Gifts From Your Kitchen

I confess I didn’t make up that title myself.  The homemade treats I received when I was working full-time were very much appreciated and a nice change from the standard “Pot of Gold” chocolate box.  The following are easy recipes for goodies you can give to your neighbour, child’s teacher, school bus driver or friendly banker.  Just put in a decorative box or bag and tie with a big bow or add to a gift basket.

Candied Cashew Popcorn

Pop 2/3 cup unpopped popcorn to make about 16 cups.  Set aside.
Heat and stir 3 cups granulated sugar, 2/3 cup water, 1/3 cup butter or hard margarine and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a heavy saucepan on medium heat for about 10 minutes until boiling and sugar is dissolved.  Boil gently, uncovered for 25 – 35 minutes, without stirring, brushing side of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals, until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Add ¼ teaspoon salt.  Stir well.  Pour over popped corn.
Add 2 ½ cups cashews.  Stir with a wooden spoon until all the popcorn is coated.  Divide and spread evenly on 2 greased baking sheets with sides.  Cool.  Break into bite-size pieces.  Store at room temperature in airtight container for up to one month.  Makes about 20 cups.

This is good to snack on while watching your favourite holiday movie.

Cranberry Gumdrops

In a saucepan, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup water; let stand for 2 minutes to soften.  Add 1 can (350ml) jellied cranberry sauce and 1 cup sugar; cook over low heat until sauce is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 10 minutes.  Whisk until smooth.

Remove from heat and add 3 packages (85g) raspberry Jell-O; stir until completely dissolved.  Pour into an 8-inch square dish coated with cooking spray.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight.

Cut into 1-inch squares; roll in sugar (about 1 cup).  Place on baking sheets; let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.  Turn pieces over and let stand 3 hours longer.  Roll in additional sugar if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Makes about 5 dozen.

This sounds fiddly but they are worth the time spent.

Layered Mint Fudge

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil; grease the foil with about 1 ½ teaspoons butter and set aside.  In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk over low heat; cook and stir for 5-6 minutes or until smooth.  Remove from heat.

Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.  Spread half of the mixture into prepared pan.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firm.  Set remaining chocolate mixture aside.

In a heavy saucepan, melt 1 cup vanilla chips and remaining sweetened condensed milk from can over low heat; cook and stir for 5-6 minutes or until smooth (mixture will be thick).  Remove from heat.  Add 3 teaspoons peppermint extract and 1 to 2 drops green food colouring; stir 3-4 minutes until creamy.  Spread evenly over chocolate layer.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firm.

Heat reserved chocolate mixture over low heat until mixture achieves spreading consistency; spread over mint layer.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or until firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan.  Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-inch squares.  Store in refrigerator.  Makes 1-¾ pounds.

If you try these recipes, I hope you and your family and friends enjoy them.  Maybe they’ll become a Christmas tradition.

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