Cookin' Up Some Christmas Gifts | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Cookin' Up Some Christmas Gifts

Over the past few years, I've realized that most of the adults I know, including myself, have way too much stuff. Nobody really needs another coffee mug, picture frame or cute item to put on the shelf. The shelves are all full.

Because of this, I try to give gifts that are consumable, and in my family, this means food.

As a kid, my mother helped me make cakes and cookies, providing me with my own miniature baking pans. Now we make biscotti.

One unforgettable Christmas, my stepmother went on a pickling frenzy. I got to help make what seemed to be vats of pickled eggs and pickled okra. I think this had something do to with her being relatively new to the South, and these items were still novelties to her. All I know is that I haven't been able to eat either item since.

In more recent years I gave my grandmother homemade frozen meals. This made cooking dinner easier for her, because all she had to do what punch the buttons on the microwave.

I enjoy receiving edible gifts just as much as making them. Every year, I look forward to treats from my cousins, particularly granola and home-baked bread. I gave up on bread baking long ago because I only succeeded in making large loaf-shaped bricks. Their granola, however, is relatively simple to make.

Here are recipes for a few of my holiday gift staples. You will be happy to know that I am not sharing the recipe for pickled eggs.

Amy's Basic Granola

3-1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, and/or walnuts)
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1/4 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but I think it tastes better with it.)
1 cup dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, blueberries, and/or cherries

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients except the fruit. Melt the butter in the maple syrup and oil; add to the dry ingredients. Mix well and bake on large jellyroll pan at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Take out and stir; add the fruit and bake another 15 minutes or until golden brown. You can also add the fruit after all is cooked is you prefer.

The total cooking time is 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 6 cups.

Orange and Cinnamon Biscotti

1 cup sugar
1/2 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two baking sheets.

Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in orange peel and vanilla. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture and mix until just blended.

Divide dough in half. Place each half on a separate baking sheet. Shape each piece of dough into a "log" that's approximately 3-inches wide and about 3/4-inch high.

Bake about 35 minutes or until the "log" is firm to touch. Cool for 10 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut each log on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices onto baking sheets and cook about 12 minutes or until tops are golden. Turn the slices over and bake until bottoms golden. Cool and store in an airtight container. Makes about two dozen.

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