Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Holidaaaayyyyssss!!

Oh, the holidays are fast approaching. Someone I know posted on their Facebook the other day, "only two more paychecks until Christmas (they get paid on the 15th and the 30th/31st") and that struck mortal fear into my heart. We have purchased exactly TWO Christmas presents. Of course, it does not help that in our family we have four children having birthdays from the end of October until the end of November (the other two are in July...thus messing with the "back to school" period). I have my annual holiday party coming up in less than a month so it's pretty stressful this time of year, with parties, planning, gift giving and such. My plan, for today, is to give you ideas for both parties and gift giving. My favorite types of gifts are those from the heart...someone knows me, loves me, and took the time to make something they knew I'd love. So here are three ideas for both holiday gift giving from the heart, and special little additions for your holiday get-togethers.

Party Popcorn

2 Tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, corn, or even olive oil will work)
1 c. (unpopped) popcorn
1/2 stick of butter
2 tsp.ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp. ground paprika
4 tsp. table salt (regular iodized salt, not the coarse kosher or sea salt varieties)
4 tsp. sugar

Put the oil in a large pan (one that has a tight fitting lid), add the popcorn and cover quickly, over medium to medium high heat. Let the popcorn pop, shaking the pan every now and then to keep everything moving. You'll hear it begin to pop (don't open the lid!!). Once it has stopped popping, remove from heat immediately.

Melt the butter with the spices in another pan and then pour it over the popcorn. Stir well to mix (another idea is to add the butter and spices mix to the popcorn and then turn everything out into a large paper grocery sack and SHAKE, SHAKE SHAKE!!)

Arrange in several party bowls or if giving as gifts place small amounts into festive plastic bags, or larger amount into gift tins/contains (these can be easily and inexpensively found at your local "dollar store".

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge:

12 oz. (70% dark) chocolate, chopped, or 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chips
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
pinch of salt
1 c. shelled pistachios

Melt the chopped chocolate, condensed milk and salt in a heavy based pan on very low heat.

Put the nuts into a ziploc bag and bash them with a rolling pin until broken up into both big and little pieces.

Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix. Pour the mixture into an 9 inch square foil tray, smoothing the top. Let the fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. You can then cut into small pieces approximately 3/4" by 1 3/4", or cutting 8 by 8 lines in the tin to give you 64 pieces.

Once cut you can keep it in the freezer, no need to thaw. Arrange on small holiday plates for your party, or place in festive holiday bags or tins.

Spiced Peaches:

2 (14 oz) cans peach halves in heavy syrup (you DEFINITELY need the peaches to be in heavy syrup, not fruit juice, for this recipe)
1 T. rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 short cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced thinly into rounds
1/2 tsp. crushed dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves

Empty the cans of peaches into a sauce pan with their syrup. Add the vinegar, cinnamon, sliced ginger, chiles, salt, whole peppercorns and cloves. Bring the pan to a boil and let boil for a minute or so then turn off the heat and leave it in the pan to keep warm.

These make an amazing side dish to a pork roast or ham...serve a peach half to each guest with some of the spiced juice. Several peach halves can be placed into decorative jars and then covered with the juice and this makes a wonderful holiday gift. Needs to be kept if giving as a gift put than info onto the label.

So I hope this gives you some ideas for both parties and gift giving. If you have any of your own, PLEASE share them here.

Today's food quote: "Remember the good times and learn from the bad...there ain't nothin' you can't learn in the kitchen" Paula Deen

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