Assess your post-holiday spoils. If you’re lucky, you got some great food gifts this year. But sometimes the haul is daunting—especially if you got one (or more) of those overladen gift baskets with meat, cheese, olives, caramel popcorn, shortbread cookies, and more. You could nibble your way through it all, but if you’re sick of snacking, or aren’t convinced of the quality of the contents on their own (some baskets are definitely better than others), you’re in luck—here are some of the best ways to use a food gift basket in inventive ways.
Harry & David Gift Baskets, $14.99-$499.99
Feeling left out? Give yourself a gift basket whenever you want.
1. Use Orange Marmalade or Jam to Glaze Chicken, Duck, or Pork
Got a jelly of the month club subscription and don’t eat much toast? Or gifted a jar of marmalade or jam from a well-meaning friend or coworker that you know will just take up space in your refrigerator door for the next year if you don’t use it somehow soon? Think beyond breakfast and turn it into a sweet-savory glaze for meat or poultry. Get our Marmalade Duck recipe, try marmalade mixed with a little Dijon mustard, grated ginger, and garlic on chicken thighs, or try our Glazed Pork Tenderloin recipe. And see even more ways to use jam besides on bread.
2. Toss Those Cured Meat Sticks in the Pot—or on a Pizza
Summer sausage could go on a cheese board, but if you’ve had your share of those this year, try using any gift basket meat tube like you would pepperoni and put thin slices on a pizza (or a variation on our Chorizo Olive Flatbread recipe at the top the of this page). Or chop up those logs of cured meat that came with the cheeses for a paella or a nice big pot of jambalaya. Sure, it’s not andouille sausage or tasso ham, but your meat stick is smoky, salty, and flavor-packed. It will work just fine in a forgiving, spice-filled Cajun recipe like our Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya recipe.
3. Make Peppermint Desserts with Candy Canes
It’s not Christmas without a few too many candy canes, especially if you have children. But you’re not going to suck on them. So crush them—and crush dessert in the process. You can make our Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Peppermint Buttercream Filling recipe with excess candy canes or those little alien-saucer-shaped peppermint candies, or try Jessie Sheehan’s easy and amazing Chocolate Snacking Cake recipe with Peppermint Buttercream. Any amount of baking too much work? Our Peppermint Hot Chocolate recipe requires only four ingredients and is rich and sweet enough to end a meal.
4. Use Your Olives in Original Ways (From Stew to Ceviche)
Olives will last longer than most gift basket ingredients, but you don’t have to stick to the expected uses for them. When you’re tried of straight up snacking and adding them to salads, slice some up for picadillo (to serve over rice or stuff into empanadas); blend them into a muffaletta sandwich spread, tapenade, or olive hummus; or add them to flatbread, soup, or ceviche.
5. Make Mixed Nuts Into Tarts or Dessert Bars
What pairs well with nuts? Fruit—any fruit—plus pastry (or chocolate and coconut). Chop up salted roasted nuts for our Seven-Layer Magic Bars recipe, or pair them up with that marmalade or jam we already mentioned and make our Italian Jam Crostata recipe. It doesn’t have to be exactly like the recipe. Just the general idea. Or for a healthier treat, use your mixed nuts in our homemade Cherry Power Bar recipe.
6. Transform Your Panettone Into French Toast
Here’s an easy repurposing idea. That box of fruit-filled bread you got? Make it a nice weekend brunch meal with a little egg, cream, cinnamon, and syrup. It’s a cinch, and more enjoyable than the original. Get the Panettone French Toast recipe, or try a Panettone Bread Pudding recipe for a similar treat (which will also work for fruitcake).
7. Put Your Caramel Popcorn in Cookies
A little salt, a little sweet, and you get a whole lotta awesome in cookie form when you put your caramel popcorn gift to another use. This Salted Caramel Popcorn Cookie recipe has got all the flavor and texture pairings you could desire. If you got plain popcorn, you can make popcorn balls; cheesy popcorn can be a nice garnish on tomato soup or a salad in place of croutons.
8. Make Snack Mix (or Other Appetizers) with Your Specialty Mustard
Take that mustard jar you found in your basket and make great munchies for game day (or New Year’s Eve). It’ll even last until the Super Bowl. And sure, you can simply slather it on your brats, hot dogs, our Soft Pretzels recipe, or our Soft Pretzel Bites recipe—or you can mix it into our Honey Mustard Snack Mix recipe. Sweet or spicy mustard will work, or try a blend of both. Another option: Spread that gifted mustard inside crescent roll dough with cheese and toasted nuts (a variation on this Baked Gouda recipe).
9. Make the Ultimate Mac and Cheese
Speaking of cheese, you can take those cheddar loaves and even cheese spreads and mix and melt them into macaroni for an ultra cheesy treat. Make it in a casserole or portion it into muffin pans for fabulous party appetizers.
10. Use Fruit for Savory Dishes
Perfect pears and other winter fruits are great eaten out of hand, but if you want to make them really sing, pair them with something savory—cheese, of course, but try other ingredients too. Add slices to salads (see our Pear and Spinach Salad recipe and our Tangy Apple and Beet Salad recipe for starters), or even roast them with meat (as in our Easy Roasted Pork Tenderloin recipe with pears and figs).
11. Melt Truffles Into the Most Decadent Hot Chocolate Ever
If you tire of truffles eaten as-is, send them to us—or try stirring them into steaming hot milk for the easiest and most luxurious cup of hot cocoa you’ll ever enjoy. And be sure to send a thank-you note!
Header image by Chowhound