Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

You know what gifts to get for your significant other and the rest of the family. What to do about co-workers, holiday hosts, teachers, coaches, and neighbors? Try a treat from your kitchen, easy and delicious, a tasty memory that will please everyone on your gift list.
recipes after the jump: spiced almonds, signature granola, hand dipped fruit, citrus-pear chutney, lemoncello

Spicy Roasted Almonds
Great for snacking or to garnish a cheese and fruit platter, a gift any hostess will enjoy.
2 and ½ cup whole almonds
3 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon New Mexican chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne-optional
Coarse sea salt to taste

In a large saucepan boil 3 cups water.
Add whole almonds and blanch in water for 3 minutes.
Remove almonds from water, drain, and air dry.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add olive oil.
When oil is hot (not smoking), add the almonds and cook until golden brown, stir occasionally.
With a slotted spoon, remove the almonds; allow the excess oil to drain away.
In a large bowl toss the almonds with the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.
Add a generous amount of salt to taste, toss again.
Spread the almonds in a single layer on a sheet pan and dry.
Seal in an airtight container, store for one month.
Substitute chili powder with ½ teaspoon curry powder
Substitute cumin with rosemary, chili powder with dried lemon zest

Signature Granola-
-yield 10 cups
Mix and match your favorite ingredients to create a signature granola all your own.
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats (alternative: other rolled grains)
2 cups sliced almonds (alternative: pieces of pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts)
1-cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup raw pistachio nuts (alternative: sunflower seeds)
¼ cup flax seeds (alternative: sesame seeds), ground
1-teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup agave syrup (alternative: honey, maple syrup, molasses)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (alternative: blueberries, golden raisins, currants or cherries)
2 cups dried apricots (alternative: mango, papaya, pineapple) chopped

Tropical style: add ½ cup flake coconut and ½ cup banana chips

Arrange racks in upper and lower third of oven.
Preheat oven to 300 F
In a large bowl combine oats, nuts, seeds, oil, salt and syrup.
Spread mixture in even layers on 2 baking sheets with sides.
Place in upper and lower racks in oven, bake for 15 minutes.
Stir mixture on each baking sheet and redistribute in even layer.
Rotate the baking sheets top to bottom, and back to front.
Continue to bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden brown.
Cool completely.
Stir dried fruit into mixture.
Package in cellophane bag or glass container, seal tightly, and decorate with colored ribbon and handmade label.
Store in airtight container up to one month.

Citrus-Pear Chutney

Chutney goes along well with more than curry. It adds a piquant touch to cold cuts, roast chicken or pork, a cheese plate and sandwich topper.

2 cups cider vinegar
1 and ½ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 oranges, segments and zest
1 lemon, quartered and sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger or 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 cinnamon stick
1/2-cup currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 small pineapple or mango, peeled, cored and diced
3 pears, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
½ Serrano pepper, seeded and sliced-optional

In a large saucepan, combine cider vinegar, brown sugar, red onion, orange zest, kosher salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved.
Add the oranges, lemons, pears, pineapple (or mango), currants and raisins.
Turn heat down and simmer until pears and pineapple soften and mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. (30 minutes- 1 hour)
Pour chutney into hot jars hot, sterilized jars.
Tightly fill jars, turn upside down on counter and cool.
Use fabric or decorative paper to cover top and tie with ribbon or raffia.
Store refrigerated for up to one month.

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit
Bulk bins in the grocery store make it easy to pick a variety of dried fruits
to make your own chocolate dipped specialties. Half cup of chocolate will cover about 4-dozen pieces of fruit.

6 oz. good quality dark (70%-75%) or milk chocolate (Guittard, Valrhona, Sharffenberger)-chopped
1 teaspoons vegetable oil
4- dozen pieces dried: apricots, papaya, pears, peaches, and or pineapple

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
In a double boiler, melt 2/3 of the chocolate and vegetable oil over low heat.
Stir to ensure chocolate melts evenly.
Remove from double boiler and add remaining 1/3 of chocolate pieces.
Stir until the added chocolate is melted and temperature drops to 89 F on candy thermometer.
Using a small tong or two forks, dip half of each piece of dried fruit in chocolate, hold dipped piece over saucepan, and allow the excess chocolate to drip back into pan.
Place dipped fruit on lined baking sheet. Dry.
Package in cellophane bags, and tie with ribbon.

An Italian lemon liquor enjoyed best when served chilled.

8 large organic lemons
1 (750 ml) bottle quality vodka
2.5 cups sugar
3.5 cups water

Thoroughly wash the lemons.
Remove the zest of the lemons; be careful to separate the zest from the pith (white part), which is bitter.
Divide the lemon zest between two quart size sterilized jars.
Pour the vodka over the zest.
Tightly seal the jars with plastic wrap or lids.
Store the jars away from sunlight, in a cool dark place.
Allow the lemons to infuse the alcohol for 3 days to one week.
After the infusion, strain the alcohol through a fine mesh strainer.
Discard the zest.
In a medium saucepan, heat the water and the sugar for simple syrup.
Boil for 5 minutes until all sugar is dissolved.
Cool simple syrup. Combine alcohol and simple syrup.
Pour in decorative sterilized bottles and seal with a cork or screw cap.
Lemoncello can be store in the refrigerator or freezer.

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