Sunday, December 26, 2010

Homemade Happiness

This year I made some edible gifts to give to friends and stuff my family's stockings. My favorite part of the holidays is spending time with the people I love, and what better way to someones heart than through some delicious homemade treats!? I would never turn down a pair of Cole Haan boots or a David Yurman ring if you wanted to give them to me, but I do believe that the most important things are what come from the heart. So I present...HOMEMADE HAPPINESS!

Chile Honey Butter

This is a Serious Eats find, and immediately jumped out at me as something my brother would enjoy. Jim never liked spicy food until he went to college in New Mexico, but has since developed a love for spicy dishes and tries to incorporate hot peppers as often as he can. I made a bigger batch of this butter, and also added some green chile powder (in addition to the cayenne powder) for extra kick.

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/3 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp green chile powder
  • salt

Combine all ingredients. Whip in a blender/food processor/by hand until a smooth sauce is formed. Spoon into a container and keep covered in refrigerator.

Serving Suggestions:
  • On toast
  • Cook fried eggs in
  • In stir fry
  • On grilled corn
  • On cornbread
  • Melt and use as dipping sauce for steamed artichokes
  • Slather on chicken or fish and bake
  • In baked rice

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Another find on Serious Eats! This one I thought would be appropriate for Kristi, Jim's girlfriend. She grew up in New Mexico and also loves spicy food, and she is a coffee connoisseur. I thought this might be a nice change from coffee that would be appreciated in this freezing cold New England winter!

For the mix -
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Ghirardelli is great)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
For the drink - 
  • whole milk
  • vanilla extract

  1. To make the hot chocolate mix: put cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and cayenne powder in a bowl. Stir with whisk until combined. Put mix in a jar or container of your choice.
  2. To make the drink - heat 1 cup milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering. Add hot chocolate mix and vanilla extract; whisk until cocoa and milk are combined. Add remaining 1 cup milk, stirring to combine. Cook until warm, about 2 minutes. Serve.

Cookies in a Jar

I made this for my sister Laura because she is a true chocolate lover, which of course includes chocolate chip cookies! She is very busy as a third year student in a PhD program at UVA (smarty pants) so I thought that I could give her cookies in a jar so that when the craving for cookies strikes, she won't have to spend very much time preparing them before they're ready to bake. I used my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (Pat requests these cookies on a weekly basis at this point) and put all of the ingredients in a large mason jar. 

If jarring the ingredients for cookies, try to separate the ingredients accordingly. For example - I whisked together the flour, sea salt and baking soda. I separated the chocolate chips (using Ziploc bags) because these are added in at the end, and separated the dark brown sugar because this needs to be creamed with the butter. Separating makes it easier for the baker! Now all Laura needs is 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs, and 2 sticks of butter.

Pumpkin Spiced Almond Butter (aka one of the best things I've ever tasted)

Found on this brilliant blog! The only changes I made was to reduce the baking temperature from 300 degrees to 275 (the first batch I made at 300 degrees and there was a hint of burnt taste) and also reduced the amount of canola oil added at the end from 1.5 tablespoons to a little less than 1 tablespoon. Adjust according to desired consistency.

Serving suggestions: on toast, in oatmeal, on crackers (or graham crackers!), in sandwiches, and definitely by the spoonful!

Measure 2 cups of raw almonds:

Spread almonds on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Add maple syrup and molasses.

Stir to evenly coat all almonds.

Bake for 30 minutes at 275 degrees, stirring every 10 minutes. Then take out of oven at let cool for at least 30 minutes.

I folded the parchment paper and poured all of the nuts into the food processor. I still managed to get crumbs all over my kitchen floor.

And the butterizing begins!

1 minute:
 2 minutes:

 3 minutes (large ball has formed):

 4 minutes:
 5 minutes:

Then I added the remaining molasses, maple syrup, canola oil, spices and salt.

Back to butterizing!

 1 minute:
 2 minutes:
 3 minutes:

 4 minutes:

Look at that deliciously smooth and drippy almond butter!

Transfer to jar. Then lick spatula, spoon, and anything else lucky enough to be covered in almond butter!

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
  • 1.5 tablespoons molasses, divided
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Spread almonds on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  3. Pour 2 T maple syrup and 1 T molasses on the almonds, stir so almonds are evenly coated.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool (about 30 minutes).
  5. Pour almonds into food processor and turn on. Process until nuts butterize (past the stage where a ball of dough is formed) - this will take about 5 minutes.
  6. Add in 1 T maple syrup, 1/2 T molasses, spices and salt, and 1 T canola oil (if desired for consistency). Process again until smooth (about 3-4 minutes).
I first made one batch of this almond butter, and then when I realized how delicious it was, I went back for more. The second night I made four batches...every inch of counter space in my kitchen was covered in roasted nuts! I was excited to have a nut butter factory going on in my apartment, but Pat wasn't. He doesn't like nuts (with the exception of peanuts and pistachios) and especially doesn't like it when I trick him into eating nuts (like when I told him to taste the almond butter out of the food processor after promising it wasn't nuts - he wasn't too happy!).

I also learned that mixing all of the spices together in batches was a good time saver (since I left all of the butterizing for the final step):

Filling up the jars:

And a Holiday Drink:

This "white sangria" is made with 4 cups Pinot Grigio, 3 cups Diet Ginger Ale, 1 cup Cranberry Juice, and a few cups of fresh organic cranberries. Serve over ice and enjoy!

Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

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