Food gifts good to give, and great to get

LOS ANGELES "You don't have to be a whiz in the kitchen to give somebody a really wonderful food gift," explains Flannigan.

The co-author of "Do it for Less, Parties," Flannigan says you don't even have to be all that crafty. Some gifts -- like soup recipe jars -- are super easy to assemble.

"Beans are probably the easiest, and also the most inexpensive," said Flannigan.

There are three different colors of split peas, six different colors of lentils and about 20 different types of dried beans that average around 80 cents a bag. Write or type up an old family favorite recipe, mount it on card stock or even wrapping paper. Pour a mini baggy full of the spices needed and staple it to the inside of the card, and then layer the ingredients in a visual container for a great gift.

A nice touch is to cut fabric for the jar's lid and tie it with a ribbon, which creates a very festive effect.

"If you are uneasy about cooking, you can make something from a mix, because there are wonderful mixes out there," said Flannigan.

Your homemade pound cake or lemon loaf will look rich in a holiday box and bow that won't cost more than a couple dollars to make.

An apple tart is simply apples, sugar and pastry dough. Once baked, they can easily be stacked in a box.

Plus, any leftover dough can be made into faux rugelach as well.

"[Rugelach is] pie dough that I had left over, sprinkled with brown sugar, butter, nuts and cinnamon," explains Flannigan.

Candied nuts are another party favorite, and just need butter, sugar, and spices. Keep in mind this is one gift that needs an airtight container to keep it fresh.

Most of the gifts require more time than they do money. The containers usually cost more than the food. You can find them at big box stores, Cost Plus World Markets and kitchen-bath stores.

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