I've always loved giving gifts — birthday, Christmas, graduation, housewarming. But when I think of the best gift I ever gave, I only have to think back to last year. See, my roommate loves my cat Boudin as much as I do. She naps with him, talks to him, buys him his favorite treats. In fact, a couple of years ago, we took a Christmas card photo of the three of us.

So when I was brainstorming what to get her last Christmas, it wasn't long before I thought of the perfect present: a personalized desk calendar featuring a photo of Boudin each month. Over the following weeks, Boudin and I took dozens of photos (I blame my photography skills, not the subject), and I downloaded them to Snapfish to craft my gift. She loved it and it was a gift I felt really good about giving.

All of this is to say that it can be challenging to give gifts that feel really special for everyone, especially during the holidays. Over the course of the year, I try my best to note the things people love or need, but the holiday hustle often means I'm scrambling to gather presents all at once. Plus, I can only give my sister so many cat-themed coffee mugs before her cabinet fills up. (Can you tell I like cats?)

Which is why homemade, edible gifts really save the day. Nothing feels more heartfelt than something you've taken the time and effort to make yourself, and I like to think it speaks volumes over a pair of mittens (though I'd happily receive a pair of mittens). Plus, edible gifts take into account any food preferences or dietary restrictions, so the thoughtfulness is really baked in.

This year, I'm going beyond the average cookies, tea cakes, and granola I know and love and putting a little extra time and effort into some really special, really unexpected homemade treats. Because it's exciting to give your friends and loved ones delicious things they won't find at their office holiday party, to introduce them to a new flavor, or to make it a little easier for them to treat themselves.

Here are the wow-worthy recipes I have my eye on this year — plus a few speedy sweets for when you need something special in a pinch.

Homemade gifts are the best gifts

1. Infused honey

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

2. Classic vanilla marshmallows

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

3. How to make your own herbal tea blend

(Courtesy Food52)

4. Bulgogi jerky

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

5. Chocolatey tahini cups

(Courtesy Food52)

6. Carey Nershi's angostura sugar cubes for champagne cocktails

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

7. Homemade dulce de leche

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

8. Apple peel bourbon

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

9. Stollen

(Mark Wienberg/Courtesy Food52)

10. Smoked tea caramels

(Julia Gartland/Courtesy Food52)

11. Five-spice pickled carrots

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

12. White house eggnog

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

13. Chocolate babka

(Courtesy Food52)

14. Cocktail cherries

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

Travel-friendly treats for last-minute gifting

15. Oreo balls

(Rocky Luten/Courtesy Food52)

16. The 3-ingredient Hail Mary of edible gifts to save you from yourself

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

17. Salted dark chocolate puppy chow

(Alpha Smoot/Courtesy Food52)

18. Almond butter buckeyes

(Mark Wienberg/Courtesy Food52)

This story was originally published on Food52.com: 18 homemade edible gifts that think outside the cookie jar.