Homemade Holiday Goodies

Homemade gifts for the holidays are, in my opinion, the BEST. Whether it’s a plate of baked goods, a painted ornament, or a cozy knitted/crocheted scarf…gifts that are handmade come from the heart. There’s something about the holiday season that makes crafting and baking for our friends, family and neighbors such a comforting and rewarding activity. It’s a gesture of appreciation and friendship that doesn’t cost a lot of money…just a little bit of time.  And the giving of one’s time is the best gift of all.

In the past, I’ve made candles, hand-painted ornaments, personalized stationery sets, and even tried to make a fruit-infused liqueur one year (it tasted like cough syrup…but the packaging and labels I made were gorgeous…haha). A couple of years ago, we gave out fresh eggs and Mama Kat’s hollandaise sauce. Those were a hit!

This season is usually very busy for me with holiday card orders (and I’m not exactly the most skillful in the kitchen), so for the past few years, it’s my husband, Aaron, who does the baking and cooking (I’m in charge of packaging and the kids do the door-to-door deliveries). This year, I actually baked a few items for our annual cookie exchange with my sisters, Mary and Julie, and our friend, Allison. Aaron was out of town on business, so I managed to make Nana’s Pumpkin Bread, Iced Molasses Cookies, and Peanut Butter Nutella Fudge as my contributions to the exchange. Then I packaged them up and the boys passed out the platefuls of assorted cookies to some of our neighbors.

When my husband returned home from his trip to the Bay Area (where he stayed with his parents), he mentioned a delicious Roasted Tomato Spread that his mom had made. The tomatoes are slowly oven-roasted and become a flavorful sauce to spread onto bagels with cream cheese, sandwiches, bruschetta or crackers. It’s a recipe from her sister (Aaron’s Aunt Booie) and super easy and inexpensive to make. His mom was planning on making jars of it to give out as gifts. Aaron wanted to try making it at home too…and I thought it would make a wonderful hostess gift to bring to the holiday parties and dinners we were invited to. With a bag of bagels and a small tub of cream cheese, the tomato spread would be an easy “go-to” breakfast for the recipient the next morning, after a busy evening of hosting a party.

Here’s a step-by-step photo tutorial for the Oven-Roasted Tomato Spread. All you really need are about $5 worth of ingredients and a few hours of time. Packaged in mason jars with leftover wrapping paper (I used kraft paper or strips of white woodgrain-embossed paper leftover from a holiday card project), baker’s twine and a fun label…and you’re all set with a homemade holiday gift. Following the Oven-Roasted Tomatoes recipe, I’ve included links for the delicious Rum Balls and amazing Salted Butter Caramels that my husband also made to give out…and the FREE printable labels that I designed…so you can jazz up your own homemade gifts! Thanks, Nana Sue and Aunt Booie, for the yummy recipe!

All you need for the oven-roasted tomato spread: 1 large 6 lb., 6 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes (these are from Smart and Final for about $3), baking sheet, parchment paper, extra virgin olive oil, sprigs of rosemary (fresh or dried…our neighbors, The Tottens, let us clip some from their backyard), and mason jars. One can of tomatoes will yield just enough spread to fit one large mason jar (quart). I used 3 half pint jars…

First, open the can and thoroughly drain the tomatoes…

(Sorry for the blurry iphone pics!) Lightly coat with olive oil…

Toss with olive oil to coat tomatoes…

Drain the tomatoes again to get rid of excess oil and tomato juice…

Spread tomatoes onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet…

Lay rosemary on top of tomatoes…

Lightly drizzle with a little more olive oil…

Heat oven to 450…

Bake tomatoes at 450 for 30 minutes…

After 30 minutes, rotate tray…

Reduce temperature to 400 and bake for 30 minutes…

Reduce temperature to 350, rotate tray, and bake for 30 minutes…

 

Reduce temperature to 300, rotate tray, and bake for 30 minutes…

Reduce temperature to 250, rotate tray, and bake for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the tomatoes look lightly caramelized and dried…

Oven-roasted tomatoes…almost done…

Remove tray from oven and allow to cool, then smash tomatoes into the mason jars…

Add olive oil to fill in the gaps and coat the tomatoes…

Labeled and ready to gift!

Now for the Rum Balls and Salted Caramels…my husband uses these two recipes and they’re soooooo darn good! We’re lucky if any of these make it out of the house to our friends. I could eat them all myself! The Rum Balls are an Emeril Lagasse recipe from Food Network. The caramels are my favorite…the recipe is very slightly modified from David Lebovitz (Aaron uses a little bit of brown sugar and Himalayan pink salt).

Below is the FREE printable you can download and use to label your own homemade goodies. There are two labels, one for the Oven-Roasted Tomatoes or for use with any type of sauce or spread. The other one is a generic label for any type of food gift. This file is set up to print on these scalloped corner labels, but you can print to full sized label sheets or regular paper (non-adhesive) and cut down to size.

Have fun making some AWESOMENESS for your friends, family and neighbors. Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!

AWESOME SAUCE PRINTABLE