While it may be better to give than to receive, choosing the right gift can be a nerve-racking experience, fraught with vexing uncertainties that can sap gift-giving of all its joy.

I have a theory based on my own experience, together with 14 years’ worth of letters from my readers, that the biggest gift-giving dilemma is the price tag. We worry that someone might think we didn’t spend enough money on their gift. Whether people really do that or not, it is this tit-for-tat element that sends a lot of people into debt.

The solution for removing the price-tag element altogether is to make your gifts. And by making your gifts consumable you’ll hit a bull’s eye every time.

Over the years we’ve come up with gifts anyone can make in the kitchen that turned out to be big winners. And this year we add several more. By the way, most of these holiday treats suitable for gift-giving can be made well in advance. That means you can get started early.

SueSue’s Chocolate Pecans
Sue Vaughn, Texas

1 pound whole pecan halves

(about 4 cups)

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

12 ounces melting chocolate wafers, or equivalent*

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place butter in a medium bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds on high or until melted. Add pecans and stir until well coated. Spread pecans on a cookie sheet in a single layer and sprinkle generously with salt.

Bake pecans for about 10-12 minutes or until they just begin to turn a shade darker. Stir several times so they roast evenly. Watch carefully because they can burn very easily. You do not want to burn the pecans.

Meanwhile in microwave, melt the chocolate in the same bowl you used to melt the butter, following package instructions. Stir until melted. Remove pecans from oven and pour into a bowl. Pour chocolate over pecans and stir to coat thoroughly. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. If you want, you can break up some of the pecans to make smaller portions.

Once completely cooled, place in airtight containers or ziplock bags.

Yield: A lot—and they’re fabulous!

Variations: You can make this with white chocolate or almond bark too.

*Melting wafers are chocolate that’s formulated for making candy. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Melt ‘n Mold is one brand (www.guittard.com), available at grocery stores, cake and candy supply stores, and craft stores. Chocolate bars and bakers chocolate melt well. Chocolate chips, however, are formulated to resist melting. If chips are your only option, you can melt them but it’s tricky. Stir in 1 teaspoon solid vegetable shortening (not oil, margarine or butter) for each ounce of chips. Microwave on medium power at 30-second intervals.

Almond Crunch
Marsha Hedden, California

1 cup butter (no substitutes)

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

1 cup chopped or slivered almonds, toasted

1 12-ounce package (2 cups) milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Arrange almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast until lightly browned, approximately five minutes.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil.

In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, and water.