Thursday, December 20, 2012

DIY - Impressive (and Easy) Holiday Goodies

Over the last week, when I haven't been thinking about the wedding, I've been working on our Holiday Gift baskets.  The last few years we have given our friends and family boxes and baskets of homemade goodies. It takes work but I love giving homemade gifts. I gravitate toward the impressive but easy recipes.  Cooking come easy for me but baking goes against my grain.  I'm not a rule follower.  When making candy and dessert (especially baking), recipes must be followed exactly.  They are a chemical balance and precision is key.  When I cook, I rarely follow a recipe.  So you can understand why this isn't easy for me.  Thanks to fantastic blogs (like Brown Eyed Baker, lots of great recipes and tips) and great TV chefs, I have found some great recipes that turn out fantastic but aren't difficult.

Easy Holiday Goodies
Click on the photo above for links to the recipes.

Toffee is delicious and tastes so rich.  You can make it with or without chocolate and nuts.  The biggest drawback is that you need a candy thermometer to make it.  If you follow the recipe and steps exactly, you'll have toffee that tastes like you purchased it at a candy store.  It also keeps for a long period of time, if you store it in an air tight container. My mom and soon to be daughter in law can't get enough.

Cranberry Nut (Pistachio Cranberry White Chocolate)bark is ridiculously easy.  You just melt the white chocolate in the microwave, mix in dried cranberries (like Craisins) and your favorite nuts (pistachios look pretty but you can use any kind you like). Then spread the mixture onto a cookie sheet and let it cool.  Once it's cool, break it apart and package this yummy treat.  It's delicious and looks beautiful in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon. Check out more great bark recipes on Brown Eyed Baker.

Marshmallows... Yes, you can make homemade marshmallows.  I didn't know that either until I found this recipe.  This version calls for peppermint but I substitute vanilla.  You can substitute any flavor you like.  The most difficult part is the mixing. It takes a while.  I'm sure you can use a stand mixer but I always use a hand (electric) mixer.  The final product yields the freshest and most delicious marshmallows you've ever tasted.  Last year, I didn't make these and my family almost started a riot.  They love them so much. I usually make hot chocolate mix to go with these but you could get a tin of store bought mix and attach these yummy goodies to the can for a quick gift.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies are a two ingredient recipe. Yes only two!  A box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin.  You can add icing if you like but it's not mandatory.  Mix the cake mix and pumpkin together, drop small scoops on a cookie sheet and bake.   In the world of high calorie Holiday treats it's great to find a recipe that's delicious and won't wreck your diet.  I've also made these with chocolate cake mix and some Hershey's chocolate syrup.  This year I'm going to try making them with caramel cake mix. I will let you know how they turn out.

I told you that I'm all about the easy. Your friends and family will think you've spent tons of time and sweat on these treats.  Homemade gifts are thoughtful and always appreciated.  Check out this Pinterest board for more candy and cookie ideas.

photo credit (Pistachio Cranberry White Chocolate Bark): Brown Eyed Baker

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