December 8, 2010 in Food

More homemade treats that make great gifts

The Spokesman-Review
Pretty packaging

Making homemade gifts gorgeous doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of additional dough. Author Diane Morgan says she watches sales during the year to gather packaging materials including ribbons, twine, jars, bottles, bags and labels.

Here are some other creative, low-cost ideas:

• Morgan has friends save paper towel tubes for packaging small wrapped caramels or candies. She tucks the goodies into the tubes, then wraps them with festive paper and ties with ribbon.

• In addition to craft and kitchen stores, Morgan says hardware stores are a surprising place to find fun packaging materials.

• Paper cones are an easy way to give or serve candies, nuts or other small treats. Author Serena Thompson cuts 8 1/2-inch by 5 1/2-inch pieces of pretty paper and pieces of waxed paper. Attach the waxed paper to the back of the decorative paper with double-stick tape. Hold one corner and roll into a cone. Secure overlapping edges with more tape, fold up 3/4 inch of the pointy tip and staple in place.

• Stack flat, frosting-free cookies and wrap them in cellophane, then give them in a disposable pint-sized ice cream container. Or, give unbaked cookie dough in the ice cream containers, so recipients can tuck them into the freezer and bake the cookies later when the wave of holiday treats has ebbed.

My Amish Friend’s Caramel Corn

From This recipe was highly rated by site users. It can be wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with a nice ribbon for gift giving.

7 quarts plain popped popcorn

2 cups dry roasted peanuts (optional)

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 cup margarine

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans (you may use roasting pans, jelly roll pans or disposable roasting pans). Add the peanuts to the popped corn if using. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans and stir to coat. Don’t worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated.

Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.

Yield: About 7 quarts

Sugared Cranberries

From Cooking Light, December 2003. Readers spoke highly of this recipe. Editors say, “Because of the contrast between the tart cranberries and sugary coating, the flavor of this snack pops in your mouth. The berries are steeped in hot sugar syrup to tame their tangy bite. When entertaining, serve these in place of nuts. For gift-giving, package in parchment-lined tins. Present with a small bottle of the reserved cranberry cooking syrup for the recipient to use as a cocktail mixer. If you can’t find superfine sugar, make your own by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for a minute.”

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups water

2 cups fresh cranberries

3/4 cup superfine sugar

Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup)

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