Homemade for the Holidays: Gifts to give for family & friends

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By Denise Murray

Health and recipe blogger

Skip the crowded malls this year, and spend time making holiday memories and traditions in your kitchen!

The cupboards hold a treasure of raw materials ready to be transformed into homemade holiday treats. Add vintage or new accessories and a touch of ingenious packaging — pretty ribbons, unusual bottles, boxes, and bags, and stylish papers and tags, String a copy of the recipe on a ribbon and secure bag with a bow. — and you're certain to deliver holiday cheer.

Chocolate Peanut Clusters, chocolate bark or Peanut brittle given to friends and neighbors makes a wonderful gift. You can even specialize them with cashews, almonds, mixed nuts, or drizzling with different colors of chocolate or holiday sprinkles for festive additions. Customize the bark with your favorite dried fruits and nuts.

Gift a miniature candy counter, as a box of homemade sugared fruit jellies in flavors of raspberry, lemon, and apple.

Peppermint Divinity often made with chopped nuts, is a classic Christmastime nougat treat.

Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Sticks and pretzel rods look beautiful and taste even better! Leave them out in a dish when trimming the tree or relaxing by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa.

Brownies, whether it be cake or fudge style, with or without nuts, are a treat that any school coach would appreciate.

Jar mixes are often received as a work of art, and sit in cupboards for yes to come…to encourage that the mix be enjoyed I suggest 2 key tips….first consider your recipient, beginning and accomplished baker and cooks are the ones to choose from your wish list for this item. Second I suggest, carefully layering the colorful ingredients in a reseal-able gallon freezer bag, and then placing into a large oven mitt. Give someone a:

"Hand for a Job well done"….The neatly arranged ingredients will still look pretty, and will more readily be enjoyed for the tasty creation you provided them to assemble. Traditionally they are filled with cookies or soup mixes. Try some of these alternatives jar gifts.

Easy, make-ahead pancake and waffle mixes come in handy on Christmas morning. Label containers with the name and date to ensure freshness. Dress them up with Chocolate, dried blueberries, and eggnog powder.

Fish-Poaching Kit with a jar filled with mustard seed, pink and black peppercorns, coarse salt, and star anise complement a fish poacher. A well-crafted pot or pan makes a practical luxury for someone who likes to cook. Dress it up with a band of colorful paper and seasonings for preparing a tasty dish.

Jams in Jars and fruit compotes make thoughtful gifts. Simply bottle homemade compote with the recipe, storing instructions, and some helpful serving ideas.

Fresh Tomato Sauce placed in unusual bottles and jars can be gifts themselves.

 

Single Serving Pie in a Jar made in little glass jars that go straight from your freezer to your oven. You can make these with store-bought crust and canned filling or your homemade crust and filling varieties. You'll need about 1/2 C filling for each jar. ( I got my jars at Schaeur's Hardware on Madison Street)

You'll need half-pint canning jars, short and squatty instead of tall and skinny. Roll out a small handful of dough.

This is for the tops of your pies. Use the ring part of your jar to cut out the tops and set aside. Use the rest of the dough to line the jars. Take pieces of dough and press them all the way up to the top of the jar.

Here's the basic recipe (for 4 pies)

Ingredients / Filling

2 C fruit (pitted, diced, peeled, etc.)

2 T sugar- brown or white (use more or less depending on sweetness of fruit)

2 T flour- (again, more if your fruit is super juicy like cherries, less if it's pretty dry)

4 Tsp. butter

Seasonings/flavorings- cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and almond extract, citrus zest etc.

When your filling is all combined, divide it between the jars and dot a 1 tsp. pat of butter on top. Make sure your top crust has a vent so steam can escape. You can use a knife to make a couple of slits or a tiny cookie cutter to make it decorative. Try a mini lattice of dough on one. Another option is to do a crumb topping. Brush pie tops with butter and sprinkle with sugar.

 Crumb Topping (for 4-6 pies)

1/4C brown sugar 1/4 C flour 2 T oats

1/4 T cinnamon 3 T cold butter

Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter. Add oats and stir to combine.

When your pies are all done and topped, place metal lids back on and seal them tight. Then pop them in the freezer.

To bake the pies remove lids from jars and place jars on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in a COLD oven.

Then turn the oven to 375. That will give the jars a chance to warm up slowly as the oven preheats. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the middles are bubbly. If you're baking them fresh and not frozen they take about 45 minutes. Depending on your filling you can pop them right out of the jar and onto a plate or eat them right out of the jar.

Try going savory with Chicken Pot Pie in a Jar!! Here's the basic recipe (for 4-6 pies)

Chicken Pot Pie in a Jar

Ingredients/ Filling

12 -16 ounces chicken breasts, boneless skinless

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 1/2 sticks(12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

2 medium size yellow onions, chopped

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups medium-diced carrots

2 cups ( or one 10-ounce) package frozen peas

1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Pastry/ Topping (for 4-6 pies)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil, Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and lay them on a baking sheet.. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut the chicken into ½ inch dice. You will have 2 to 3 cups of cubed chicken.  Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and sauté the carrots, celery and  the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent. .. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. In a small saucepan or microwave safe container, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream   Remove from the heat, allow to cool . Add the cubed chicken, peas, and parsley. Mix well. Set aside back into the refrigerator to cool completely

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the shortening is the size of small pebbles or peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into a 6-inch circle, then place the dough into each jar, and press it up the sides of the jar, bring the excess up and over the opening of each jar.  Divide the filling equally among 4 to 6 jars.

 Brush the outside edges of excess dough from each jar with the egg wash, then place the dough overlapped on top. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.

When your pies are all done and topped, place metal lids back on and seal them tight. Then pop them in the freezer.

To bake the pies remove lids from jars and place jars on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in a COLD oven.

Then turn the oven to 375. That will give the jars a chance to warm up slowly as the oven preheats. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the middles are bubbly. If you're baking them fresh and not frozen they take about 35 minutes. Depending on your filling you can pop them right out of the jar and onto a plate or eat them right out of the jar.

Best of Cooking, Denise

Next up…Homemade for the Holidays gifts to give Fido & Tabby

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Reader Comments

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Lester Nixon from Forest Park Il!  

Posted: December 14th, 2012 2:24 PM

Denise. Wonderful must try recipes! Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!!

John McKillip from Forest Park  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 8:39 PM

Denise, well done! I am going to make your Chicken Pot Pie Recipe !!! Thanks!

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