by Ingredient

Health and nutrition news that’s easy to digest

Coffee Ganache Macarons

Are you looking for an easy and affordable way to give gifts to everyone on your list?  If you plan to give your loved ones gifts crafted with love from your kitchen this year, keep reading for tips, tricks and recipe ideas that will make creating gifts from your kitchen simple and fun!

General Gift Giving Tips:
1. Only use recipes that you have successfully tested to create gifts.  
2. Choose recipes that meet the dietary restrictions of your loved ones.  
3. Measure your ingredients carefully, especially if you are making candy or a mix.
4. Prepare all of the ingredients for your recipe before you begin putting it together - bring cold items to room temperature, chop ingredients to the right size, have all of the ingredients you need measured out on the counter.  
5. Know when you will have the opportunity to deliver or ship your handcrafted gifts and prepare them within an appropriate time.  You don’t want your gifts to sit around and become stale or spoil.
6. Package your gifts appropriately.  In general, candy can go in a box; cookies in a bag; jams, sauces, and mixes in a jar.  Packaging can be as simple or elaborate as you choose.

In a Box: Candy 

1. Have the right equipment on hand: a heavy pot or Dutch oven, a wooden spoon, and a candy thermometer.
2. Chose the proper ingredients for your recipe.  Not all chocolates are interchangeable.  If you need your candy to set quickly, use almond bark instead of a bar chocolate or chocolate chips.
3. Always use a thermometer to bring your candy to the temperature your recipe calls for.  It will not set up if it does not reach the right temperature.
4. Many candies need to set overnight before they are ready to eat.  Take this time into account as you plan to package and deliver your gifts. 
5. Bark candies can be broken into shards while caramels or fudge need to be cut into pieces.

Candy Recipes:

Saltine Candy with Chocolate and Nuts
Scotch Toffee
Chocolate Toffee
Chocolate Hazelnut and Cherry Bark
Marbelized Mint Bark
Apricot Almond Bark
Peanut Butter Brittle
Cashew Brittle
Pecan Brittle
Fantasy Fudge
Maple Walnut Fudge
Butterscotch Fudge
Peanut Butter Balls
Cherry Mash

In a Bag: Cookies

1. Keep the unused dough chilled as you bake off your cookies.  This will help them hold together in the oven, bake consistently, and make them easier to form into your desired shape.
2. Use a scoop to measure out your dough to have cookies that are uniform in size and bake evenly.
3. Add eggs, milk, and butter to recipes at room temperature.
4. Prepare cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it in a zip top bag in a log or in balls.  This makes last minute gift-giving a breeze.  When you are ready, simply place dough balls or slices on a baking sheet and bake, adding a few minutes to the baking time.

Cookie Recipes:

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie
Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Blue Ribbon Sugar Cookies
White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies
Fantasy Brownie
Almond Apricot Biscotti
Honey Shortbread
Double Chocolate Treasures

In a Jar: Dessert Sauces and Jams

1. Even if you are making enough jam or dessert sauce for an army, prepare your recipe in small batches.  Do not double or triple it.  This will ensure that your jam or dessert sauce sets up properly.
2. Make sure all of the utensils and jars you will use are clean and dry before starting.  Even a little bit of water can cause dessert sauce to be a weird texture or prevent jam from setting.
3. After it is prepared, allow jam to rest a few minutes before ladeling it into jars.  This allows the fruit to redistribute throughout the jam.
4. Remove any foam from the top of your jam or dessert sauce.
5. Try adding fruits that are high in pectin, such as apples, to your jam recipe instead of packaged pectin.  This gives your jam a deep flavor and a consistent thickness.
6. Use granulated sugar and make sure that it melts completely to avoid grainy dessert sauces and jams.

Jam and Dessert Sauce Recipes:
Hot Caramel Sauce
Fudge Sauce
English Country House Lemon Curd
Tangarine Curd
Strawberry Jam
Blackberry Jam
Apple Butter
Pumpkin Butter

Make a Mix

1. Almost any baking recipe can become a mix.  Simply layer the dry ingredients in a jar and write up the recipe.  Your loved one can add the wet ingredients when they prepare the recipe.
2. It doesn’t have to be sweet.  You can make up a batch of spice rub or soup.
3. Make sure instructions for preparing the mix are clearly written and easy to understand.
4. Add ingredients in layers by texture.  Finer textured ingredients should be added first and be on the bottom, larger texture at the top. 
5. Put ingredients that can become dry and hard, like dried fruit or marshmallows, in a zip top bag and then place them in the jar.
6. For savory recipes like soups, place the spices in a zip top bag and then add them to the jar.
7. Do not choose recipes which would require special equipment to prepare.

Mix Recipes:

Hot Cocoa Mix
Basic Cookie Mix
Oatmeal Cookie Mix
Spice Rub
Magic Bars
Basic Muffins
Basic Scones
Spice Cake
Pudding Mix
Onion Dip 
Bean Soup
Lentil Soup