For me, homemade food gifts are the ultimate gorgeous, no-fuss presents this festive season ...
In my dream life, I've finished the Christmas shopping when December has barely started... There's been no frantic rushing around the shops and I've been inspired and able to come up with perfect gifts for all my nearest and dearest. The wrapping paper hasn't run out when I've only got one more present to deal with and I'm not still wrapping into the wee small hours of Christmas morning.
But, needless to say, for the most part, it is just that - a dream. The fact is, more often than not I'm full of good intentions but this hasn't actually translated into any serious action.
Things have moved on though over the last few years. That Christmas morning when I sat on the bedroom floor until 3am wrapping gifts, I swore it would never come to this again. Travelling certainly gets the mind focussed. If I know that we are flying on 20 December, then miraculously I can get everything bought, wrapped and packed in plenty of time - but leaving home for Christmas just so I'm more organised? Extreme.
And even if I've got my head around the mechanics of buying, wrapping and stashing away in secret hiding places, sometimes it's the 'working out what to buy' part that's the problem and nothing's going to get started until I've got that one sorted.
With some targeted questions, a good rummage around the shops and an attempt to put myself into the heads of a 14 Year old, and an 18 year old, and a 20 year old ... presents for your nearest and dearest are almost always do-able and enjoyable to buy too. But presents for other adults are another challenge altogether. Teachers, work colleagues, neighbours, friends, swim coaches ... the gift is a token - it's saying thank you, it's saying enjoy the holidays, it's saying you're special to me. These are important gifts but sometimes they are the hardest to find.
For our friends and family who love food, surely there's nothing better than a homemade food gift?
I'm a huge fan of food gifts - especially homemade food gifts. But let's get this straight - it's not my fallback; it's more like my go-to.
And how about the wrapping of homemade food gifts?
- Cellophane is great, tied with a simple, festive bow.
- A gift box lined with a few sheets of baking parchment looks good.
- Or maybe find a festive tin or jar and make the packaging part of the gift.
Would I ever get the children to make homemade food gifts?
I often choose homemade food gifts for teachers, but here's a question - would I get the children to actually make the gift for their teacher? You know, I wouldn't and here's why...
Children are lovely. Christmas is lovely. Receiving a gift is lovely. Receiving a homemade gift is lovely. Receiving a homemade food gift is especially lovely. Receiving a homemade food gift from your own child is off the scale lovely - but receiving a homemade food gift which has obviously come FROM THE HANDS OF somebody else's child - I know it's the time of goodwill and all that but, mmmmmm I'm not all convinced. And there's a risk that all that love and toil in your trashed kitchen might go straight into the recipient's bin. And that would be a shame. Instead, perhaps YOU stick to making the food gift and encourage a 'written by the child' gift tag or an accompanying festive bit of colouring. And then everyone's happy.
Handmaking a gift with love feels like the ultimate in thoughtful gifting, but if you like the concept and are struggling for inspiration for gorgeous, no-fuss foodie gifts, here are a few to whet your appetite ...
1 Chocolate Fudge Cookies - find a nice gift box and roughly line it with a couple of squares of baking parchment before filling it with these cookies.
2 Chocolate Tiffin - wrap a few pieces in cellophane and tie with a festive bow. Keeps beautifully in the fridge for ages too so you can prepare it well ahead of time.
3 Pickled Onions - you'll need to have been a bit organised for this one, but if not you can always lodge it at the back of your mind for next year. This is a perfect one for those tricky men.
4 Gingerbread Christmas Trees - follow the recipe here for Gingerbread Hearts but use a tree-shaped cutter and decorate with as much colour and sparkle as you can. Spot on as a gift for families with children.
5 Triple Chocolate Cookie Mix - My favourite food gift for sure. And why? It looks great, it's easy to put together (ie no need to even turn the oven on), your recipient can save it until after the festive frenzy and the cookies it makes are utterly delicious. A winner all around.
6 Salted Fruit & Nut Chocolate Coins - With just a few ingredients and very little fuss, you can create a truly classy treat. The chocolate is super thin and delicate, the sea salt cuts through the sweetness and the crunch of the dried fruit and nuts is a perfect contrast.
7 Well Fed Christmas Cake - the small size makes a great size for a gift and it's pretty too.
8 Ginger and Dark Chocolate Ben's Cookies - simply the best.
So, on my Christmas shopping list, I will be filling plenty of gaps with homemade food gifts. TICK. Now I just need to get on with the rest of the list …