Last minute food gifts

December 21, 2011 12:49:00 PM

Jan Swoope - jswoope@cdispatch.com

 

'Twas four days before Christmas and all through the house, mama was worrying, "Who did I leave out?" 

 

Sound familiar? Between work, shopping and family commitments, many of us may be feeling a bit rough around the edges about now. But if you've suddenly realized you forgot to get a little something for a kind co-worker or the neighbor who feeds the dog when you're away, try not to stress out. Remember, gifts don't need to be expensive and fancy. A simple holiday treat will mean even more when it comes from your kitchen. 

 

One super-easy option is peppermint sticks that look beautiful and taste even better when you dip store-bought sticks in melted white chocolate, then roll them in coconut or other toppings. Once dried, package them in a gift box with some holiday tissue. 

 

Another simple last-minute gift is golden honey granola. Brown sugar complements flavorful cranberries and apricots in this crunchy mix. Package some up in see-through canisters or candy jars you can find at the big box. Tie a ribbon around the top and deliver away.  

 

Chocolate bark, or sugar cookies decorated with the recipient's initial, are festive choices, too. 

 

 

 

Make it personal 

 

Chef Dominica Catelli at webmd.com suggests a few other food-inspired gifts for the final hour, like specialty bottles of extra virgin olive oil, with a favorite recipe attached. Many bottles are pretty enough to be repurposed in the kitchen. Flavored vinegars, like cherry, balsamic or champagne are fun to give and get. 

 

"If bringing a bottle of wine, personalize it by signing the bottle with a metallic pen," says Catelli. "When your friends go to drink it a few months down the road, they'll remember it's from you." She also suggests adding a favorite recipe that pairs with the wine and tying it to the neck of the bottle. 

 

Heat-proof spatulas and cooking spoons in fun colors and tied together with festive ribbons can also make a welcome happy. As can elegant finishing salts, something most of us never buy for ourselves. 

 

Then, of course, an invitation to a dinner you prepare yourself is a meaningful and personal gesture. There will always be something special about gathering around a table to share a homecooked meal -- at Christmas and year-round.  

 

 

 

CHOCOLATE DIPPED PEPPERMINT STICKS 

 

 

 

12 (5-inch) peppermint sticks 

 

7 ounces white chocolate, melted 

 

1/4 cup white nonpareils 

 

 

 

  • Dip peppermint sticks, one at a time, into melted chocolate. Transfer to baking pan lined with parchment paper. 

     

  • Allow chocolate to set slightly, about five minutes. Roll chocolate end of peppermint sticks in nonpareils. Return to lined pan and let stand at room temperature until chocolate hardens. 

     

    (Source: countryliving.com) 

     

     

     

    GOLDEN HONEY GRANOLA 

     

    Makes 15 cups 

     

    Prep time: 15 minutes 

     

    Total time: 55 minutes 

     

     

     

    1 container (18-ounce) old-fashioned oats (6 cups) 

     

    8 ounces sliced almonds 

     

    1 cup dried cranberries 

     

    1 cup chopped dried apricots 

     

    1 cup light brown sugar 

     

    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

     

    1/2 teaspoon salt 

     

    1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter 

     

    1/2 cup honey 

     

     

     

    (Source: countryliving.com) 

     

     

     

    CHOCOLATE BARK 

     

     

     

    Chocolate (milk or semi-sweet) 

     

    Classic toppings (i.e. dried apricots, raisins, candied orange peel, cranberries, cherries, toasted pecans, almonds, etc.) 

     

    Contemporary toppings (such as cereal, candied ginger, dried pineapple, strawberries, etc.) 

     

     

     

    (Source: countryliving.com)

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.