‘Tis the Season for Giftable Foods
with Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
chocolate cookies fudge gifts holiday vanilla
Holiday treats that are carefully crafted, wrapped in bows, and filled with family tradition are the kind we like to make this time of year. For inspiration, we asked our family of Savory Spice Shop owners around the country for some of their favorite holiday food traditions. Owners in Colorado Springs, CO, Santa Rosa, CA, Portland, OR, and Charlotte, NC not only shared fond food memories but also recipes for their favorite giftable holiday foods.
What are your favorite food memories or traditions around the holidays?
Cheryl's family Christmas caroling treats: Chocolate Coated Coconut Balls
"While the kids were little, every year we had a wonderful tradition—we would bake cookies, peanut brittle, chocolate coated coconut balls, and other fun tasty treats. After finishing our flurry of fine delectable goodies, we would pick three or four people we knew and on a given evening we would dress up (somewhat), climb into one vehicle, and begin our trek. We would quietly walk to the door, get ourselves in position, and ring the bell. When the door opened, we would begin to sing (in beautiful harmony) a wonderful Christmas carol. After a few encores we would shake hands, accept praise, and hand our audience a beautifully wrapped plate of gourmet goodness. We would say our goodbyes, begin a chorus of “Joy to the World”, and head to our car. We would continue this until all of our plates were gone. The entire family looked forward to this every year." — Cheryl Ytreeide, Santa Rosa, CA
"One of the memories we have is the pretty common but well regarded tradition of holiday cookies. We love getting and giving holiday cookies and we each have a favorite from friends, but the true favorites were made at home. At a young age the joy came from standing on a stool to reach the counter just to help stir the cookie batter. Our intention was not to help stir as much as to have the first chance to taste a spoonful of batter. As we grew older there was more of an emphasis on the cookies, especially as they come out hot from the oven. Great flavors like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom made the house smell like the holidays. Through the years some recipes change, new ones are adopted, and as we meet our significant other these recipes merge. To this day holiday cookies are a treat in our house…and of course, Amy knows I’m good at helping to stir the batter." — Scott & Amy MacCabe, South End/Charlotte, NC
What is the most interesting, surprising, or delicious food-related gift you have ever received?
"Our daughter, Liz, knows that Jim absolutely LOVES peach pie. One time, she brought over four frozen, single serving peach pies that she made in small Pyrex glass bowls. No thawing…they just go from the freezer to a cold oven and bake for about an hour and a half or so. This allowed Jim to have a special peach pie treat whenever he felt like it." — Jim & Anne Brown, Sellwood/Portland, OR
"Have you ever received a jar of pickled horseradish as a gift? I have. One of the most unusual Christmas gifts I have ever received was from my next door neighbor. She planted horseradish in her garden and decided to pickle it. When she came over for the holidays that year, she brought me a jar as a gift. I am still not too sure what to do with it, but it brings back fond memories!" — Pat Benfer, Santa Rosa, CA
What is a food gift you like to make and give around the holidays?
Scott & Amy's trio of giftable Homemade Vanilla Extract
"After opening our Savory Spice Shop location and talking to our creative customers, we have taken one of their greatest ideas and made it our own—homemade vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract adds such great flavor to most anything, and it’s great to share. Of course it’s easy to purchase vanilla extract, but why not personalize it and make your own? Making homemade vanilla extract is not hard, but it does take some planning. Most extracts are made with a clear spirit such as vodka, but we like to experiment. With a few airline-size mini bottles you can create a trio (or more) of different homemade vanilla extracts, each one with a different spirit base. Make one with vodka, one with whiskey or bourbon, and one with rum. Each base will create a distinctively different vanilla extract flavor. Use a mix of our three different vanilla bean styles—Tahitian, Madagascar, and Mexican—and you’ll have a different vanilla extract for any application." — Scott & Amy MacCabe, South End/Charlotte, NC
Jim's grandmother's Paprika Cheese Cookies..."Nobody can eat just one!"
"Two of our favorite treats to gift around the holidays are: (1) Cheese Cookies: Jim got this recipe from his mother, who got it from her mother. They are a favorite savory snack/appetizer for everyone, and they are totally addictive. The dough can be made in advance and frozen, so you can make one big batch and then have several opportunities to bake up smaller batches throughout the holiday season. (2) Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips and Vanilla Glaze: In addition to making this in a traditional-size loaf pan, Anne loves to make these as mini loaves in disposable aluminum foil pans and give them as gifts. She got the recipe from a friend nearly 40 years ago…we’ll share it one of these days!" — Jim & Anne Brown, Sellwood/Portland, OR
Mary's mother-in-law's Christmas Eve tradition: Anne's Fudge Sauce
"My mother-in-law, Anne, always made the best hot fudge sauce. It has a rich, creamy chocolate flavor because of the high cocoa content. On Christmas Eve, after a heavy dinner, she would serve it over peppermint ice cream for a light but festive dessert. While she always added vanilla extract, I have made it with different flavored extracts including almond, cherry, coconut, and peppermint. I have even made it with Ghost Pepper Salt for a sweet then heat flavor! I usually use Savory’s natural cocoa powder for the strongest chocolate flavor, but Dutch, Mexican, and Mayan can also be used. The sauce freezes well, so you can prepare it in advance for busy holiday times. I make a double batch and fill attractive jars for the perfect gift. My friends appreciate the ability to make a quick, delicious dessert." — Dick & Mary Frieg, Colorado Springs, CO
Pat's Anise Biscotti handed down from her Italian Noni
"I grew up in an Italian family, where food, wine, and everyone being together was a very big part of our holiday season. One of my favorite memories is making homemade biscotti with my Noni. Christmas would not feel like Christmas without homemade biscotti. I still love to make it for my family and friends, and now I bring biscotti down to our Savory Spice Shop location to share with employees during the busy holiday season. I make chocolate dipped biscotti with cranberries and almonds, chocolate biscotti, and my favorite—anise biscotti. The recipe was handed down from my Noni and is different than the traditionally hard, crunchy biscotti." — Pat Benfer, Santa Rosa, CA
If you're celebrating the holiday spirit with gifts of food this season, check our website in the coming months for more gift ideas from our Savory family to yours!