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Last minute food gifts


Need an 11th-hour Christmas gift? Store-bought peppermint sticks dipped in white chocolate and toppings and attractively boxed are quick and personal at the same time.

Need an 11th-hour Christmas gift? Store-bought peppermint sticks dipped in white chocolate and toppings and attractively boxed are quick and personal at the same time. Photo by: Photo


Jan Swoope



'Twas four days before Christmas and all through the house, mama was worrying, "Who did I leave out?" 


Sound familiar? Between work, shopping and family commitments, many of us may be feeling a bit rough around the edges about now. But if you've suddenly realized you forgot to get a little something for a kind co-worker or the neighbor who feeds the dog when you're away, try not to stress out. Remember, gifts don't need to be expensive and fancy. A simple holiday treat will mean even more when it comes from your kitchen. 


One super-easy option is peppermint sticks that look beautiful and taste even better when you dip store-bought sticks in melted white chocolate, then roll them in coconut or other toppings. Once dried, package them in a gift box with some holiday tissue. 


Another simple last-minute gift is golden honey granola. Brown sugar complements flavorful cranberries and apricots in this crunchy mix. Package some up in see-through canisters or candy jars you can find at the big box. Tie a ribbon around the top and deliver away.  


Chocolate bark, or sugar cookies decorated with the recipient's initial, are festive choices, too. 




Make it personal 


Chef Dominica Catelli at suggests a few other food-inspired gifts for the final hour, like specialty bottles of extra virgin olive oil, with a favorite recipe attached. Many bottles are pretty enough to be repurposed in the kitchen. Flavored vinegars, like cherry, balsamic or champagne are fun to give and get. 


"If bringing a bottle of wine, personalize it by signing the bottle with a metallic pen," says Catelli. "When your friends go to drink it a few months down the road, they'll remember it's from you." She also suggests adding a favorite recipe that pairs with the wine and tying it to the neck of the bottle. 


Heat-proof spatulas and cooking spoons in fun colors and tied together with festive ribbons can also make a welcome happy. As can elegant finishing salts, something most of us never buy for ourselves. 


Then, of course, an invitation to a dinner you prepare yourself is a meaningful and personal gesture. There will always be something special about gathering around a table to share a homecooked meal -- at Christmas and year-round.  








12 (5-inch) peppermint sticks 


7 ounces white chocolate, melted 


1/4 cup white nonpareils 




  • Dip peppermint sticks, one at a time, into melted chocolate. Transfer to baking pan lined with parchment paper. 


  • Allow chocolate to set slightly, about five minutes. Roll chocolate end of peppermint sticks in nonpareils. Return to lined pan and let stand at room temperature until chocolate hardens. 








    Makes 15 cups 


    Prep time: 15 minutes 


    Total time: 55 minutes 




    1 container (18-ounce) old-fashioned oats (6 cups) 


    8 ounces sliced almonds 


    1 cup dried cranberries 


    1 cup chopped dried apricots 


    1 cup light brown sugar 


    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 


    1/2 teaspoon salt 


    1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter 


    1/2 cup honey 




    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients except butter and honey. 


    • In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt unsalted butter. Stir in honey. Pour over oat mixture and toss to distribute. Spread granola onto a parchment lined baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until oats are toasted and sugar begins to caramelize, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely on pan. Transfer to an airtight container.










    Chocolate (milk or semi-sweet) 


    Classic toppings (i.e. dried apricots, raisins, candied orange peel, cranberries, cherries, toasted pecans, almonds, etc.) 


    Contemporary toppings (such as cereal, candied ginger, dried pineapple, strawberries, etc.) 




    • Line a chilled baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour warm (not hot) melted chocolate into the prepared pan. 


    • Spread the chocolate evenly to about 1/8-inch thick using a small offset spatula. Sprinkle toppings on the chocolate and place in the freezer to set, approximately 20 minutes. 


    • For even-sized pieces, cut up bark before it sets completely. For a more rustic look, allow bark to harden completely before breaking it up. Store in a cool, dry place.




  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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