Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas - Last Minute Gifts from the Kitchen

Where did this week go?

We're expecting dreadful weather this weekend here in Fauquier County, Virginia, so it's a great time to whip up some last minute gifts from the kitchen.

Cookies are always a welcomed gift but here's some other ideas to inspire you.


Butter Toffee Popcorn
Better make 2 batches because you're sure to eat one!

Makes about 5 cups popcorn
Pan size not important but a 10 1/2 X 15 X 1 inch jelly roll pan works well

6 cups plain popped corn (1/4 -1/3 cup un-popped corn)
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 stick butter (margarine not recommended)
2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pop corn according to package directions. Spread on a large pan to cool. Using your hand, loosely pick up popped corn letting any un-popped kernels fall through your fingers and back onto pan. Put only well popped kernels into a bowl. Set aside. Discard un-popped or partially popped kernels.

Position oven rack so corn will bake in center. Preheat to 200 degrees. (Yes, 200 very low degrees.) Coat pan with cooking spray.

Put remaining ingredients (except baking soda) into a small, heavy pot. Heat over medium until butter melts. Stir mixture to combine. Cover pot. Cook 1 minute. Remove cover. When mixture starts to bubble around edges, lower heat and cook 4 minutes more. Do not over cook.

Working quickly, remove pot from heat, stir in baking soda and pour over popped corn. Toss quickly to coat. Spread in a single layer on prepared pan. Bake 1 hour, stirring mixture every 15 minutes. Do not over bake.

Remove from oven. Stir one last time. Let cool completely in pan (at least an hour) before packaging as gifts.


White Wine Mustard Sauce
Easy, quick and yummy!

Makes about 2 cups sauce
No cooking required!

1 1/2 cups brown hot dog mustard (like Guldens Spicy Brown)
1/3 - 1/2 cup sweet or medium sweet, white wine (like Vidal or a Vidal blend)

Whisk together, adding white wine to desired consistency. Pour into decorative jars or crocks and refrigerate.

At gift giving time, add a tag that says:
White Wine Mustard Sauce
For turkey, roasts, grilled meats, seafood and pretzels.
Keep refrigerated.

Karla's tip: Make several days ahead and refrigerate to let flavors mellow.


Lovely Lavender Tea
A warming treat for bone chilling days.

1 cup loose black tea
1/4 cup dried lavendar flowers (no stems)
1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers (no stems)
1/4 cup dried jasmine flowers (no stems)

Toss everything together and pack into a fancy bag, pretty container or 1/2 pint canning jar. Wrap festively. Add a tag or label that says:

Use 1 teaspoon tea (or to taste) per 6-8 ozs. boil water. Steep 3-5 minutes. Strain. Serve with honey, if desired.


Karla's tip: Buy "loose" black tea in the grocery store.

Loose tea is tea that's not in tea bags. If there isn't any loose tea in the regular tea section, try the imported foods or gourmet section. If all else fails, get tea bag tea and open up enough bags to measure 1 cup.

Black tea is regular tea - not green tea or herbal tea.

Karla's tip 2: Edible dried flowers are available in most health food stores in case you don't have any saved from last summer's herb garden.

If not available, get lavender, chamomile and/or jasmine tea that's 100% lavendar, chamomile and/or jasmine.

Do not use flowers from the florist. They are usually sprayed with insecticides.


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Check back tomorrow as we count the days till Christmas with scrumptious recipes, festive holiday tips and gifts ideas from the kitchen.

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