The Foodie from the forest Column for December 1, 2014
By T. Myers
I love to bake homemade goodies for my pals at Christmas time. Adding a simple goodie or two to a basket of purchased items can make something seem tailor made for specific individuals and they are unique- and I know how much I love to get baked goods and snacks, so I hope that the recipients of my goodie baskets love them just as much!
This is such a great time of year! Once you round the bend at Thanksgiving it seems like you barely wake up the next day and Christmas is staring you in the face. I have a few ideas for those of you who love to bake and here they are:
Fruities (or some other special loaf of goodness): I love to bake fruitcakes, but not the kind with the weird candied fruit for most of my friends. Instead, I love to use other dried fruits and I start my baking by cutting up dates, apricots or dried peaches, craisins, raisins of all colors (Trader Joe’s has a mixed raisin package with red, green, gold and dark raisins that add color and variety) coconut, walnuts or other favorite nuts and you can add everything from fresh or dried apples to pumpkin, currants and pineapple tidbits, so pick your favorites and use them like this: 2 cups sugar, 1+ cups of butter/margarine, 4 eggs creamed. In another bowl add 1 cup of coconut, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, ½ cup craisins, and 1 cup of chopped apricots, 1 cup raisin mix, 2 cups of flour, 1 teas salt, 1 teas soda, 1 teas cinnamon and 3 cups of oatmeal. Mix dry ingredients well to coat the pieces and combine the wet and dry ingredients to bring the batter together. Scoop three ounce scoops into greased muffin tins or other forms and bake at 300-325 for twenty to thirty five minutes. Test by pushing down with your finger to check for springiness. They should be lightly browned and you can turn them out to cool and store them in a cold place. This recipe makes 3 dozen cakes and four cakes make a nice center piece in a basket- They are delicious!
Last time I told you about creating home-made cranberry sauce in tiny half pint jars to include in the basket. Small jars of jam, little wedges of cheese, crackers, Chex mix that you make and bag, a few pieces of fruit like pears or oranges that do not bruise and last a long time, and think about tea bags and a couple of mugs from the St. Vinnies to round out your holiday baskets. I try to budget a few dollars for each basket and you would be surprised how much you can put in a friend’s basket when you make part of the items yourself!
At the big box stores they have jars of candies and nuts that can be portioned out to add a little treat, too.
I find baskets at St. Vinnies and other second hand stores. I wash them with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap and dry them carefully and you can really make things fancy when you cover your gift with clear cellophane and a ribbon. Maybe it is just as expensive when you put together a big present, but it will certainly will not be cookie cutter and it is fun to plan and make these for your pals.
Gingerbread Houses? We are baking for Gingerbread Junction and here is the dough recipe: 2 cups sugar, 2 cups shortening and two cups molasses cooked on low to melt together, 2 T cinnamon, 2 Teaspoons baking soda, 1 Teaspoon salt and 9-10 cups flour. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together, shape into a roll and divide into 5 pieces. Wrap each piece with plastic wrap (this dough dries out quickly) and when you roll out, be sure you leave 2 inches between the cut pieces. Bake ¼ inch thick for 10-12 minutes at 375 and cool completely before removing them from the pan. (Grease and flour your baking sheets. Side less works best) You can assemble you houses with royal icing, or use my friends secret weapon- a caulking gun since she never eats the houses, but other than that, you need a stiff frosting that will hold the architectural shape and the candies you use to decorate. Bon Appetit!
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