Tag Archives: food gift

Celine’s Spiced Pecans

These pecans are a holiday staple in my family.  After Mom and Dad moved to New Mexico, they met a pecan grower in the area around Deming.  A bag of shelled pecans could be expected to arrive here just after Thanksgiving, and then just before Christmas, I’d get a call from Mom asking if I’d made “The Pecans” yet.  Mom served these at every Christmas open house, and shared the recipe with lots of people.  She had a cute story of one friend who loved them, but had decided to never make them again because they were too tedious and time-consuming to make.  This baffled Mom, so she asked why.  The friend had dipped each individual pecan in egg white and then hand-coated the dipped pecan in the cinnamon sugar mix!  I can still hear Mom’s “Ha!” after sharing that story.  🙂 

Anyway, this week I made “The Pecans” because my sister wanted a bread pudding recipe, and I always use them in that recipe.  Look how cute they look in one of my new little birdie bowls!

Beware, these can be addictive….and you really don’t need to dip and coat the pecans individually!

  • 1 egg white + 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 pound shelled pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300F.  Line a jelly roll pan (baking sheet with sides) with parchment paper or a silicon baking liner.

Place cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a gallon-sized ziploc bag.  Seal and shake/swirl to mix.

Place egg white and water in a large bowl.  Beat until frothy.

Add pecans to the bowl and stir to coat.

Place coated pecans in the ziploc with the cinnamon mixture.  Shake/swirl to coat pecans evenly.

Pour onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes; give ’em a good stir after 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir again.  Cool in the pan.  Be careful if you decide to sample before they’re completely cool….not that I do this.  Well, maybe I ALWAYS do this.


Crispy, crunchy, spicy, a little sweet with a hint of saltiness, “The Pecans” are a perfect holiday buffet sort of yummy, a lovely addition to a platter of cookies, and are also perfect for gifting. 

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Cinnamon-Swirl Banana Bread

I confess.  I am an eater of green bananas.  Not so green that they won’t peel, but just at that stage where they are still firm and almost crisp.  I will not eat them when they start getting spots.  I do not like anything banana flavored, except banana bread and banana muffins.  I especially dislike banana runts.  Yes, they are cute; looking like tiny bananas and all, but….blech.  Mr17 LOVES banana runts….I just don’t get it.  😉

I guess I’m picky where bananas are concerned, but I love, love, love this banana bread.  It’s what spotted bananas dream of becoming.  Just look at the sparkly sweet and spicy crust, the bands of cinnamon and sugar running through it….imagine that warm, fresh-from-the-oven banana bread smell, but even better because of the cinnamon….

I made a double batch the other day, because of the number of spotted nanners I had.  These ingredients are easily cut in half, as they appear in The Better Homes and Garden Cookbook under “Banana Nut Bread.”

Makes 2 loaves:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are yummy, too!)

For the cinnamon sugar topping and swirl:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Liberally grease 2 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.

Cream together butter and sugar.

Add eggs and beat well.

Sift together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt); add to creamed mixture,

alternately with banana. Blending well after each addition.

Stir in nuts.

Mix reserved sugar and cinnamon.

Pour half the batter into prepared loaf pans, top with half the cinnamon mixture.

Pour in the rest of the batter, spreading over the top of the cinnamon layer.

Top each pan with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Use a knife to swirl through each loaf.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Remove from pans and cool on racks.

Here’s where the recipe says to wrap and store overnight.  Yeah.  That’d probably be best.  This banana bread cuts better when fully cooled or even chilled.  But who can wait when your kitchen smells so gosh darn yummy?!  Not me.  I had to have a slice warm from the oven with butter melted in to it. 

If you look closely, you’ll see the cinnamon swirl  It’s much more defined, you guessed it, when you slice AFTER cooling. 

I dare you to resist the tempting aroma and wait.  I double-dog dare you!  Don’t you think this banana bread would be perfect for breakfast? Or dessert?  Or to make as a gift for your BFF?  (Especially when you make two loaves–one for her, one for you!)

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Sweet Tooth Saturday: Jingle All The Way Peppermint Bark

I’m easing into the season a little at a time.  Yesterday, I decorated a little tree for my kitchen with tiny cookie cutters, a tiny grater and cinnamon sticks.  And today I made this festive, gift-ready bark that makes you hear the jingle bells with every bite.

It’s super easy-peasy, with very few ingredients and no special equipment needed.

For a 4×6 pan:

  • 1 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chocolate cookie crumbs  (I smashed up 4 chocolate cookies in a ziploc bag.)
  • 1/4 cup peppermint crumbs (I smashed up a candy cane in a ziploc bag.)
  • a drop or two peppermint extract

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving it long enough to have “handles”.  I sprayed a bit of non-stick spray on the pan first to help the paper stay put.

Place chocolate cookie crumbs in the bottom of the pan.

Place semi-sweet chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth.  Add a drop or two of peppermint oil, stir to combine.

Pour melted chocolate over the cookie crumbs.  Let sit until almost set, but not completely firm.

Melt white chocolate chips the same way.  When melted, stir in half of the peppermint crumbs.

Pour white chocolate over the semi-sweet.  I accidentally touched into the semi-sweet while spreading the white.  There was no going back, so I marbled the top.

Top with remaining peppermint crumbs.  Press crumbs lightly to help them adhere to the white chocolate. 


Let sit until completely firm.  Lift out of the pan using the parchment handles. 

Break or cut into shards.  Eat any that break apart(!)….or save the crumbs to top sugar cookies, or ice cream or brownies…..!

This bark is so festive–both to look at and eat–yummy!  Make a double batch and save some for gift-giving!

What gifts do you like to give from your kitchen?

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Celine’s Lemon Marmalade

Toast and marmalade for tea?  I think yes!

My mom is always on the hunt for new recipes.  She tries them out and then shares the yummy ones with me.  This super-uber simple recipe is one of those.  Two ingredients and a little time results in a tart, golden, yummy schmear for toast.  Adjust the ingredients to however much marmalade you want to end up with.  I decided to just do a little test run to see how it worked; using just a few small lemons.

  • 3 small lemons–I think Meyer lemons would rock this marmalade–use ’em if you can find ’em!
  • enough sugar to equal the amount of juice from the lemons

That’s it!  First, wash the lemons and peel them, using a vegetable peeler.  I suggested zesting, Mom said absolutely not–your little pieces of peel would not create the desired texture in the marmalade.  You MUST use a veggie peeler.  OK…now that I’ve tasted it, I must agree–use the peeler.  🙂

Finely chop the peel until you have lemon peel confetti.  Place it in a sauce pan that will hold the juice and sugar you expect to use.

Juice the lemons, strain off the seeds, and measure the amount of juice.  Place juice in the pan.

Measure out an equal amount of sugar–I had 1/2 cup of juice, so added 1/2 cup of sugar.  Add to the pan.

Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until a couple of drops of the marmalade dropped into a large metal spoon hold their shape and have a thickness you like when cooled.

Pour marmalade into a sterilized, warm jar.  Seal and cool. 

You can do the whole canning thing if you want and make extra jars for little gifties.  My three little lemons made about 1/2 cup of marmalade–enough for a taste, enough for toast and tea.

What food gifts do you like to give?

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Sweet-tooth Saturday: Salted Caramel Espresso Bars

I confess.  I have never completely gotten over my childhood sweet-tooth.  I can always rationalize it: I NEED a bit of sweet after dinner or with a cup of coffee or because I had a bad day and I deserve it….   So to celebrate the sweet-tooth, I want to dedicate Saturdays to sweet yummies.  I’m starting it off with my current guilty pleasure: Salted Caramel Espresso Bars–the perfect combo of sweet and salty, smooth and gooey; AND truly just the thing with a cup of coffee!  Need a bit more to convince you?  Have a look–notice the smooth chocolate, the sweet, gooey caramel layer, the perfect graham crust and the perfect touch of sea salt…..mmmmmm:

I found this recipe in a magazine in the grocery checkout lane: Italian put out by the folks at Better Homes and Gardens.  It’s a recipe from Giada–she who is too gorgeous and too thin to be a chef, but makes luscious food.  I have altered it just a wee bit to account for my personal cooking laziness.

Now that you’re drooling…go get your ingredients!

For the crust:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

9 whole graham crackers, crumbled, about 1 1/2 cups (cinnamon grahams are fine)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the caramel:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 TBSP water

For the chocolate layer:

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 3/4 tsp instant espresso powder  (1 pkg of Starbucks Via works if you can’t find espresso powder)

1 tsp sea salt

To make the crust:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 7 x 10 3/4 inch non-stick baking pan with cooking spray.  Lay a piece of parchment paper in the pan, allowing for there to be a couple of inches of excess on the short sides.  Spray the parchment paper lightly with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham crackers and brown sugar.  Process until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Add the melted butter and blend until mixture is combined.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing gently to form an even layer.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden.  Cool on a rack at room temperature for 10 minutes.

To make the caramel:

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the heavy cream, butter, brown sugar and water.  Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F. 5-7 minutes.  Carefully pour the caramel over the cooled crust.  Allow the caramel to cool and set at room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To make the chocolate layer:

Here’s where I’ve altered the recipe–I use the microwave to melt the chips, Giada uses a double boiler.  My way is faster and makes less dishes!  : )

Combine the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds, until chocolate and cream combine smoothly.  You will have a stage in the middle that looks funny and sort of soupy, this is ok.

Stir in the espresso powder.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel layer and smooth the edges with a spatula.

Sprinkle the top with sea salt.  Allow the chocolate layer to harden.  I put my bars in the freezer for a bit–they’re easier to cut later if they’re a bit more firm than leaving them at room temperature.  They should be set in 30 minutes or so.  If you let them go longer, just leave them out for a bit before attempting to cut them.

Using a warm, damp knife, carefully cut around the edges to free it from the pan.  Using the paper overhang as handles, carefully remove bars from the pan and set on a cutting board.  Cut about 1 inch squares and store in a refrigerated air-tight container.  Bring bars to room temperature for at least 1-2 hours before serving.  (Makes about 48 bars.)

I like to give these little bites of heavenly yumminess as gifts.  (It is MUCH too dangerous to have a whole batch in the house, and my friends love them!)  To make sure they don’t stick together and so they look pretty, I wrap each one in waxed paper and tie it with a pretty ribbon.

Enjoy after dinner, with a cup of coffee or if you’ve had a rough day and you deserve a little somethin’ yummy!


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