Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
While a box of chocolates may delight many a person, it can be disappointing or dangerous to those with nut or dairy allergies. Avoid the problem entirely by assembling a basket of chocolate goodness without any of the additives that may turn a chocolate gift into a curse. Add bags of cocoa beans, cocoa nibs, and the finest cocoa powder you can find.
If you want to go all out, tuck in a bar of imported bittersweet chocolate and a packet of cocoa butter, and include a few recipes for how to use them such as Crunchy Cocoa Cookies, Homemade Hot Chocolate, Apricot Chocolate Chip Scones, and luscious dairy free chocolate truffles.
Spices can be a great gift idea; not only do they taste good, they also look beautiful stored in pretty glass jars. Try a selection of different salts such as Himalayan Pink, Kala Namak (black salt), and Celtic Sea Salt Flakes, or some gorgeous peppercorns in vivid pink, pale green, and fragrant black.
For someone you think might be a bit more adventurous, give an array of whole spices which keep fresh far longer. Choose a few sealed jars and fill them with star anise, nutmeg, delicate mace, juniper berries, cloves, and cinnamon quills. If you grow your own chilies, dry a bunch and string them for the recipient to use and admire in their kitchen.
If you’re feeling particularly creative, make your own spice mixes and include recipes to use them in. Try a toasted Sri Lankan Curry Powder, a Spicy Taco Seasoning, or a Scandinavian style pickling spice mix. You could also assemble mulling spices and include instructions for simmering them with juices or wine.
Nuts make a delicious gift, but since nut allergies can be common, be sure to ask your intended recipient ahead of time so you can give them something they’ll actually enjoy. While raw nuts are healthy and good, for gifts I like to take them to the next level with spices, salt, and roasting. They work beautifully with either sweet or savory flavorings, so let your imagination run wild.
The basic recipe is this: raw shelled nuts tossed in oil (or butter) and the seasonings of your choice. Some of my favorites are Roasted Cashews with butter, chilies, and brown sugar; Roasted Brazil Nuts with Olive Oil and Rosemary; Smoked Vanilla Almonds with butter, cinnamon, and sugar; and Roasted Hazelnuts with Olive Oil and Fresh Thyme. Make sure you let them cool fully, then pack them into air tight containers and deliver.