What could express the down home goodness of our famous Albertan hospitality better than making a few gifts from your kitchen for friends and family? Here are a few favourite recipes I have developed or collected over the years. From easy chocolate bark to DIY soup, hot cocoa and cookie kits to slightly more involved thumbprint shortbreads and peanut brittle, I hope you’ll find something to increase your own joy as you increase that of others.
White Chocolate Bark
Yield: 1.5 pounds
Nothing could be easier so go ahead and bark up this tree at Christmas.
1 lb white chocolate
1 cup dried cranberries or 1 cup broken up candy cane pieces
1 cup shelled pistachios or 1 cup mini Oreo cookies
- Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or in the microwave at 50 per cent power then cool it to room temperature.
- Roast the pistachios at 350℉ for 5 to 7 minutes then allow them to cool.
- Stir the cranberries and pistachios into melted chocolate and then pour onto a foil-lined 10×15-inch rimmed baking sheet.
After the chocolate is melted, stir in the candy cane and Oreos and pour into the foil lined baking sheet.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and then break into pieces.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Kit
This recipe is adapted from Ricardo magazine. Tip: Buy attractive 1 litre storage jars at IKEA to show off this great gift idea.
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
5 ounces white chocolate chips
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped pistachios
1 cup quick-cooking oats
- Pack the flour, baking powder and salt into the bottom of a 1 litre jar.
- Add the brown sugar and press lightly to even it out. Add the chocolate followed by the oats until you have 4 distinct layers.
- Close the jar. Include a greeting card with the instructions to finish the cookies.
Instructions for the Greeting Card
Empty the ingredients of the jar into a large bowl and stir a half cup of canola oil, ¼ cup of milk and 1 lightly beaten egg until the mixture is smooth and even. Use a teaspoon to drip 2 Tablespoons of batter for each cookie onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the batter down lightly with your fingers. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375℉ for 10 to 12 minutes.
Super Handy Soup Jars
Yield: 4 servings
Perfect for the college students on your list.
¼ cup dried wild mushrooms
¼ cup wild rice
½ cup red lentils or mixture of lentils
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon onion salt
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
Place all ingredients in a 1 cup mason jar in layers. Multiply as you need.
Instructions for the jar(s)
Combine the contents of your Super Handy Soup jar with 8 cups of vegetable, beef or chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the peas and wild rice are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 rolls or about 24 slices total
This recipe comes from the book I co-authored with my Indian cooking mentor – A Spicy Touch – Family Favourites from Noorbanu Nimji’s Kitchen. It stores well in the freezer and makes a delicious treat that you can pull out for your guests to enjoy with coffee after dinner.
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 lb chopped pitted dates
2 cups mixed unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
½ cup desiccated coconut
- Combine whipping cream, sugar and dates in a saucepan on medium heat, and cook stirring constantly until thick and shiny (about 10 minutes) when patted with a spoon.
- Stir in the nuts and cook another 5 minutes.
- Cool the mixture to a temperature where you can handle it and divide the mixture into 2 equal parts.
- Make 2 rolls (2-inches in diameter each) by rolling each half on a flat surface with the centre of your palm.
- Finish by rolling each log in the desiccated coconut.
- Wrap them separately in foil and freeze for at least 5 hours.
- Remove the logs from the freezer about 10 minutes before you want to serve them and cut into ¾-inch thick slices to serve. Enjoy with tea or coffee.
Candy Cane Hot Chocolate Mix
Another easy bit of comfort for friends and family.
2 cups skim milk powder
½ cup organic cane sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons peppermint tea leaves, crumbled
1 cup dark chocolate (70% cocoa or greater, chopped)
Candy Canes, for garnish
- Stir together skim milk powder, cane sugar, cocoa powder, tea leaves and dark chocolate.
- Spoon the mix into clear cellophane gift bags and decorate with pretty ribbons, the candy cane and an instruction tag.
Instructions for the tag:
Enjoy this Candy Cane Hot Chocolate Mix by stirring ¼ cup of the mix into 1 cup very hot skim milk until the mix is dissolved and well-blended. Garnish with the candy cane, if desired. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Season’s Greetings and Flavours Chocolate Bark
12 ounces dark chocolate (70% or greater), chopped
1 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1/4 cup candied orange peel
¼ cup organic crystallized ginger, chopped
Pinch coarse sea salt
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
- Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently, until smooth.
- Pour the melted chocolate onto the foil-lined pan, spreading with an offset spatula to about a quarter inch thickness.
- Sprinkle evenly with pumpkin seeds, pomegranate arils, candied orange peel, ginger and salt.
- Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Peel off the foil and break into pieces. Store in the fridge for up to a month.
- Place the chunks in attractive gift boxes or bags for the most deserving folks on your list.
Spicy Asian Bar Mix
Yield: 7 – 1 litre jars
This looks great in big 1 litre canning jars wrapped with green ribbon. A visit to my favourite Indian spice store inspired this new twist on the age old “Nuts and Bolts”. You can find all these goodies in the International aisle of major grocers.
12 ounce pkg Hot Dried Chick Peas (chana)
12 ounce pkg Deluxe Chevda
300 grams Potato Hickory Sticks salted
300 grams Green Wasabi Peas dried and salted
2 cups of cashews
1 cup of dried cranberries
Combine all of the above in a large bowl, stir and then pack in clear canning jars as gifts. Enjoy with ice cold Alberta craft beer.
Would you like to learn how to make these fancy thumbprint cookies?
Bonus! That post also includes a recipe for peanut brittle and an easy coconut cashew fudge bar.