Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Countdown: Gifts from the Kitchen

When my husband and I were first married, money was tight because I ended up getting laid off five weeks before our wedding. I either baked or made crafts for our Christmas gifts that year and many other years as well. I found out people love gifts from the kitchen whether it's cookies, candy, bread or anything they know was made and given with care and love.

The recipes I'm sharing today can be made according to directions and placed in clean jars with lids. IF you want to process and seal the jars please do it according to the latest safe methods from the USDA: . Otherwise keep the jar refrigerated and give instructions with your gifts so everyone knows how they should be stored too.

The candy recipes are pretty straight forward, but a candy thermometer is something you can't really do without. Fortunately they are available in most grocery stores and will come in handy for a very long time.

Pear Chips
Home Comfort Cook Book

8 pounds firm pears
4 pounds sugar
1/4 pound chopped ginger root
4 lemons

Peels pears, remove stems, quarter and core. Cut into small pieces. Add sugar and ginger and allow to stand overnight. In the morning, quarter lemons, remove seeds and cut into small pieces. Add lemons to pears and cook very slowly for 3 hours. Pack in jars and seal. Peaches may also be used.

Note: I would peel the ginger root before using.

Apricot and Pineapple Marmalade
Home Comfort Cook Book

1 pound dried apricots
2 1/2 cups crushed pineapple
3 tbsp. lemon juice

Was apricots, soak 12 hours in water to cover. Bring slowly to boiling point. Strain. Reserve juice. Press apricots through ricer or coarse sieve. Add juice and pineapple. Measure fruit and add 3/4 cup sugar to each cup of pulp and juice. Add lemon juice. Bring to boil and cook slowly about 20 minutes or until mixture thickens. Seal in jars.

Rumford Complete Cookbook

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cream
2 cups nut meats

Boil the sugar, maple syrup and cream together till a little dropped in cold water forms a soft ball (238 F.) Cool and beat till creamy; add the nuts and drop the mixture by spoonfuls on greased paper or plates.

January Thaw
Rumford Complete Cookbook

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup nuts, chopped
butter size of a walnut

Put sugar and milk in a saucepan and let it dissolve slowly; add butter and let boil until it forms a ball when dropped into cold water (238 F.) Remove from stove, add the chopped nuts and beat well. Turn into a buttered pan, and when cool, cut in squares.

American Woman's Cookbook

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Put sugar, syrup and water into a saucepan and set over direct heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then cook without stirring to the stiff ball stage (250 F.). Add butter and cook to the medium-crack stage (280 F.) for soft butterscotch, or to the hard-crack stage (300 F.) for brittle candy. Remove from heat, add the flavoring and pour on a greased slab. Mark while still warm and when cold break into pieces.

On OFL we have some great ideas for gifts from the kitchen!

Favorite Fudge Recipes

Savory Gifts from the Kitchen

Muffin Mixes to Give as Gifts


Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Countdown: Cookies to Give

Christmas cookies are a tradition for a reason-- everyone loves cookies, they are for the most part inexpensive and easy to bake, plus they make lovely homemade gifts. This year I'm making special gift bags for the friends of my teens. I've been giving cookies as gifts for over 20 years now, and have learned a few things along the way.

1.Don't mix soft cookies with crispy cookies in the same container or they will make all of the cookies soft. Store crispy with crispy, etc.

2. Don't store cookies together that have completely different tastes. For instance, if you store a peanut cookie with something that doesn't have a nutty taste, it soon will. The flavors will meld somewhat.

3. Don't store fudge or candy with crispy cookies or bars. Again, it will soften the cookies.

4. Any cookie with confectioners' sugar will spread its white goodness to all the other cookies if packaged together.

5 .As a general rule, store cookies for up to a week in a container with waxed paper between the layers at room temperature.

What I'm going to do is make a selection of cookies that can be stored together, and make them smaller in size-about the size of a gingersnap. The recipes below have instructions for larger cookies, so it's important to watch the baking time. Smaller cookies WILL take less time to bake. Watch the first baking sheet of cookies carefully, and take note of how long you bake until they are done. Be sure to preheat the oven first, or this won't be accurate.

Microwave Melting: Place chocolate in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Mocha Cookies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. coffee or espresso powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a double boiler or a metal/glass/ceramic bowl set over a pan of hot water, melt the unsweetened chocolate and 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips, and the butter. (this can be done carefully in the microwave as well)Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In another, larger bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until creamed. Beat in the coffee/espresso powder and the vanilla. Fold in the melted chocolate mixture. Mix in the dry ingredients, and finally stir in the remaining chocolate chips.

Allow the batter to rest for 15 minutes or so. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake on middle rack for 8-10 minutes or until cracked on top. Cool on pan, transfer to baking rack.

Oatmeal Brownie Cookies

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup/1 stick margarine or butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups oatmeal, quick or old fashioned

Beat together cream cheese, margarine and sugars until creamed. Add the eggs and vanilla beat until creamed. Add the melted chocolate, mix well. Combine the flour and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in oatmeal. Cover and chill for about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes. The center of the cookies will be slightly moist yet. Cool for about a minute on the pan, then remove to a wire rack.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups oatmeal
1 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix together the sugar, butter, egg, water and vanilla until light. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Drop by tsp. on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 pound butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
5 cups quick oats
2 12 ounce bags semi sweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs together. Add the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Add last. Stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until everything is mixed well. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment lined sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10 minutes.

On OFL we have more cookie goodness!

Cookie Baking, Storage and Shipping:

Christmas Cookie Swap Tips: