By Pam Vukelic

It’s common knowledge that there is as much joy in the giving as there is in the receiving. Sometimes, though, it’s a bit overwhelming to add one more thing to your to-do list which already includes getting the house decorated, the programs attended, the shopping done, the cards and packages mailed, and your own mental list goes on from there.

In the interest of keeping it simple, I have some suggestions for gifts of food that take little time to prepare but will be greatly appreciated. You don’t need to decorate sugar cookies to make a thoughtful gift!

This Granola Recipe, shared with me by high school friend Judy, is versatile not only in terms of ingredients, but also in terms of end use. Make it a package deal so it can be used as a topping. Deliver a bag of granola with a carton of Greek yogurt to serve for brunch or ice cream to serve for dessert.

½ c canola oil
½ c honey*
4 c rolled oats
2 c shredded coconut**
1 c sliced almonds
½ t cinnamon

In a saucepan, heat oil and honey until frothy and well-mixed. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until well distributed. Pour the mixture onto a greased jelly-roll pan. Place in center of oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn the oven off and let granola dry in oven overnight. In the morning, add one-half cup dried fruit (I like currants because they are small).

*Or use cinnamon-infused real maple syrup and don’t add the extra cinnamon.
**Since I’m not fond of coconut, I use a mixture of nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, pine nuts, etc.) or more oats to equal two cups.

I’ve shared with you before on these pages my favorite Snack Mix which is a combination of popcorn, peanuts, shoestring potatoes, and sunflower seeds. Here’s a tasty variation:

2 qts popped popcorn
3 c shoestring potato sticks
1 c mixed nuts or peanuts
¼ c butter, melted
1 t dill weed
1 t Worcestershire sauce
½ t lemon pepper seasoning
¼ t garlic powder
¼ t onion salt

Combine first three ingredients in a large roasting pan. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over popcorn; toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for eight to 10 minutes.

Suzie, my friend from Green Bay, shared her recipe for Rosemary Roasted Cashews with me:

1 ¼ lb unsalted cashews
2 T chopped rosemary
½ t cayenne pepper
2 t brown sugar
2 t Kosher salt
1 T melted butter

Bake cashews alone in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes on a baking sheet. Pour into a large bowl into which you have placed the remaining ingredients. Toss and stir well to coat. Dry in a thin layer on waxed paper.

I always keep on hand a Krusteaz Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake mix to serve for brunch or just for morning coffee guests. More than once I’ve been asked for “the recipe.” To jazz it up just a bit, mix some chopped nuts (pecans are good) into the streusel mixture. For a gift, bake it in one of the decorative paper loaf pans that proliferate the kitchen supply store shelves. Wrap in cellophane, tie with a pretty ribbon, and deliver.

Sandy, a friend from The Villages in Florida, shared a delicious cake recipe with me a couple years ago that is quick to prepare:

Combine one box of spice cake mix, two eggs, and one can of apple pie filling; pour into a well-greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. I was excited to find small bundt pans so I can make three small cakes which are more suitable for gifting. Deliver with a jar of caramel sauce for a truly delightful treat.

The Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix is hard to beat. It has a rich chocolate flavor and little bits of chocolate to bite into. Add in some espresso powder and you’ll have an even more intense chocolate flavor. Bake them in a bar pan or bundt pan with decorative shapes. Dust with powdered sugar or top with a thin coating of ganache.

The packaging will truly help to make your gift special. Spend just a little time on it. Use popcorn boxes to deliver snack mix, stemmed sundae dishes for nuts with a decorative spoon tied on, or a holiday mug for the granola. Recruit the kids to make the deliveries to foster a tradition of giving.   

Pam VukelicPam Vukelic is an online FACS (Family and Consumer Science) teacher for the Missouri River Educational Cooperative. Pam enjoys sharing homemade treats with people year round, but especially during the holiday season.