Christmas Food Gifts 2013

Pics are shot by fools like me, but only God can make a frosty tree

 This year my husband complained that we were giving his co-workers granola "again." As if anyone could ever have too much granola! If you haven't yet overtaxed everyone's granola tolerance, link to past granola recipe posts here and here. As I reminded him, the one time I skipped the granola, a recipient wailed, "No granola this year?"

Fear not. Under the general rubric of do-unto-others, I am giving out granola again, this time with some freeze-dried blueberries added as the fruit.

If you won't eat it, I will

The piano teacher is getting our plate of homemade Christmas cookies and my husband's fudge:

At Christmas all my UrbanFarmJunkie ways are in abeyance, as I wrap things in cellophane and add gel paste food coloring to icing. The trick to the sugar cookies is to use almond extract instead of vanilla in the frosting. So much better!

I've tried a few sugar cookie recipes and now use only Megan's recipe:

Megan's Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
4 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and milk and vanilla. Mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and mix into butter mixture until combined. Refrigerate dough 1 hour. (I usually divide the dough into four portions, so I can roll out one portion at a time without all the dough getting warm.) Roll out a portion to 1/4" thick. Cut out cookies. Bake at 350F 10 minutes and cool on racks.

If you don't have time to frost that day, just freeze the baked cookies until convenient (don't freeze the unbaked dough--I found it caused the cookies to spread when baking). I then make an icing of 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4-1/2 tsp almond extract and a Tbsp or two of milk. For colored icing, I add a dab of gel paste food coloring.

I saw on Twitter yesterday that 30% of Americans try to avoid gluten. If you still have friends and family in the 70%, and they're trying to avoid sugar instead, why not give them a loaf of your homemade artisan bread? I've posted my attempts here.

No time or equipment to become a wannabe artisan baker? Then go for ye olde quick bread favorite: banana bread. This one goes out to our swim carpool buddies. In case you don't already have a favorite recipe, here's my variation on an old Cooking Light one (i.e., with the fat added back in):

Banana Bread

2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar (scant)
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour (okay to substitute up to 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans or 1/8 cup flaxseeds, optional (meaning, my kids don't want them)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan. With a mixer, combine bananas through eggs. Sift dry ingredients together and then stir into banana mixture until just blended. Transfer batter to pan.

Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on wire rack. Then remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

***Word to the wise: don't try to wrap or store it when it's still warm. It'll get soggy. You can pre-slice this bread and freeze it, so folks can eat it a slice at a time, though when I mentioned this to the carpool buddies, they looked sheepish and said they ate the whole thing at one sitting.***

There's a banana bread in there somewhere

Happy holidays to all! I won't be posting on Christmas Day, but look for me the week after because I just read a fascinating book on food safety. Plus, it'll be time to think of our New Year's Food Resolutions for 2014!