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Eat your way to the perfect present

For Anson Hyde, it's like giving home in a box. Or a basket, depending. A gift of lovingly baked breads and cakes is an instant feel-good present.

"It just takes you back," said Hyde, general manager of The Bread Basket, a Web-based bakery gift shop located in Signal Knob, Tenn. "Food gifts are something everyone loves, both to give and receive."

At The Bread Basket, the sampler box is the most popular item, offering a carbolicious array of bread loaves, muffins and cakes. For the present that lasts year-round, the company offers three plans - the Cakes Galore plan, the Bountiful Breads plan and the Bread and Cakes plan. A cake or bread gift is shipped to the recipient four times a year.

"It's the gift that keeps on giving, if you will," Hyde said.

A fresh alternative to the traditional fruit- or cheese-filled basket, bread baskets are one of many options holiday shoppers have to leave wonderfully delicious edible gifts under the tree this season.

"There is nothing wrong with the sausage basket that your insurance company sends each year, but it's nice to mix it up and give something different," Hyde said. "Give a gift that stands out, that has a little more of a personal touch."

What can be more personal than a gift with a friend's name on it? For that, head to Red Envelope, where the Personalized Gingerbread House is a standout gift. A completely edible house made from the classic holiday cookie, this gift features a name plate with the recipient's name scrawled above the door in icing. (If a name isn't applicable, the name plate will read "Happy Holidays.") To top it off, the residence is lined in candy canes and gum drops, and Frosty the Snowman stands guard by the cookie door.

Equally edible and just as pretty, the fruit and chocolate flower-shaped bouquets from Edible Arrangements are a creative twist on tried and true flower arrangements. For the Dipped Daisies bouquet, pineapple and cantaloupe shaped like daises mix with the vibrant red of strawberries. Luscious green honeydew melon completes the arrangement for a decadent, healthy mix of fresh flavors.

"The bouquets you receive look just like the picture," said Christy Ferguson, executive vice president for Edible Arrangements. "I always say flowers are a great gift, but a flower arrangement you can eat is even sweeter. There are so many gifts to give out in the holiday season, and this is a light and nice present."

Wrapped and boxed to retain the freshness of the fruit, the arrangements are shipped via the company's signature brightly colored, refrigerated truck, and delivered directly to the recipient's door.

For those striving to lighten up the holiday gift-giving fare, Gayle's Miracle Truffles are a welcome gift for those on a diet. Individually wrapped and tied in a pretty purple bow, each truffle has 30 calories. With all the flavor and texture of regular chocolate, but without the lingering aftertaste of guilt, the truffles are a top choice for holiday gifts.

"They taste great, but are low fat and low calories," said Kris Stephens, a representative with Gayle's Truffles. "You can indulge without breaking your holiday diet plans. It's really a gift you can feel good about giving. Or eating."

Moreinfo

•The Bread Basket: www.breadbasket.com, 1-800-581-0339

•Personalized Gingerbread House: www.redenvelope.com, 1-877-733-3683

•Edible Arrangements: www.ediblearrangements.com,

1-877-DOFRUIT

•Gayle's Miracle Truffles: www.gaylesmiracles.com,

1-800-572-4139