Friday, December 14, 2012

Gifts from the Kitchen

First, Congratulations to Nancy Kimball. She's the winner of Christmas Box #2. I'll be in touch, Nancy.

Welcome to Christmas Party #3. In addition to the great ideas below, I'm featuring Anita Higman's book, Merry Little Christmas. This one is warm and cozy, just right for the holiday season. Fall in love with this  story about two people from different worlds. Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who’s preparing to spend the holidays alone…again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny’s farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she’s more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart—that sometimes love comes when you’re least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

Today I'm featuring ideas for food to give as gifts. I love giving gifts from my kitchen for Christmas. I make mini loaves of nut bread or little bags of homemade candies for the ladies in my Sunday School class every year as well as give the same to friends. Food gifts say the giver spent time and effort to make something, and it can be eaten and out of the way instead of being put on a shelf somewhere or tucked in a drawer.
Dollar stores and craft stores have decorative plastic bags in which to put such goodies as well as tags to tie onto them. After wrapping mini-loaves in plastic wrap, they slip right into these bags and are ready to go.
Another good thing about food gifts is that you can make so many at one time. One good shopping trip for supplies will net you gifts for those you want to honor with a gift from your kitchen.
The recipes I’ve included here are traditional recipes people expect from me. Some are from my grandmother and others from friends through the years. I begin the first week of December and usually have it all done in one week. The breads and candies keep well when wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated or stored in airtight plastic containers.
One food gift item is chocolate dipped candy canes and plain spoons. Melted chocolate chips make the coating. After dipping crook part of candy cane or bowl part of spoon in the chocolate to coat it, roll the cane or spoon in colored sprinkles or tinted sugars. When fully set, wrap in red or green plastic wrap and tie with a bow. The spoons are great for stirring hot chocolate or coffee. Chocolate and peppermint make the candy canes a real treat.
Answer the following question to enter the drawing for Christmas Box #3 pictured below. This box will have a loaf of the Banana Nut Bread as well as a tin of pralines. An added bonus is a copy of Anita Higman's new Christmas book, A Merry Little Christmas. Don't forget to include your email address.

(Necessary little disclaimer) This contest void where prohibited by law and is available in the US only. Odds of winning depend on number of participants.

What is your favorite food gift to give or receive? How much baking and such do you do at Christmas?

Easy Pralines (It wouldn’t be Christmas without these)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
Dash of salt
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups pecan halves

Combine sugars, salt and milk in saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches softball temp. on candy thermometer. Test by dripping a small drop from a spoon into ice water. When the mixture forms a soft ball when rolled between the fingers, it is ready. Stir in vanilla and pecans and stir briskly until mixture thickens and sugar crystals form on the edges of the saucepan. Drop quickly by spoonfuls onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Refrigerate immediately. If mixture becomes too thick, add a tablespoon of hot water and stir then continue make patties on the wax paper. The number of candies will depend on how large you want to make them. If the mixture doesn’t begin to set within a few minutes or by the time you drop all the mixture onto wax paper, it can be scraped off, returned to the pan and reheated for a few minutes then begin again with stirring and dropping.

Microwave Peanut Brittle (Our three sons demand this in their Christmas stockings)

1 cup sugar
½  cup White Karo syrup
2 cups raw peanuts
Dash salt

Place all ingredients into a microwave safe bowl with a handle. (I use an 8 cup Pyrex measuring bowl)  Cook on high for 3 ½ minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon then cook for another 3 ½ minutes.

Stir again and add:
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp. butter

Stir again and cook 1 minute 20 seconds on high.

Quickly stir in 1 tsp. baking soda then pour onto a buttered cookie sheet. As brittle cools, stretch it with your fingers coated in butter. When thoroughly cool, break into pieces and store. Does not need to be refrigerated.

Chocolate Pecan Clusters
1 12 oz. pkg. Hershey’s special dark chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups pecans lightly chopped

Melt chips over hot water or in a microwave bowl just until they can be stirred smooth. Immediately add milk and nuts. Stir well and drop by spoonfuls into mini-muffin liners. Refrigerate for several hours until firm.

Banana Nut Bread (My grandmother’s recipe)
½ cup shortening                                             1 tsp. soda
1 cup sugar                                                      3 bananas, mashed
3 eggs                                                              ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups sifted flour                                           1 tsp. vanilla

Add soda to flour and set aside. Cream sugar and shortening until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg. Add flour 1/3 at a time and mix well after each addition. Stir in bananas, nuts, and vanilla until well mixed. Pour into mini-loaf pans sprayed with Bakers Joy or pour into one large loaf pan sprayed with Bakers Joy. Bake large pan at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, mini-loaves for 30 minutes or until pick inserted into center comes out clean.  
Cranberry Nut Bread
4 cups sifted flour                                                       2/3 cup orange juice
2 cups + 4 Tbsp. sugar                                                ½ cup water
2 ½ tsps. baking powder                                             4 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt                                                                     1 ½ cups chopped nuts
2 eggs                                                                          1 bag fresh cranberries
1 tsp. soda                                                                  

Grease bottom and sides of 4 large or 12 small mini-loaf pans with oil or Baker’s Joy. Sift flour and add baking powder, soda, sugar, salt. In another bowl beat eggs and orange juice, water and melted butter. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add egg mixture. Stir with wooden spoon until blended then fold in cranberries and nuts. Do not over mix. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes for large loaves, 45 minutes for small ones or until a pick inserted into middle comes out clean.


Amy C said...

I usually do quite a bit of baking every year. This year I have a new little one and don't have as much time to do a lot. I'm only making my grandma's 7 layer cookies and some chocolate chip cookies. I love to receive preacher cookies and my mama's birds nest cookies.
campbellamyd at gmail dot com

Amy C said...

I forgot to mention that I'm a follower.
campbellamyd at gmail dot com

Judy said...

I love to make fudge to pass along to friends and family. I've already made up fudge for this year and passed it along. I am baking some truffles, snickerdoodles, and chocolate chunk cookies to pass out tomorrow. I love to bake and I love to try out new recipes. You have listed a few that I can't wait to make!

The year before last we were a little low on funds so I baked and made all our Christmas gifts. Our adult children and grandchildren loved all the goodies!

I would love to win Christmas Box #3! I am a follower of this blog!


Mary Hake said...

I get your blog email updates.
Love to win this.
tormhake @ net zero dot com

Linda Kozar said...

Martha, I'm gaining weight just reading your blog:)

Unknown said...


Thanks for the awesome recipes! I usually bake a lot during Christmas, but didn't this year. My favorite food to give is a large batch of Chex mix.

Have a Merry Christmas.

mpmerritt at earthlink dot net

Cheri Swalwell said...

Our family tradition is to bake Christmas cookies (my mom, sister, myself and all the kids) the day after Thanksgiving to last all month long. However, on my own, my favorite treat to bake and give away is choc. covered pretzels rolled in sprinkles. My kids beg me for them, love to help roll them, and they are easy and fun and everyone (no matter the age) can do join in the fun. We love to make some to eat too, but love to give them away.

Thank you for this opportunity.

In Him,

Cheri :)

Anonymous said...

I've been pouring over recipes all week. The praline recipe looks so much easier than I thought it would be! kimberlya(dot)vogel(at)gmail(dot)com

Martha W. Rogers said...

Kimberly, the pralines are super easy. If they get too hard while dipping them out, add a little hot water to the mixture and stir. That will make it soft again. Also if they don't firm up, just put the whole batch back (nuts and all) on the stove for a few more minutes and they will work fine.

I made the cranberry bread this week and everyone gobbles it up.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Martha, all your recipes look so good. I used to bake all kinds of sweet breads and candies and gave them to the neighbors and others. However, I'm not going to do that this year.

I do love to receive any kind of baked goods or homemade candy as a gift, especially since I'm not making any this year.

I'd love to win your collection for this giveaway.

Joy said...

Thank you for the recipes Martha, they sound wonderful. I haven't baked anything yet but usually bake a few things. I don't bake like I use to because we don't have as many places to go.
I'd love to win your collection too!

Oh and I follow your blog.

Janice said...

Thank you, Martha, for all the wonderful food gift ideas. I just made a nice loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Son is home from college and needs something like like for breakfast!

I like to make some eggnog fruit bread in the little loaf pans for giving. I have also made some orange/chocolate bread which has swirls of Hershey's syrup batter in it. That nice recipe came with my toaster oven cookbook years ago when my husband and I got married.

Another Christmas treat I enjoy but have not made lately is cut out gingerbread cookie cottages. I like to make gingerbread turkeys for Thanksgiving, too.

Baking is fun and I am in awe whenever I consider God is the Scientist behind the chemical reactions that allow us to enjoy the process, the results, and the sharing with others.

Have a blessed Christmas. It would be wonderful to be the winner!

Janice jsmithg(at)hotmail(dot)com