What do you get for the person who has everything? How about a thoughtful homemade edible gift? From cookies and sweets to from-scratch soups and entrees prepared with love, edible gifts are appropriate for just about everyone on your list. Not only will homemade edible gifts save you a bundle on your holiday shopping budget, by preparing foods in advance and freezing them, you can cut down on the stress of the last minute rush and relax and enjoy the holidays this year.
With the variety of festive freezer containers and colored plastic wraps and foils available this time of year, it’s easy to make your gifts look good while keeping them protected in the freezer.
So many people don’t cook because they either don’t know how, they’re too busy, or they live alone, so receiving a gift of home cooking is truly a treat. The people I find who most appreciate homemade gifts are often the ones who are hardest to shop for such as elderly relatives, or busy professionals who never have time too cook and too often rely on take out.
What Kind of Edible Gifts Freeze Well?
The variety is endless, especially if you think outside the typical sugar laden holiday fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that either). For the recipes suggested below along with lots of other possibilities, check out my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Freezer Meals (2011, Alpha Books). Consider these categories of fabulous edible gifts you can make now and pull out of the freezer in time for holiday gift giving:
Casseroles and Baked Entrees – Your gift of a homemade frozen entrée feeds a family dinner and gives the regular cook a night off. Some baked entrees that freeze well include Lasagna, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Enchiladas, Stuffed Shells, Meatloaf, and many more. Check your local dollar store for disposable foil.
Soups – Everyone loves homemade soup, especially in winter, and most soups freeze exceptionally well.
Appetizers – Help the hostess during the busy holiday season with gifts of appetizers that only need to be heated and served. Mini quiches, hot baked dips, or elegant baked brie en croute are great examples of appetizers that will keep the holidays festive.
Cookies – When I give cookies, more often that not it’s in the form of unbaked logs of dough. That way the recipient can bake up fresh hot cookies, a few at a time, anytime they want a treat.
Cakes – Freeze whole decorated cakes, frosted with buttercream icing. Place on a decorative plate, bring to room temperature, and your gift is ready. Another idea is to make a large variety of cupcakes and give everyone on your list an assortment.
Cheesecakes -- Cheesecakes freeze well and because they don’t have layers, they often are easier to transport than other cakes.
Tips for Making and Giving Homemade Foods from the Freezer
- If you want the frozen food to stay frozen, so the recipient can enjoy it later, package in insulated bags or cooler chests packed with ice packs until it can be transferred to the recipient’s freezer.
- Include instructions for cooking or reheating where appropriate.
- Look for pretty inexpensive serving containers that you can package your edible gifts in at thrift stores, garage sales, and close out sales. Keep an eye out for platters, plates, bowls, baking dishes, cake plates, etc.
The Mini-Quiche Lorraines are a perfect heat and eat party appetizer, the Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake is an unforgettable decadent dessert you'll be asked to make over and over again.
This elegant little retro appetizer is rich with flavor from eggs, smoky bacon and nutty Swiss cheese.
Yield: 48 mini quiches
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serving Size: 3 quiches
4 TB. butter
4 TB. vegetable shortening
1 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour4 TB. milk
½ lb. bacon
6 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups half and half
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare crust by cutting butter and shortening into flour by pulsing 8 to 10 times in a food processor until well combined. You can alternatively use a pastry blender to accomplish this but prepares to spend more time at it. Transfer mixture from processor to a large bowl, stir 4 tablespoons milk until dough just holds together. Gather into a ball, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Place bacon slices on a broiler pan and bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until bacon is cooked and crispy. Let cool and crumble. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F.
Divide dough in half and roll out crust to ⅛-inch on a lightly floured surface. Use a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter or a small glass with an opening about that size, to cut 24 circles from dough, rerolling as necessary. Press each circle into a mini-muffin cup – dough should cover bottom and sides with no overhang. Repeat with remaining dough and muffin cups.
Sprinkle crumbled cooked bacon into bottom of each dough-lined cup, about ½ teaspoon per cup. Sprinkle about ¾ teaspoon grated cheese into each cup on top of bacon.
Whisk together eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg until well combined. Pour egg mixture into muffin cups until just filled. Bake for about 40 minutes or until quiches are set and tops are golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans and cooling completely on a wire rack. Stack cooled quiches, with waxed paper between layers, in a large lidded rigid side freezer container or containers.
To reheat after freezing:
Place frozen quiches on a baking sheet prayed with cooking spray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees F.
Microwave 2 frozen mini-quiches for about 30 seconds or until heated through.
Variations: Instead of appetizers, turn this recipe into a brunch or lunch entrée by making one big 9-inch pie instead of mini-quiches. You can also substitute diced cooked ham for the bacon.
Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
This is the ultimate rich and creamy moist cheesecake made even better by a swirl of tart raspberry sauce.
Yield: 1 (10-inch) cake
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Serving Size: 1/12 of cake
3 ½ cups crushed graham crackers
1 cup fresh raspberries
⅓ cup water
1 TB. freshly squeezed lemon juice
[¼] cup plus 1 ¼ cups sugar
2 lbs. (4-8oz. packages) cream cheese
2 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 pint sour cream
Use a food processor to pulverize graham crackers to crumbs. Mix in meted butter. Press graham crumb mix into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake crust for about 8 minutes or until set. Remove crust from oven and set aside, reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, water, lemon juice and ¼ cup sugar over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve to strain the seeds. If you don’t mind raspberry seeds, you can forego the straining. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and remaining 1 ¼ cup sugar and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth, light, fluffy and lump-free. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until blended. Quickly beat in the sour cream just until blended.
Spoon ⅓ of the cheese mixture into the springform pan with crust. Drop 6 or so tablespoons of raspberry sauce randomly over the batter. Spoon ⅓ more batter in, followed by another round of raspberry sauce spoonfuls, topped with the remaining cheesecake batter. Try to space out the raspberry sauce so that one layer is not directly on top of another. Take a blunt knife and swirl it through the batter to help distribute the raspberry sauce, taking care not to go so deep as to disturb the crust on the bottom. Bake in the lower part of the oven for 1 hour. Turn off oven but do not open the door for 1 hour.
Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool before covering and chilling in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Cover and freeze. If you want to freeze the cake whole, run a knife around edges and slightly loosen ring, then tighten again and freeze cake, covered with foil, in the pan. Otherwise, remove cake from pan and freeze portions in lidded freezer containers. Let thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Variations: Substitute blackberries, strawberries or blueberries for the raspberries. Cheesecake purists may opt to leave out the fruit swirls entirely.
Giving food gifts at the holidays is one of my favorite ways to show my love for those don't need/want other material gifts. I must say, I absolutely love receiving them, too, but all too often it's more and more sweets that I can't possibly finish while it's still fresh.
Last year, I did a full freezer meal basket for a friend of the family so he wouldn't have to cook for a bit. His favorite was the beef stew (http://www.quirkycookery.com/2011/01/freezer-beef-stew-in-bag.html). I hadn't thought about doing cheesecakes, but they freeze so well that I should've! Maybe this year. 😀