When you care
enough to send the very best, you know that the very best is
A box of
candy is a lovely gift, and so is a big tin of flavored
popcorn. But they just donít have that personal touch.
To show your
friends and loved ones that you care, make them a gift
yourself. Homemade food gifts are always appreciated, and
they can be simply wonderful.
The ones I
made are good. I mean really, really good. And donít tell
anyone, but they are also easy. I mean really, really easy.
How easy? The
Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche is literally nothing more than
pouring canned sweetened condensed milk into jars, placing
the jars in a slow cooker, adding water and turning on the
this one gift does take time until it is done, but you can
be off doing other things while it is cooking at a slow and
even temperature. It takes about 11 to 12 hours on low heat
ó you can make it overnight ó but I made it on high heat
in six hours.
And what I
had at the end was honest-to-goodness dulce de leche. If
youíve never had it before, maybe you should make a jar
for yourself, too. Itís impossibly rich, impossibly
creamy, impossibly delicious. The flavor is sort of like
caramel, but itís somehow better and more intense than
other ways of making dulce de leche that take less time but
are more laborious. Traditionally, you slowly simmer
together milk and sugar, stirring occasionally, for at least
an hour and a half. But that takes a lot of standing at the
slow-cooker method allows you to set it and forget it for
about six hours or so. When itís done, it can be used in
any number of desserts, from pastries to the filling of
sandwich cookies to an unbeatable sauce for ice cream. But
to be perfectly honest, a lot of people just eat it out of
easy to make as the dulce de leche is Winter Orange
Pomegranate Iced Tea. Itís the perfect gift for an iced
tea lover like me. Itís iced tea with extra zing and a
using regular water to make the tea, you begin with water
that is flavored with orange, cinnamon and cloves. You steep
the tea bags in this water for five minutes before adding
orange juice, pomegranate juice and sugar.
Do add the
sugar. I donít like my iced tea sweetened at all, but this
one needs it to counteract the tartness of the pomegranate
part of making this iced tea gift is finding the bottles to
put it in. I bought some shaped like soft-drink bottles for
$2 apiece, and even as I was paying for them I was thinking
ďI could just buy soft-drink bottles for $1 and actually
have the soft drink.Ē
I also made a
big batch of Caramel Crunch, because itís so easy and who
doesnít like it? It is the familiar blend of popcorn and
peanuts coated in caramel.
Some say that
it is impossible to crunch and munch such a homemade treat,
that it cannot be made at home. Poppycock, I say.
is easy; I used a microwave. But the caramel, which is
usually tricky to make, is also easy. You just melt butter
with granulated and brown sugars plus some corn syrup, bring
it to a boil and add a dash of baking soda. Simple, but it
becomes light and crispy and does a terrific job of coating
made something called Snowflake Mix, which is just a
different form of Chex Mix. This one begins with Rice Chex
and Corn Chex, plus pretzels and honey-roasted peanuts. You
coat it all with melted white chocolate, and then comes the
ingredient of true, unadulterated genius: mint-flavored
eating a beautiful snowfall, wintry and cool and refreshing.
Itís got crunch, itís got peanuts, itís got pretzels.
It has everything your friends and loved ones will want in a
singing ďIím Dreaming of a White Chocolate.Ē
bite-size rice square cereal, such as Rice Chex
bite-size corn square cereal, such as Corn Chex
1 1/2 cups
small pretzel twists, squares or sticks
white chocolate chips or baking pieces
9 ounces mint
1. In a very
large bowl, combine rice cereal, corn cereal, pretzels and
peanuts. Set aside. Lay out a large piece of waxed paper or
2. Melt white
chocolate in a metal bowl over simmering water, stirring
constantly. Pour melted chocolate over cereal mixture. Stir
gently to coat. Spread on waxed paper and sprinkle with mint
M&Ms. Allow to cool, and break into pieces. Store in an
airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 1
457 calories; 21 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 11 mg
cholesterol; 6 g protein; 63 g carbohydrate; 38 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 384 mg sodium; 132 mg calcium
POMEGRANATE ICED TEA
3 cups water
orange, cut into 1/4-inch slices
orange-flavored or black tea bags (decaffeinated is fine)
1 cup orange
2 to 3
tablespoons granulated sugar
1. In a
medium saucepan, combine water, orange slices, cinnamon and
cloves. Bring just to boiling; remove from heat. Add tea
bags. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and
discard. Strain tea mixture through a fine-mesh strainer;
discard orange slices and spices.
2. In a glass
pitcher, combine strained tea mixture, orange juice,
pomegranate juice and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. Serve over ice with
wedges of orange and lime.
3. If giving
as a tightly sealed gift, it will keep in the refrigerator
for three days.
73 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no
protein; 18 g carbohydrate; 15 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 11 mg
sodium; 36 mg calcium
2 bags of
microwaved light popcorn
salted dry-roasted peanuts
8 ounces (2
sticks) butter ó no substitutions
1 cup packed
light brown sugar
1/2 cup light
oven to 250 degrees. Lightly grease 2 rimmed baking pans or
spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place popped corn in very
large bowl, discarding unpopped kernels. Add peanuts, and
toss to combine.
2. In a
3-quart pan over medium heat, cook butter, sugar, brown
sugar and corn syrup, stirring frequently with metal or
heat-safe spatula, until butter melts and sugars dissolve;
about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a
boil. Boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda
(the mixture will bubble vigorously) and pour over popcorn
mixture. Stir immediately and continue stirring until all
popcorn is evenly coated.
popcorn mixture between prepared baking pans; spread evenly.
Place pans on 2 oven racks. Bake 32 to 40 minutes, rotating
pans between upper and lower racks halfway through baking,
and stirring occasionally.
mixture completely in pans on wire racks, about 1 hour.
Break apart any large clusters of popcorn when cool. Store
in tightly sealed containers at room temperature up to 2
259 calories; 16 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 20 mg
cholesterol; 5 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; 20 g sugar; 2 g
fiber; 73 mg sodium; 23 mg calcium
adapted from Good Housekeeping
DULCE DE LECHE
cans sweetened condensed milk
1. Divide the
sweetened condensed milk among 4 (6-ounce) canning jars or 3
(8-ounce) jars. Secure lids. Place in a slow cooker, adding
enough hot tap water to cover by 1 inch. Cook on low for 11
to 12 hours or high for 5 to 6 hours, or until thick and
richly colored, like dark copper.
2. To check
doneness, use tongs to remove a jar. If the color looks good
but you arenít sure itís thick, you can open a jar to
check consistency; if necessary, secure lid again and return
to cooker. When fully cooked, remove jars with tongs. Cool
to room temperature; store in refrigerator for up to 3
weeks. The cooking process does not create a vacuum seal, so
the jars must be stored in the refrigerator.
61 calories; 2 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 7 mg cholesterol; 2
g protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; no fiber; 24 mg
sodium; 54 mg calcium
adapted from Midwest Living