Monday, December 19, 2005

Gift-Giving Suggestion, Part Dos

Okay, I hope y'all read my rant on Christmas, commercialism, greed, and innappropriate consumption, and how Christ should get the gifts (ie. helping the "least of these" in his name). If you haven't read my rant, head to November archives and do so. Waiting...

Right. That's done.

Now, a couple of simplish, home-made, tasty, inexpensive gifts you can make yourself and give to some--or all!--on your list. Neither will break your budget, and both will say, "I made these for you cause I care. Merry Christmas!"

My pals Terri and Lisa now explain, in their own words, how to prepare these delicious giveaways:

Terri’s Microwave Peanut Brittle

One cup sugar
One cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda

Grease and set aside a cookie sheet or pizza pan.

In a microwave bowl, preferably with a handle, combine sugar, peanuts, Karo and salt.

Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.
Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.
Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.
Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.

Add margarine and vanilla, stir well.
Cook 1 minute on high.
Add baking soda, stir well.

Immediately pour out onto greased pan and shake to distribute and thin the brittle. Allow to cool completely before breaking into manageable pieces.

Store in an airtight container.

A few notes about this recipe:

Success depends on adjusting according to your microwave wattage. If your microwave is 1000 watts or less, you might try combining the last two 2 minute cookings into one so that the heat can build up sufficiently. Here are some estimates for varying microwave wattages:

The wattage thing is roughly as such:
for 900 watt ovens--cook twice for four minutes each on high, stirring thoroughly between cookings
for 1000 watt ovens--as written above
for 1100 watt ovens--You may have to actually decrease the cooking time to 4 periods of 1 minute 30 to 45 seconds each.

It’s a dance of sorts to get the brittle hot enough without burning it. My microwave is 1100 watts, so I have to cook for two minutes and stir in between or it burns. Other people cook for longer periods at lower settings, such as 90%. You may have to try a time or two to get it just right.

The other thing to remember is that this mixture is extremely hot and difficult to manipulate when you pour it out. A cooking bowl with a handle is just perfect. I use a large Pyrex batter bowl with a handle for better control. And work quickly. It sets up almost immediately.

Brittle is best made on clear, sunny days. Days of extremely high humidity are not the best for making brittle as it may be chewy.

Don’t be intimidated by the above. This is really a good recipe and I’ve only messed it up a time or two in 10 years.


Lisa's Dipped Pretzels

Lisa says, "They look like you killed yourself, but they're pretty easy. We've done a variety of different pretzel shapes, but the big stick ones presented in a cup or small vase - or tied in a bundles with raffia -- have the most wow."

1. Buy good quality chocolate
(I prefer dark -- but milk or white works fine - chips are easiest or chop up the block first)

2. Dump it into a deepish bowl.

3. Microwave at high one minute at a time, stirring until just melted.

4. Dip each pretzel one-half to three quarters in - using a spoon to help cover as needed.

5. Then sprinkle on non-pareils
(I do this in a cake pan to catch the leftovers.)

It helps it use either wax paper or, best, the release non-stick foil to set them on. Let set at room temperature. Depending on a variety of factors, this can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours.

Then tie them up nicely and drop them into something pretty according to your own artistic preferences.

Merry Gift-Making and Gift-Giving!

1 comment:

Camy Tang said...

Good recipes! Neal and I just made chocolate truffles using the recipe from "Good Eats" TV show with Alton Brown (episode "The Art of Darkness III"). They turned out really well! They weren't really that hard to make, either, just a little time-consuming because of the chocolate-chopping time (next time we're using the food processor), refrigeration time, and slowly melting the dipping chocolate.