Sunday, October 25, 2009

Incredible Edibles for the Holidays?......Mmmmm

With the holidays just around the corner and everyone thinking about planning great get-togethers for friends and family, want some options that will not only let you shine but deliver the flavors associated with these special times?

I'm beginning MY holiday preparations and sometimes goodies get better with some aging... like Rum Cake, Fruit Cake and such.... home-made liquors also get much better if you give them some time for the flavors to come together and they must be made in advance so they're at their best when they're used or given out as gifts to friends or used at family celebrations.

You can plan on stocking up and saving your wine bottles or nice looking glass containers, nice shaped jars and covered containers you can use for food gifts add a nicer touch and give your offerings that added holiday sparkle... touch them up with a nice bow or gift wrap, some shiny decorations or labels and you've got something really special.

I've already given out some great food gift recipes. Candies, liquors, cakes and cookies to begin your production with, and I am adding to that list now to give you a better selection. Plus with the ingredients you need you'll be able to make several gifts and not just one, making these recipes a good deal. Make some and keep others for your own holiday parties..... I've also been able to ascertain that I like these better than even the original versions since you can add or reduce the ingredients and produce them to your taste, so they come out even better!

Hope you will try some of these so you can see just how good home-made food gifts can be!

BAILEY'S IRISH CREAM HOME-MADE VERSION.- Everyone loves this creamy liquor on the holidays or any time!

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
3 whole eggs
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 pint whipping cream
1 can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
18-20 ounces Irish whiskey

Dissolve coffee in 1 oz very hot water. Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend& pour into container. Store in refrigerator.
HOME-MADE AMARETTO LIQUEUR.- Great tasting and perfect for mixed drinks!

3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
3 lemons, finely grated rind (no white part)
1 quart vodka
3 tablespoons almond extract
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Combine first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally; cool completely. Stir in remaining ingredients; store in airtight containers( I use empty liquor bottles).
LONG ISLAND ICE TEA.- Everyone knows this one...... quantities are for 1 large drink, multiply if making more or filling a bottle....

1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce gin
1/2 ounce triple sec (or Grand Marnier)
sour mix

Add crushed ice to pint glass. Add first 4 ingredients. Shake. Top with cola and sour mix. Serve. *You can add raspberry liquor to this, and call it a Black Opal, even more tasty!
RESTAURANT STYLE SWEET AND SOUR MIX.- Great for your mixed drinks.....

1 cup hot water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 drop yellow food coloring

Combine the hot water with the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Add lime juice, lemon juice and food coloring. Chill.
PEPPERMINT BARK CANDY.- Totally Holiday Candy gift and great tasting too!
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound white chocolate, chopped (do not use chips)
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 bag (7.5 ounces) hard peppermint candies, unwrapped

Spray a 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; line with a piece of waxed paper. Crush candies (see note below). Place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in rice cereal.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan; with a spatula, spread to edges of pan. Sprinkle with crushed candy; with a piece of waxed paper covering the entire surface, press in gently (paper prevents hands from sticking to candy and chocolate). Chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes (no longer, as candy will begin to soften).Peel waxed paper off. Break bark into 2-inch pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container, up to 1 week.
PEPPERMINT ICICLES.- So lovely to look at and fun to eat! Get the kids to help with this or make it a cold evening project for you and your!

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 drop blue gel-paste food coloring
1 drop violet gel-paste food coloring

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves. Cook, undisturbed, until mixture registers 305 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and stir in lemon juice and peppermint extract. Working quickly, pour hot sugar mixture onto prepared sheet. (Be careful not to touch hot mixture.) Let cool until bubbles subside, about 30 seconds.
Coat a metal spatula with cooking spray, then fold 2 edges of mixture inward, toward center (pictured, above left). Continuously fold candy in half on itself with spatula until it is cool enough to handle, about 1 minute (it will still be very hot).
Wearing rubber gloves and working quickly, pull candy to a length of 1 foot, then fold in half on itself. Repeat, twisting and pulling until candy starts to turn white. Remove a golf-ball-sized piece, and add food colorings to the smaller piece. Continue to stretch and fold both pieces separately. When candy is almost cool, and the uncolored piece is white, pull each piece into a 12-inch-long rope.

Place ropes side by side, and fold in half together to layer colors. Twist pieces together. Starting at 1 end, pull and twist until rope is 1/2 inch thick. Working quickly, twist and pull end to taper slightly, and cut off a 6-inch length with scissors. Continue twisting, pulling, and cutting icicles until candy becomes too hard and can no longer be pulled. (There will be some left over. Reserve for another use, such as crushing over ice cream or cookies. Transfer icicles to a baking sheet to harden. Store, covered, for up to 4 days.

The peppermint candy is very hot initially, so be sure to work quickly wearing protective rubber gloves. For the best results, at the beginning of the pulling stage in step three, two people should divide the candy between them. Use any color you prefer to tint these minty sticks.
HOME-MADE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS.- Since you're making these, you could switch out the nuts and pick your own!

4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped

Line two 12-cup mini muffin pans with paper liners; set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine white chocolate and peanut butter. Microwave, until almost melted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, place semisweet chocolate in another microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, stirring once or twice, until almost melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Dividing evenly, use a spoon to layer semisweet chocolate and peanut-butter mixture into liners, beginning and ending with chocolate; sprinkle with peanuts. Place muffin pans in freezer until peanut butter cups are firm, about 15 minutes. Bring to room temperature before serving.
PISTACHIO-HONEY TORRONE (NOUGAT).- Wonderful candy and very versatile since you can change the nuts to almonds or hazelnuts or your favorite!

Edible wafer paper, enough for 2 layers in pan (at baking store)
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 large egg whites
1 cup honey
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups shelled raw pistachios

Piece together wafer paper, without overlapping, to fit bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and set aside. Liberally sprinkle a clean surface with cornstarch. Pour egg whites into bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine honey and granulated sugar. Place over medium heat; cook until mixture just begins to simmer, about 4 minutes. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of saucepan; continue to heat, stirring occasionally.

Beat whites until stiff peaks form; add confectioners' sugar, and beat until combined. When thermometer registers 315 degrees, remove honey mixture from heat. Temperature will rise to 320 degrees. Stir until temperature drops to 300 degrees, 1 to 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour honey mixture into egg-white mixture (at this point, whites will double in volume; let stand a few seconds; volume will return to normal). Beat until mixture thickens and begins to stick to beaters; fold in the nuts. Pour mixture onto cornstarch-covered surface; knead about 5 turns. Stretch and roll to fit pan; place mixture in pan. Cover with another layer of wafer paper; let cool on wire rack. Cut into slices while still warm; store in airtight container, with parchment between layers, for up to 2 weeks.
APRICOT GELT.- You can use other dried fruit as well......MMmmmm!

1 pound dried apricots
1 pound dark chocolate, finely chopped
Foil candy wrappers

Using a heavy mallet, flatten apricots to 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Microwave chocolate in a glass bowl in 15-second intervals, stirring vigorously with a rubber spatula and scraping down sides in between, until just melted (chocolate should be no warmer than 86 degrees).Dip each apricot in chocolate, coating evenly. Transfer to wire racks set over parchment paper; let stand until set. Transfer apricots to baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until firm, at least 25 minutes. Wrap in foil wrappers. Gelt can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.
MARCONA ALMOND AND FLEUR DE SEL PRALINES.- Can you think of anything more sinful?

Vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 ounces Marcona almonds or regular blanched almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel (imported natural salt)

Lightly coat a nonstick baking mat or a piece of parchment with oil, and place on a heatproof surface. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, tilting pan to swirl and washing down sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns pale amber, about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in almonds. Pour mixture onto center of prepared surface, and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Let stand just until the edges are cool enough to handle. Working quickly and using gloved hands lightly coated with oil, pull pieces of caramel and almonds away from the center until caramel starts to harden and you are able to pull long, thin pieces before they break away. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool completely. Repeat. (If praline begins to harden, place on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven until pliable; you can do this only once before the sugar begins to crystallize.) Pralines can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Our home is always full of holiday goodies.... it makes it even more special since I wait until the holidays to make everyone's favorites. Create some holiday traditions and start a trend, or make several of these food gifts to put in gift baskets.... I make a selection of cooking sauces, cookies and candies, some wine or liquor and top it off with a pound cake or Christmas Cake.... how about that for a great gift to open on Christmas Morning...YUM! I also donated a couple of baskets to my local Church and watched them go up for auction..... Great, everyone loved them! (or could even be a side business during the Xmas Fairs coming up)....... Have a great time with these!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all of the great ideas! I'm planning on making the Marcona Almond & Fleur de Sel Pralines.