How to make Christmas gift baskets

Dec 8, 2012 at 6:00 a.m. ET

Whether you want a truly personal gift for someone you love or just want to throw together some backups for last-minute gifts, homemade gift baskets are a fun and thoughtful way to brighten someone's day.

Gift basket
gift basket ideas

When it really
is the thought that counts

Whether you want a truly personal gift for someone you love or just want to throw together some backups for last-minute gifts, homemade gift baskets are a fun and thoughtful way to brighten someone's day.

We chatted with Texas Realtor Janet Barnett, who uses a series of fun baskets as housewarming gifts for her clients, to get some great ideas for easy gift baskets people love to give as much as the recipient loves to get them. Here are some of her secrets for a truly special gift.

What makes a great gift basket

According to Barnett, the best gift baskets are well themed. Instead of just tossing in a bunch of cute stuff, find a theme and stick with it. A bath gift basket could include a unique bodywash, bath beads or salts, a loofa, bubble bath, candles and lotion. But don't just stick with a theme. If you're doing a gift basket full of scented items, choose a single scent, like lavender, rose or cucumber-melon.

She also recommends picking up unique baskets of various sizes wherever you can. Try thrift stores, dollar stores and discount stores for the best deals. After all, they only need to look nice and last long enough to deliver your goodies. If you keep an eye out while shopping, you can pick up great baskets as you go and store them in the closet until you need them.

You'll also need some filler, like straw or Easter grass, to lift the items up and make them look nice. To cut down on expensive fillers in deep baskets or for extra support for heavy items, use a block of green floral foam in the bottom of the basket and cover it with filler.

Tie up your basket with clear or decorated plastic and a large bow that matches your theme. Instead of a bow, you could also use Christmas ornaments or other baubles that go with the theme.

Chicken enchilada soup gift basket

Barnett's favorite basket, especially for the chilly holiday season, is her chicken enchilada soup gift basket. She's designed it to be made easily by new homeowners who haven't yet unpacked, so it's even great for people who don't really cook. The recipes she's given us here have been a closely guarded secret for years, but we managed to get her to share them with you.


  • 2-cup measuring cup
  • 2 cans shredded chicken
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can chili beans (she uses Ranch Style)
  • 1 can whole kernel corn or hominy
  • 1 baggie special seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1 small can black olives, sliced
  • 1 bag tortilla strips
  • 2 soup mugs or bowls
  • 2 spoons
  • 1 soup ladle
  • 2 cloth napkins
  • 1 large basket
  • Decorative rustic packing straw
  • Hole punch (optional)
  • 1 block green floral foam, plus several small blocks (optional)
  • Craft wire (optional)
  • Card stock or recipe cards (optional)
  • 1 large sheet clear or Mexican-themed wrapping plastic (gift plastic, not kitchen plastic wrap)
  • 1 large Mexican-themed bow (i.e., jalapeños, red peppers, etc.)


  1. Place the green floral foam (if you're using it) in the bottom of the basket and cover it with packing straw or another filler.
  2. Neatly fill the basket with the gift items, making sure the heavier items (canned foods) are on bottom and in the back. Arrange and rearrange the items until they make a beautiful presentation. Using a basket that's just large enough to hold the items will help them stay in place. You can use the craft wire or smaller blocks of green floral foam covered with your packing material to leverage items in place. Don't forget to make sure breakable items are insulated against breakage with extra packing material.
  3. For a special touch, print the words "Chicken Enchilada Seasoning Mix" and "Tortilla Strips" on card stock long enough to fold over a blank flap behind the printed flap and staple it to the baggies of seasoning and tortilla strips.
  4. Print the cooking instructions (below) on a card, punch a hole in the corner and affix it to the basket. (Alternatively, you can place the card inside the basket with the ingredients.)
  5. Place the basket in the center of a large piece of wrapping plastic and fold it up over the entire basket, including the handle.
  6. Tie it off with a beautiful bow to secure.

Chicken enchilada soup seasoning mix recipe

Make this seasoning mix ahead as part of the gift basket.

Yields 1 


  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 6 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley


  1. Place all ingredients in a small plastic snack bag, close and shake to mix.

Recipe instructions to print

Print the following instructions on a recipe card or card stock so your recipient will know how to make the soup.

Chicken enchilada soup recipe

Serves 2-4


  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1 chicken enchilada soup seasoning packet
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can whole kernel corn or hominy
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Tortilla strips
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • 1 can black olives
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional)


  1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a boil.
  2. Add the seasoning packet, chicken, tomatoes, beans and corn or hominy and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with black olives, tortilla strips, cheese, sour cream and avocado slices.

About Janet Barnett

Janet Barnett

Janet Barnett is one half of the husband-wife Re/Max realty team affectionately known in their hometown of Abilene, Texas, as "Spouses Selling Houses." Among the top agents in the area, the Barnetts' gift baskets are just one of the small touches that make clients say they go "over and above" to help them.

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