Gifts to Make and Take

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Food Gifts to Make and Take
The Holidays are a terrific time to say a big thanks and of course Merry Christmas to 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!

Caramel Butter Puff Popcorn
(These make terrific gift bags, and you cannot eat just one
2 bags Chester’s Butter Puff Popcorn
2 sticks butter
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda

Spray large roasting pan with non-stick spray. Pour popcorn in pan. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Melt butter, sugar, and syrup over med. heat. Bring to a hard boil stirring constantly. Cook for 5 mins. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda, stirring until mixture turns straw color and becomes light and frothy. Pour mixture over the popcorn and mix well, tossing a couple of minutes using a large spoon that has been buttered. Bake 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. Yields about 2 gallons.

Mayme’s Cinnamon Sugared Pecans
(This one I am sure that I have shared before but it is my favorite to make and these nuts are addictive!)
1 lb. shelled pecan halves
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¼ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Beat the vanilla and egg white together until foamy. Pour this mixture in a 2 gallon Ziploc bag, add the pecans and shake to coat them with the mixture. Mix together the sugars, salt, and cinnamon. Pour into bag with the nuts, shake again to coat. Place the sugar-coated pecans on a sprayed baking dish. Bake at 250 degrees for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Southwestern Three-Bea and Barley Soup Mix
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup dried black beans
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup dried kidney beans
1/3 cup dried great northern beans

Layer chili powder, cumin, oregano, black beans, barley, kidney beans and great northern beans in a clean, dry 2-cup jar or bag. (This recipe is really pretty when layered in a jar!)

To turn the soup mix into a pot of soup: Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 diced large onion, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 diced carrot; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 9 cups water, 4 cups broth and the soup mix. Bring to a lively simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 hours (adding more water, 1/2 cup at a time, if necessary or desired). Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste.

Blueberry Cornbread with Pineapple
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup blue cornmeal
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup dried blueberries
4 chopped dried pineapple rings
1-liter glass jar

Layer the ingredients above in the order listed for a really pretty display.

To make the cornbread: Butter an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish and line with parchment paper. Stir the Blueberry Cornbread with Pineapple mix, 1 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs and 4 tablespoons melted butter in a large bowl until just combined. Pour into the prepared dish and bake at 425 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool, then slice into squares.

Super Easy Chocolate Nut Bark
2 cups semisweet, bittersweet or milk chocolate chips, melted
1 1/2 cups assorted nuts, such as hazelnuts, almonds and cashews, plus more for garnish

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. (Take care to avoid wrinkles.) Combine melted chocolate and nuts in a medium bowl. Scrape the mixture onto the foil and spread it into an approximate 12-by-9-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with additional finely chopped nuts, if desired. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the bark and foil to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces.

Cranberry Walnut Quick Bread
Quick-Bread Dry Mix
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs
1 cup nonfat buttermilk, (see Tips)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 cups chopped cranberries, (see Tips), fresh or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, (see Tips), plus more for topping if desired

Preheat oven to 400°F for muffins, mini loaves and mini Bundts or 375°F for a large loaf. Coat pan(s) with cooking spray. Prepare Quick-Bread Dry Mix.
Whisk eggs, buttermilk, brown sugar, butter, oil and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Add orange zest, cranberries and walnuts. Stir just to combine; do not over mix. Transfer batter to the prepared pan(s). Top with additional walnuts, if desired.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes for muffins or mini Bundts, 35 minutes for mini loaves, 1 hour 10 minutes for a large loaf. Let cool in the pan(s) for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Let muffins and mini Bundts cool for 5 minutes more, mini loaves for 30 minutes, large loaves for 40 minutes.

Texas Fire Crackers
1 lb. oyster crackers
1 cup canola oil
1 (1 ounce) packet Ranch dressing mix
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all spices and dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add oil and mix thoroughly. Place oyster crackers in a 2 gallon zip bag, and pour oil and spices over the crackers.

Shake the bag thoroughly to coat all of the crackers.

Let sit overnight, occasionally turning and shaking the bag.