Christmas is rapidly approaching, and the list of who I want to give “a little something” to continues to grow. That’s why over the years I’ve turned to making homemade gift baskets. To me, there is nothing more special than a gift from someone’s kitchen. So, here’s a few of my favorites that I wanted to share with you guys!

Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread – I find myself baking this loaf to enjoy for breakfast weekly. Kicks the pants off of anything you’d buy in the store. And, who wouldn’t be tickled with a home-baked loaf of fresh bread for a gift?

Chiotle-Honey Roasted Peanuts

Chipotle-Honey Roasted Peanuts – love the sweet and spicy combination on these guys. Packaged up in a cute little tin, they make a great gift. Beware though, they’re addicting!

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Granola

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Granola – everyone loves a fresh, healthy start after the Holidays. Some homemade granola is a great way to help them get kick-started!

DIY Strawberry Vodka

DIY Strawberry Vodka – a bottle of vodka. Some strawberries. 1 week. That’s all you need to make this vibrant strawberry vodka at home. Wonderful in cocktails, on it’s own – this is a great way to warm up a cold winter’s night!

Pimento Cheese

Homemade Pimento Cheese – it always astonishes me when people say they’ve only had pimento cheese from a jar. Do them a favor, and make this! It’s perfect for any Christmas party or buffet.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Homemade Caramel Sauce – and last but certainly not least, caramel sauce. There isn’t much that I don’t put this stuff on – it really is just glorious. This was my first year getting familiar with making caramel in my kitchen, so I’m looking forward to including this in my gift baskets this year!

I hope you guys are having as much fun getting ready for Christmas as I am. Looking forward to menu planning for the Holidays this week, then get started on all my baking. Look for a cookie roundup here sometime in the next week or so. Happy Holidays!

This was actually my first attempt at making fudge, and I must say – I hope I didn’t set the standard too high with this one. I can’t thank Annie enough for sharing it last week. When I saw it, I knew I had to make it pronto. I mean, what’s not to love? Nutella. Cherries. Hazelnuts. Chocolate. Then, a sprinkling of salt to finish it all off?

It was everything that I thought it would be. Rich and decadent, with a toastiness from the hazelnuts, and a wonderful tart bite from the cherries. And smooth! If you’ve never made fudge before, this is a great recipe to try. I think the addition of the Nutella really makes the smoothness part of the equation foolproof. I know this one will definitely be going in my goodie gift baskets this year!

Every day, I thank the sweet Heavens for this place I call home. Within a 20 minute drive I can procure some of the freshest seafood imaginable. Shrimp, crabs, fish, oysters, clams – even lobsters. And, I don’t go to some fancy supermarket to get them. Most of places I go to buy my seafood are little run-down shacks, ran by the waterman themselves.

Seaside Lobsters in Atlantic, VA is one of those places. They’re only open a few afternoons a week, but there’s nothing like having Jon stop on his way home from work to pick up a couple of big lobsters to have for dinner, for around $25. They run about $8 a pound, which is unbelievably reasonable. They also often have “culls” or one-clawed lobsters for even less, around $6 a pound. Which are great for recipes that just include meat – lobster rolls, anyone?

Needless to say, I love to support my local waterman. Those guys are out there working in the blistering cold and heat – all year long, to put food on our tables. The Eastern Shore wouldn’t be what it is today without them, as so much of our local economy relies on the seafood industry – and has for hundreds of years.

Steamed lobster couldn’t be easier, or more special. It’s a perfect decadent dinner for a special evening like Christmas or New Year’s. And, it takes only 20 minutes to cook. Paired with simple sides like a baked potato and salad – a meal like this gives you more time to spend with the family around the Christmas tree, and not in the kitchen slaving over a stove.

I love to take leftovers from one night’s meal, and make something the next night that’s completely different. Leftover taco meat is great for these kind of applications. To date, my favorite use had been these stuffed peppers. But, after finally getting this recipe right where I wanted it, I think they may have to move over!

The first time I had a taco pizza it was at this little local pizzeria that is now closed. She made great “pies” there, big bubbly chewy crusts – a true New York pizza, which is hard to come by here in our rural area. She often had a “special” pizza on the board, which featured something fun and different. One day at lunch we threw caution to the wind and tried the taco pizza. I was hooked!

So, here’s my version. A base of taco sauce, which adds a little spice to start things off. Then topped with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, seasoned beef, thinly-sliced red onion, chopped fresh tomato, and black olives. If you like things a little spicier, add some sliced pickled jalapenos to give it an extra dose of heat. If you’re tired of traditional pizza toppings, give this a whirl – I know you’ll love it!