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Gifts from Heart and Hearth

There’s a gift in homemade food gifts for everyone. You get to bake and make your way into the holiday spirit. Recipients get to unwrap better-for-you sweets and savories that arrive with the gladdest of tidings.

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When a gift is homemade it’s everything a gift should be: sincere, loving and generous in ways that so transcend store-bought. Creating something yourself infuses it with thought and feeling, with meaning. Food gifts take it up a level because they come from the very place — your kitchen — where you lavish care on your nearest and dearest: your family. All of which is unspoken when you hand over pretty packages of sweets or savories, but it resonates loudly and clearly.

Homemade food gifts come with a built-in pass, too. If you want to make the same thing for everyone, do so. Everyone eats, after all, and your creative efforts deserve maximum play. Food shows no favorites, and recipes easily adapt to fit your list’s length: Just double, triple or quadruple, and neighbors, hostesses, office mates, clients, service providers, teachers and whomever else can all receive the same wonderful thing. No strings, only ribbons, attached.

Nothing so important happens without a plan. The recipes below are ready starting places that meet Live Better America’s nutritional standards for healthy or Healthified, making these goodies twice the gift. Will you give single items? Or bundle together arrays in boxes or baskets? Will you hand-deliver your handiwork? Or is packaging durability a concern for shipping?

Make a list (’tis the season for that, after all) of all the ingredients and packaging supplies you need and gather everything in a single outing. Back home in your kitchen, turn on the tunes, pour yourself some wine or hot apple cider and rock out, tasting as you go and enjoying the gift you’re giving yourself: Nothing is more poignantly “holiday” than heart and hearth time.

Having blended, baked and cooled the goods, let packing and wrapping be half the fun. Fill repurposed tins with goodie-filled cellophane bags. Top tins with squares of bright plaid fabric secured with colorful strings and sprigs of rosemary. Create “blackboard” tags by writing in chalk on black construction paper. Ordinary materials such as brown paper bags, twine, cotton print fabrics and even handcut (from old blue jeans) denim “ribbons” can be sophisticated in their simplicity: the promise of more creativity inside.

Receiving gifts is always a pleasure, but homemade food gifts are a direct hit. There’s no gift receipt for something so personal. Even when your kitchen kindnesses are long consumed, you’ll feel the joy in having given such goodness.

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