Yuletide Baskets

 2012 Xmas Baskets - Jars

The beautiful picture above and all those below were taken by my awesome daughter-in-law. Follow her blog at crotchetandcroptops.wordpress.com and on Etsy.

Buying presents for people for the holidays is really hard. I really really believe it’s the thought that counts. When someone takes time to pick out something you love. That they have listened to your ideas and what you like long enough to find something you like. Not something they like. That’s easy and really kind of pointless. If you want to buy something you like then buy it for yourself. Don’t pretend you were thinking of the other person when you bought it. Price isn’t the point either. A really cool $15 multi-colored skull bracelet or super gingery ginger-ale in cool bottles are way more me than diamond earrings. So I try really hard to think of the person I”m buying or making for. Sometimes its easy – a young couple setting up a house for the first time – they need lots of things. But when you’ve been around for 40 or 50 years you kind of have enough stuff. You know.

So I made baskets.

I picked themes I thought each person would like but kept it reasonable. I can sometimes go crazy with details than stress myself out. Well maybe more than sometimes.

So I made a plan.

Wrote down my list of basket recipients then started to list items I thought they would like. I started with making sure each basket had a bread, a cookie, a jam, etc. then tried to use similar ingredients in different ways to keep the cost under control. I made the freezeable items a week ahead the jams a few days ahead and the fresh items then night before (keep those to a minimum you will always have a crap load of stuff to do at the last-minute so don’t over load yourself)

Once the list is done and the grocery list is done. Start saving old jam jars, pesto jars, cool spaghetti sauce jars, really any kind of container you use. If it’s cool remove the label, use goo gone to remove the sticky mess under the label. Run it through the dishwasher to sterilize it then you’re good to go. But keep in mind you have to refrigerate what you make, you can’t re-seal reused jars.

Then assemble baskets, ribbon, swatches of fabric, and tags. You can make your own tags from cool Xmas cards. Buy them after the holidays on sale then cut the front off the card and cut it to form a tag. Add ribbon. Go to a craft store like Micheals and get rolls of real ribbon not the plasticy kind you curl on packages. Real ribbon makes a huge difference and they have every pattern and color you can imagine. Micheals also has cool packaging containers. Little paper cups to hold truffles or cellophane to wrap the whole basket in.

Now make your stuff. Jar it, wrap it, put a ribbon on it. Hand it over with a big smile.

So back to the point… Yuletide Baskets. Here’s what I made.

2012 Xmas Baskets - Italian

 Italian Basket

Clockwise starting at the star

Apricot and Rosemary Tapenade

2 cups apricots

1 large bunch rosemary

salt and pepper

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

Olive oil

Put the apricots, rosemary, and garlic in a food processor and process until very small pieces. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Add enough olive oil to bind it all. Fill 2 jars, cover, and refrigerate.

Marinated mozzarella with peppers and pink pepper berries

3-4 medium fresh mozzarella balls

1 bay leaf

1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

1 red bird’s-eye chili pepper; sliced in half

zest from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved

1 teaspoon pink pepper berries

Extra virgin olive oil

Combine all in a large jar. Keep refrigerated.

Italian quick bread with prosciutto, parmesan, and Italian herbs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs; lightly beaten

1 – 8oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons Italian herb mix

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

4 very thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto

Preheat the oven to 350; grease a loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, black pepper, baking powder, baking soda, and Italian herbs in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, and milk; add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the parmesan, mozzarella, and prosciutto. Add to the pan, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden.

I don’t make bread – I don’t have the patience to wait for the yeast to rise then knead it and all that. I love this bread because you just mix it and bake it and can change the ingredients to any kind of theme. 

Bellini jam with peaches and Prosecco

1 cup sugar

1 cup finely chopped, peeled ripe peaches

1/4 cup Prosecco

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 of a 6oz package of liquid fruit pectin

Combine sugar, peaches, Prosecco, and lemon juice in a medium pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Quickly stir in the pectin and return to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off foam. Add to jar and refrigerate.

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Recipe from FoodNetwork.com – I didn’t dip them in the white chocolate.

(the spices are from Spice and Tea Exchange)

2012 Xmas Baskets - Southwestern

Southwestern Basket

Clockwise from the star on the right

Southwestern quick bread with cheddar and jalapeno

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs; lightly beaten

1 – 8oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 jalapeno finely chopped and seeds removed

Preheat the oven to 350; grease a loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, black pepper, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, and milk; add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the cheddar and jalapeno. Add to the pan, drizzle the top with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden.

Candies jalapeno with blackberries

8 jalapeno; most seeds removed (more seeds more spicy) and chopped

2 cups sugar

1 green apple; shredded

juice and zest of 1 lime

1 cup blackberries

Combine the jalapeno, sugar, apple, and lime juice in a medium pan and simmer on medium until the jalapeno start to break down. Add the blackberries and cook until a thin jam consistency. Fill and jar and refrigerate. This is great on cream cheese with crackers or with chicken or on sandwiches.

Coconut and lime macaroons

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

14 oz bag of coconut; shredded

2 extra-large egg whites; at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

zest from 1 lime

15 dried cranberries (soak in warm water to reconstitute)

Heat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Combine the condensed milk, coconut, vanilla, and zest. Whip the eggs and salt until medium peaks form; fold into the milk mixture. Drop teaspoon sized cookies onto the baking sheet and top each with a cranberry. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

(the chocolate is dark chocolate with chili – the spices are from Spice and Tea Exchange)

2012 Xmas Baskets - Southern 2

Southern Basket

clockwise from star

Brown sugar chocolate chip cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks softened unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 bag Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 and line a cookie sheet with a silpat or grease. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a stand mixer combine the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Blend until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture. Using a spoon stir in the chocolate chips. Drop onto the cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute then transfer to rack to cool completely.

I learned how to bake from my grandmother Pat “memaw”. She made the nestle toll house cookies from the recipe on the bag. Over the years I’ve messed with it until it came out just the way I like it. The brown sugar gives it a richer flavor. The butter also adds more flavor than the original Crisco. Sometimes I add instant espresso powder (or turkish ground espresso) or cinnamon.

Southern quick bread with cheddar, bacon, and caramelized onion

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs; lightly beaten

1 – 8oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 slices of crisp cooked bacon; chopped

1/2 cup of caramelized onions (chopped then cooked over low heat until golden)

Preheat the oven to 350; grease a loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, black pepper, baking powder, and baking soda, in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, and milk; add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the cheddar, bacon, and onion. Add to the pan, drizzle the top with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden.

Dill and pink pepper berry pickled cucumber, carrots, and peppers

2 cups apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons pickling salt

8 garlic cloves; peeled

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 teaspoons dill seed

2 teaspoons pink pepper berries

2 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 pickle sized cucumbers (I like the english minis); sliced in quarters

8 baby carrots with the tops on; sliced in half lengthwise

8 mini bell peppers in various colors; sliced in half lengthwise

Combine the vinegar, 2 cups water, pickling salt in a pot and boil. Divide the garlic, red pepper flakes, dill seed, pink pepper berries, and black peppercorns among 4 jars. Divide the cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers among the jars. Allow the brine to cool slightly then pour over each jar until almost full. Cover and refrigerate.

Tomato and onion jam

5 plum tomatoes; diced

1/4 cup Vidalia onion; finely chopped

2 cloves garlic; minced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup roasted red peppers; drained and chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Allow to cool completely then fill 4 jars and refrigerate.

Pimento cheese with bacon and onion

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

1 – 8 oz block of cream cheese

1/2 onion; grated

4 slices of crisp bacon; chopped

1 teaspoon hot sauce

salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until well blended. If it’s too thick add a little non-fat greek yogurt to thin. Put in 2 jars and refrigerate.

(the spices are from Spice and Tea Exchange – the jar with the tag is local honey)

 2012 Xmas Baskets - honey and scones

English Basket

We have afternoon tea every holiday at The Grand Floridian’s Gardenview Tea Room in Walt Disney World. My grandmother, “Rana” had tea in the afternoons it was simple heated sweet tea in a mug and captain wafers with sliced cheddar cheese. Nothing fancy but so awesome. I really miss her. My mom and I really love tea so this was part of a bigger basket. Most of it was purchased. Teas, candies, lemon curd, etc. Here’s what I made…

Cranberry orange scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter; cold and cut into small pieces

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

zest of 1 orange

1 cup fresh cranberries; chopped

heavy cream and sugar

Heat oven to 400 and line the cookie sheet with a silpat. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour. Add the cranberries and orange zest. Add the vanilla and buttermilk. Mix with your hands until blended. Pat onto a floured surface and shape into a long rectangular log. Cut into triangles and place on the cookie sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 scones.

Sugar plums 

2012 Xmas Baskets - sugar plums

1 1/4 cups almonds; toasted

1 1/2 cups dried plums (prunes)

1 1/2 cups dried apricots

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground anise

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Coarse sanding sugar

Combine the almonds, plums, apricots, honey, orange zest, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg in a food processor and process until a sticky ball forms. Make walnut sizes balls and roll in the coarse sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes 20 balls.

These are so cool. Everyone’s heard of sugar plums but have you ever made them or even eaten them? Love the idea of such a traditional sweet for Yule.

Here are the spices from Spice and Tea Exchange… 

2012 Xmas Baskets - Seasonings