Dining In

Presents for the Palate
By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist


Gift Ideas

Great Gift Ideas From Your Kitchen

When I tried an old favorite recipe in the microwave oven and it worked well, my husband was inspired. ďWhy wouldnít that be good for Christmas gifts?Ē he asked. I was shocked. Heís never paid any attention to whatever Iíve concocted for food gifts before.

But Iím learning age does funny things to men. Heís washing his own socks now. Heís decided that is the best way to make sure they match and donít disappear. He makes the iced tea regularly and corrects me if I try. I donít do it right.

Well, all this is good news, as other wives will agree. What took so long?

Fortunately, I remember this stage of life with my mom and dad so I know it is normal. Mom happily relinquished all the things that she didnít do right either. She just played more bridge.

But his idea was a good one.

The 1-2-3 Fudge Sauce was in the Virginia Press Womenís cookbook that I bought in 1963. Mrs. Donald H. Parker of Williamsburg contributed it. I found it quite good but didnít make it often ó it required a double boiler. Recently, though, I decided to give it a try in the microwave.

I should have done that sooner! Much easier and even better. It sometimes turned out grainy with the old method but this time I also used my handy little beater and the sauce was nice and smooth ó perfect for gift giving.

Spiced or candied pecans are gifts that we often either give or receive, always happily.

However, spiced walnuts is a new idea for us. Perhaps weíre used to pecans instead of walnuts because they are so prevalent in the South. Walnuts, however, are often less expensive and, weíve found, they spice quite nicely.

The candied pecan recipe weíve used for years is incredibly high calorie ó lots of butter and sugar. These walnut recipes use no butter, egg whites and spices. A good gift for the diet conscious or just for your own snacking. More and more Iím seeing walnuts or pecans, glazed, in tossed salads. Either of these recipes, Indian Spiced or Cajun Spiced Walnuts are good in salads.

For gifts for your sweets lovers, weíve tried Christmas Spirits and Peanut Butter Fudge.

All the recipes we tested are for busy cooks who, still, want to give a gift from their kitchen.

The Christmas Spirits are a version of rum balls that use coffee liqueur or rum. We liked the spirited balls with coffee liqueur.

And, finally, if youíre looking for a recipe so easy that your younger children can help, or, even make it, Peanut Butter Fudge is both simple and good.

INDIAN SPICED WALNUTS

Ingredients:

bullet2 egg whites, lightly beaten
bullet1 1⁄2 t curry powder
bullet1 T ground cumin
bullet1⁄2 t salt
bullet1⁄2 t sugar
bullet4 cups walnut halves and/or pieces

Directions: Coat baking sheet with non-stick vegetable spray. Mix egg whites with spices, salt and sugar. Stir in walnuts and coat thoroughly. Spread on prepared pan. Bake in 350˚ oven 15 to 18 minutes or until dry and crisp. Cool before serving or store. Makes 4 cups.

CHRISTMAS SPIRITS

Ingredients:

bullet32 chocolate cream sandwich cookies
bullet1 cup powdered sugar
bullet1 1⁄4 cups walnuts
bullet2 T instant coffee powder
bullet2 T light corn syrup
bullet3⁄4 cup coffee liqueur or rum (or less)

Directions: Break up cookies and crush into fine crumbs in food processor. Add 1⁄2 cup of the powdered sugar, walnuts and 11⁄2 tablespoons of the coffee powder. Process thoroughly. Add corn syrup and mix well. Gradually add liqueur until a thick paste has formed. Combine remaining powdered sugar and coffee powder on a sheet of waxed paper. Form paste into balls, roll in sugar/coffee mixture. Store in airtight containers. Makes 40 to 50 balls.

CAJUN SPICED WALNUTS

Ingredients:

bullet1 egg white
bullet1⁄2 t ground cayenne pepper
bullet1 1⁄2 t Herbs de Provence or (1⁄2 t each thyme, marjoram, basil, dill weed)
bullet1 t garlic salt
bullet1 t paprika
bullet2 cups walnuts, halves and/or pieces

Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat baking sheet with non-stick vegetable spray. In bowl, combine with whisk egg white, herbs, garlic salt and paprika. Mix well. Add walnuts and stir until evenly coated with mixture. Place in oven. Bake about 15 minutes. Turn nuts after 8 minutes. Do not overcook. Remove from oven, cool and store.

1-2-3 FUDGE SAUCE

Ingredients:

bullet1 can (12-oz.) evaporated milk
bullet2 cups sugar
bullet3 squares bakerís chocolate
bulletVanilla

Directions: Place all ingredients in at least a two-quart, microwaveable container. Cook on high until chocolate is melted (about 2 minutes). Stir occasionally to make sure chocolate is melting. Return to microwave oven and cook for two more minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from oven, cool and add vanilla to taste. Beat until sauce is smooth. Refrigerate. Serve over ice cream. Will keep a long time.

EASY MICROWAVE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

Ingredients:

bullet1 bag (12-oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
bullet1 jar (12-oz.) or 11⁄4 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
bullet1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk

Directions: In a 11⁄2-quart microwave-proof bowl, melt chocolate and peanut butter on high power for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave. Stir well. Add milk, stirring until blended. Pour mixture into 8x8-inch pan lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate to chill. After hard, remove from refrigerator. Leave at room temperature 30 minutes to an hour to soften before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.

 

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