Homemade food makes the perfect gift

Forget the slippers, socks, pet rocks, sweater sets and Chia Pets

swthompson@herald-leader.comDecember 6, 2012 

The perfect Christmas present — no matter who is on your list — is a homemade food gift.

The choices are endless. Almost anything that's edible and comes from your kitchen will be gratefully accepted. Even if you don't cook, there are options. Buy slice-and-bake cookies, and while they're still warm, spread one with Philadelphia dark chocolate Indulgence (a combination of semisweet and dark chocolate and cream cheese), and top it with another cookie.

Make a batch of apple butter mustard dip and pour into half-pint jars and attach a recipe on how to use it. Simply combine 1 cup apple butter (purchased or homemade) and ½ cup Dijon mustard. It can be served with pretzels, as a sauce for roast pork, or as a sandwich spread.

When you make cookies, candies, seasoning mixes or jams for Christmas presents, the dilemma comes when you have to wrap them. Look for bags, paper or plastic, which can be purchased in bulk. Then decorate them with items you can find in the scrapbooking aisle at craft stores.

Here are some ideas for wrapping your treasures.

■ Any size Mason jar works great for holding mixes, candies, sauces or cheese spreads. Tie a ribbon around the jar like you would a gift and add a scrapbooking sticker in the center of the lid where the ribbons cross. Slide a small spoon underneath the ribbon. A simple colored string or twine makes a no-frills finish to the jar.

■ Wrap colored string several times around a small spice jar filled with a seasoning mix. Attach a recipe with a ribbon-covered clothespin clipped to the string. (Cut a piece of narrow ribbon to the length of a clothespin and adhere it using crafts glue.)

■ A pint of your secret-recipe barbecue sauce makes a nice gift for the griller on your list. Fill a pint jar with your special sauce and tie a ribbon around it; then slide a basting brush underneath the ribbon.

These recipes are simple but will garner lots of praise.


Sweet and spicy roasted nuts

1 cup raw whole cashews

1 cup raw whole walnuts

1 cup raw whole almonds

1 cup raw pepitas

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

½ cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set it aside.

Combine cashews, walnuts, almonds and pepitas in a large bowl and toss. Whisk together the egg white, water, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, chipotle chile and cinnamon.

Drizzle wet mixture over nuts and toss to combine, making sure they are evenly coated. Transfer nuts to baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove nuts from oven and separate nuts as they cool. Once completely cooled, transfer nuts to a decorative airtight container.

Source: Spice Islands

Oatmeal toffee cookies

2 sticks butter or margarine, softened

2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups quick-cooking oats

11⁄3 cups (8-ounce package) toffee bits

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, optional

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Beat butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; beat until blended.

Stir in oats, toffee bits and coconut, if desired, with spoon. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Source: The Hershey Company

Cookies in a jar

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1⁄8 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1⁄3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, or milk chocolate chips

1⁄3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats

½ cup peanut butter, white chocolate, dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Layer the ingredients in a 1-quart jar in the following order from bottom to top: granulated sugar, 1 cup chocolate chips, brown sugar, flour mixture, oats and peanut butter chips. Tap jar gently on the counter to settle each layer before adding the next one. Cover; attach baking directions to jar. Makes 1 gift jar.

Baking directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Empty contents of the jar into a large bowl. Add ½ cup (1 stick) softened butter, 1 slightly beaten egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir until well mixed. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Source: Hershey's Celebrates Each Season

Iced pumpkin Chex Mix

2 cups Cinnamon Chex cereal

2 cups Wheat Chex cereal

2 cups Honey Nut Chex cereal

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream cheese icing:

1 square (1 ounce) premium white chocolate

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals and pumpkin seeds. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil. In small bowl, mix brown sugar, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice; set aside. In 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup, microwave butter on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Add pumpkin mixture; microwave about 30 seconds, or until hot. Stir in vanilla.

Pour pumpkin-butter mixture over cereal and seeds, stirring until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered on High 5 minutes or until mixture begins to brown, stirring every minute. Spread on waxed paper to cool.

While mix is cooling, melt white chocolate in microwave on High 30 seconds; stir in softened cream cheese. Drizzle over top of mix; refrigerate 5 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Source: General Mills

Smoked paprika and ancho salt

4 dried ancho chiles

¼ cup smoked paprika

¾ cup fine sea salt

Remove stems and seeds of dried ancho chiles. Using a mortar and pestle, break up chiles. Using a spice grinder, and working in batches if necessary, pulse until coarsely ground. Divide the finished salt among 4 two-ounce jars, and tighten lids to seal.

Source: Country Living

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com

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