My favorite part of the holidays is making festive food and joyously eating it with the people I love. And that hasn’t changed since I adopted this dino-chow lifestyle. If anything, it’s become an even more celebratory part of my life.
If there’s a motto for my blog and cookbooks, it’s this: Preparing quality food is among the most caring things we can do for ourselve and the people we love.
And now an amendment to that motto:
Preparing quality food is among the most caring things we can do for ourselves and the people we love… especially during the holidays.
With that in mind, here are three ideas for gifts from the kitchen (and the heart) that will show your near and dear that you love them — with food that’s delicious and good for them, too. But you don’t need to tell them that last part.
All three of these recipes can be made pretty quickly, so you don’t need to devote a whole weekend day to making them. Just crank up some Christmas tunes, enlist an elf assistant if you’ve got one, and mix up a batch of holiday love in under an hour.
We’ve got all the info you need to make Spiced Nuts, Jerk Seasoning, and Lizard Sauce! I did the recipe math so you can make the recipes in “bulk” quantities. Dave drew colorful, custom labels that you can download and print. Smudge stress-tested the metallic ribbon to make sure it can stand up to the demands of holiday wrapping. And at the bottom of the post, you’ll find links to jars and other supplies.
Have fun in the kitchen!
Lizard Sauce from Well Fed 2
Prep 10 minutes | Cook 30 minutes | Makes 4 cups, enough for 4 gift jars
Once upon a time, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Costa Rica, thinking it would be a big adventure. For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t a dream vacation. But there were two bright spots: I loved the lizards that ran rampant over the landscape, and at every meal, a bottle of Salsa Lizano was on the table. Kind of like Costa Rican ketchup, it’s poured on everything from eggs to tacos to burgers to plantains. Made from vegetables, it’s lightly sweet with a hint of cumin and smokiness from guajillo peppers. Don’t be put off by the guajillos; they’re easy to work with and can be found in most grocery stores or online. (Bonus! Lizard Sauce is Whole30 approved.)
8 dried guajillo peppers
4 cups water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 rib celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1. Cut the guajillo peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and toast until starting to brown, about 1 minute per side. Add the water, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Put the peppers in a blender or food processor with 1 cup of the water from the pan.
2. Dry the pan and reheat over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Place the coconut oil in the pan and when it’s melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, 5-7 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, and cayenne, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off heat, add lemon juice and vinegar; stir to combine.
3. Remove the vegetables from the pan and carefully add them to the blender. Purée until smooth.
4. Transfer to a 1-cup Ball jar and allow to cool a little bit before sealing and refrigerating. Note: This should be stored in the refrigerator.
Jerk Seasoning from Well Fed 2
Prep 5 minutes | Makes 2 cups, enough for 4 gift jars
You probably think you know what jerk means – especially if you have a boss, a younger sibling, an annoying roommate, or a lame neighbor. But let me tell you more: Jerk is a Jamaican style of cooking meat and fish that describes both the spice rub and the grilling technique. Street-side jerk stands (insert your own joke here) are found throughout the Caribbean, serving up spicy meat and, presumably, witty banter. This jerk seasoning isn’t too hot, and the heat is balanced by the sweet-spiciness of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. I’ve been told this Jerk Seasoning makes grilled or roasted chicken thighs tastes like bacon, and I’m inclined to agree. (Bonus! Jerk Seasoning is Whole30 approved.)
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup allspice
1/4 cup dried thyme leaves
5 tablespoons ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1. Measure all of the spices into a medium bowl and mix with a fork until combined. Transfer the spice blend to a 1/2 cup Ball jar. Store at room temperature.
Prep 5 minutes | Cook 20 minutes | Makes 10 cups, enough for 5 gift jars
I have an entire cookbook devoted to various candied, spiced, roasted, and flavored nuts – but this recipe is my all-time favorite. The combination of cumin and coconut sugar makes them irresistible. And why resist anything delicious and good-for-you during the holidays?! Just about any nut tastes great with this treatment. I like pecans the most because the spices get stuck in the wrinkles. Also delicious: almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios. (These are not Whole30 approved unless you omit the sugar.)
1. Preheat oven to 300F.
2. Heat oil over medium-low heat, then add cumin and cayenne. Cook ’til fragrant, about 15 seconds.
3. Pour oil over the nuts and toss well to coat. Add sugar and salt; toss to coat.
4. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes, til they’re lightly browned. I like to check them at 10 minutes, rotate the pans, give ‘em a shake, say hello.
5. Allow the nuts to cool completely — and resist the urge to eat them — then transfer to a 2-cup Ball jar. Store at room temperature.
Labels & Printing Instructions
Help yourself to PDFs of the kickass labels Dave created for us! Each sheet includes four labels, and there are both color and grayscale versions. Just print out the PDF, copy it onto the paper of your choice, cut out the labels, and attach with pretty ribbon to the jar. BAM! Delicious Christmas!
For the full-color version of the labels, we used white resume cardstock at Office Depot; it cost about $1 per sheet.
For the grayscale tags, we used parchment resume paper; those were about 25-cents per page. (Of course, the printing is all free if you sneak into your office copier room!)
Here are handy links to Amazon to buy jars, ingredients, and other supplies to make your DIY gifts. You can use any jars you like, but the Ball jars are nice because they seal super tight and are great for re-use. It’s a double gift! (The fine print: As always, when you buy using my links to Amazon, I earn a kickback. Thanks for shopping through my site.)
Ball Jars – 1/2 cup: Perfect size for Jerk Seasoning
Ball Jars – 1 cup: Perfect size for Lizard Sauce
Ball Jars – 2 cup: Perfect size for Spiced Nuts
Metallic Curling Ribbon: Make ’em look pretty!
Red & Green Sharpie: To sign the tags
Coconut Oil: Organic, unrefined, delicious
Guajillo Chiles: The key ingredient in Lizard Sauce
Coconut Sugar: Makes the Spiced Nuts sing
Want more inspiration? Here’s a post I shared last year with 10 ideas for paleo homemade gifts — and my pal Steph at Stupid Easy Paleo has a recipe for Homemade Gingerbread Spice Mix that looks like just the thing for the holidays!
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