2013 Holiday Gift List: Top 10 Homemade Food Presents

Now that you have mailed everything to friends and family afar (or at least, you should have if you want it to arrive by Christmas), it's time to spread some holiday cheer to your local friends and family.

Each year, my mom and I make food gifts to give to our neighbors and bring to work. To us, it's one of the best ways to say "Merry Christmas" to our friends and family. Who doesn't love getting a gift of food?

Here are ten of the best homemade food gifts you can easily make and package to deliver to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.

10. Cookies

It's the easiest -- and quite possibly one of the most beloved -- holiday food gifts. Make a variety of cookies ... classic sugar, chocolate chip and gingerbread are three great ones. Package them in a holiday-themed container or a clear cookie jar for your recipients to re-use.

9. Biscotti with coffee or tea

Biscotti and coffee (or tea) go hand in hand, so why not pair the two together for a nice homemade food gift? Bake a batch or two of biscotti, such as pistachio, cranberry, chocolate or vanilla bean, wrap a few cookies in a clear plastic bag, and tie the top with a festive ribbon. Pair the biscotti with a bag of your favorite coffee (or a seasonal blend), or with fresh tea. If you're feeling really generous, add a coffee mug to the gift.

8. Marshmallows with Hot Chocolate

For a sweeter gift, make homemade marshmallows and pair them with a hot cocoa mix. Homemade marshmallows do take a lot of work and require a candy thermometer, so if you love making candy at home this gift is right up your alley. Make the hot cocoa mix by combining sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Place an instruction tag on the jar so your recipient will know how to prepare it -- one cup of milk combined with two tablespoons of cocoa mix.

7. Holiday Sweet Bread

I love giving my neighbors loaves of sweet bread. Not only does a loaf of cranberry and pistachio bread look festive and cheery; it also serves as an easy breakfast or snack during the holidays, especially if someone has a lot on their plate. You can also make banana bread, or raisin bread with a sugar glaze. Wrap the baked bread in clear cellophane and tie with a ribbon (you're probably getting the hint that clear cellophane and festive ribbons are a theme with holiday food gifts).

6. Jams/Chutneys

Make your own jam or chutney and package it in a small mason jar or hinged jar. Create sweet jams such as fig, plum and raspberry, or mix and match sweet fruits with jalapeño for a jam or chutney with a kick. Place the jams or chutneys in a basket with crackers, cheese and artisan meats -- it's perfect for a Christmas Day appetizer.

5. Popcorn

No, I'm not talking about the tubs of gourmet popcorn with plain, Cheddar and caramel flavors (although those are delicious). I'm talking about homemade sweetened popcorn. This is such an easy thing to make in bulk. Simply pop a few large bags of popcorn, melt almond bark, chop pecans and toss it all together. The melted almond bark will stick to the popcorn to hold everything in place. Just remember to remove any unpopped kernels.

4. Pralines

One of my former neighbors used to live in New Orleans, and each year would make pecan pralines. I looked forward to their Christmas gift because it meant I could sink my teeth into the sugary explosion that was pecan pralines. The sweet fanatics in your life will love you forever if you give them a box of these.

3. Fudge

OK, seriously, who doesn't love fudge? It's creamy and overly sweet and is the epitome of Christmas. Make a tub of fudge in a variety of flavors, such as peanut butter, cookies 'n cream, vanilla bean, peppermint, or the classic chocolate.

2. Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Sticks

Get the kids involved with this recipe. Simply dip half of a pretzel rod in melted white chocolate or milk chocolate, then cover the chocolate portion of the pretzel in red and green sprinkles. Let the pretzels dry for an entire day, then package in clear cellophane wrappers, tie with a holiday ribbon and deliver to your friends and family. The salty-sweet combination is an enjoyable treat.

1. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

These cake-like cookies are perfect for spreading holiday cheer. Their bright-red cookie and a fluffy white marshmallow filling are wonderful. Cover the edge of the filling with green sprinkles for the ultimate holiday-themed dessert.

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