Gifts from the Kitchen
by Julie Jensen

“Take of the best fruits in the lands in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts and almonds.” Genesis 43:11

There is nothing more tempting or traditional to share at Christmas time than a gift of food. Sugar and spice and everything nice . . . the fragrance of ginger and cinnamon, the aroma of chocolate on a marble slab, a jar of crushed peppermint . . . the sweet smells of Christmas.

Light the fire or a fragrant candle, surround yourself with ethereal Christmas music and settle in for an afternoon or evening of making gifts from the kitchen. If you are part of a busy household, let the family join in. Even young children can help. Gather AROUND THE TABLE for shaping, frosting, dipping, and wrapping your creations.

Present your gift with a festive flare as delightful as the season. For containers, look around the house for small boxes, canning jars or paper bags. Colorful paper bags of all sizes are available and inexpensive. Stickers or cutouts from old Christmas cards or wrapping paper can personalize them. Tissue paper or kitchen towels in all colors of the rainbow are effective liners for boxes or baskets.

Ribbons and containers of all sorts are often plentiful at “dollar” or discount stores. Candy canes, holly, cinnamon sticks, and fresh greenery from your own yard make a gift fun to receive. There’s no price tag on a homemade gift, especially if accompanied by a note of warmth or appreciation.

Let your imagination take flight . . . to that magical time and place called Christmas . . . as you create mouth-watering treasures that say “I love you”, “I miss you” or “I care”.

HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO SPARK YOUR IMAGINATION:

A basket or colorful sack filled with green and white noodles along with your favorite spaghetti sauce

Homemade jams or jellies presented in a small wooden crate filled with straw or shredded tissue wrapping paper

A jar of your own bottled fruit tied up with an appropriate size serving spoon

A cheese ball resembling a pinecone with carefully placed whole almonds

Individual ice cream snowballs covered with coconut . . . a red candle and sprig of holly for each . . .chocolate or peppermint sauce to accompany

Ice cream sandwiches made by using chocolate wafers and peppermint or starlight mint ice cream

A lunch box or picnic basket filled with homemade treats

A package or cream cheese, red pepper jelly, and crackers for an instant appetizer

For a missionary, try doing the Twelve Days of Christmas including some of your nonperishable homemade treats . . . dried fruits are light weight

Outdoor buffs would delight in a backpack stocked with air-tight containers of beef jerky, granola, and dried fruits

A child’s toy such as a truck or sand pail filled with their favorite snacks such as rice crispie treats, fruit leather, or box of crackers or cereal.

A variety of roasted nuts layered in a glass jar

Give a lunch or brunch for neighbors as your gift

BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

A great holiday breakfast

A gift to yourself or someone else

8 slices bread, cubed

2 cups (1 / 2 lb.) Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1 / 2 to 2 lbs. pork sausage or precooked ham

4 eggs

2 1 / 4 cups milk

1 tsp. dry or prepared mustard

1 can (10 1 / 2 oz.) cream of mushroom soup

1 / 2 cup milk

Arrange bread cubes in bottom of greased 9×13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Brown sausage and drain. If using link sausage, cut into fourths. Arrange sausage or ham on top of cheese. Beat eggs with milk and mustard. Pour over sausage or ham, cheese and bread. Refrigerate overnight. The next morning, when ready to bake, dilute cream of mushroom soup with milk and pour over casserole. Bake 1 1 / 2 hours at 300 degrees. Serve immediately. Serves 8-10.

6 WEEK BRAN MUFFIN MIX

A thoughtful gift that will be appreciated during the busy season

5 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

4 cups All-Bran Cereal

2 cups Bran Flakes Cereal

2 cups boiling water

5 tsp. baking soda

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter or shortening

4 eggs

1 qt. buttermilk

Optional

2 cups raisins or chopped dates

1 cup chopped nuts

Sift flour and salt. Combine flour mixture with All-Bran and Bran Flakes. Add raisins, chopped dates, and nuts if desired. Set aside. Mix boiling water and baking soda. Set aside to cool. Cream sugar and shortening in a large bowl. Stir in eggs one at a time. Beat well. Stir in buttermilk and soda liquid. Stir in bran mixture. Tightly cover. Best if refrigerated 12 hours (or more). When ready to bake, drop by spoonfuls into greased muffin tins. Do not stir mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield 5 1 / 2 dozen.

HONEY BUTTER

A creamy spread for hot rolls or muffins

1 cup honey

1 cup butter

1 tsp. vanilla

Soften butter, but do not melt. Combine with honey and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on high speed for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Put into jars and refrigerate.

DRESSING FOR SPINACH SALAD

An unusual gift

Present with baby spinach greens and seasonal fruits of your choice

such as pears, apples or avocados in a festive bag or basket

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. mustard

2 / 3 cup vinegar

3 Tbs. chopped onion

1 1 / 2 cup salad oil

1 1 / 2 cup sugar

Blend all ingredients in blender except oil. Gradually add the oil while blending. Refrigerate. Fill a jar with dressing to take along as a gift with the spinach and fruit.

SHRIMP TOMATO COCKTAIL

A gift for the adventuresome seafood lover

1 can tomato juice (46 oz.)

1 / 2 cup sugar

1 / 2 cup white vinegar

1 Tbs. grated onion

1 lb. fresh small shrimp

3 medium grapefruit, sectioned and cut in bite size pieces

Make a day in advance. Mix all ingredients except shrimp. When ready to serve or deliver, add shrimp.

May wish to give in a simple glass pitcher tied up with cellophane and ribbon.

BEAN SALSA

A colorful and different gift for the holidays

Look for ingredients in supermarket or specialty food stores

1 can black beans (15 oz.)

1 can black eyed peas (15 oz.)

1 can shoepeg white corn (11 oz.)

3 roma tomatoes, chopped

1 green pepper chopped

1 / 4 medium red onion, chopped

1 / 2 cup Italian dressing, as desired

Drain beans and corn thoroughly. Combine all ingredients. To take as a gift, put salsa in a glass jar. Fill a colorful green bag with jar of salsa and red, green and white tortilla chips . . . a welcome change for the holidays.

CHEWY CHEX MIX

A hit with all ages

8 cups Rice Chex (or Chex Cereals of your choice)

1 cup coconut

1 cup almonds, sliced

1 cup chow mien noodles

1 / 4 cup butter or margarine

6 cups miniature marshmallows

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt butter over medium heat; blend in marshmallows and stir until melted. Pour over cereal mixture; spread on wax paper to cool. Store in airtight container or individual plastic bags. Makes about 10 cups.

GINGERBREAD BOY AND GIRL COOKIES

Deliver in a festive basket lined with pine boughs

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 Tbs. vinegar

1 egg

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 / 4 tsp. salt

4 1 / 2 to 5 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Heat molasses to boiling. Pour over butter and sugar and add the vinegar. Let cool. Add egg. Mix in sifted dry ingredients. Chill for at least 1 hour. Roll out on lightly floured board and cut as desired. Bake on well greased or parchment covered cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.

HOLIDAY CHOCOLATE DIPPING

Fun for big and little dippers

Try these ideas or be creative

Fresh Fruits: strawberries, star fruit, grapes, bananas

Dried Fruits: apricots, peaches, candied pineapple

Cookies: fortune, shortbread, pirouettes, macaroons

Nuts: walnut, pecan, brazil, almond, macadamia, cashews, peanuts

Misc: pretzels

For 2 – 3 cups of items you will need about 8 ounces of chocolate, depending on whether you coat the entire item or only part of it. You should end up with about 40 pieces of completely coated treats.

In a heavy saucepan melt 8 ounces milk chocolate or white chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat.

To make dipping easier and safer, pour the melted chocolate into a fondue pot and gather AROUND THE TABLE to dip.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set it on the table by the melted chocolate.

To partially cover the item being dipped, hold it by one end and dip a portion into the melted chocolate; drain off any excess. Place on the waxed paper.

To completely cover items being dipped, drop one piece at a time into melted chocolate. Use a fork to remove each item, without piercing the center. Let any excess coating drip off. Place on the waxed paper.

To make clusters of small items, such as nuts, arrange in tiny paper candy cups and drizzle with chocolate to coat.

If the mixture becomes too thick during dipping, reheat the chocolate in a saucepan. Stir the chocolate constantly until it once again reaches dipping consistency.

Let the coated items dry, uncovered, on the waxed paper at room temperature. If you like, drizzle or dip the dried, coated items with chocolate of a different color.

Serve coated fresh fruits the same day they are dipped. Cover and store your other dipped treasures in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.

SUGARED PECANS OR WALNUTS

Simply delicious

2 1 / 2 cups nuts, halved

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 / 2 cup water

2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat nuts in oven about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir and cool. Cook sugar and salt in water to soft ball stage (230 degrees) without stirring. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts, stir gently until creamy. Turn out onto greased plate or waxed paper. Separate nuts as they cool.

CARAMEL SAUCE

Give a jar of caramel sauce in a basket of pears or apples

Great for dipping or ice cream topping

1 1 / 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

3 / 4 cup light corn syrup

2 / 3 cup heavy cream

1 / 4 cup butter

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil 2 to 3 minutes. Cool. Makes about 1 1 / 2 pints.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Melt in your mouth goodness, surprisingly easy

1 / 2 cup heavy cream

1 / 3 cup sugar

6 Tbs. butter

1 cup milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tsp. vanilla

Chopped nuts

Combine heavy cream, sugar and butter in saucepan; bring just to boil. Remove from heat; immediately add chocolate chips. Stir until chips are melted; add vanilla. Pour into bowl; cool, stirring occasionally until chocolate begins to set. Cover; chill in refrigerator several hours. Form mixture into balls of desired size, working quickly to prevent melting. Roll in chopped nuts. Store in refrigerator or freezer until serving time.

Now gather AROUND THE TABLE laden with your gifts from the kitchen . . . and feel the joy.

 


2001 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.