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.
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
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.