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Homemade for the Holidays

Goodies to Make and Give

Candied Pecans 

½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups  pecan halves (12 oz)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the egg white and water vigorously until thick and foamy (about four minutes). Slowly add sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and mix well. Add the pecans to the bowl and mix, making sure the pecans are well-coated. Pour the pecans onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Spiced Pecans 

Replace white sugar with 1/3 cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Skip the vanilla. Follow the same preparation and baking directions.

Easy to give when packaged in holiday treat bags. You might include a handful of butterscotch, peppermint, or cinnamon discs with the pecans. You can also add these nuts to create a snack mix of cereal, raisins, M&Ms, and other nuts. Consider using up-cycled glass or plastic jars as gift packaging.

Hot Cocoa Mix 

4½ cups powdered sugar
3 cups cocoa powder
2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Sift each ingredient into a large bowl separately, then mix well with a whisk until combined. Spoon into 4 clean pint jars and put on the lids. Makes enough to fill four pint jars.

Consider gifting a mug or two and some mini-marshmallows with your cocoa mix gift. Tag with directions on how to make hot cocoa: Add 2 tablespoons to a mug and pour in 8 ounces of boiling water. Stir well.

Pear Tea Cakes 

12 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 cups pears, cored and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 mini-loaf pans and set on a baking sheet. In a bowl, combine the butter and sugars, mixing well. Add eggs one at a time until combined, add vanilla, and mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into the egg mixture just until moistened. Fold pears into batter. 

Spoon into loaf pans until three-quarters full. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Wrap well in plastic wrap. Makes six.

Tuck a mini-loaf tea cake into a holiday treat bag and secure with a twist tie or ribbon. If you want to be extra nice, include a recipe card. Distribute to friends, neighbors, teachers, and community members as you make each batch – there’s absolutely no need to wait!

Cinnamon Sugar 

8 cups sugar
8 tablespoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, sift the sugar and cinnamon together. Mix until combined and spoon into clean jars. Put on the lids. Makes enough to fill four pint jars.

Tag with ideas for use: Yummy on toast, in coffee, on French toast, pancakes, or muffins. You might include a loaf of bakery bread or a fresh-baked loaf (if that’s your thing). You can also use recycled glass or plastic jars. Your kids might want to create original gift tag art.

Photos: Jenny Tremblay West

Jenny Tremblay West began her career as a pastry chef and currently teaches cooking in Richmond. Jenny, her husband, and their two young boys live in Church Hill. She has worked in food for more than twenty years and is a kitchen coach and personal chef with Caper.
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