It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas everywhere you go -- even in Middle Georgia! Although we haven’t won any bragging rights about the amount of snow we’ve had already this season (just wait!) we sure can say it’s felt a lot like Christmas with record-breaking low temperatures. And how I do love the cold weather -- and especially Christmas!
Santa’s elves have been hard at work again this year spending lots of time in the kitchen, and I’ve been working right beside them. We’ve been cooking up lots of great stuff to satisfy all of those hearty holiday appetites. Children of all ages will take delight in the sleigh full of recipes I’ll share with you today.
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year in the kitchen because there’s such an abundance of specialty food stuffs available only this time of year -- from specialty chocolates and goodies to decorate all of your holiday baked goods, to great packaging items to make your homemade treats a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.
And if you’re still hungry for more, the Internet is just a few clicks away. It’s always a great source of inspiration for creative recipes for food gifts. The website Pinterest is especially entertaining to us crafty folks and foodies alike. You can spend countless hours (who me?) roaming Pinterest seeing what others are up to getting ready for the holidays, both in and out of the kitchen.
Food gifts are great gifts for almost everyone, but I’ll take you one step further sharing with you a great “recipe” for soothing bath salts perfect for a luxurious spa-like foot bath that will leave your tired tootsies feeling renewed and refreshed, and your skin baby soft and lightly scented with the purest essential oils.
And don’t forget your favorite canine friends and companions. Carrot and Spice Dog Cookies are a much healthier version of people cookies. In fact, I’ve known several folks who enjoy munching on these low-sugar and low-sodium dog treats. C’mon y’all! Let’s leave something for our pets, OK?
Homemade food gifts can be expensive to make, but these I’ll share with you today are friendly on the pocketbook, which will leave you with enough cash to share with those less fortunate. And just another suggestion, wouldn’t it be extra-special to share some of your food gifts with the residents of local shelters, nursing homes and hospitals? (Just call ahead and find out if there are any restrictions.)
Don’t forget those who serve us so generously as our military folk and public service workers. I know my heroes with the Macon-Bibb Fire Department will get some nice goodies from Chef Teddi this year, along with my sincere thanks!
Jingle all the way, y’all!
Sugarplum Chai Latte Mix (decaffeinated)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened decaffeinated ice instant tea granules (from Walmart)
1 cup powdered non-dairy coffee creamer
1 cup powdered French vanilla flavored non-dairy powdered coffee creamer
1 box (three 2-ounce packets) The Fresh Market (sweetened) Mulling Spices
1 teaspoon salt
Makes 4 cups.
In a food processor, combine ingredients and blend well.
Package for gifts along with the following instructions:
Place 2 tablespoons mix in a mug. Add 1 cup boiling water and stir to dissolve. Enjoy.
12 ounces Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 (12-ounce) bags milk chocolate morsels
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil or baking parchment paper and then spray with non-stick cooking spray. Coarsely chop the peanut butter cups. Place 2/3 of the chopped peanut butter cups in the bottom of the prepared pan.
Place the sweetened condensed milk in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave on high until boiling. Add the chocolate morsels and let stand 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and melted. (Note: You may need to heat the mixture for a bit more to fully melt the chocolate.)
Once everything is melted together, spread evenly over peanut butter cups in prepared pan. Immediately sprinkle the surface of the fudge with the remaining peanut butter cups, pressing them lightly into the fudge. Cool until firm. (I like to cool the fudge on the counter until it’s room temperature, then cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator to harden completely.)
Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Herb & Cornbread Biscuits
4 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 (6-ounce) box cornbread stuffing mix
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Makes about 15.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the flour and stuffing mix in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Make a “well” in the center. Pour the whipping cream into the center of the well. Blend just until dough cling together.
Using plenty of extra flour on a clean work surface, roll out the dough to 1-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits, cutting them as close together as possible. (The key to good biscuits is to avoid having to knead or roll the dough too many times.)
Arrange the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet allowing a bit of space between each. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot with plenty of room temperature butter and your favorite jam, honey or cooked breakfast meats.
Dijon Honey Butter
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Makes about 3 cups.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth, light and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat well. Store airtight in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature. Serve as a spread for ham or sausage biscuits or as a topping for grilled or roasted pork.
Brandied Cranberry-Orange Relish
2 (12-ounce) bags fresh cranberries, picked through
2 navel oranges, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 (2-ounce) packet The Fresh Market (sweetened) Mulling Spices
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons brandy
Makes about 2 3/4 cups.
Place cranberries along with the remaining ingredients, except the brandy, in a medium sucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, stirring often until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens a bit, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the brandy. Cool to room temperature or prepare ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Butter Spritz Cookies
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 pound candied red cherries, cut in half
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted
Makes about 150 cookies.
Place oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a heavy standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend together the butter, sugar and salt. Beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whipping cream and flavorings. Blend egg mixture into the creamed mixture. Gradually add the flour while the mixer is set to low speed. Blend just until well combined, stopping to scrape sides and bottom of bowl a couple of times while blending.
Fill cookie press with dough and attach your chosen shape as directed by the manufacturer. Press onto parchment-lined baking sheets, allowing a bit of space between cookies. Press a cherry half into the center of each cookie. Place in the center of the oven, baking one sheet at a time. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are light golden brown and the edges are a bit darker.
Place the cookie sheet on a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies from the parchment to the cooling rack and cool completely. Drizzle tops with melted chocolate. Once the chocolate hardens, dust with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.
Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark
1 1/2 pounds white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup shelled (salted and roasted) pistachios
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 cup dried apricot halves, cut into thin strips
4-6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon coarse flake sea salt or kosher salt
Place two-thirds of the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat cooking at 30 second intervals, stirring after each cooking segment, until melted and smooth. Stir in the remaining white chocolate and let stand for several minutes.
Transfer melted chocolate to a parchment lined baking sheet and spread to form a 14-inch square. Sprinkle with pistachios and walnuts, then scatter with apricots and craisins. Rap pan on countertop several times to let nuts and fruit settle into the melted chocolate.
Melt the bittersweet chocolate as previously directed for white chocolate. Drizzle bittersweet chocolate over fruit and nuts. Immediately sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
Leave undisturbed until candy hardens. Break bark into pieces. Store airtight at room temperature for up to one month.
Carrot-Spice Dog Treats
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Water, if needed
Makes about 50.
Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs. Stir in the carrots.
Combine the dry ingredients. Add to the dough in two additions to form a stiff dough. Add a bit of water if necessary.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet with at least 1-inch space between each. Using the palm of your hand flatten the balls until1/4-inch thick. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes.
Let cool thoroughly. Store airtight at room temperature for up to one month.
Tired Tootsie Soaking Salts
2 pounds Epson Salt (about 4 cups)
1 pound baking soda
40 drops essential oil (geranium, lemongrass, bergamot, peppermint)
Few drops liquid food coloring, if desired
Combine all ingredients in a gallon-size zip top plastic bag and seal. Shake to distribute essential oils and coloring if using.
To use, place 1/2 cup of foot soak in a basin and fill with hot water. Soak your feet for 20-30 minutes. Ahhh ... relax!