Care Packages, All Dressed Up for the Holidays

Glazed Red Pepper-Fennel Almonds

The tree is lit and the holidays are in full swing.

While I love parties, between work and other and festivities this time of is usually the last thing on my mind.

To keep a modicum of sanity, I've got an arsenal of recipes that are more on the order of....grab and go. Nuts are a great option because they are just fine at room temperature, can be made ahead, and are perfect with cocktails.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled on this recipe for Glazed Red Pepper-Fennel Almonds. Not only do they fit the bill, but they also have a dash of red and green! Let the fa la la begin...

I'm not a big fan of fennel, but these nuts came so highly recommended, I had to make them. And boy am I glad! They're the perfect hot, salty and sweet...with a hint of savory. I took them to a gathering recently and we couldn't pass the bowl without taking a few. They're simply addictive...and make a nice addition to the holiday table.

Okay, may have noticed I've got a thing for nuts. (See here and here.)

Let me explain.

Not only nuts great for entertaining, but they're a wonderful addition to care packages.

Over the years, I've learned...if you're making up care packages, think of not only a mix of flavors, but a mix of expiration dates. Some items are best consumed within days, and others will stretch out a month or more. For my own care packages, I like to assemble a bit of sweet and savory--as well as items that will keep. Nuts are an ideal compliment. (See? There's a method to my madness!)

Speaking of care packages, I'd like to share a few of my favorite resources:

Packaging for treats? Look no further than Cello Bags. Tied with a swath of ribbon or wire garland, they capture that festive spirit in a flash. Locally, you can buy both plain and printed versions at Paper Zone.

To guild your delicious goodies, Nashville Wraps is your one-stop-shop for bows, boxes, bags, and tissue. My inner kid goes wild here..."I want that, and that. And I absolutely must have those!" Uh...let's just say my last order, I had a glass of wine in hand...and ended up with a multiple-box shipment. I'm not sure restraint was ever a factor.

Custom labels give your home baked goodness a sophisticated touch...and My Own Labels is just the place. They've got labels for bottles, bags, CDs, hang name it! For my parent's 30th wedding anniversary, I ordered custom wine labels...and I couldn't have been happier. Their website is a breeze for online ordering and the final product exceeded my expectations.

Giving your own cordials this year? For bottles, check your local homebrew supply place, or order from Specialty Bottles. I buy bottles by the case. These are the perfect size for salad dressings, BBQ sauce, or your favorite libation. Hint: When buying bottles, be sure to buy lids too. (Yep, I learned that one the hard way...)

~* ~* ~*

Here's hoping your holidays are filled with lots of delicious goodies...and shared with the people you love most.