Treat friends and family to the gift of food

Everyone loves to eat, so give a kit to make a favorite treat or put together a special dinner or entree

    If you’ve run out of gift ideas for someone, consider a gift from the kitchen — after all, everyone has to eat and not everyone loves to cook or bake.
    You can pick from a wide variety of gifts — package a kit to make a hearty soup during the long, cold days of winter, freeze a log of delicious cookie dough for those nights when a craving for sweets takes hold, or make a tasty bread ideal for a breakfast or lunch treat.
    You can make a batch of jam or jelly, prepare individual cakes that can be eaten quickly or frozen for later use or whip up a homemade pancake mix that will make early mornings easy.
    And, of course, write the directions on a decorative label or a cute recipe card.
    Try an assortment of teas or coffees in a basket with flavored toppings, a mesh tea ball or a decorative diffuser.
    And almost anyone would love a tin of Christmas cookies that will last into the new year.
    Whatever you do, remember that presentation is key. Package your soup mix in a Mason jar that can be reused or a large soup mug and tie a soup spoon — perhaps one made of wood or one of sterling — to the ribbon.
    Place cookie dough, cookies or bread in a baking pan and wrap it with a tea or dish towel, perhaps adorned with a holiday cookie cutter or spatula.
    Place sweets such as truffles or bourbon balls in a metallic cone made from cardstock or package bark in cellophane bags tied with ribbon.
    If you’re giving teas, consider packaging it with a teapot or a cozy. If it’s coffees, think about a travel mug or a chocolate coated spoon to flavor that drink mocha.
    Put that pancake mix in a large measuring cup, or bundle some homemade cocoa bombs in a mug.
    You could also give someone the kitchen gift they’ve been looking for, such as a raved about accessory.
    Following are a few recipes for food treats ideal for gift giving from hgtv.com.

 

    hgtv.com

Pecan Bourbon Balls

1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons honey
3 cups digestive biscuits, finely ground
3 cups pecans, coarsely ground
6 tablespoons bourbon whiskey

    Pour 1/2 cup of the ground pecans in a bowl and set aside.
    Mix chocolate chips and honey in a medium-sized, microwaveable bowl. Microwave at full power for one to two minutes, until all the chips are melted and the mixture can be stirred smooth with no lumps remaining.     
    Immediately stir the ground digestive biscuits, 2-1/2 cups pecans and whiskey into the melted mixture. Stir until thoroughly blended. The mixture will be thick, but loose and grainy. Scoop out by the teaspoon and gently squeeze into balls with your hands. If the mixture becomes too dry and loose, it can be reheated for 30 seconds in the microwave to make shaping easier.
    Roll balls in the reserved ground pecans, then lay each bourbon ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The flavor will develop fully in four days.
    For pretty presentation, place bourbon balls in colorful card stock cones.
    Bourbon balls will last four weeks if kept refrigerated in a covered container.
    Makes 36 bourbon balls.

Tipsy, Glitz Chocolate Covered Strawberries

12 ounces dark chocolate, melted
12 large strawberries, washed and thoroughly dried
Gold and silver luster dust
1/2 cup sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne

    Cover a work surface with parchment paper. Dip each berry in melted chocolate  and place on the parchment paper to dry. Allow berries to stand about 20 minutes, until the chocolate is firm.
    Load a dry soft-bristle brush with luster dust and brush across the set chocolate, covering all of the exposed chocolate.
    Place champagne in a glass. Fill 12 culinary pipettes by squeezing them between your fingers, then insert the open end into the champagne. Insert each filled pipette into the top of each berry.
    Transfer leftover chocolate to a piping bag with the end snipped, then drizzle chocolate over berries. Let stand about 15 minutes, until set. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
    Makes 12.

 

Walnut Rosemary Olive Bread

2-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup warm water
4 cups bread flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup pitted, chopped black olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan

    Combine yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and set aside five minutes, until foamy and fragrant.
    In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, salt and yeast mixture. Knead mixture about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Add chopped olives, rosemary, walnuts, shallots and garlic and mix until just combined.
    Place dough in a well-oiled glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place about one hour, until dough has doubled in size.
    Transfer half the dough to a floured surface. Roll dough into an oblong shape, then tuck the edges under and pinch together at the bottom of the loaf. Place into an oiled loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Let rise another 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

 

 

Ale and Pretzel Soft Caramels

1 12-ounce bottle brown or pale ale
2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 8-ounce package pretzel rods or sticks

    In a small saucepan, bring one cup ale to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until reduced to about one teaspoon and syrupy. Set aside.
    Combine remaining beer, sugar, brown sugar, butter, cream and corn syrup in a heavy four to five-quart pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil.Continue to cook about 30 minutes, until a candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees.
    Stir in the ale reduction and remove from heat. Pour into a buttered 13-by-9 or two buttered 9-inch-square pans and top with pretzel rods. Let cool several hours or place in refrigerator until firm.
    Remove caramel block from pan and turn, pretzel-side up, on a cutting board. If refrigerated, let caramel warm up a little. Cut between the pretzels and then into 1-inch pieces.
    Cut wax paper into five-inch squares and wrap caramels.

 

Chocolate Snowman Bark

1 pound chocolate almond bark
12 ounces white vanilla meltable round candy wafers
1 tablespoon white nonpareils
10 pretzel sticks
Black nonpareils or mini chocolate chips
10 orange candy-coated chocolate-covered sunflower seeds

    Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt chocolate bark in the microwave at 30 second intervals until completely melted and smooth, about 1-1/2 minutes. Spread candy in a rectangular,  1/4-inch-thick piece on the baking sheet.
    Quickly press 10 ounces of the white candy wafers into the chocolate, well-spaced in groups of three to mimic the body of a snowman. Break pretzel sticks to desired size for the snowman’s arms and press them into the chocolate. Sprinkle nonpareils over the entire sheet of chocolate for a snowy appearance.   
    Melt two ounces of the white wafers in the microwave at 100 percent power at 30 second intervals until melted. Transfer to a disposable piping bag or zipper-top bag with the tip snipped. Pipe a dot of candy onto the center of the snowman’s head and add an orange candy sunflower seed for the nose. Add two dots of candy above the nose and attach black nonpareils for eyes. Add two dots of candy on the wafer below the head and cover with black nonpareils for buttons. Repeat process with remaining snowmen.
    Let the candy stand about 30 minutes, until set.
    Score the bark around each snowman using a knife and break into appropriately-sized pieces, then bag and seal.

Citrus Marmalade

1-1/2 pounds oranges
1-1/2 pounds grapefruit
1/2 pound limes
1/2 pound lemons
Water
6 cups sugar
Pinch salt
Pectin

    Cut citrus in half horizontally, then cut each half into quarters. Squeeze each piece over a mesh strainer. Remove but retain seeds. Membrane and pith should be discarded, but pulp should be added back to the liquid.
    Using a vegetable peeler, start at the point of one of the peels, lay the peel flat and then peel the entire skin, wiggling the peeler as necessary. Julienne the peels, then chop them into pieces no longer than 1/2 inch. Mix in a bowl.
    Place the seeds in a mesh tea ball or tie in a bit of cheesecloth.
    Place three cups juice, 2-1/2 cups zest and the seeds in a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes.
    Remove from the heat and pour into a measuring bowl. Add enough water to make eight cups. Place in the refrigerator for eight hours or overnight.
    Place mixture, sugar and salt in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a full boil. Reduce to a low boil and continue to heat until mixture reaches a temperature of 220 degrees on a thermometer. About halfway through the cooking process, remove the seeds.
    Test by spooning a bit of the marmalade onto a plate and place it in the freezer for three minutes. If it crinkles up and looks as though it is beginning to gel, remove the mixture from the heat. If not, consider adding the pectin gel at this point.
    Pour marmalade into warm, clean jars. If you are going to be using it right away or giving away as gifts to be used right away, it can be kept in the refrigerator.

 

 

Mini Rum Bundt Cakes

For cake:
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
3/4 cup aged rum
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
For glaze:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup aged rum
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
For hard sauce:
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat well. Add eggs and yolk, one at a time, and beat until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon zest and rum.
    In a separate large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Change mixing attachment to paddle and add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with the whipping cream and beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat on low speed until well blended, scraping down sides of mixing bowl.
    Spoon the batter into mini Bundt pans that are thoroughly coated with flour-cooking spray, filling each one two-thirds full. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, a wooden skewer inserted into cake comes out clean. Let pans cool about 10 minutes, and then turn them out on wire racks to cool completely.
    To make glaze, melt butter in a medium saucepan on low heat, then stir in rum and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and cook five more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. The mixture will thicken to a light syrupy consistency as it cools.
    Keep cakes on wire racks and brush each cake with syrup until the cakes are saturated. Cover and let stand overnight.
    To make the hard sauce, combine powdered sugar and one tablespoon milk in a medium bowl. Whisk until a thick icing is formed. Stir in cinnamon. Add additional cream, a little at a time, until the mixture is thinned, but still thick enough to slowly pour from a spoon. Spoon over the cakes and let stand about one hour, until firm. Display cakes with fresh rosemary and cranberries, if desired.
    To give as gift, place a single cake onto a small cardboard round, then slide into a cellophane bag.

Christmas Ornament Cookie Pops

16 ounces cream-filled sandwich cookies, crushed to fine crumbs
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
24 ounces blue candy coating
24 ounces white candy coating
1/2 cup white nonpareils
48 candy necklace beads
Clear vanilla extract
Gold luster dust

    Combine the cookie crumbs and cream cheese in a large bowl. Mix using a large wooden spoon, then knead mixture with your hands. Roll level tablespoons-full of mixture into balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, until firm. When balls are well chilled, roll briefly between your palms to make them more perfectly round.  
    Melt two ounces white candy coating in the microwave about 30 seconds, until it can be stirred smooth. Dip one end of a lollipop stick in the candy, then insert it into the cookie ball. Repeat with remaining lollipop sticks and cookie balls. Let stand three to five minutes, until set.
    Working with one color of candy coating at a time, melt 12 ounces candy in the microwave, stirring at 30 second intervals until the candy is melted and smooth. Dip cookie pops into the candy coating and twist by the lollipop stick so that the entire pop is covered with candy. Let pop set standing upright. Repeat with remaining cookie balls and with each color of candy.
    Melt three ounces of candy that corresponds to the color of pop you’re decorating (blue candy for blue pops), then transfer to a disposable piping bag or zipper-top bag. Snip a small opening in the tip. Pipe a dot of candy on top of a pop and place a candy bead flat on top. Pipe another dot of candy on top of the bead and place a second candy bead upright in the center to create ornament cap. Let stand until set.
    Place the nonpareils in a small bowl. Use piping bag to draw designs on the pops, then dip the pops in the white nonpareils to reveal the designs. Let stand until dry.
    On a small plate, combine a drop of clear vanilla and a little luster dust to create edible gold paint. Using an artist’s brush, paint the mixture onto the candy beads on top of each ornament. Let dry five to 10 minutes before packaging completed pops in a clear cellophane treat bag, tied with festive ribbon and a gift tag.
    Makes about two dozen pops.

 

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