What are you bringing? Gifts from your kitchen

News-DemocratDecember 2, 2013 

If you've been making a list and checking it twice, it means you've got all the gifts from your kitchen ready to deliver. No? Here are some suggestions so you don't arrive empty-handed.

Salt-Dough Snowflake Ornaments

These snowflakes aren't edible, but they'll definitely look oh-so-sweet on your tree. To prepare the dough, mix 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water until sticky. Roll it to 1/4 inch thick and cut out snowflake shapes with cookie cutters. Use a skewer to press a hole for hanging. Bake for 4 hours in a 200-degree oven. When cool, draw hearts, squiggles and dots with a marking pen.

Holiday 7-Layer Bars

1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers (about 21)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups white baking pieces

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup diced candied orange peel

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Lightly grease the foil; set pan aside.

2. In a large bowl stir together the crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and the orange peel. Press crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the white baking pieces, coconut, cranberries, walnuts and candied orange peel over the condensed milk. Lightly press the layers into the condensed milk.

3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges of the bars from the pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift uncut bars out of pan. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars.

Makes: 22 to 24 servings, each (of 22) with 301 calories, 16 grams fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 30 grams sugar, 3 grams protein, 131 mg sodium.

To store: Place bars in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Better Homes & Gardens

Oatmeal Jam Bars

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

2 3 ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup seedless blackberry or red or black raspberry jam

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in oats, brown sugar and lemon peel. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Remove 1 cup of the crumb mixture for topping; set aside.

3. Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the jam and lemon juice. Carefully spread jam mixture over hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup crumb mixture. Bake about 15 minutes more or until top is golden. Cool bars in pan on a wire rack.

Makes 16 bars, each with 173 calories, 7 grams fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 121 mg sodium.

To make ahead: Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

4 cups dried cinnamon bread cubes* (8 to 10 slices)

2/3 cup finely chopped unpeeled tart apples (1 medium)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon apple pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Caramel Sauce (see recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the cups of two 6-cup foil muffin pans or line with foil bake cups; set aside.

In a large bowl combine the bread cubes and apples.

2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, melted butter, sugar, vanilla, apple pie spice and salt. Stir into bread mixture. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow bread to soak up liquid, stirring occasionally. Spoon bread mixture evenly into prepared muffin cups.

3. Place muffin pans on a baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and a knife inserted near the centers comes out clean. Transfer muffin pans to a wire rack. Cool in pans on wire rack. Cover and chill for up to 3 days.

4. If giving six puddings, include a jar containing half of the caramel sauce. If giving 12 puddings, give a jar containing a whole recipe of caramel sauce.

Note: To dry bread cubes, cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes; spread in a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Bake in a 300 degrees-oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until dry, stirring twice.

To reheat bread pudding: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place foil muffin pan on a baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, 16 to 18 minutes, or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons light-color corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy medium saucepan combine whipping cream, butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Boil gently for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla. Let sauce cool for 15 minutes. Cover and chill any leftovers for up to 2 weeks. (If chilled, let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving).

Makes 12, each with 336 calories, 19 grams fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 39 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 29 grams sugar, 5 grams protein, 263 mg sodium.

To reheat caramel sauce: Spoon into a small saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until warm.

ICED ALMONDS, PECANS AND WALNUTS

1 1/2 cups almonds, pecans and walnuts, mixed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1/2 teaspoon vanilla Line a cookie sheet with foil and butter foil lightly. Set aside.

In an 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet, cook nuts, sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring carefully and constantly, until sugar has melted and turned a rich brown, about 8 or 9 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly mix in vanilla. Spread mixture on foil-lined cookie sheet. Cool. Break into small clusters and store in sealed containers. Makes about 2 cups.

"Flavors of Kentucky Holiday Cookbook," recipes from readers of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Lime in the Coconut Cookie Fudge

1 roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime peel

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup butter

1 bag (12 ounces) white vanilla baking chips

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften.

2 Meanwhile, spread 1/2 cup of the coconut in ungreased shallow pan. Bake 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. In small bowl, mix toasted coconut and lime zest until well blended; set aside.

3 Break up cookie dough and press in ungreased 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4 In 1-quart saucepan, cook sweetened condensed milk and butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and ingredients are thoroughly heated. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat; stir in white baking chips until melted. Stir in remaining 1 cup coconut and the vanilla.

5 Pour coconut mixture over cookie crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with coconut lime mixture; press in lightly. Cool 15 minutes. Refrigerate 1 hour or until topping is firm.

Makes 24, each with 260 calories, 12 grams fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 33 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 20 grams sugar, 3 grams protein. Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 other carbohydrate, 2 1/2 fat. Carbohydrate choices: 2.

Bake-Off Contest 2013: Christine Wilson, of Sellersville, Penn.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Quick Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda,

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

To make this gift, first combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Divide in half and put 1 cup on bottom of jar or bottle. Then layer ingredients in the following order: brown sugar, granulated sugar, oats, other cup of flour mixture, chips and walnuts.

Attach instructions to make the bread. It should read:

1. In a large bowl, mix the contents of this bottle:

2. In a small bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 2 large eggs, and 1/4 cup melted butter.

3. Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients just until evenly moistened (batter will be lumpy).

4. Scrape into a buttered and floured 9- by 5-inch loaf pan (with a 9-cup capacity), and bake in a 350-degree oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Note: Looking for milk bottles? We used bottles from milk we bought in an independent food market, which is a good source for milk from small, local dairies. If you don't have access to milk sold that way, or you're planning to make many of the bread gifts, you can use quart-size canning jars.

Sunset magazine

Peppermint Stick Cocoa

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

Layer powdered milk, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, chocolate chips and peppermint candy in container.

This mix will fill a 1-quart jar (12 servings), but if your containers are different sizes, just keep the ratio of ingredients constant.

On the back of the tag, write: "Mix contents in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water. Store remaining mix in airtight container. Makes 12 servings hot cocoa.

Sunset

Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee

2 cups pecan halves

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 teaspoons fleur de sel (see Notes) or coarse sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 8 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop roughly. Divide into 2 batches; chop 1 batch finely. Set both batches aside.

2. Put sugar, butter, salt and 3/4 cup water in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat (see notes). When butter and sugar are melted, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown and measures 310 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla (mixture will bubble up) and finely chopped pecans.

Pour into a 10- by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet.

Let toffee cool until set, at least 30 minutes. For even pieces, you can score the toffee by cutting it with a sharp knife after it has set for about 10 minutes, scoring into 5 strips lengthwise and 8 strips crosswise to yield 40 pieces. Wipe knife clean with warm water after each slice for easier cutting.

3. Chop chocolate and put in a medium metal bowl. Fill an 8- or 10-inch frying pan with 1/2 inch of water and bring to a boil. Take off heat and put bowl of chocolate in the water. Let sit about 5 minutes. Stir chocolate until melted. Pour over toffee; with a knife or offset spatula, spread evenly.

Sprinkle chocolate with roughly chopped pecans. Let sit 20 minutes, or until chocolate is cool but still a bit soft. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill until set, about 1 hour.

4. To remove, gently twist pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 40 pieces (serving size: one 2- by 2-in. square). Toffee keeps at room temperature in an airtight container up to 2 weeks; chilled, up to 1 month.

Caution: Use caution when working with sugar syrup, as it can cause severe burns. Set out your baking sheet so it's ready to use, and keep ice water nearby to cool any burns.

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