Saturday, December 19, 2009

A-Gifting We Will Go!

This past week I've been busy putting together gifts to spread some holiday cheer. For me this includes my students, my friends at work, Isabelle and Madeleine's friends and various instructors as well as my barista who always has my coffee ready for me in the morning (this also ensures another year of spit-free lattes) and our mail carrier (this one is preemptive and will hopefully encourage him to be a bit more accurate with mail delivery). It's a lot of work but I really enjoy making treats and decorating goody boxes. Besides it's a nice way to thank everyone who has made my life a little easier this year! Okay, my students have probably been a bigger challenge than help but I do love those little cherubic/devilish faces I see everyday!

In an effort to be helpful, as I myself am a skilled copycat, I thought I'd post some great links and recipes in case any of you other midnight bloggers would like just one more thing to do in the middle of the night. If you've ever visited the Foodblogga site you may have tasted some of the delectable delights posted there. This recipe for peanut butter fudge turned out fantastic and it was super easy. Yummy in my tummy - chocolate and peanut butter together? Can I get an Amen?! (Come on - you know God loves him some tasty fudge.)

Get the recipe here. I also packed up some Toffee Triangles to accompany the fudge. I've been making this recipe for years and it's always a hit.
Toffee Triangles
Adapted (slightly) from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tblsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup crumbled Heath Bar (find this already packaged on the baking aisle)

1. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat 3/4 cup butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Add egg yolk; beat well. Stir in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt; mix well. With floured hands, press dough into prepared pan.

2. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 20 minutes or until light brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack.

3. For filling, in a heavy medium saucepan heat condensed milk and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 5 minutes more. (Mixture will thicken and become smooth.) Stir in vanilla. Spread filling over baked layer. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes more or until top layer is golden.

4. Sprinkle baked layers evenly with chocolate pieces. Bake 1 to 2 minutes more or until pieces are shiny and melted. Remove from oven; transfer to a wire rack. Immediately spread chocolate evenly over baked layer. Sprinkle with the Heath Bar pieces. Cool. Cover and chill until chocolate is set. Cut into 3x2-inch rectangles; cut diagonally into triangles. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Then it was time to complete the assembly. I found these candy boxes at Michael's, added a pretty ribbon and then downloaded these FREE (and very cute) gift tags from the Everybody Likes Sandwiches blog. I usually make my own tags by hand but when I came across these I had an epiphany! Why waste time making your own labels when someone else has already made them for you? Click HERE to get your own. All packaged and ready to go!
Thursday night it was time to host my staff party. Don't my treats look lonely pre-party sitting there all by themselves?
Ready for the party to begin!
This antipasto is easy and also very Christmasy (I'm sure that's not a word).
Lemony Marinated Antipasto
From Better Homes and Gardens

1 pound uncooked chicken or turkey spicy Italian sausage links
1 Tblsp. cooking oil
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tblsp. snipped fresh basil
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 12-oz. jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained and cut into bite-size strips
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup pitted kalamata olives

1. In a large skillet cook sausage links in cooking oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until sausage is thoroughly cooked, turning frequently to brown evenly. Remove from heat; cool. Cut the cooked sausage links into 1/4-inch slices; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, for dressing, whisk together olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, basil, Italian seasoning, and garlic; set aside.

3. Layer cooked sausage, red pepper strips, cheese cubes, and olives in a 2-quart jar or two 1-quart jars. Pour dressing into jar(s). Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. Turn jar(s) upside down occasionally to distribute the dressing.

4. Before service, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Arrange on a platter.

The party in full swing. My friend Marie brought her little boy Aiden. Here he is with my friend Vicki. He is so cute and just a few months younger than Madeleine.
Aiden and Madeleine haven't seen each other since their joint baby shower last spring.
Isabelle has had a best friend since she was Madeleine's age and that has been wonderful. I'm hopeful these two will become good friends too!

I hope you're all enjoying the holiday season! School's out - I certainly am!


Are These Kids All Yours? said...

Love those recipes.... yummmy!!! Sure looks good and the party looked fun too.

Springs Landing said...

Wow, those boxes are beautiful...and all those recipes. I don't know where you find the time! Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Frank, Sandy and Caroline