Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

December is upon us and that mean one thing - time to get ready for the holidays! The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. Something about all the lights, festive music, and gift giving always puts me in a good mood. (Snow days aren't too bad either... hehe.) Each year, I always try to give a few homemade gifts to friends and family. It's always fun to get a little creative, and it feels special to give somebody something you actually made yourself. Today, I'm sharing with you three homemade gifts from the kitchen - Cookie Dough Truffles, Orange-Glazed Pecans, and Buckeye Popcorn. Anybody who likes to eat would love any of these treats! --- First up, Cookie Dough Truffles. How do I even describe these? All the things you love about cookie dough, coated in a chocolatey shell. And before you ask, there's no risk of salmonella because there's no eggs! I dare you to eat just one.  

  They're super easy to make, too. Just mix up the dough, shape it into balls, and refrigerate for an hour or two. Once they are chilled, melt some chocolate chips and dip away! I always use a fork when dipping truffles; it seems to get the excess chocolate off the easiest.   --- Next up, Orange-Glazed Pecans. My mom has been making these ever since I can remember. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the smell of these pecans wafting through the house!  

  Just three ingredients - pecans, orange juice, and brown sugar. Just combine the orange juice and brown sugar, and toss over the pecans. Lay out on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350*F for 10-13 minutes.  

  These make a perfect gift for any nut-lovers out there. How cute are they, packaged up in mugs?  

  --- And finally, Buckeye Caramel Corn. If you are a peanut butter-chocolate fanatic like myself, you will go crazy for this. Sweet crunchy caramel corn, combined with honey-roasted peanuts, and drizzled with peanut butter and semisweet chocolate! Yum.     I have always been intimidated by caramel corn, but this recipe proved that it's actually pretty easy! Start with 2 bags of popped popcorn. (About 18-20 cups.)  

  For the caramel sauce, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt; bring it to a boil.  

  Once it's boiling, let it boil for 3 minutes WITHOUT stirring.  

Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and a bit of vanilla extract.  

  Pour this over the popcorn, and distribute evenly.     Spread the popcorn across a couple baking sheets, and bake at 250*F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  

  Once the popcorn has cooled, it's time for the good stuff - the peanut butter and chocolate drizzle.     For the peanut butter drizzle, melt 2 cups of peanut butter chips with a bit of vegetable shortening. Drizzle all over the popcorn, stirring to coat evenly.  

  For the semisweet chocolate drizzle, melt 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips. I decided to get fancy and drizzle it using a ziploc bag. Transfer the chocolate to a ziploc bag and cut one of the corners. Voila! Instant pastry bag.  

  Just let the chocolate set up, package, and enjoy!     I ordered these cute little boxes online, and think they would make perfect little gifts, filled with yummy caramel corn. Hope you enjoy these gift ideas! Spread a little Christmas cheer to those you love. :) ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cookie Dough Truffles

Servings/Yield: 6 dozen
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 12-oz. bags semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1-2 tbsp. shortening
Method Blend together butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat in flour alternately with sweetened condensed milk. Shape into 3/4-inch balls and place on parchment-lined or wax paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate 1-2 hours until firm. Melt chocolate chips with 1-2 tbsp. shortening until smooth. Remove balls from refrigerator and dip each into the melted chocolate, covering completely. Place onto lined baking sheets. Let sit until firm, or refrigerate until firm to speed up the process. Store in refrigerator. Source: Taste of Home ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Orange-Glazed Pecans

Servings/Yield: 4 cups
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • cup orange juice
  • 4 cups pecan halves
Method Preheat oven to 350*F. Line a 15x10-inch jelly roll pan with foil, and grease the foil with butter. In a bowl, combine brown sugar and orange juice until smooth. Stir in pecans. Spread onto foil-lined jelly roll pan as evenly as possible. Bake in preheated oven 10-13 minutes, stirring occasionally until bubbly and fragrant. Remove from oven and immediately dump nuts onto another foil-lined, greased baking sheet. Move quickly, because they will stick! When set, break into pieces/individual nuts. Enjoy! (And have fun cleaning up the pans... bwa ha ha...) Source: my mom ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Buckeye Caramel Corn

Servings/Yield: 20 cups
  • 20 cups popped popcorn, (about 2 bags of microwave popcorn)
  • tablespoons butter
  • cup packed brown sugar
  • cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • 2 cups peanut butter chips
  • ½ tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • cup semisweet chocolate chips
Method Preheat oven to 250*F. Spray two large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Place popcorn in a large bowl. For the caramel, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let boil 3 minutes without stirring. Remove pan from heat; stir in peanut butter and vanilla extract. Pour over popcorn and mix to combine. Spread popcorn evenly into the prepared pans. Bake at 250*F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Break into pieces and stir in honey roasted peanuts. Combine peanut butter chips with vegetable shortening in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave 2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle over popcorn and toss to combine. Melt the semisweet chips in the same manner (no shortening this time), and transfer to a ziploc bag. Snip a corner off the bag and drizzle over popcorn. Place pans in refrigerator until chocolate has hardened. Break into small pieces. Store in airtight container. Source: Sweet Pea's Kitchen

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