Paleo Gifts From The Kitchen


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.


Spiced Nuts

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.)

10 cups nuts
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup coconut sugar
4 teaspoons salt

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!


Download Jerk Seasoning Labels — Color

Download Lizard Sauce Labels — Color

Download Spiced Nuts Labels — Color

For the full-color version of the labels, we used white resume cardstock at Office Depot; it cost about $1 per sheet.


Download Jerk Seasoning Labels — Grayscale

Download Lizard Sauce Labels — Grayscale

Download Spiced Nuts Labels — Grayscale

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

hr_brown1More Ideas

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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38 Responses to “Paleo Gifts From The Kitchen”

  1. […] Clothes Make The Girl / Posted on: January 01, 1970The Clothes Make The Girl – My favorite part of the holidays is making festive food and joyously eating it with the […]

  2. I love this! These recipes all sound great and those labels are fabulous. Can’t wait to get my gift on paleo-style!

  3. kat says:

    awww – you shouldn’t have. thank you so much, this is great! feels like an early christmas gift to me!

  4. Donna says:

    Thank You! These are awesome!

  5. Ellen says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! I have 3 kids and tons of teachers to thank and these will be PERFECT! I Love you!

    My dog (literally) ate my copy of WellFed 2. I am devastated. But I don’t blame her – it had such beautiful pictures!

  6. Sara says:

    Holy ball! Recipes AND labels?! You guys rock!

    • Sara says:

      Er, “Holy balls!*”
      Obviously my brain hasn’t loaded the proofreading function this morning.

      Although now I’ve got this image of a weird cheese-ball thingy that’s so good people call it the “Holy Ball”.

  7. Mom says:

    FABULOUS!! Is there nothing he can’t do?????

  8. Sonya says:

    Super! Thanks! I made jars of your Ras El Hanout last year and it was a huge hit – especially with the owner of my favorite Mediterranean deli.

  9. Judith says:

    These look fantastic. Thank you so much.
    I just finished making your Bora Bora Fire Balls. I made them with ground chicken and much less cayenne. They are going to a luncheon tomorrow. I thank you again for your fabulous cook books! I use them almost daily. In fact I have memorized some of the recipes that I use the most. One of the greatest things about your recipes is that they have introduced me to seasonings that I never would have experienced otherwise. Thank you so very, very much!

  10. Paula says:

    Thank you so so much for this great gift idea!

  11. […] Paleo Gifts From The Kitchen – The Clothes Make the Girl Travel Tuesday: some of my Montreal sweet spots – eat. live. travel. write. Gluten Free Christmas Cookies: Mexican Wedding Cookies – Elana’s Pantry White Bean and Ham Hock Soup – In sock monkey slippers Sugared pretzel cookies – Smitten Kitchen […]

  12. Stefanie says:

    These are awesome ideas! How long do they keep?

    • Mel says:

      The Jerk Seasoning and Spiced Nuts don’t have an expiration date.

      The Lizard Sauce should be refrigerated and will taste fresh for 2-3 weeks.

  13. Mel, you are so thoughtful!!
    Do you think the nuts are still delicious if you omit the coconut sugar? Or would you suggest a different spice blend if you omit it?

    Happy Holidays!!

  14. Steve S says:

    Melicious, you are the freakin biggity BOMB!!! Thanks!

  15. Love, love, love these ideas. We made our own lotion last night for Secret Santa gifts at my girls’ school. Now I’m on a gift-making kick. Thanks for your post, especially the labels! (I’m great in the kitchen; the craft table, not so much.)

  16. You guys are the most talented kitchen-power couple out there. Love the recipes and the labels! Genius!

  17. Steph says:

    LOVE THESE! The labels are amazing :)

  18. Gretchen says:

    Everything looks wonderful! Silly question…Are you supposed to use raw nuts for the spiced nut recipe?

    • Mel says:

      Not silly at all…

      In the past, I made this recipe with dry-roasted nuts; lately I’ve been using raw. I haven’t noticed any difference. They’re both delicious! So I say use whatever’s easiest to find.

  19. Judith says:

    OMG! The nuts are sooooo good! I used pecans and cashews (raw) and used your substitution of cinnamon and a bit of vanilla rather than the sugar. They taste sweet and salty and a little hot (I used half the cayenne, I am a wimp).
    I have been feeling a need for a “treat” to keep me from other holiday goodies. These are so fantastic, I won’t feel tempted to go for the poisonous (for me) sweet stuff. Thank you again for your creative and delicious recipes!

    • Mel says:

      Right on! I’m glad you liked the sugar free version. Hooray!

      Am you are very wise to make healthy ‘treats’ to help you ignore the siren call of poisonous ones — good for you.

      Merry, merry!

  20. Sarah says:

    I’m really looking forward to making and giving out the Jerk seasoning and the Spiced Nuts – thanks for providing the recipes! One question – do you think it would make much of a difference if I used expeller-pressed (tasteless) coconut oil? We literally have a gallon of it around, as my husband puts it in his daily shake.

  21. […] Melicious comes a great list of Christmas gifts from the kitchen – that you make […]

  22. Lorena says:

    I made Italian Sausage seasoning for a friend…mostly because I used the last of my own stash yesterday for Scotch Eggs…What an excellent excuse to make myself some more seasoning blends…with labels!

  23. Carey Huyser says:

    Awesome ideas. I have been thinking about what to make my family for Christmas and I think I might do the spiced nuts now.

  24. Kristy says:

    Just made a batch of Spiced Nuts – cranked up the cayenne! Also made the Lizard Sauce. OMG…. delish! Ate it with beef tenderloin last night. YUM! Thanks for the great recipes and for including the tags! awesome gifts!

  25. Grace says:

    I’ve made the spiced nuts a couple of times…love them. We have an open house on Christmas day and usually give guests a little something as they leave…this year it will be a small jar of the spiced nuts! I printed the tags in both color and gray scale…they are adorable. Thanks!

  26. Deborah says:

    Hi!! Thank you SO much for these awesome Christmas gift ideas!!! When I saw you included these classy labels, I decided right then…..THIS is what I am making this year for my family! QUESTION: I live in Canada, in BC. I have not seen much Mexican food here. And I have not found the guajillo chili peppers. What other dried pepper would be a good (mild) substitute?

    • Mel says:

      You might try any of these (although I haven’t used them, so I can’t tell you which one to pick): New Mexico chiles, Ancho, or Pasilla. Good luck!

  27. […] Cranberry Spice Granola by Clockwork Lemon Homemade Devil’s Food Cake Mix by Stetted Spiced Nuts, Jerk Seasoning, and Lizard Sauce by The Clothes Make the Girl Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix by Kitchen Concoctions Red Pepper […]

  28. […] Melicious comes a great list of Christmas gifts from the kitchen – that you make […]

  29. […] my alley. And, for those procrastinators out there–not me this year, I swear–check out Paleo Gifts from the Kitchen, complete with labels! Yup. You’re […]

  30. t says:

    Is there any reason I couldn’t use honey as the sweetener for the spiced nuts? I’m thinking I could heat it with the coconut oil.

  31. […] Melicious comes a great list of Christmas gifts from the kitchen – that you make […]

  32. Emilie says:

    Hi Mel,

    Thanks for posting this! I made the spiced nuts, and we really enjoyed them. I took what was left of the seasoning in the pan and sprinkled it on some chicken leg quarters I was grilling. Oh my goodness! It tastes like candy…if chicken was a candy. I’m going to make a batch of the spice mix to rub under the skin of a whole chicken and try roasting it. Can’t wait!

    • Mel says:

      HA! Such a great idea! That spice blend is pretty tasty… I’ve used it on a bunch of different stuff, too, but I think your chicken idea is the big winner.

  33. […] made beef Thai Curry balls with curry sauce; beef Cuban balls with Lizard Sauce; pork Japanese gyoza balls with an Asian dipping sauce; and turkey Greek balls with a kebab sauce. […]

  34. Kathleen says:

    Hi Melissa, loving your two cookbooks, use them almost daily. I think I’ll do the spiced nuts as gifts this year. One question-do you start with raw nuts? If not, what type? A BIG thanks!!

  35. Kathleen says:

    actually, all 3 of these ideas look fun!

  36. Kathleen says:

    These are amazing!!! My husband and I made a big batch tonight and have renamed them “Crack Nuts”.

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