Tag Archives | holiday giving

Gift Guide 2016: Stocking Stuffers

We’re in the final stretch before Christmas and the start of Hanukkah. Thus far in my series of short gift guides, I’ve featured a couple upgrades for the canner who has it all, things I give to my favorite coffee lovers, and lovely things for your favorite home cook. In this, the final gift guide, we’re talking stocking stuffers. These are all relatively small, useful, affordable items that I reach for all the time.

1. AnySharp Pro – This is a small, powerful knife blade sharpener that suctions to your countertop and makes quick work of your knives and scissors. It doesn’t entirely replace occasionally professional sharpening, but it’s a huge help on busy cooking days.

2. Cuppow – The classic Cuppow is perfect for any jar lover looking to expand the utility of their jar stash. Pair one with a skinny glass straw for a waste-free way to drink more water.

3. GIR Wine Stoppers – These low-profile silicone wine stoppers make a leak-proof seal on all manner of bottles and look good doing it.

4. GIR Scraper – The best tool for easing sticky bread doughs and batters out of mixing bowls. I use mine nearly every time I bake.

5. The Ringer – Made from stainless steel chainmail, this scrubber is designed to remove tough bits of food from cast iron while leaving your seasoning intact.

6. Bürstenhaus Redecker Bottle Brush – I have used a lot of bottle brushes in my day, but this the best one ever. You can tell I use it a lot, because when I grabbed it for this picture, it hadn’t had time to dry between uses.

7. ThermoPop – The best little instant read thermometer money can buy.

8. Blossom Trivet – Good for canning and for protecting your surfaces from hot dishes.

9. Caramel Pot – Years ago, a PR firm sent me this little pot from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookware line. I use it all the time. It’s great for caramel sauces, but is also magical for homemade bechamel and cheese sauces.

10. Stuff Every Cook Should Know – Written by my friend and Local Mouthful co-host Joy Manning, this little book is packed with useful tips and information for home cooks of all skillsets.

And that wraps up my gift guide series for another year. May your holiday celebrations be joyous!

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Holiday Berry Jam for Gift Giving

This holiday berry jam combines frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with fresh cranberries. The result is a bright, flavorful jam that works beautifully for holiday gift bags and baskets.

Four jars of holiday berry jam.

No matter how much jam making I do during the summer season, I almost always find myself a little short on the desirable jams come gift giving time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have mountains of preserves. But many of them were experimental batches that just don’t work for neighbors and Scott’s coworkers.

Fruit for holiday berry jam.

This year, instead of relying only on pears and apples to make up the shortfall, I headed for the freezer section at the grocery store. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to make giftable jam exclusively with frozen fruit, because I find it almost always ends up with a softer set and a slightly dull flavor.

Ingredients for holiday berry jam in a pot.

But last week, the solution came to me in a flash. Cranberries. Combine frozen berries with a small portion of cranberries and you get perfect jam every time. The cranberries provide both ample pectin and welcome acidity to ensure that the jam sets and tastes terrific. Holiday berry jam is born!

Finished holiday berry jam in the pot.

I made this jam with 24 ounces of raspberries, 12 ounces of strawberries, 12 ounces of blueberries, and 8 ounces of cranberries. You can easily change up the frozen fruit, but maintain the basic ratio of three pounds frozen berries to 8 ounces of cranberries.

Holiday berry jam in an open jar.

The yield on this sucker was just a little bit more than 6 cups. I canned it in four 12 ounce jelly jars because those were the easiest jars to put my hands on. You could also do six half pints or even a dozen 4 ounce jelly jars. Make it work for you.

Oh, and one last thing. If you have an Aldi near you, know that it’s an excellent spot to pick up your frozen fruit. Their prices are awesome and they often have organic options.

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Salted Maple Walnut Granola

This salted maple walnut granola is perfect for gift giving and holiday brunch buffets. Pair it with a jar of homemade jam for your favorite people.

Every year, I try to make something to supplement the holiday gifts of jam that I give to my friends, family and neighbors. Sometimes I make shortbread cookies. Other times, I roll out cracker dough and use a wavy pie cutter to slice them into diamond shapes. Occasionally, I work up a giant batch of my dad’s pancake mix and package it in ziptop bags the way he always did when I was a kid.

This year, I made a giant batch of spiced and salted granola to pair up with the jams and fruit butters I’m sharing this year. Made with walnuts because I bought a giant bag at Costco (so many of my recipe development choices are spurred by what I happened to have in excess), it is nutty, crunchy, and perfect for topping bowls of yogurt and preserves.

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Gift Guide 2016: For the Coffee Lovers

Driftaway Coffee for the Coffee Lover Gift Guide

Today’s gift guide features things that coffee lovers of all stripes would like to receive. These are things that I either use in my own kitchen on a regular basis or am actually planning on giving to a family member this year. Oh, and if you need suggestions for travel mugs and drinking jars, check out last year’s guide on that topic!

1. Driftaway Coffee Subscription – A Driftaway subscription is just the thing to give to someone who is starting to explore the wider world of coffee. Every subscription starts with four 2-ounce packets of freshly roasted, single origin coffees, so that your gift recipient can hone in one their favorite flavors and origins. As they drink through their sampler packs, they use the Driftaway app to input tasting notes and rate the coffees the beans they tried. The folks at Driftaway use those notes and rating to determine what coffee they send next. It’s a delicious and interactive way to get your morning brew!

Coffee dripper and pour over kettle for the Coffee Lover Gift Guide

2. The Little Dripper from Constellation Supply Co. – This lovely ceramic coffee dripper is just the thing for someone who is looking to start a pour over routine, or who is currently using a beat-up plastic dripper and needs an upgrade. It’s sturdy, beautifully made, and comes in three different colors. If that one is out of stock, a classic white Bee House dripper is a nice option as well.

3. Hario Pouring Kettle – These spouted kettles were pricy and hip when they first hit the US market several years ago. Now that the hype has died down, their price has come down and they’ve become more accessible for the average coffee brewer. If you’ve got the patience for the slow pour over technique, it’s great for controlling water flow for the perfect cup.

Handmade mug and milk warmer for the coffee lover gift guide

4. A Beautiful, Handmade Mug – As any coffee drinker knows, while a beautiful mug isn’t required, it sure does improve the experience of your first (or fourth!) cup. Over the years, I’ve amassed a wide collection of lovely, handmade ones that bring me great pleasure. The one pictured here is made by Melissa Bridgman of Bridgman Pottery and is a favorite. If you’re feeling really flush, Melissa offers a three-month subscription wherein the recipient gets a new cup or mug every month.

5. Dansk Milk Warmer – Pots for warming milk come in many different shapes and sizes. The one I use is a vintage Dansk version that I got at an antique mall in Portland last year. The handle was coming off so it was dirt cheap (my dad fixed it for me before I left town). If you can’t hold out for vintage, you’re in luck. This is one of the pieces that Dansk has reissued and you can get it in turquoise, navy, red, or yellow.

Disclosure: The folks from Driftaway sent me some beans to feature in this post. Everything else are items that I use, love, and bought. 

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The Cookbook Stall + Food in Jars = Signed Copies for the Holidays

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars spine

We are firmly in the season of wish lists, gift guides, and holiday shopping. If getting or giving a signed copy of one of my books is on your mind this year, I’ve got good news. I’ve teamed up with my friend Jill Ross at The Cookbook Stall (Philly’s only cookbook-only book shop) to offer a way for you all to buy signed copies of my books.

To get a signed copy, head over to The Cookbook Stall’s online shop and put a copy of Food in Jars, Preserving by the Pint, or Naturally Sweet Food in Jars into your cart and head to check-out.

In step five of the check-out process, there’s a field where you can add comments about your order. Use that space to tell us to whom you’d like the book to be signed and if there’s a specific message you’d like me to convey in my note (Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Good Solstice! Happy Birthday!)

Deadline to order your signed book is December 9. I’ll head into the shop the following week to sign the books you all ordered and then she’ll get them into the mail for you guys, in plenty of time for holiday giving.

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Holiday Giving: Jan Hagel Cookies

Jan Hagel Ingredients - Food in Jars

As much as I appreciate a plate of beautifully cut-out cookies, I have limited patience for such things (which is funny, since some years back, I became the keeper of the family cookie cutters. I have at least 75 different ones). I prefer a cookie that can be sliced, dropped, or pressed into a pan and cut into bars.

Jan Hagel Dough - Food in Jars

This cookie belongs to the category of things that can be pressed or poured into a rimmed pan, baked and sliced. Called a Jan Hagel, it’s traditional Dutch Christmas cookie that tastes a bit like an almond shortbread. I do love the flavor, but I also appreciate the fact that it takes no more than 10 minutes to construction and only needs 8 pantry-staple ingredients, two bowls, and a hand mixer.

Jan Hagel Dough Pressed Out - Food in Jars

This cookie entered my cookie lexicon back in the winter of 2007, during the time when I was the newly minted head blogger over at Slashfood (AOL’s long-gone food blog). We had a tradition of posting a Cookie-A-Day during the month of December and so the pressure was on to find new and novel cookies. I enlisted my mom to search through her recipe binder, to see if she had any usable suggestions tucked away.

Beaten Egg White - Food in Jars

And she did. She had a Christmas cookie recipe pull-out from a mid-1980s issue of Family Circle. I made four or five of the recipes from that publication and shared them on Slashfood. However, the only recipe that took root in my heart was this one, for the Jan Hagels. I’ve made them just about every year since.

Jan Hagels Pre-baked - Food in Jars

I like to make a fairly thick cookie. I find that you end up with a really flaky top, and a base that tastes and feels like a combination of shortbread and marzipan. If you want a flakier texture throughout, use a larger pan, spread the dough a bit more thinly, and shorten the cooking time.

Jan Hagels Baked and Scored - Food in Jars

Make sure to store these in an airtight container, away from other cookies, so that you don’t loose the crispness of the top.

Jan Hagel Cookies

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces butter (that's two sticks)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the topping
  • 1 egg, white and yolk separated
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purposed flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the butter and 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl, and beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and almond extract.
  3. Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough comes together.
  4. Press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of a quarter sheet pan. For a thinner, flakier cookie, use a half sheet, but don't press the dough all the way to the edges. There's no need to grease the baking sheet, the dough has enough butter to prevent sticking.
  5. Beat the egg white with your hand mixer (make sure to wash the beater!) until it is light and fluffy, but not to the point of stiff peaks.
  6. Using an off-set spatula, spread the beaten egg white out on top of the cookie dough.
  7. Sprinkle the almond slices evenly over the egg white-painted dough.
  8. Finally, mix the remaining tablespoon of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cookie dough.
  9. Bake the cookies for 30-35 minutes (shorter if you're going the thinner cookie route).
  10. As soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, slice them into diamond shapes, by making overlapping diagonal cuts.
  11. Let the cookies cool completely before you remove them from the pan. Break them into diamond shapes and store in an airtight container.
http://foodinjars.com/2015/12/holiday-giving-jan-hagel-cookies/

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