals by infusing vinegar with flavorful herbs and even fruit. These make great gifts for the foodies on your shopping list. Give yourself some time if you are going to make these since they take several weeks to infuse.

Salt-Free Seasoning Blends– Get creative in the kitchen by making herb and spice blends for all of your dipping, rubbing, roasting and sautéing needs. If you are wanting to reduce sodium in your diet, you will definitely want to have some seasoning blends on hand to enhance your meals’ flavor. As with the herbal tea bags, the options are endless. Divide between fillable food-safe ornaments for unique party favors or stocking stuffers.

Enjoy your homemade holidays!

Kristin Bogdonas is the nutrition and wellness educator serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark counties.

For food gifts, try rosemary cashews

Home & Lifestyles section