Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tis the season-Thinking Ahead to Home Made Gifts

I have nothing in the craft department.  I probably would sew my sleeve into the garment I was trying to make if attempting to use a sewing machine.  My attempts at crochet and knitting ended in piles frayed yarn, only a kitten could love.  But I can cook.  I can bake, and I can make delicious holiday signature treats that my family, friends, neighbors and coworkers look forward to each year.  While it is too early to start making most of these, I do start  organizing my schedule a bit and try and declutter some room on pantry shelves for extra supplies, and try to keep freezer and fridge in check so once the  appliances get revved up I have some place to store.

I'll share recipes over the next few weeks, and link them via the recipe page.  Here is list of what I will be making.  I assemble little candy package for coworkers, small treat plates for neighbors, and big platters for family do's.  For friends, I usually have the mini loaves of bread, along with a treat plate.  I use the same presentation for hostess gifts as well.

Oreo Truffles:  Similar treats are anywhere from $2.50 to $3.00 in specialty candy stores. I can make three dozen for the cost of a small 4 piece box from Godiva.  Here is a link to the Kraft web site, my original recipe.  I have modified and adapted a little for size, and chocolate levels as well as outside final presentation. Oreo Truffles Now, with all the variety of Oreo cookies there are, you can add mint and strawberry variation.  I haven't done strawberry but my niece did mint last year and they were quite tasty.  One thing I highly suggest not skimping on though is in using real chocolate.  I like to use semi-sweet chocolate chips because they melt really easy, and to keep thin enough to coat, a tiny bit of shortening helps.  Don't be lured into using the bricks of chocolate flavored almond bark coating.  I feel it takes away from the whole quality of the candy if you skimp on the final chocolate.

 Nutter Butter Truffle: Same recipe but I use; you guessed it, nutter butter cookies.  Last year though I couldn't find them, and substituted Target Market Pantry Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies, and the truffle was just as tasty. 

Mars Bars: This was a new one for me last year, and was worried it wasn't going to be worth the sticky mess.  No need to worry as I had raves about them.  I might get really crazy and try making Almond Joy-using of course, an almond on each bar, and dipping in milk rather than the semi-sweet chocolate.

Puppy Chow: Cereal drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter, shaken in confectioners’ sugar, and served by the bowlful.  What's not to love?  Dollar store holiday zip lock bag make cute and sealable packaging, or if you have kids to help let them get to work decorating bags with sharpie markers.

Popcorn Ball Ornaments: Use your favorite popcorn ball recipe, but as you are rolling, include some small gum drops in the ball to add color and sparked from the sugar.  Wrap individually in plastic wrap, and loop a ribbon so they can be hung from a little tree as part edible decoration.

 A variation on this is to mix the popcorn ball "stuff" with the gum drops, and press into a lightly buttered and dusted with powdered sugar, angel food pan.  It looks like a wreath when you pop it out of the cake pan.  You can press more and larger gum drops onto the side and top for more color.  To serve, just slice with a sharp knife.  As long as you don't overcook the sugar mix, it should stay soft enough to not just crack and crumble when you cut.

Gingerbread Men:  I love my big 5 inch cookie cut out, but I also have a traditional 2 inch size one.  It is cute to make a large one, surrounded him on a plate with smaller ones.  I cheat with my dough and usually by a mix, or really cheat and buy premade sheets.  Yes, not low cost, but these are just so cute and I sometimes just plain run out of time to mix up and wait for the dough to be the right roll out temperature. 

Pumpkin Bread:  Of course I use my 1987 OSEL cookbook recipe, and bake in my little pans.  A ribbon wrapped around it and voila Christmas bread.

Kit Kat Bars:  This homemade bar recipe makes a big pan, but then they are cut smallish because they are so rich.  The layers look complex, but really they're simple.  My sister- in-law got me started on these.  I don't bring to that side of the family because she does-no competing intended!
None of these in and of themselves scream Christmas, so good options to use other times of the year.  In our multi-cultural society, these are nice treats to just share and appreciate all the people that have meaning in your life as we say goodbye to 2014.  How about you?  Do you have go to treats, or are you the crafter or sewer in your circle of friends and family?  If so, I'd love a nice handmade scarf and mittens please.

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