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Nifty Gifty Treats

Sweet or Savory Holiday Options

White Chocolate Bark with Almonds and Dried Fruit

Preheat oven to 350°F. With a pencil, draw an 8×10-in. Rectangle on a piece of parchment paper and turn over onto a sheet pan. Place ½ cup slivered almonds in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Place 12 oz finely chopped white chocolate (you will need a pound total) in a microwave-safe glass bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula, return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir again.Continue heating and stir every 30 seconds until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately stir in the remaining chocolate until it’s completely smooth. Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread to fill the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly with the cooled nuts, ¼ cup dried cranberries, and ¼ cup diced dried apricots. Press the nuts and fruit lightly so they will set in the chocolate. Set aside for at least 2 hours until firm, or refrigerate for 20 minutes. Cut or break the bark in 16 pieces and serve, or place pieces in a decorative bag for gifting.

Double Chocolate Cherry Pecan Biscotti

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, sift 2 cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, and ¼ tsp cinnamon. Stir in 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 cup chopped dried cherries. In another bowl, whisk 3 large eggs, ¾ cup sugar, and 1 tsp pure vanilla until smooth.Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Mix well. Lightly dust the work surface. Turn the dough onto the surface and knead the dough a few times. Shape the dough into a log, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch.Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Using a serrated knife, slice the bread diagonally into ¼-in. Slices. Place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for an additional 12 to 14 minutes or until golden and crispy.Remove from the oven and cool completely a second time on a wire rack. Melt 8 oz dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Dip half of each biscotti into chocolate and place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate sets.

Fig and Olive Tapenade

In a food processor, combine ¾ cup small pitted green olives, ¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, 6 coarsely chopped dried figs, 2 tbsp rinsed capers, 2 crushed garlic cloves, ¼ cup packed mint leaves, 4 anchovy fillets, and ¼ cup olive oil and pulse until the tapenade is thick and somewhat chunky. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the tapenade to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled. Gift tip: Place in a small glass jar with a petite wooden spreader tied to the lid.Add a bag of your favorite pita or bagel chips.

Marinated Goat Cheese & Artichokes

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread ½ cup pine nuts in a pie plate and bake for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate and let cool. In a stand mixer, using the paddle, blend 1½ lbs plain goat cheese with the toasted pine nuts, 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, and ½ tsp hot paprika. Shape rounded tablespoons of the seasoned cheese into balls. Pour 1 inch of olive oil into a tall 1-gallon glass container. Layer the cheese balls, 20 cooked artichoke hearts, ½ cup sundried tomatoes and 1 cup niçoise (small French) olives in the container with enough of the remaining olive oil to cover. Let marinate at room temperature for 24 hours. You can divide the mixture among several glass jars too. Serve with toasted baguette or if giving this as a gift, add a nice loaf of local bread too.(this recipe can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 3 days prior to eating.)

Christine Wansleben, chef and owner of Mise En Place Cooking School, lives in the West End, where she cooks up a storm with her husband and their twins.
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