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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Keep food gifts safe for the holiday

On the left is a brown gift-wrapped box. On the right is four chocolate cookies with peanut butter frosting on a white table. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

The holidays are a wonderful time to experience the joy of giving. While store-bought gifts are nice, homemade gifts offer a more personal touch. When you’re famous in your family and friends circle for your homemade caramels, pecan pie or barbecue sauce, it’s a welcomed gift to give. However, whenever gifting food, you must first consider the means to keep it safe.  

Always start by cleaning and sanitizing kitchen counter surfaces. Wash hands with soap and warm water before preparing the recipe and after anytime they’ve become contaminated, such as after touching raw eggs. If giving perishable foods, such as egg-rich pies like pumpkin and pecan pie or cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese frosting, give the recipient advanced notice, making sure they are home and can refrigerate the gift when dropping it off. Reconsider giving home-canned foods, especially salsas, pickles and low-acid meats and vegetables. These are higher-risk items that must be processed correctly, and it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Consider giving gifts such as jars of dried soup or cookie mixes, filling the jars with dried ingredients and attaching the instructions for how to add liquid or perishable ingredients. Pack a decorative tin with baked goods, caramel corn, or homemade candies. Fill mugs with homemade mixes of hot cocoa or spices for hot apple cider. Pack spice containers with dried herbs from your herb garden. There are countless options for spreading warm holiday cheer with a food gift from the kitchen; just don’t be the one to spread foodborne illness!

Homemade Granola

3 ½ cups old fashioned oats

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

½ cup pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons canola oil

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine oats, pecans and pepitas. In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over oat mixture and stir to coat. Spread evenly in a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in dried cranberries and allow to cool completely before storing in tightly covered container for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 3-5 months.

Yield: 8 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 360 calories, 15 grams fat, 40 milligrams sodium, 52 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 8 grams protein



Lee, D. (2014). Cook up a holiday gift idea. University of Florida Extension.

Preserve it fresh, preserve it safe: 2022, No. 6. Holiday Food Preserved Gifts. University of Missouri Extension.

Yerxa, K. (2021). Gifts from the kitchen. University of Maine Cooperative Extension.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.