I often find myself in a situation where I want to give a gift to someone who is really hard to shop for. It’s hard to find just the right thing, but I finally came up with an all-purpose gift idea that can suit just about any occasion — a homemade gift basket filled with lots of fresh produce, sweets, and treats!
I know… gift baskets are tried and true. Everybody’s gotten them, everybody’s given them. But really, did they have anything GOOD in them? Maybe not. But these do!
I start with a large wicker basket. My favorite is a laundry-type basket that you can pick up for less than five dollars at your local Michael’s craft store (I buy a few of these whenever I see them on sale and keep them on hand). You can find other baskets in just about any shape and size at just about any store, so pick what you like. I recommend something that’s wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, because it will feature your items a lot better.
Next I go to the grocery or specialty food store (or farmer’s market!) and start buying. If I focus on what’s in season, I can easily fill a basket with beautiful fresh produce for under $20. I then start adding the sweets and treats, depending on the tastes of the person I’m giving the basket to.
In general, a well-rounded basket would have the following:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- A loaf of bread
- One or two chunks of specialty cheese
- Something sweet and already prepared (cookies are great!)
If you want to get creative, here are some other ideas for fun things to add:
- A bottle of wine
- Fresh herbs
- Jars of homemade sauces, stews, or soups
- Baked goods (brownies, candies, or biscuits)
Once you have your supplies, arrange them nicely in the basket. Don’t worry about not being able to make it look good — you have beautiful, fresh ingredients and it will look pretty no matter what. Be sure to arrange all the leafy greens so that they extend along the edges. The result will be a glorious bounty of fresh and yummy goodness. If you want to cover the basket during transport, I suggest a few passes across the top with some regular plastic wrap.
(Hint: If you have cold items and you worry about the warm weather outside, you can put a bag of ice in the bottom of your basket then put the cold items on top of it.)
In less than an hour, you will have created a unique basket that your friend will love. He or she will be able to dive right into the prepared sweets and then think about what to do with all the wonderful produce you’ve supplied. And the cost to you can be as little as $25, or as much as you want to spend. Each of the baskets pictured in this post cost less than $30 (not counting the bottle of wine).
A fun idea is to customize your basket to follow a theme. Here are some examples:
- Italian– Have a friend who is really fond of Italian food? Include lots of bread and cheese, fresh basil and oregano, some homemade sauce, ingredients for a Caesar salad, and garlic.
- Fondue — Who doesn’t love fondue? Include cheese, wine and dippers like bread, broccoli, apples, and sausages. Include chocolate, cream, and dippers like marshmallows, pound cake, strawberries, and bananas.
- Moving in — Just starting out in a new home? Include staples like potatoes, onions, flour, spices, bread, and milk. Some lunch meat and cheeses will help your unpacking friend feed himself during those really busy first few days.
- New baby — A bundle of joy comes with a lack of sleep. Include pick-me-ups like cookies and brownies, lots of coffee, some prepared sauce or stew for a quick meal, and maybe a bottle of wine for the new mom to enjoy!
The possibilities are endless, but the key is that almost everything you select should be a fresh item. The problem with most gift baskets is that they contain packaged goods that aren’t really very tasty. The problem with most fruit baskets is that a person can only eat so many apples and oranges! Your basket will have variety, freshness, and unique items. Your friend will want to dig right in!
You can customize the basket easily to include foods you know the recipient likes, and you can balance between fresh and prepared foods depending on how much he or she likes to cook. My friends who cook a lot love to get baskets filled with fresh produce, cheese, and bread. Those who aren’t savvy in the kitchen love to get lots of cookies, breads, and baked goods.
Odds are that when you finish making a basket for a friend, you’ll want one for your own