It’s Thursday, so it is Holiday Food Fest time! This week’s host is Phoebe of Cents to get Debt Free. The theme is Edible Gifts with gift wrapping ideas included. Phoebe’s been busy and has some great gift ideas to share, and so have a lot of other folks. So you won’t want to miss checking out everyone’s ideas. Plus, the giveaway this week is an EatSmart Precision Pro digital scale—that will be a nice price for a lucky someone! Next week is Thanksgiving, so Holiday Food Fest will be on a brief hiatus, but it picks up again the following Thursday with the delightful Holiday Food Fest hostess/originator herself, Amy, of Simply Sugar & Gluten Free. Amy’s theme will be Holiday Cocktails, Mocktails, and Appetizers. That’s quite an all-inclusive category! So please join in or at least check out all the entries.
One gift I like to make is homemade vanilla extract. Homemade vanilla is so easy to make and wonderful. It’s also very economical for the avid cook. It’s a favorite of my friends and family. I usually give my homemade vanilla extract every 2 years, because most folks don’t go through a bottle this size in a year’s time.
For gift wrapping, attach your label and a decorative bow/ribbon. “Curly” ribbon is great for the neck of the bottle. You can easily attach a little gift tag. Gift tags are easy to make from old Christmas cards by cutting out an image that you like that is the right size for the gift, punching a hole at the top (in a place that won’t ruin the image), and then running the curling ribbon through the hole before you tie and curl the ribbon with scissors.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
(Click here for a print version of this and the next recipe.)
Pint of vodka (or rum, or another liquor of your choice; some folks like brandy and cognac, but I prefer the more neutral-flavored vodka)
Two vanilla beans, cut as directed below
Soak label off vodka bottle by submerging bottle in water (up to top of label) for a few hours.
Either cut vanilla beans into 1-inch pieces or split/cut in the middle using a knife, but do NOT cut all the way through so that the bean separates into two pieces. See photo for both methods. I prefer the splitting method because I think the beans looks nicer in the bottle this way.
Place vanilla beans in bottle of vodka. Place in a dark place where temperature doesn’t fluctuate, like cabinet away from stove. Now is an ideal time to make vanilla extract for gifts. It will take a month to 6 weeks for the vanilla to be extracted into the vodka, but you can actually give it as a present before then. Even if you drag your feet a little in your vanilla making, it will be okay. It’s not likely that the recipients will immediately start baking the minute they receive your gift.
Shirley’s Notes: I don’t usually buy my vanilla beans from the grocery store because they are not usually high quality at my grocery store and they are typically more costly. Madagascar vanilla beans are popular. I’ve usually bought the Tahitian ones though (that actually come from Papua New Guinea now it seems). I’ve gotten my vanilla beans through The Spice House or Penzey’s, but you can also buy vanilla beans through Amazon. The Tahitian ones are shown here. I paid $3.80 for a pint of vodka and $6.60 for two vanilla beans. You can save money by buying a large bottle of vodka, using recycled bottles, and ordering your vanilla beans online in larger quantities. Just be sure if using recycled bottles that they allow for easy pouring, are a similar size to pints, and that they don’t retain a strong smell (i.e., don’t use a jar that formerly contained pizza sauce). I read that unless you use six vanilla beans per cup of alcohol, you are making vanilla-flavored alcohol. Well, I’ve been using this ratio for years and have been happy with the results. I just made the bottle of vanilla extract shown so no extraction has taken place yet. In a very short time, the extraction process will be evident as the vodka begins to turn amber.
Because we keep bees and they make the world’s best honey, I’m always looking for great ways to use honey in cooking or as gifts. Honey butter is one of those little niceties that some restaurants offer with their breads. It’s so easy to make and is really appreciated by the recipients. It’s a great accompaniment to a loaf of homemade bread or some homemade rolls/muffins.
You will be tempted to make a lot, but a little goes a long way. The jars shown are bouillon jars I’ve recycled. Smaller jars would be even better. The very small jars that jams and jellies sometimes come in would be perfect, especially to go with a bread gift. The following recipe produces just the right amount of honey butter to fill one of the bouillon jars.
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) of butter, softened
¼ cup honey (or less, to taste)
Place softened butter in a deep bowl. Cream butter with your mixer or a wooden spoon. Gradually add honey and mix using a low speed if using a mixer. Spoon into the jar. You can “wrap” now and then refrigerate or wait until right before gifting if you are worried about your wrapping getting disturbed or damp in the refrigerator. I place a nice gift label on the lid and just tie a bow around the lid. The label shown in the photo was actually part of a book of stamps. I always save any parts I can turn into labels or stickers. I just hate to waste things. Cost wise, this gift can be very reasonable. The butter cost me about 75 cents and, of course, the honey was free (setting aside our costs for maintaining the bees).
Shirley’s Notes: I made a sample batch using coconut oil instead of butter and I liked it, but it does have a pronounced coconut flavor.
Homemade goodies like these are perfect for assembling together in baskets, too. I actually had more planned to share, but we had a thunderstorm today, lost power, and I lost my file, so I promise to give you some more easy gift ideas soon. Have fun with your gift making!
Last, don’t forget … the Thanksgiving Progressive Dinner Party is still going on. Today’s posts are recipes for side dishes. Diane of The Whole Gang dished up Stuffing with Pancetta Sage Sausage … oh my. For another stuffing option, check out Stephanie’s (A Year of Slow Cooking) Corn Bread Slow Cooker Stuffing. Who doesn’t like cornbread? And made in the slow cooker? The best. You really can’t go wrong with either of those stuffing recipes. Just go take a look at them—they make you want Thanksgiving dinner right now! Ali shared a beautiful Pear Pomegranate Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, yet another recipe in our Progressive Dinner that features arils, more commonly known as pomegranate seeds. I can only imagine the amazing burst of flavors. Incidentally, November is national pomegranate month. Finally, I can’t wait to see what Shauna shares over at her blog, Gluten-Free Girl! Tomorrow will be the wrap up—desserts! Stop by to see what Karen of Cook4Seasons, Jean of Gluten-Free Organics and More, and Ali of The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen will be serving.
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