Healthier Holiday Gifts
The Holidays are a terrific time to say a big thanks and of course Merry Christmas to many friends, family and co-workers. What better way than to give the gift of food! Here are several ideas, some are a bit healthier than others but all are fun and will be enjoyed by those special to you!
Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Wafers
- 1½ cups chopped pecans
- 1½ cups coarsely chopped sweetened dried cranberries
- 2 cups butter, softened
- 4 cups (16 oz.) freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons ground red pepper
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- Parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool completely (about 15 minutes).
- Meanwhile, soak cranberries in boiling water to cover 15 minutes; drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Beat butter and next 3 ingredients at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until blended. Gradually add flour, beating just until combined. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Shape dough into 4 (12-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 8 hours to 3 days.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Cut each log into ¼-inch-thick slices; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets to wire racks, and cool completely (about 20 minutes).
Yields 18 dozen. Package in Holiday tins for gifting.
Holiday Herb Rub
- ⅓ cups coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- ⅔ cup dried parsley
- ¼ cup dried thyme
- ¼ cup dried rosemary, crushed
- ¼ cup dried shredded lemon peel
- ¼ cup coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons dried minced onion, finely crushed
- In a medium bowl stir together salt, parsley, thyme, rosemary, lemon peel, pepper, garlic powder, and onion. Divide mixture among ½-cup gift tins, stirring occasionally as you spoon. Cover and label tins. Attach directions for use.
- To use as a rub: Lightly brush 1 pound of pork, lamb, chicken, or fish with olive oil. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture; rub in with your fingers. Let stand for 15 minutes. Grill or roast meat, chicken, or fish.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Buttered Pecan Granola
- ½ cup butter, melted
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups uncooked regular oats
- 1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
- ½ cup toasted wheat germ
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 (8-oz.) package chopped dates
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Stir together melted butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Add oats, pecans, wheat germ, and sesame seeds, and stir until mixture is evenly coated.
- Spread oat mixture on a lightly greased 15×10-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toasted, stirring every 10 minutes. Spread granola onto wax paper, and cool completely (about 30 minutes). Stir in chopped dates.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days, or freeze up to 6 months.
Mini-Marshmallow Peppermint Bark
- 1 pound white chocolate
- ½ cup chopped peppermints
- ½ cup mini marshmallows
- Line a baking sheet with foil, shiny-side up; smooth out the creases. Make sure all your tools are dry.
- Chop the white chocolate into ½-inch pieces with a large knife. Place all but 1 cup of the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula. Continue microwaving and stirring at 30-second intervals until melted, 3 to 5 minutes total. Immediately add the reserved chopped chocolate to the bowl; stir vigorously until melted and shiny. Don’t worry if there are a few small unmelted pieces.
- Pour the white chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet; use the rubber spatula to spread it into a 10-to-12-inch circle, about ¼ inch thick.
- Press the peppermints and marshmallows into the chocolate, arranging them so each bite has a mix of flavors and textures. Let the bark harden completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. (If the room is warm, you may need to freeze the bark for a few minutes.) Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.
Yields 1 lb. bark.
Caramelized Ginger Pears
- 4 pounds firm, ripe Anjou pears, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Stir together all ingredients in a large Dutch oven, and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, 2 hours.
- Bring pear mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring often, 1 hour or until thickened and golden. Cool completely (about 45 minutes).
- Spoon into 8 (4-oz.) jars or airtight containers. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
- Caramelized Ginger Pears and Baked Brie: Preheat oven to 350°F. Trim rind from top of 1 (8-oz.) Brie round, leaving a ½-inch border on top. Place Brie round on an ovenproof plate. Spoon ½ cup Caramelized Ginger Pears over Brie round. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately with gingersnaps and crackers.