There are many useful and delicious things that you can add to a gift basket, and personalize for the recipient. Here are a few quick and easy suggestions.
A glass jar works well for vanilla sugar — split one vanilla bean and scrape out the vanilla seeds. Add to up to 2 cups of white granulated sugar and shake the jar. Within about one week, the sugar will be infused with a wonderful vanilla aroma, which is great is coffee, tea, and baking! Replace the sugar as it is used up and replace the vanilla bean every year.
Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
This is a sweet-sour treat that is amazing on strawberries and grilled fruit. It may also work well on ice cream or as a spinach salad dressing. The recipe is here. Be warned that when the vinegar cools, it will thicken and be difficult to pour through a funnel or into a small opening!
This is a great way to harvest the herbs left over from your summer/fall herb garden. Thyme and rosemary vinegar can be great for creating a chicken marinade, and a raspberry vinegar can go nicely on a green salad. Recipes can be found here.
These are more easily bought than made, as there can be serious health hazards with herb-infused oils that have not been properly prepared. Specialty stores have many varieties of herb-infused oils, so you can choose one that complements the other items in your gift basket.
All you need is a pretty jar, honey and herbs.
Hot Chocolate Mix
More ambitious gift-makers, hot chocolate mixes can be made easily enough with dry milk powder, sugar, and cocoa powder. Otherwise, decorative tins of hot chocolate can be purchased, such as the Cocoa Trio from Starbucks.
As mentioned in the recipe for low-fat brownies, fudge can be made quickly and easily from such interesting ingredients as avocado. The great things about putting fudge in a gift basket is that it’s generally packaged in small containers, so your one batch of fudge can go in many baskets, and fudge usually has enough fat and sugar in it to preserve it without refrigeration, so it can be made in advance to the assembling of your basket.
Anything from butter tarts, gingersnaps, chocolate chip cookies can be packaged in Christmas-patterned take-out boxes. Maybe even a variation on the Coconut Clouds would be welcome in a Christmas Gift Basket.
Candied Orange Peels
Cut orange peels off of the orange flesh, ensuring that most of the white pith has been removed. Add the orange strips to two cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Drain, rinse, and bring to a boil again. After boiling three times (to remove the bitterness), dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 2/3 cup of water, add orange peels. Boil until all the water dissolves and the sugar appears on the orange peels. Allow to cool and dip in chocolate if desired.
Individually Wrapped Chocolates
Filling your gift basket with shredded paper on which to place your main items can give a ‘professional’ look to the baskets. For an added touch (especially for those baskets that look just a bit too large), hide individually wrapped chocolates in the shredded paper. A good option is Lindt’s new dark chocolate peppermint truffles, which come in packages of 12 or so.