Easy Gift Ideas From Your Kitchen

A bottle of wine dressed up in a festive bag is the usual accessory when invited to a holiday gathering. But it’s fun to mix it up. With available time for most folks in such short supply, gifts from the kitchen are becoming a rare gem.

Irish Cream

Irish Cream

This gift idea is almost as simple as purchasing a bottle: make a riff on Bailey’s Irish Cream–the one perenially stocked in the liquor department.

I made my own Irish Cream, divided it between Bell Jars and put a plaid ribbon around the lip. I delivered it to some favorite cousins, who claim ancestry in the Emerald Isle. Here’s the recipe:

In a blender, combine 1-2 cups of Irish whiskey, 1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 2-3 teaspoons instant expresso (or coffee).  Blend on high  until combined. Stir in the cream until incorporated. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled. (Lasts as long as the expiration date on the cream that you used.)

Yogurt and Fig Cake

Yogurt and Fig Cake

Something demanding more time, but a simple recipe all the same, is Yogurt and Fig Cake. (Featured in the recipe below.) A friend and incredible pastry chef, Anna Marie Ascher, once told me that the perfect cake is one you would enjoy eating for breakfast. This certainly meets that criteria.

I might add that the perfect cake for gifts is the size of a loaf pan and easily portable. When cool, wrap the cake in brown parchment paper (so that the topping doesn’t stick), tie with a bit of twine and stick a sprig of holly between the string and paper. Voila!

I can savor this cake for a good two weeks, if tightly wrapped and refrigerated. Try serving with a dollop of freshly whipped cream enhanced with a liqueur, such as Grand Marnier to complement the orange zest. It also freezes well up to a couple of months, ready to thaw when the occasion demands.

Chocolate Truffles with Bacon

Chocolate Truffles with Bacon

Or step it up yet another notch and make your own chocolate truffles. Take a look at the recipes–they really aren’t as hard as you’d think. Craft shops carry small boxes that are perfect for these morsals.

Here are the links:  Chocolate Truffles, and, a bit  more savory , Chocolate Truffles with Bacon.


Vicki's Famous Peanut Brittle

Vicki’s Famous Peanut Brittle

Vicki’s Famous White and Dark Chocolate Bark (the feature picture) and Vicki’s Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle are other ideas.

The reasonably simple recipes are tailor-made for packing in tins and distributing amongst office mates.

May your days be merry and bright!


Yogurt and Fig Cake


  • Unsalted butter as needed for greasing loaf pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup washed and diced figs, such as Black Mission Figs plus sliced whole figs for garnish, if desired
  • 1/4 cup fig preserves (other fruit marmalades may be substituted)


  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. Generously butter metal loaf pan (apx. 9X5X3-inches). Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, orange zest and vanilla in large bowl; whisk until well-blended.
  3. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients. Using rubber spatula, fold in oil. Transfer batter to prepared pan and place pan on baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.
  4. Cool cake in an on rack 5 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto rack. Turn cake upright on rack and cool completely.
  5. Stir fig preserves and 1 teaspoon water in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush 1/2 of hot preserves over cake. Arrange sliced figs on top of cake. Dollop remaining glaze over figs. Let cake cool and set.

Active time: 20 minutes

Baking time: 40-50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

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