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Easy Gifts from Your Kitchen

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Need a gift for a neighbor or your child’s teacher? Instead of gift cards, Robin Miller, host of the Food Network’s Quick Fix Meals, suggests homemade treats. “The recipient feels special when you give something that takes time and effort,” she says. There are plenty of simple recipes that can be whipped up in a couple of hours, and an added bonus, says Miller: “You can do this with your kids, so they learn a thoughtful way to say thank you to the people who take care of them every day.”

Puff Pastry Twists with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Serves 4 to 8

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
¼ cup prepared sun-dried tomato pesto
¼ cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Roll puff pastry into a 12 x 15-in. rectangle. Spread pesto evenly over pastry, to within ½-in. of the edges. Fold dough in half lengthwise. Roll dough out again into a 12 x 5-in. rectangle. Sprinkle Parmesan over new rectangle.
3. Cut dough crosswise into ½-in. thick strips. Twist each strip into a corkscrew. Arrange twists on a large baking sheet and press down ends to prevent unrolling. Bake 10 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown.

Chocolate Pretzels >

Chocolate Pretzels

Serves 8 to 10

2 bags chocolate chips (dark or milk chocolate)
1 bag pretzels (logs work well for this, but you can try any of the medium to thick variety of twists)
Chopped nuts, for garnish, optional
Colored nonpareils, for garnish, optional
Sprinkles, for garnish, optional
Coconut, for garnish, optional
Crushed cookies, for garnish, optional

1. Melt chocolate in double boiler over medium heat on stove top.
2. Using tongs, or your fingers, quickly dip top of pretzels in chocolate allowing the excess to run off. Place dipped pretzels on waxed paper lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, colored sugars or other toppings.
3. Allow to harden. You may need to refrigerate for a while to help this along. Once hardened, remove from sheets and store in a cool location, with waxed paper between layers.

Walnut-Cheddar Crisps >

Walnut-Cheddar Crisps

Makes 50 Crisps

Cooking Spray ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cayenne

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together butter and cheese until smooth. Mixing on low speed, beat in flour, walnuts, egg yolk, salt and cayenne.
3. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheet 3 inches apart. Flatten each into a 1 ½-in.-wide round.
4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden around the edges. Cool completely on wire racks before packing or serving.

Pecan Squares >

Pecan Squares

Makes 36 Squares

Cooking Spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp. heavy cream
3 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. and coat a 9 x 13-in. baking pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add softened butter and, using a fork, mix until fine crumbs form. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the topping: In a medium bowl, combine melted butter with brown sugar and heavy cream. Mix until well blended. Fold in the pecans. Pour this mixture over the crust, return the pan to the oven, and bake for 25 more minutes, until the top is almost set – it will set completely upon cooling. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Onion and Black Pepper Flat Bread >

Onion and Black Pepper Flat Bread

Serves 6 to 8

Cooking Spray
2 tbsp. plus 4 tsp. olive oil
1¼ cups chopped onion
1 cup warm water (about 110 F.)
1 packet fast-acting yeast
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt, preferably coarse sea salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 500 F. and coat two large baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup of the onions and cook for 3 minutes, until soft. Set aside.
3. Place warm water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, ¾ teaspoon of the black pepper, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Add the cooked onion and 1 cup of the flour and mix well. Add the remaining flour and mix with a dough hook (or your hands) until a manageable dough forms.
4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it for 15 seconds. Quarter dough and form each piece into a ¼-in.-thick round. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheets and, using a finger, press indentations into the dough at 1-in. intervals.
5. Drizzle remaining 4 teaspoons of olive oil over the rounds and top with remaining ¼ cup onion, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely before serving or packing.

All recipes courtesy Robin Miller, All Rights Reserved