Much to my husband’s chagrin, I love to make food and give it away. Jelly jars of granola and paper plates of muffins often find their way home with a friend or neighbor to say thank you for a favor or simply to share the love.
Homemade food gifts for holidays and special occasions are a favorite of mine, both to give and receive. I’ve given homemade vanilla extract, vanilla-infused sugar, and seasoning mix–and when I’ve needed something at the eleventh hour, grabbed a quart jar of home-canned peaches from our pantry shelves. It’s not too early to start thinking of food gifts to make for the holidays!
So I was thrilled to get this new book Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving. It’s written by Emily Paster of the food blog West of the Loop. When Emily found herself with a surplus of jams, chutneys, and pickles after a summer canning spree, she co-founded the Chicago Food Swap. Five years later, it’s one of the most active food swaps in the country, with roughy 50 swappers meeting every month. Though food swaps come in all kinds, Emily says they all have two things in common: No money changes hands, and all items must be made (or grown) by the participants.
In her book, Emily walks you through how to start your own food swap and provides 80 recipes that are ideal for trading or gifting. For each one, she offers advice on packaging and labeling–and even includes two pages of adorable tear-out gift tags to adorn your jars and packages.
Some of the recipes in Food Swap:
- Sweets like Salted Caramel Sauce and Lavender Shortbread
- Dips and sauces like Sweet & Spicy Peach Barbecue Sauce and Citrus Curd
- Pantry items like Raspberry Vinegar and Garam Masala
Emily was kind enough to share one of the recipes here–and it’s something I’ve wanted to make for a long time: Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (otherwise known as Homemade Nutella!). You’ll find that this spread is more mildly sweet than the jarred version and has a more natural texture and flavor. To make this recipe, I ordered hazelnuts on Amazon (I bought this brand) and used pure vanilla extract instead of a whole vanilla bean.
Emily’s note on hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are an expensive ingredient, so look for them in the bulk section of your grocery store or order online. Removing their skins is a tedious but necessary task or else the spread will be overly bitter. To save yourself some trouble, you can seek out hazelnuts with the skins already removed.
Emily’s tip for packaging: Package the spread into four 4-ounce glass jars. Label as perishable and note the presence of nuts.
- 16 ounces raw hazelnuts
- 1¼ cups powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of espresso powder (optional)
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 3 tablespoons nut or vegetable oil
- Toast the hazelnuts in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until fragrant and the skins rubs off easily. Remove as much of the skins as possible by shaking the nuts in a large, covered bowl or by rubbing them with a clean towel.
- Add the hazelnuts to your food processor or high-speed blender and process until they become creamy. (This could take several minutes. The hazelnuts will start off powdery and eventually begin to break down and release their oils, forming a creamy paste.)
- Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and espresso powder, if using. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the insides into the blender or food processor, or use vanilla bean paste.
- Gradually add the oil with the motor running, scraping down the sides as necessary, and process until the mixture is a smooth spread. The finished product should be glossy and creamy.
- Transfer the spread to a clean pint jar and refrigerate until needed.
Photo used with permission from Food Swap
Disclosures: I received a free copy of Food Swap. This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you purchase a product through these links, your cost will be the same but I’ll receive a small commission to help with operating costs of this blog.