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What to Make, Buy or Bring to Your Annual Gift Exchange

·4 min read

With the holidays on the horizon, your shopping list is growing by the minute—and it’s getting awfully pricy, too. Why not save yourself some headache (read: money) with these delicious, easy ideas? From chic appetizers to drool-worthy holiday cookies, here are our top ideas for what to make, buy or bring to every gift exchange you attend this year.

What to Make: French Onion Cups

Cold weather is no match for everyone’s favorite cozy soup. That same soup wrapped in puff pastry? Forget about it. The recipe only calls for nine ingredients, including traditional Gruyère cheese, beef broth and heavy cream. They come together in a muffin tin for optimal shape and minimal mess. And thanks to the pastry dough being store-bought, it’ll only take you an hour or so to whip them up. We’d suggest baking a few batches—they won’t last long once they hit the hors d’oeuvre table.

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What to Make: Roasted Nuts

Roasted nuts are a lot like potato chips, albeit healthier. Set a bowl of them out at a party and all your guests suddenly lose their will power. These are an upgrade from traditional bar nuts, though. It starts with a mix of almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews and pistachios, which are tossed in olive oil, fresh herbs and seasonings, like cayenne and smoked paprika. Most importantly, the nuts go for a quick toast in the oven, which intensifies their flavor and gives them a crisper texture. Best part? They’ll last up to three weeks in an airtight container.

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What to Buy: Ketel One Botanical

We love the idea of gifting a homemade cocktail kit, and this unique bottle is just the spirit for the job when packed along with some wine glasses, fun garnishes and your favorite club soda. Ketel One Botanical is distilled with real botanicals, infused with natural fruit essences and free of artificial sweeteners and added sugar. One serving clocks in at 73 calories* (that’s 40 percent lower than a glass of white wine) and 0 carbs, so any partygoers can get their sip on. Ketel One Botanical flavors—citrusy Grapefruit & Rose, crisp Cucumber & Mint and summery Peach & Orange Blossom—don’t need much to be transformed into a delicious cocktail. Just add a few ounces of club soda and you’re in business.

Buy It

*KETEL ONE BOTANICAL. Made With Vodka Distilled With Real Botanicals And Infused With Natural Flavors. 30% Alc/Vol. © Double Eagle Brands, B.V. Imported by Ketel One USA, Aliso Viejo, CA.* Ketel One Botanical (per 1.5oz.) & Soda Water (per 3 oz.): 73 Cals, 0g Carbs, 0g Protein, 0g Fat; White Table Wine (per 5 fl. oz., USDA ARS, National Nutrient Database May 2016): 121 Cals, 3.82 Carbs, 0.1g Protein, 0g Fat.

What to Buy: Strawberry Swirl Designer Christmas Cheesecake

Our favorite kind of dessert? One we don’t have to lift a finger to make, of course. Junior’s Cheesecake is one of the most famous places to snag the other type of New York slice. And this fancy cheesecake has been their most popular seasonal confection for the last decade for a reason. The original New York cheesecake base gets spruced up with swirls of real strawberry purée and red and green chips. But our favorite part is the yellow chiffon cake edge, complete with a festive Christmas tree pattern.

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What to Bring: Mini Mason Jar Chicken Potpies

It may be the season of giving, but let’s face it: The only thing better than a communal chicken potpie is one you get to devour all by yourself. Enter the cutest casseroles ever invented, conveniently baked in tiny mason jars. The filling stars store-bought rotisserie chicken, our favorite kitchen shortcut, as well as traditional veggies, herbs and heavy cream. Refrigerated pie crusts make the flaky toppers a breeze to assemble. Can you believe they only take 50 minutes to bake from start to finish?

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What to Bring: Brown Sugar Cookies with Dulce de Leche

No offense, but your friends will definitely assume you bought them at a fancy local bakery. These gems take an impressive 25 minutes to make (plus chilling time) and are spread with decadent dulce de leche, a caramel-like confection made from sweetened milk popular in Latin countries. Luckily, you won’t have to whip up your own: Odds are you can find it canned at your local supermarket. A few festive cookie cutters and fancy sprinkles later, boom—you’re the host’s all-time favorite guest.

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