It’s Good to Be a (Gift) Basket Case This Holiday Season

Here are four baskets that are sure to bring holiday cheer to the important people in your life, from close friends and family to new acquaintances. Since they’re so easy to put together, they give free rein to spontaneous acts of generosity: isn’t that what the holidays are all about?


By Clémence Risler
Photos by Christian Lacroix Accessories styling by Sylvain Riel food styling by Anne Gagné
Above Image | Baked Spaghetti Sauce.

FOR THE NEW MOM

Ricardo (and Brigitte!) understands that life is turned upside down with a new baby—he’s been through it three times! So he’s made a habit of giving coolers filled with ready-to-serve meals to friends expecting little bundles of joy, often delivering them right after baby arrives (to weather the first twenty-four hours). It’s a gift that everyone can appreciate; from the brother-in-law who had a tough week at work, to the newly separated or a friend who’s going through chemotherapy. Really, the only thing you have to do with this chili is pop it into the oven. And since it’s bursting with vegetables, there’s no need to worry about a side dish.

Turkey and Vegetable Chili Au Gratin

Preparation | 30 minutes Cooking | 1 hour 10 minutes Servings | 6

✻ freezes well ✻


  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 lb (455 g) ground turkey
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can (28 oz / 796 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (19 oz / 540 ml) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) ketchup
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp (25 g) chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup (10 g) cilantro
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) lime juice
  • 7 oz (200 g) grated Edam or mild cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

  • In a large pot over medium-high heat, soften the celery, carrots, onion and bell pepper in the oil. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned. Add the sweet potato, tomatoes, beans, ketchup, mustard and spices. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro, green onions and lime juice.
  • With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Spoon the chili into an 11 x 8-inch (28 x 20 cm) baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese. Freeze at this stage, if desired.
  • Bake for 20 minutes (or 45 minutes if frozen) or until the cheese is golden brown.

FOR GRANDDAD

Keep the elderly in your life in the kitchen with our quick and easy recipes in a jar. They work wonders, even for loved ones who live alone or find it challenging to bake or cook for themselves every day. Take this muffin recipe, where all the dry ingredients are layered in a pretty glass container. Some milk, oil and an egg; that’s all you need to add to the mix. To make the gift complete, we throw in some homemade jam and a box of reusable muffin cups.

Bran Muffin Mix in a Jar

Preparation | 10 minutes Makes | 10 muffins


  • 1 cup (150 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (70 g) bran cereal (All-Bran-style)
  • ¾ cup (160 g) lightly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup (70 g) raisins
  • ¾ cup (75 g) quick-cooking oats

  • In a 4-cup (1 litre) transparent jar, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  • Gently add the remaining ingredients into the jar in order, one after the other, so as to create layers.
  • Tightly close the jar. Attach a gift tag that details baking instructions and give as a gift.

FOR THE NEW NEIGHBORS

When a new family moves in down the street, or when friends buy a new home, Ricardo and Brigitte wish them well by offering them a basket filled with three significant, and symbolic, gifts: bread (to ensure there’s always enough food in the house), wine (so that they’ll always be surrounded by friends) and salt (to cast bad spirits out), as per old European tradition. This bread, loaded with cheese and figs, is sweet and savoury and is so easy to make! What better way to welcome someone to the neighbourhood?


Cheddar and Fig Bread

Preparation | 20 minutes Resting | 2 hours 45 minutes Cooking | 1 hour Makes | 1 loaf


  • 3 ½ cups (525 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 ¾ cups (430 ml) warm water
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) whole wheat flour or fine durum wheat semolina
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) diced dried figs, stems removed
  • 1 cup (100 g) grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • In a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, combine the flour, salt and yeast. Add the water. Stir with a fork until completely moistened, but not completely smooth. Cover and let rise in a warm, humid place for 2 hours or until the dough has tripled in volume (see note).
  • Place the whole wheat flour into a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Sprinkle the figs and cheese on the surface of the dough. Fold the risen dough onto itself, about 6 folds, or until the figs and cheese are completely enveloped. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth. Place in the bowl of whole wheat flour and coat on all sides. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in volume.
  • Meanwhile, with the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Place the cleaned pot or Dutch oven in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the oven. Drop the dough and all the flour into the centre of the pot. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
  • Let cool. Remove the excess flour.
  • The bread will be very crusty and keeps for about 2 days.

NOTE: The microwave and oven are perfect places to let dough rise; place a cup of boiling water inside the apparatus to create a warm, humid environment.

FOR THE HOSTS

When you’re throwing a party, the last thing you want to think about is what you’ll eat the day after. To thank her holiday hosts and hostesses, Kareen, our Test Kitchen director, prepares really useful thank-you gifts, like spaghetti sauce (super-easy to make), pasta and a block of Parmesan. When suppertime rolls around the day after the big party, the hosts can just relax, unwind and pour themselves a glass of wine.


Baked Spaghetti Sauce

Preparation | 20 minutes Cooking | 40 minutes Servings | 4 cups (1 litre)

✻ freezes well ✻


  • 1 lb (455 g) ground meat (veal, beef and pork mixture)
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • ¼ tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 tbsp (30 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (750 ml) chicken broth
  • 6 tbsp (90 ml) tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

  • With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the meat in 1 tbsp (15 ml) of the oil, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until browned. Season with salt, pepper and the dried herbs. Stir well. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in an ovenproof saucepan over medium heat, soften the onion and carrot in the remaining oil (1 tbsp / 15 ml). Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Add the broth and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the cooked ground meat to the sauce and stir in the garlic.
  • Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Adjust the seasoning. Let cool.
  • Serve with pasta or transfer into a 4-cup (1 litre) jar and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.