The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 10, 1999


Tasty homemade gifts are a special holiday treat

Keep in mind when planning your holiday gift list for family and friends that a treat from your kitchen has special meaning. Time is a scarce commodity these days, and something you have made yourself is received with special appreciation. It takes time to cook, bake and decorate, but is much more fun than fighting traffic and mall crowds. I prefer to "shop" in my kitchen.

A homemade gift should taste great, of course, but creative packaging is important too. I collect pretty boxes, tins and plates throughout the year. Flea markets and garage sales are often a good source for unusual serving plates. Party supply stores have a great choice of baskets, cookie tins and festively decorated cartons and cardboard boxes at this time of year. Pier One has durable papier-mache boxes and dishes. They don't cost more than a few dollars and are perfect for displaying and giving away your holiday goodies.

Cookies are a beloved staple of the holidays that everyone appreciates. Bar cookies are a good choice if you have limited timethey are quick and easy to make. Children like to participate in holiday baking, and they can help with these rich and buttery treats which seem like a combination of both cookie and candy.

Of course, along with arranging these cookies and candies as gifts, you'll want to save some for yourself and your family. Hide away a tin of each of these treats to enjoy throughout the season!

Butter-Pecan, Caramel-Chocolate Squares

2 c. flour 2/3 c. butter

1 c. brown sugar 1/2 c. brown sugar

1 stick butter, softened 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. pecan halves

1. Mix first three ingredients with an electric mixer or with your hands. Pat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9 by 13 inch pan.

2. Sprinkle the pecan halves onto this base.

3. In a medium-sized pan, cook and stir butter and brown sugar over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Let it boil for one minute and then pour evenly over the base.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

5. When pan comes out of oven, immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Swirl the chocolate around with a blunt knifeno need to spread. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Refrigerator cookies are quick and easy, too. A homemade recipe tastes much better than the "slice and bake" variety that you see in the refrigerated section of the market, because undoubtedly, you will use better ingredients. Make up the dough and shape into rolls when you have time; then slice, decorate and bake at a moment's notice. The rolls of dough will keep almost indefinitely in the freezer and for a good long time in the refrigerator. Children will have fun decorating with gumdrops. They often taste better than candied fruit and give the same bright holiday effect. These cookies would look good on a plate, covered with colorful plastic wrap and decorated with a ribbon with an evergreen sprig or peppermint stick tucked in.

Gumdrop Cookies

2 1/2 c. flour 2 eggs

1 t. baking powder 2 Tbs. milk

1/2 t. salt 1 tsp. almond extract

3/4 c. butter, softened 1 c. colorful soft gumdrops, 2/3 c. sugar cut into small pieces

Put all ingredients except the gumdrops into a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth with electric mixer. With lightly-floured hands, shape into two or three rolls that are 2 inch diameter. Refrigerate or freeze the rolls. When ready to bake the cookies, cut into 1/4" slices with a sharp, floured knife. Place cookies on a greased baking sheet or one that has been covered with parchment paper. Decorate with the gumdrops.

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Nut Brittle is an excellent candy to pack in a decorative cardboard box. At this time of year I use cashews, almonds, peanuts, and sometimes macadamias to make the brittle a bit more upscale than the usual peanut brittle. This is not a good recipe to make with young children; candy-making is potentially dangerous, and adults, too, should be very careful when dealing with the molten liquid. Kids will have fun breaking up the brittle into irregular pieces when it has cooled.

Nut Brittle

1/4 cup butter 1 t. vanilla

3 Tbs. light corn syrup 2 t. baking soda

3 c. sugar

2 c. combination peanuts, cashews,almonds, macadamias

Begin by warming two baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper in an oven set at 250.

Melt butter with the corn syrup in a large, heavy pan. Add sugar; cook and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the mixture is partly dissolved and turns a light tan color. This takes about 10 minutes. Stir in the nuts. Continue cooking and stirring about five or six minutes more until the mixture is liquefied and a golden color. Remove pan from heat and carefully stir in vanilla and baking soda. Beat vigorously with the wooden spoon. Spread half of the candy, fairly evenly, onto each warmed baking sheet to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Let the brittle cool, then break it into pieces of various sizes.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito