Gourmet Gifts & Giveaway

In many ways there is nothing more comforting than a big pot of soup. This soup  mix will make 20 gifts – a good value and very pretty. Add a loaf of bread from the store (0r a cornbread or bread mix) and you have a beautiful and tasty gift!

This soup looks great in a jar! The colors are gorgeous and festive.

(adapted slightly from The Perfect Mix)

1 pound navy beans
1 pound great Northern beans
1 pound pinto beans
1 pound red beans
1 pound dried garbanzo beans
1 pound yellow split peas
1 pound green split peas
1 pound black-eyed peas
1 pound dried lentils
1 pound black-eyed peas
1 pound dried lentils
1 pound dried lima beans
1 pound dried baby lima beans
1 pound pearl barley

Combine navy beans, Northern beans, red beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, black-eyed peas , lentils,  lima beans, and barley, in a large pan or bowl.

Measure out 2-cup gift packages and store in airtight containers. Include recipe instructions for usage below.

Makes 20 packages (about 2 cups each)

1 package (2 cups) bean soup mix (above)
2 quarts water
1 ham hock
1-1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 pint tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp lemon juice

Wash the soup mix and place in a Dutch oven. Cover with water and soak overnight.

Drain the beans and add the water, ham hock, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1-1/2 hours until the beans are tender.

Add onions, chili powder, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon juice. Simmer 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Remove ham hock from the soup. Take the meat from the bone, chop the meat and return it to the soup.

Today we are giving away this beautiful apron! It’s a black and white linen apron made by Heather. Isn’t it adorable?!

To Enter:
– Leave a comment telling us your favorite comfort food.
– One entry per person and the giveaway will stay open through Tuesday and a winner will be randomly selected.
– That’s it! Unfortunately, this will not arrive in time for Christmas.


Gourmet Gifts & Giveaway

My  kids absolutely love to be in the kitchen with me. They are thrilled to measure, stir, sprinkle, etc. And I enjoy the conversations, the teaching, the laughter and the wonderful memories being made.

So for Christmas this year, my older boys (age 4) will each be receiving their own gourmet gift “basket” of cooking things. I went to an inexpensive superstore and found measuring cups, spoons, cutting boards, scrapers, whisks, and more. I ordered safe cutter knives from Pampered Chef – there is no way they can hurt themselves using them and they are $3 apiece. Finally, I ordered aprons and hats from Etsy – they are yet to arrive but for an embroidered apron, personalized hat, rolling pin, and hot pad it cost me $15/child. I also included a kid’s cookbook which I found at a Half-Price books for $3 or less on clearance.

You can mix and match whatever you like for your child to personalize it and to find the price point that works for you. I tried to choose colors that are the boys favorite and make it personal for them. All told, they probably cost around $30-35 with the apron being half of that but you could do it for much less. I think this type of gift would be perfect for children age 3 yrs. – 9 or 10 yrs.

I’m putting a mix into each boys basket so that have the start of something for us to make together. Either mix would be perfect for a gourmet gift basket for an adult. Make a Breakfast Basket with Maple Syrup, Coffee, and Pancake Mix or a Snack Basket with Popcorn, a movie, and Cookie Mix! Don’t forget to attach a tag with instructions on how to use the mix.

4 c. flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 Tb. baking powder
1 Tb. baking soda
1 Tb. cinnamon
1 Tb. ginger
1 1/2  tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves

Combine all dry ingredients and store in an airtight container.

1 c. mix
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (opt.)

Combine but do not overbeat. Cook on a greased griddle until golden brown on each side. Serve with syrup, vanilla yogurt, or applesauce!


1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 c. oats
1 c. chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container or bag.

1 1/4 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 package of the mix

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, egg, and vanilla. Add the oatmeal cookie mix and stir until the mixture is well blended. Drop the cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Cool 1 minute then remove to wire racks. Makes about 4 dozen.

VARIATION: Instead of chocolate chips, mix in 1 c. of raisins or dried cranberries and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.

So the giveaway today is a kid’s cookbook! It would make the perfect gift for a child in your life (son, daughter, niece, nephew, sibling, friend…)! My children love looking at the pictures and helping decide what we will make. They take such pride in the things they have made themselves and getting your child involved is a great way to get picky eaters to try different foods. The cookbook today is Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook. It has easy instructions, a variety of recipes, and is spiral bound.

To Enter:
– Leave a comment telling us one thing you remember making with your parents,  something you like to make with a child in your life OR your favorite food as a kid.
– One entry per person and the giveaway will stay open through Tuesday.
– That’s it! I should have it in the mail in time for you to receive it by Christmas.

Baker’s Delight: Candy

I love to make candy! It’s usually fairly easy, tastes delicious, and makes a lot. It can frequently be gluten-free which is very nice when making a tray of sweets or giving a gift to someone with a gluten intolerance.

My biggest tip about candy making is to choose quality ingredients. The higher quality the chocolate, the better the sweet. I buy brand-name chocolate chips and chocolate bars – I find the store brands to generally be too waxy. This time of year is a great time to stock up because they are often on sale!

These nut clusters are simple and taste so good! Make them small and they will be perfect bite size pieces of goodness.

(I adapted this slightly from my friend, Micah!)

12 oz. can of salted peanuts
6 oz. Semi-sweet Chocolate chips
6 oz. Butterscotch chips
2 oz. White Chocolate or vanilla chips
Milk or cream

Melt the semi-sweet and butterscotch chips in the microwave. Stir in peanuts and drop on waxed paper. Melt white chocolate chips with a splash (less than a tsp.) of cream or milk to thin and drizzle over finished clusters.

(I often double this recipe and use 2 cans of peanuts, 1 whole bag of semi-sweet chips and 1 whole bag of butterscotch chips – I think they are 11 oz. each.).

These cherries make any sweets tray beautiful. I started making them about 5 years ago when I thought a recipe looked unnecessarily complicated. I’ve made them with dark, milk, and white chocolate. Most often, I make the dark and white and sometimes I drizzle them with the contrasting chocolate. This year, I kept it simple…just dark chocolate…so far. They are quick to disappear and it seems I never make enough. The key to making them great is the chocolate.


1 jar Maraschino Cherries w/stems
Chocolate (I always use Ghiradelli – I especially like their melting chocolate available at the holidays in a bulk size at warehouse stores)

Drain the cherries in a colander. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (instructions for each particular chocolate are on the package). Dry cherries thoroughly with paper towels before dipping. Dip in chocolate, shake of excess, and put on a waxed paper lined tray or pan.

The amount of chocolate will depend on the amount of cherries – I’ve done anywhere from a couple dozen cherries to 10+ dozen. Figure about 11 oz. of chocolate for two small jars of cherries. If you have chocolate left, save it and re-melt it for other candy dipping or drizzling.

These are so delicious and I can’t stay out of them! My husband was so disappointed when they all disappeared on goodie trays.  They are very rich so cut them small.

(I’ve slightly adapted this from my friend, Merrilee!)

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
Mix the butter and crumbs in a 9X13 pan and press down on the bottom.
Sprinkle on top:
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 package butterscotch chips
1 c. coconut
1 c. pecans

Drizzle over all:
1 can Eagle brand Condensed milk
Bake for about 25 min. at 350 degrees.  Cool, cut into small pieces, and enjoy!
Another great and easy candy is covered pretzels. They are so pretty to serve and the salty/sweet combo is wonderful!

1 package almond bark or chocolate almond bark
1 bag small pretzels twists
Sprinkles of choice (or drizzle with chocolate)

Melt the bark according the package. Dip pretzels and place on waxed paper lined tray. Sprinkle with toppings. Let harden and store in an airtight container.

My all-time favorite (and a favorite of many in my family) is Butter Pecan Fudge. It melts in your mouth and has this rich, buttery goodness that is incredibly decadent. I’m seriously kicking myself for forgetting to take a picture of it! This is the best I have – it’s on the bottom tier. It was completely gone. I’m pretty sure another batch or two will be made between now and New Year’s and then I’ll take a proper picture.

(Taste of Home)

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the butter, sugars, cream and salt. Bring to a boil over med. heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Stir in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Fold in pecans.

Spread into a buttered 8-in. square dish (I line mine with foil and then butter it to make it easy to pull out and cut). Cool to room temperature. Cut into 1-in. squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1-1/4 pounds.


Gourmet Gifts & Giveaway

**UPDATED: Black Friday Winners! The winner of the notecards is Ruth & the winner of the cookbook is Elizabeth! I will be contacting you via e-mail. Congrats! We hope you enjoy!**

We decided that for the month of December we would use Fridays to focus on gourmet gift mixes and then to add to the holiday cheer, we would also include a giveaway!

This week, I wanted to give you a couple of mix recipes for baked goods. Be creative with your packaging and to give the gifts an extra touch, consider adding a wooden spoon, a new cookie sheet, cookies cutters, a baking pan, or even a box of tea or some coffee. Tie them with a nice ribbon and include a tag that gives the instructions for using the mix.

(The Perfect Mix, by: Diane Phillips)

2 c. sugar
1 c. cocoa
1 c. flour
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. chocolate chips

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

To Make:
1 c. butter
4 eggs
1 package of the Double-Fudge Brownie Mix

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the Double-Fudge Brownie Mix, and continue to beat the mixture until it is smooth. Spread the mixture into the greased pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes.

(The Perfect Mix, by: Diane Phillips)

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container

To Make:
1 c. butter, softened
1 package Scottish Shortbread Mix

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Knead the butter into the shortbread mix and press the mixture firmly into an 8-inch pie plate, or shortbread mold. Bake for 1 hour. The shortbread should be pale in color, not browned. Cut into wedges while still warm.

Now for today’s giveaway! I’m a bit sorry to be passing this one on! I’ve made a couple of recipes that have been delicious. The first was the Pumpkin Bars last month and the second was the Brown Sugar Almond Cookies yesterday. Cookies Year-Round is divided by season. It is a flip book which is very handy. It includes 50 recipes with pictures and great information. The winner of this giveaway will receive the book and a set of 6 Wilton Christmas cookie cutters.

To enter: Please leave 1 comment telling us your favorite thing to make at the holidays or a recipe that you would like to see featured! That’s it! 1 entry per person. We will leave it open through Monday and hopefully I will be on it enough to post a winner on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Have a wonderful weekend!