A large gift basket sounds like an excellent idea for a hostess, especially one that is a very good friend and one you may wish to pamper. (And one you will want to ask you back for another dinner.)
Great gift ideas for the hostess is limited only by your imagination and your lack of knowldege of the hostess. The best way to be sure you give her the right gift is to take some time in finding out her preferences. You can do this by asking around. In this way your gift will say you took the time to choose something she would use. One good way, and a favorite way of pleasing your hard working hostess is filling a decorative baskets with spices, wines, other edible foods, or special little kitchen gadgets.
In this basket you will have a book, not necessarily about cooking but one you know she will like, but it should have some connection to this dinner, or this party, Some little bottles of spice that ordinarily one does have on hand, (saffron, lemon zest,) and other little edibles that she can use in the future. Throw in that apron that you made especially for her, and fill in whatever. Place mats for two with matching napkins that you made and don’t need and have been looking to place them somewhere.
And last, several little bottles of a non-alcoholic drink, a very good ginger-ail will be just right. You happen to remember you two were discussing what to do when you have that slight nausea that sometimes come on with too much stress. These are all suggestions and can be personalized to fit the person. Certainly not all of these at once but they are only ideas that hopefully will lead to other ideas.
Whatever, make the gift one that is not expected. You do not have to follow the accepted custom here. Give this gift because you want her to have these nice little things and not because of the reaction you will get from the other guests. Their gifts may be expensive and you, having less money, will be just as thoughtful.
Thus you have saved money and time. The items, with the exception of the ginger ale are all items you have and have been waiting to pass them on to some one who will love them as much as you do. I believing this is giving from the heart. Whatever, don’t go overboard. In many instances, flowers from your own garden, a jar of homemade pickles decoratively presented will be excellent choice. What I mean here is fit the gift to the ocassion.
Well whatever. These are the gifts I would bring to your house were I invited to dinner. Consider them yours now. What’s the French word for ‘healthy appetite’? Oh yes, I remember, bon’ appetite.