Food-related gifts


Although the holidays are over, I strongly believe that you can never have too many cookies.  That’s why I offer up this post on making economical goodie bags filled with cookies and treats.  I recently made goodie bags for friends of mine as Christmas presents, but they would be great for party favors or baking exchanges as well.  I scoured the after-Christmas sales and found some really cute Chinese take-out boxes decorated in Christmas themes, for only fifty cents each. 

The goodies in my boxes included:

  • Spritz cookies
  • Iced sugar cookies
  • Cranberry bars
  • Peppermint patties
  • Cranberry biscotti

 The first three items I had in surplus from other holiday baking adventures, and the last two goodies were things I hadn’t made before and wanted to try.  The peppermint patty recipe I found one day as I was reading Serious Eats, and I immediately fell in love with the idea.  Who wouldn’t want to make a candy that’s just as good as the stuff you buy in the store for a fraction of the cost?  I was sold.  The biscotti were something I always wanted to make but didn’t want them lying around the apartment with only me to eat them (I have an obsession with baked goods…I can devour them like an eating contest champion).  Both were easy to make, although the biscotti were a bit time-consuming (several hours!) due to the multiple baking and cooling steps. 

One note about the ingredients: it may be tempting to purchase imitation vanilla or peppermint extracts because they are much cheaper than the real thing.  However, these are ingredients that you don’t want to skimp on!  The imitation extracts make everything taste just like what they are: fake.

Peppermint Patties (adapted from Serious Eats) 

Ingredients     Cost
2 c. powdered sugar   $0.99
1.5 T unsalted butter, softened     pantry
2 tsp. peppermint extract     $1.21
¼ tsp. vanilla extract   pantry
2 T. heavy cream pantry
8 oz. dark chocolate chips   $1.66
1 T. shortening     pantry
      Total cost (20 servings) $3.86
      Cost per serving ~ $0.19
         
             

Cream the sugar, butter, vanilla, and peppermint extracts with a mixer on low.  Increase speed to medium once the ingredients are combined and beat for another minute. 

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Roll the filling into 1-inch balls with your hands and flatten into patties on the cookie sheet.  After the patties are made, put them in the freezer for 20 minutes.  

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and shortening together in the microwave.  Let cool to room temperature.   

After the 20 minutes is up, take the patties from the freezer and dip them one by one into the chocolate (make sure the chocolate is cool or you’ll have melted patties!).  Place the dipped patties back on the wax paper.  Put the cookie sheet with patties on it in the fridge for a few hours until the chocolate hardens.

 Cranberry Biscotti (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)  

Ingredients     Cost
2 c. flour   pantry
1 ½ tsp. baking powder   pantry
¾ c. sugar   pantry
½ c. butter, room temperature   pantry
1 tsp. grated lemon zest $0.79
¼ tsp. salt   pantry
2 large eggs     pantry
1 c. dried cranberries     $1.49
12 oz. white chocolate chips   $2.49
      Total cost (16 servings) $4.77
      Cost per serving $0.30

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Mix flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Beat sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until blended.  Stir in the cranberries.

Form the dough into a log (13 inches by 3 inches) on the baking sheet.  Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes.  Cool for 30 minutes.  

Put the log on a cutting board and cut into ½ inch slices using a serrated knife.  Arrange the biscotti cut-side down on the baking sheet.  Bake the biscotti until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the biscotti to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave.  Dip half of the biscotti in the melted chocolate and place on a cookie sheet (I also dipped some biscotti in leftover dark chocolate chips from the peppermint patty recipe…yum!).  Once all the biscotti are dipped, refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.

 

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For once, I am actually excited about getting back to school after the Christmas break, and that’s because I can start using all of the amazing kitchen and food-related gifts I got: 

Cookbooks: From my mom, I got a book with recipes that utilize farmers’ market fruits and vegetables.  This will surely be handy when I run out of ideas for berries in the summer, and who knows, maybe it will even help me eat more vegetables?  My mom also got me Rachael Ray’s entertaining cookbook which looks like a good resource for planning everything from holiday meals to tapas parties.  From my boyfriend, I got cookbooks for different ethnic cuisines, including Asian, Latin American, Indian, Thai, and Middle Eastern.  I can’t wait to put all of these to use and share recipes here! For a complete list of the cookbooks I own (reviews to come in the future), see What’s in My Pantry.

Ingredients: My boyfriend also had the forethought to get me some of the unique ingredients necessary for different ethnic cuisines.  After Christmas, we also made a trip to Jungle Jim’s and I completed my international pantry…for the time being!  A list of my current pantry items can be found here

Food gadgets: I admit, I’m a gadget girl.  The more obscure and narrow a gadgets’ purpose, the more I pine for it and dream about getting to know it.  I was thrilled to receive a food chopper, garlic press, ice cream/cookie dough scoop, and a coffee/spice grinder for Christmas.  I’ve already tried out the food chopper and garlic press.  The chopper made prepping a salad a breeze and gave the veggies a fancy cut, while the garlic press made me wonder why I never owned one before! 

Shelving:  Given that my kitchen is so small it makes me claustrophobic, this three-tiered shelf is great for organizing all of the gifts I received.