Tidewater Kitchen - December 2008

Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   There is nothing better to give or receive than a homemade food gift made with love. Packaging can also be very special and, make it personal, with special gift tags your children or grandchildren have made saying what is inside. I always love to tie off the ribbon with some fresh greenery as well. For local friends, relatives or neighbors, these are a great way to say thank you for being you, or for inviting us to your holiday gathering. Here are some of my favorite recipes that I have been giving over the years!
    For different packaging ideas, I save different glass jars and plastic containers, or you can get extra Chinese food containers, decorative bottles and pretty boxes. I always watch for things on sale and embellish with old glass beads, decorative holly or seashells. This is a great way to get rid of some ribbon around the house or other fun things that can be hot glued to a jar filled with yummy goodies or on a pretty box filled with pretty cinnamon soap.
    As far as labeling goes, I like to either use labels that you can print on your computer or use fun stamps on pretty stock paper and tie it off with raffia. I love using colorful tissue paper and fun ribbon as an inexpensive but pretty look.

CINNAMON SOAP
“Sugar and spice and everything nice” comes to mind when sudsing up with this delightfully fragrant soap. Its ruby red color and heavenly scent make bath time an event to look forward to.
* This recipe is perfect for making miniature soaps in decorative candy molds.

Makes one bar
4-ounce bar unscented glycerin soap
10 drops cinnamon oil
1 drop red food coloring (optional)

In a heavy saucepan, melt the glycerin soap over low heat until liquefied.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cinnamon oil and coloring until well mixed.
Pour the soap into a mold and let set for three hours.

SCRUBBY SPONGE
Making your own colorful shower scrubbing sponges is fast and easy. Scrubby sponges clean dirt and impurities from the skin and help exfoliate dry skin cells.
Supplies:
1 yard x 1 yard bridal illusion (available at fabric stores)
1 yard satin ribbon

Lay out the fabric on a flat surface. Fold it four times lengthwise. Start folding the fabric in half, bringing the two ends together. Fold in half again and again until you have a neat square of fabric, about eight inches long.
Take the ribbon and tie it tightly around the middle of the fabric square and secure it with a knot. Take the two ends of the ribbon and tie them in another knot one inch from the end. Fan out the folds of fabric until your sponge is full.

CINNAMON STICK POTPOURRI
Supplies:
1 cup dried orange slices
1 cup dried apple slices
1 cup broken cinnamon sticks
¼ cup allspice berries
1 t. ground cinnamon
7-9 drops of cinnamon oil
Glass jar with tight-fitting lid

Mix all the ingredients for potpourri and place in jar. Secure lid on jar. Place jar in cool, dark, dry place for two weeks. Every few days, shake to mix contents.
Note: Cinnamon potpourri may be used as a stove-top boil by mixing ½ cup potpourri with 2 cups water and simmering over low heat.

FLAVORED VINEGARS
Flavored vinegars make great gifts and they are a snap to make.
1 quart distilled white vinegar
4 ounces fresh marjoram, sage, tarragon or thyme

Place 4 ounces of the herb of your choice in cold vinegar for five to six weeks. Remove the herbs by straining the vinegar, or leave twigs in the bottles for show. Store in tightly capped bottles.

HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTS
Supplies:
Terra cotta pots
Paint
Sponge
Votive candle
Jewels
Glue
Spices & herbs of your choice

Paint the terra cotta pot with the sponge. Put glue on the candle and cover with spices or herbs. Be careful not to get too close to the wick.
Place the candle in the pot.
Glue jewels on the outside of the pot.

DOUBLE HOT CHOCOLATE
1 (8-quart) package nonfat dry milk
1 (11-oz) jar coffee creamer
1 (1-lb) box confectioners’ sugar
1(2-lb) box Nestle Quik
½ cup cocoa

Mix dry milk, creamer, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and Quik all together. Store in airtight container.
Serving: 1/3 cup mix to 1 cup boiling water. For the holidays, top with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candies or with just one peppermint candy stick. I like to give a set of mugs and put the powdered hot chocolate with directions in a pretty baggie and ribbon tied with candy canes.

CARAMEL POPCORN MUNCH
8 cups popped popcorn
3 cups miniature pretzels
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts or Teddy Grahams
2 T. margarine
½ cup brown sugar
1 T. maple syrup
Optional: 1 cup… M & M’s, raisins, etc.

Measure the popcorn, pretzels and peanuts into a large mixing bowl.
To make the toffee syrup, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the brown sugar and continue stirring until the mixture bubbles. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup. (The toffee should be smooth.)
Next, drizzle the toffee onto the dry mixture, tossing to distribute the glaze evenly. Once cool, immediately wrap portions in plastic baggies.

PEANUT BUTTER KISSES
Christmas would not be the same without making one of my favorites. The kids love to get involved in making these, and everyone loves them. Make them part of your family holiday baking.

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 t. baking soda
½ t. sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup smooth peanut butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla
1 package Hershey’s Kisses
¼ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a large bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamed. Add the egg, milk and vanilla to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined.
Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Repeat this until all of the dry ingredients are combined and the dough is smooth. Place the ¼ cup sugar on a plate. Roll one teaspoon of the dough into the sugar before placing the dough ball on the cookie sheet.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each hot cookie, pressing it until it cracks on the edges. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for five minutes more or until the cookies are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them on a wire cooling rack. You can make these cookies up to 5 days ahead. Makes 36 cookies.
Note: If you have a peanut allergy in the family, just don’t add the ½ cup peanut butter - these make great sugar cookies with a Hershey‘s Kiss.

CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS PRETZELS
These cookies are easy to make, inexpensive and the perfect afternoon project for your little helpers to take part in.

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ t. vanilla
1 large egg, room temperature
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
½ t. baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg white, beaten
Various decorations to decorate the cookies such as coarse sugar, nonpareils or frosting.

In a mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. At medium speed, beat in the egg and then add the chocolate and the baking powder. Add the flour and beat the dough at low speed until just incorporated.
Gather the dough and pat it into a disk. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until firm, about 1-1/2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a 14-inch log. Cut the log into ½-inch pieces. Roll the pieces into 8-inch lengths and twist into the shape of a pretzel. Place on a cookie sheet and brush the pretzels with the egg white. Sprinkle them with sugar or leave them plain.
Bake them until they feel firm, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. It will be hard to tell because of their dark color. Remove them from the oven and cool the pretzels on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes. Remove them from the sheet and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Can be made up to 3 days ahead or frozen for up to two months. Makes 28 cookies.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
This cookie recipe is versatile and can be used for many different things. If you are going to make ornaments out of them, make the shapes at least a week ahead so that the gingerbread has time to harden.

3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 t. baking soda
½ t. baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
¾ t. ground cloves
½ t. finely ground pepper
¾ t. sea salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup molasses One recipe royal icing

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the spices and salt, then the egg and molasses. Finally, add the flour mixture to the mixer at low speed. Divide the dough and chill for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350°. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Brush off any excess flour and transfer the shapes to a baking sheet. Refrigerate them until firm, about 10 minutes. Bake for 8 minutes, or until they are crisp but not dark. Let the cookies cool on wired rack, and then decorate as desired.

ROYAL ICING
Royal icing is the edible adhesive used to construct a masterpiece.

3 egg whites
1 pound powdered sugar
½ t. cream of tartar

Beat egg whites until foamy, sift together the powdered sugar and cream of tartar. Add gradually to egg whites while beating approximately 7-10 minutes, or until icing holds a strong peak. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth at all times to keep it from drying out.
Apply royal icing on gingerbread house with spatula and/or pastry bag, then add candy and decorations by applying to royal icing to complete your gingerbread house or piping for your cookies.
Note: The amount of sugar that your recipe needs will vary based on the size of the egg whites as well as the moisture content of your powdered sugar.