Holiday baskets are always great fun to give, and particularly fun to receive, but sometimes, as a giver, buying the commercial variety can be a bit on the pricey side. That's why making your own is such a wonderful idea. Giving gift baskets that you have created and assembled yourself can be both rewarding and gratifying. Not only is it thoughtful, but tremendously appreciated as well, because it represents a lot of work, love, and care.
In our family, number two son, Andrew, a regular contributor to this blog, and his wife, Emma, are the gift basket king and queen. Each year the theme changes, and the recipes and accompanying tags reflect that theme. Their rule is that the recipient must return the basket in order to get it refilled for the following year. Trust me when I tell you that people are only too happy to oblige. They make about 15 baskets, putting anywhere between six and eight different delicious edible items in each.
Pictured is the Disney theme basket that I received last year. The nut brittle, made with ale, is my son's own creation (one of these days I'm going to have to write a blog post on his and my first attempt at making peanut brittle that, literally, brought us to our knees), and is his secret recipe, but here are links to other delicious items in the basket.
Panera Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (a personal fave)
Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies (so pretty and delicious)
Browned Butter Rice Krispies Treats (chewy and buttery)
Salted Peanut Nutella Puppy Chow (addicting)
Here are a couple of tips from Andrew to help you get started:
¨Newspaper in the bottom helps keep things in place.
¨Square or rectangular shaped baskets are better than round ones.
¨Curling ribbon is a simple way to dress things up.
¨When transporting many baskets at once use basket tags to keep track of which basket goes to whom.
¨If using those basket bags (that encase the entire basket) be sure to get the correct size (that has screwed me more than once).
¨Start early when looking for items to go into the basket and keep a list of successes.
Here are a couple of thoughts from me:
¨Buy sturdy but inexpensive baskets. Good Will and Old Time Pottery are good sources.
¨ Unify everything with a theme to reflect your or the recipients' interests.
¨ Feeling theme-less? Unify your basket with a single ingredient. Focus, for example, on ale, and make up sweets and savories using various ales. Fill in empty spots with bottles of the ale that you used.
¨ Cocoa can be another theme. Make up candies, cookies, and small cakes using cocoa, and then include your own special hot cocoa mix, bagged up and tied with an instructive tag.
¨ Making a basket for someone without a sweet tooth? Try nuts as a focus such as seasoned pecans, walnuts, or peanuts, granola, trail mix, and a popcorn blend, creating a basket full of tasty game time treats.
¨ Use an event as a unifying point. Make up baskets of breakfast goodies (scones, muffins, granola, pancake or waffle mix, homemade marmalade or jam, and fill in with a bag of coffee beans and a grinder). A tea time basket could include scones, small cakes, a homemade sandwich spread, package of tea, jar of clotted cream, and small teapot.
¨ Don't think solely of Christmas when you consider your basket. A gift basket full of salty snacks and decorated with colors of your favorite team would be the perfect gift for your Super Bowl party host and hostess. Consider dipping the ends of large pretzels into white chocolate and then drizzling with more white chocolate that has been tinted to reflect team colors.
¨ Bag your treats in clear cellophane bags (available at Michael's), tie on a descriptive tag, and fill in with seasonal greenery (fresh herbs would serve a dual purpose in the case of a cook's or gourmet basket), and tie with a bow.
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