Christmas Gifts From the Kitchen

from the kitchen of Engrid WinslowDecorated gingerbread cookies.

Whether you want to bring one of these along to gift a hostess or surprise a friend or neighbor, these are easy and fun Holiday Gifts. They will be welcomed by the recipient as they appreciate your thoughtfulness and good taste.

 

HOT COCOA

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until powdery. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

To use: Heat one cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat until steamy. Add 3 tablespoons hot cocoa mix. Whisk over heat for another minute or two, until it begins to simmer and mix is completely dissolved. Pour into mug, top with mini-marshmallows or a dollop of whipped cream.

Variations: Mexican Hot Chocolate (with some chili powder, cayenne and cinnamon), Mint Hot Chocolate (with mint extract instead of vanilla), Mocha Hot Chocolate (with a couple tablespoons of espresso powder)

For gift giving: Package in a pretty jar and decorate as you wish along with mini marshmallows and a pretty mug or two.

 

SPICE & HERB BLEND

This is a great addition to soups, stews, meatloaf, sauces and ragouts. Yields 2/3 cup.

½ cup peppercorns                              4 tsp. ground ginger                            4 tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp whole cloves                               2 cinnamon sticks, broken up              4 crumbled bay leaves

¾ tsp. ground mace                             ½ tsp. allspice

Combine ingredients and grind into a powder. Sift and pack tightly into an airtight container and store away from heat and light.

SUGARED AND SPICED NUTS

1 egg white                             1 TBL water                            1 lb. pecan or walnut halves

2/3 c superfine sugar               1 tsp salt                                  2 tsp ground cinnamon

¾ tsp ground ginger                ¾ tsp ground allspice              ½ tsp ground coriander

Preheat oven to 250 with one shelf in the upper third and the other in the lower third.

Whisk the egg whites and water until foamy, add the nuts and pour into a sieve to drain for 3 minutes.

Combine the spices and sugar and mix well in a large plastic bag.  Add the nuts and shake to coat. Spread on two baking sheets so that nuts do not touch each other.

Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and reduce heat to 225. Continue to bake, stirring occasionally until dried and crisp – this can take as long as 1.5 hours. Switch pans at the midpoint. Let the nuts cool completely and store in an airtight container.

 
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