Tuesday 10: Paleo Gifts From The Kitchen


Way back in the day, when we lived on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, I had way more time than money, so I made gifts from my kitchen from this Williams-Sonoma book. I whipped up Spiced Nuts and Fancy Olives and buttery shortbread and pine nut brittle and chewy caramels. I wrapped everything in clear cellophane and tied it with curly ribbon. I stamped brown paper lunch bags with silver snowflakes and stuffed them full of the cellophane-wrapped treats,then I hand-delivered my gifts with a kiss and hug. It was the most fun I ever had getting ready for the holidays.

It was also a huge time suck — and let’s not even talk about how much sugar-poison was in those treats I so lovingly prepared.

But handmade holidays don’t need to take a ton of time: a simple mason jar with a handmade tag is all it takes for a pretty presentation. With the goodies listed below, your gifts from the kitchen can be delicious and healthy — and no one will be the wiser because these things don’t taste like health food. It’s our own Christmas miracle.

For each suggestion below, I’ve included ideas about how to package the treat for maximum joyousness, and I’ve included some recommendations for go-along gifts, in case you want to turn it up to 11.

10 Paleo Gifts From The Kitchen

1. Rogan Josh Seasoning

Why: Rogan Josh is from Kashmir, and it’s the cashmere version of curry: smooth, silky, rich — and it’s a curry with which most people aren’t familiar, so it feels a little special.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: A jar and tag work like magic here, too, just include the instructions for turning the seasoning into a simmering pot of lusciousness. “Brown 1 lb. lamb cubes and an onion in cooking fat, then add 3 tablespoons Rogan Josh seasoning, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 cup coconut milk to the pan. Simmer covered 2 hours.”

Turn it up to 11: A Passage to India is considered by many to be E.M. Forster’s masterpiece, and it would make for great winter reading — or a lovely movie night.

2. Ras el Hanout

Why: Because it’s not a spice blend most cooks are used to using, so it’s an unusual gift — and it has the added bonus of tasting good on just about everything, so the cook on the receiving end will find it easy to use.

Packaging & Instructions: It can be as simple as putting the blend in a jelly jar with a tag that explains what it is (“Ras el Hanout” is a Moroccan spice blend that can include up to 100 spices.”) and lists serving suggestions like, “Sprinkle liberally on steamed veggies with ghee.” or “Mix 1-2 tablespoons into ground beef or lamb for meatballs or burgers.”

Turn it up to 11: The book that made me fall in love with Moroccan food and traditions is called A Street in Marrakech, and it tells the story of how an American woman lived in Morocco for a year and learned about the culture from the inside. The details about food and everyday life are thoroughly engrossing.

3. Merguez Sausage Seasoning

Why: Spicy but not hot, Merguez Sausage is Moroccan street food, and the seasoning blend instantly turns ho-hum ground beef or lamb into hubba-hubba.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: You should be sensing a theme: jar + tag. Jazz up the tag with a Merguez fun fact, “In French police slang, “merguez” is used to describe a car that’s been modified to make it hard to identify and, therefore, ideal for committing crimes.” And you probably want to include cooking instructions: “Mix 4 tablespoons spice blend with 2 lbs. ground lamb, beef, or a combination, plus 3 cloves crushed garlic, 2 eggs, and 1/2 cup fresh minced parsley. Make into meatballs or burgers.”

Turn it up to 11: A tagine is the quintessential Moroccan cooking vessel. It’s perfect for cooking slow-braised meats, and it’s really pretty, too. Or give the gift of movie night with the exotic locale and WWII drama Casablanca.

4. Spiced Nuts

Why: What’s better than a hostess gift that everyone can eat right away?! These spiced nuts look appropriately festive, thanks to the granulated salt and sugar that cling to them. Yes, sugar. It’s 2 tablespoons of sugar in the recipe, which works out to 1.26 grams of sugar in an ounce of the nuts. I can live with that on a holiday; can’t you?!

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: You can go minimalist and deliver them in a brown paper bag that crinkles appropriately, go a little more upscale with a jar, or take it all the way with a holiday nut bowl (not to be confused with a holiday nut job — or maybe your family doesn’t have one of those).

Turn it up to 11: I really like this squirrel nut bowl. About 20 years ago I received a pewter serving dish as a Christmas gift from a friend and when I break it out on special occasions, I think of her and enjoy that gift all over again.


5. Grain-Free Granola: Savory or Sweet & Salty With Kale

Why: Sometimes you just need something crunchy-salty-sweet to nibble on — and both of these grain-free recipes are packed with healthy nuts, spices, and love.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: These look beautiful packed into a mason jar tied with a bow, or go for a straight-up brown paper bag decorated with silver paint pen.

Turn it up to 11: Sometimes I wonder if I have bad taste, but I’m having trouble resisting this bear paw serving dish.

6. Spiced Almond Butter

Why: Homemade nut butter is a revelation. It’s stupid easy to make, and if you grind it yourself, you can add flavorings that make it far more special than anything that can be purchased in a store.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: A jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid is all you need, but if you wanted to, you could include a vintage spoon… so the recipients don’t need to resort to merely scooping the almond butter from the jar with their fingers.

Turn it up to 11: I love a good foodie memoir, and Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood sounds sweet and tasty.

7. Sweet & Salty Fudge Bombs

Why: Because they’re chocolate. And they have the texture of truffles. And they look really pretty. And they’re easy to make. And the recipient might share with you.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: You can pack them like truffles in a foil box with candy papers, stack them in a wide-mouthed mason jar, or deliver them in a tiny cellophane bag.

Turn it up to 11: No brainer: Chocolat. And maybe one of these fancy glass storage jars.

8. Homemade Soup: Golden Cauliflower or Silky Gingered Zucchini or Sweet Potato and Bacon

Why: Soup is such a loving, comforting food, and in the midst of holiday mania, it can be so soothing to sit down with a simple mug of warming vegetables you can eat with a spoon.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: A big ol’ jar with a tag is all it takes: “Heat soup gently over low heat, then eat with a big spoon and consider yourself hugged.”

Turn it up to 11: This jar is good looking and functional — and if you want to be a soup-er gift giver, you might consider these soup bowls.

9. Sunshine Sauce

Why: It’s creamy, luscious, and the perfect partner for raw veggies. If you’re lucky, the recipient might just say “Grab a carrot” and share with you.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: Pour into a jar with a tight lid and include serving suggestions on the tag: “Great for dipping raw veggies and grilled meat, or turn it into paleo Pad Thai. Find the recipe here: www. theclothesmakethegirl.com/2011/05/08/paleo-pad-thai.”

Turn it up to 11: This is a perfect jar for a double (or triple) batch of Sunshine Sauce and this sunflower bowl cover is the bomb, but the best go-along is definitely a DVD of Little Miss Sunshine.

10. Caramelized Coconut Chips

Why: They’re a guilt-free snicky-snack that’s sweet, crunchy, salty and oh-so-shareable. Plus, you can whip up a batch in no time, so they’re a perfect last-minute gift.

Packaging & Cooking Instructions: I’m pretty sure all the tag needs to say is, “Eat with gusto.”

Turn it up to 11: The only real option is this. 


More Ideas

Looking for great spice jars for yourself or gift giving? I use these pint jars for big batches and these 8-ounce jars for smaller ones.

Need more holiday gift ideas? Check out My Favorite Kitchen ToolsMy Favorite (non-paleo) Cookbooks, and More Gifts From the Kitchen with custom gift tags.

Don’t miss Nom Nom Paleo’s Magic Mushroom Powder and Stupid Easy Paleo’s Gingerbread Spice Mix.

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  • Sausalito is gorgeous…pretty close to where I am living now!

    My dad would demolish those fudge bombs.

  • Eva says:

    Thanks for all these great ideas! Where can I find the recipe for the last two (sunshine sauce and caramelized coconut chips)?

  • Alison says:

    Love these… I was already going to make some spice jars filled with your Ras al Hanout and some of Balanced Bites Smoky Spice Rub for gifts but now I have a plethora more ideas!

  • Amy says:

    I’m making preserved lemons from a friend’s recipe!


    Also, homemade Allspice Dram and Maraschino soaked cherries.

    You could use the coconut chips in a sweet and salty paleo granola or trail mix!

  • Annie says:

    I gave a wooden spoon and a glass spice jar of Ras el Hanout as a hostess gift at our CF box’s holiday party last weekend! I layered the spices so it looked like one of those sand art jars. It’s my favorite spice blend now and I want to share its awesomeness with others, whether they’re paleo or not!

  • Amelia says:

    I was just wondering what to get my dad- the super chef of our family and who is impossible to buy for. these are perfect!! thanks

  • NicoleK says:

    Oh my goodness! Haha! The “Turn it up to 11” on the Coconut Chips made me burst out laughing. Totally caught me off guard =) Thanks for this awesome list!!

  • Emily says:

    I love this. Seriously, LOVE. I needed ideas for Christmas treat-giving to replace my usual tins-full-o-sugar, and your ideas are the fudge bomb. Speaking of which, I made a batch of those recently and…yeah…can’t have them around me anymore. TOO good. Rogan Josh is one of my new favorite meals, and I also love the coconut chips. Sunshine sauce is good on everything. Everything. I am pretty sure you would be my best friend if we lived in Austin. I mean that in the most non-stalker of ways, but still. I’m quitting now. Happy Holidays!

  • Jeff says:

    Quick follow-up question: I was planning on giving homemade gifts this year, do you have any good resources on buying large quantities of nuts for roasting or grinding into a delicious butter? Trader Joe’s is great and all, but I’d love to spend a weekend making treats for everyone in my office (and have some leftover to enjoy myself).

    • Mel says:

      I’m sorry to say I don’t have a good source for you — I buy my nuts in the bulk dept. of our grocery store.

      You might try eBay. I know the local natural foods store where I grew up in PA has an ebay store, so you might be able to find some good deals that way.

    • Cathy says:

      Nuts.com is where I buy organic, gluten free nuts. They also sell dried fruit. Their service has been great.

  • Diana Annastazija says:

    You are a God send! As I am struggling financially, I wanted to give some high quality, thrifty homemade gifts this year but had no clue of what to do. These ideas are amazing. I can’t thank you enough!

    One question though… do the fudge bombs melt much and need to stay refrigerated? I wanted to send them through the mail but I am afraid they won’t survive.

    • Mel says:

      If you’re sending them somewhere that has winterish weather right now, I think they’d be OK. They don’t melt, so much as get a little soft when they get warm, but if the recipient puts them in the fridge, they’ll firm up again.

  • Phoebe says:

    Your a life saver! Been pulling my hair out over what to get the MIL and SIL! Thanks!

  • Shauna says:

    I love all these ideas. Thanks!

  • Jesse Miller says:

    All this talk about nuts makes me hungry!

    I have been able to get some good deals on nuts at Costco, Sam’s and Trader Joe’s.

    Buying in bulk is a good deal, IF you will use the product in a timely manner.

    Bulk has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Linda G says:

    I’m not a Christmas cookie kind of girl, but enjoy giving tiny gifts of food to celebrate the holidays. Thanks for the spiced nut recipe. AWESOME! Even my cumin-hating husband admitted they were good, and requested I put some aside for him. Thanks, Mel.

    • Mel says:

      I’m still trying to recover from the idea of “cumin-hating” 😉 but I’m glad to know you like the spiced nuts! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • Linda G says:

    All the best to you in 2013, Mel. Yes, eating Paleo has forced my husband to face quite a few of his food and spice prejudices. I’m still working on his fear of rosemary.

  • Rose says:

    Love these ideas! Thank you for taking the time to post them. Would love to know how long we have to wait for your second cook book!

  • Magz says:

    Love this and the cookbook too! Quick question: what brands of coconut milk, amino, and oils are you favs? Starting whole 30 on March 1st and trying out loads of your recipes in the meantime. In fact, I just got my box from Penzys on Monday.

    • Mel says:

      I really don’t have a good answer for you… sorry! My regular grocery store has a store brand (Central Market) of coconut oil, so I usually just buy that. It’s unrefined and organic, so it’s good stuff. Spectrum is pretty good, too — and Tropical Traditions is great. Sign up for their newsletter because they often have free shipping offers.

      The only coconut aminos I’ve ever seen are made by Coconut Secret. I think they’re they only brand.

      For coconut milk, I buy organic Thai Kitchen at my regular grocery store. If you can find it, Aroy-D (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JMFCR0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=roltheboo-20) tastes really good and has no junk in it. Basically, you want only coconut milk and guar gum is acceptable, but if you can find it without, even better. No other ingredients are approved.

      YAY, Penzeys!

  • Magz says:

    This is awesome! Thanks for all your advice to us newbies!
    By the way, I have given your cookbook as gifts to three of my friends even though they are non-Dino chowers. The hot plates are so great for us working gals!