Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Food Gifts - Candy, Infused Vodka, Etc.

Food gifts have always been popular. They are perfect for those people in your life that are hard to buy for or don't need/want anything.  Today's list of homemade gifts includes a wide assortment of candy as well as some nuts, pastries and infused alcohol.  If you missed my cookie roundup, head on over to this post.


Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels  This quickly became one of my most popular treats.  Everyone absolutely LOVES these caramels and hoards them whenever they're available.

Cake Balls  This is my most popular food recipe of all time.  People are really into cake balls.  I go for simple decorating, but you can go all out with fancy designs.

English Toffee  Right next to the caramels, this is one of my favorite candies.

Truffles  Homemade or not, truffles are impressive gifts.  This post shows four different recipes: Champagne Truffles, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles, Dark Chocolate Strawberry Balsamic Truffles, and Toffee Truffles.

Chocolate Bark  This is one of the easiest candies you can make.  Use any chocolate, fill ins and topping

Eggnog Fudge  This fudge is a nice addition to your regular fudge recipes, and the white chocolate and eggnog flavors go perfectly together.

Butter Pecan Fudge  This is my absolute favorite fudge!  I highly recommend you try this recipe.

Miscellaneous Food and Drink

Cinnamon Rolls  My aunt always makes a ton of sweet rolls and delivers them before Christmas so we can eat them on Christmas morning.  This is not her recipe, but I love her gifting idea.  This recipe makes 7-8 pans so it's perfect for giving away (don't forget to keep some for yourself).

Coffee Cake  It's breakfast, it's a snack, it's dessert!  Who wouldn't want a delicious all purpose cake?  It's a heck of a lot better than a brick of fruit cake.

Spiced Nuts  This is a great (healthy) alternative to all these sweets!

Candied Walnuts  Mmmm, more nuts great for snacking!  Can't go wrong with candied walnuts (well, unless you're allergic).  If you make extra, they're great on salads or these amazing appetizers: Grape, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnut Bruschetta.

Tea Infused Vodka  Who says iced tea is only a summer drink?  Mid-winter we need a little reminder that the sun and warm days will be back again.  This is my most popular post of all time.

** Contact me if you want me to do your holiday baking for you! **

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies with espresso and chocolate in them? Yes, please!  The dough comes together quickly, then you flatten it into a gallon sized zipper bag and stick it in the fridge.  This method is genius!  When you're ready to bake, cut the bag off and slice the dough.  So easy!  I wasn't sure if it would be noticeable, but the cookies actually have a coffee flavor.  I keep a jar of instant espresso in my pantry for those random times I need it for baking.  You could use instant coffee, but the flavor won't be as intense.

I made these cookies for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and the Ohio Blogging Association Cookie Swap.  So if you're headed to the OBA party tonight, this is what you have to look forward to from my kitchen.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap exchanges cookies between hundreds of food bloggers around the world.  Last year I participated in the first annual cookie swap with my Chewy Ginger Cookies.  If you want to be notified when 2013 registration is open, sign up here.  Thanks to Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for hosting.  Almost 600 bloggers participated, and over 20,000 cookies were mailed! Here's the collection of cookies sent: Recipe Round Up Part 1 and Part 2.

This year the GFBCS is raising money for Cookies for Kids' Cancer, and for every dollar donated OXO will match it.  *Update:  We raised over $4,400!*
I sent Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookies to A Half Baked Life, A Less Processed Life and This Momma Can Cook.  Out of all those bloggers I thought it was really funny that I got to send cookies to A Half Baked Life because she sent some to me last year.  What are the odds?!

These are the delicious goodies I received:

Thanks for the cookies Urban Sacred Garden (Chocolate Cranberry Shortbread), Addicted to Recipes (Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies) and The Tasty tRuth (Honey Vanillla Coconut Macaroons)!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
Yield: 42-49 cookies (depending on how much you spread the dough in the bag)

1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1 Tbsp boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spiced Nuts

These are spiced nuts, not spicy nuts, but you could totally add some heat by way of more cayenne pepper or a little hot sauce.  I tend to use almonds, but feel free to use whatever nut you want. These spiced nuts are crunchy, flavorful, filling, and a great healthy snack.
Cooking Tip:  The salt tends to fall off, but I have found that the flavor is better and the salt sticks to the nuts better if you crush it.  If you have a mortar and pestle, I recommend using that to crush the salt.  If you don't have one, I wouldn't worry about it, I've made this for years before I came up with this trick.
Making Large Quantities:  If making more than two cups of nuts, I like to toast them on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 for about 10 or so minutes.  Use a large pot (instead of a skillet) to heat the spices and oil, it just makes it easier to mix a large amount of nuts.

Spiced Nuts
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
Yield: 8 servings (1/4 cup)
2 cups whole unsalted almonds (or any nut you'd like)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional) (I prefer the flavor without it.)

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together the cumin, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Stir the spices into the oil and cook, stirring until warm, about 30 seconds. Add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are warm and the spices are evenly distributed. Add the hot pepper sauce (if using) and stir to distribute. Remove the almonds from the pan and allow them to cool before serving.  Store in an airtight container.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homemade Food Gifts - Cookies

Homemade food can be an inexpensive gift for family, friends, neighbors, the mailman, etc.  This time of year brings out the baking bug in a lot of people.  Whether you make one kind to take to a cookie swap or you go all out with multiple cookie flavors, you might be looking for some recipes to change it up. 

If you fear your recipient may be swimming in treats, you can give them frozen cookie dough balls (or logs if they're slice and bakes). Make sure to include baking instructions and they can have fresh cookies whenever they want.

Today's list is all about cookies, but head over to the next post for other food gift recipes (candy, fudge, infused vodka, cinnamon rolls, and much more).


Chewy Ginger Cookies  These are probably my favorite cookie on the list!  They get an extra boost of gingery goodness from the crystallized ginger.

Chocolate Crackles  I've had these cookies every year since I can remember.  They are a family staple and quickly became Kevin's favorite.  I've tried versions without the cake mix, but everyone prefers the family recipe.

Butter Spriz Cookies  A relatively recent addition to my must bake list, these are a traditional spritz cookie.  The cookie press makes fast work and you can cram a lot on a cookie sheet so it's a quick job.

Chocolate Mint Cookies  Chocolate and mint are a classic combination.  There are a few brands of mint chips these days, but most are only available this time of year so stock up if you want to make them after the holidays.

Slice and Bake Cookies  You can make many different types of cookies using the same base dough. 

Brown Sugar Shortbread  A variation of traditional shortbread, this recipe uses brown sugar.  It has only three ingredients and they can easily be scaled up to make many more cookies.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies  If you're looking for chocolate and peanut butter without a Hershey Kiss on top, this is a nice alternative.

** I can do your holiday baking and treat making!  Contact me for details. **
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