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Unique food gift recipes 2006 - what have you got?

I have done most of them over the years- marshmallows, flavored vodkas, pickled garlic, molded chocolates, sundried tomatos, rum balls, biscotti, truffles, spiced nuts, etc.

What is the hot, unique item for 2006- my family expects it of me (in a good way)- but I don't have anything yet- also they need to be shippable

possible- salted caramels.

what are you creative, trendy types doing this year????

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  1. Could you post your recipe for salted caramels? I think those sound awesome!

    2 Replies
    1. re: nissenpa

      I have not made these yet.

      Caramel with Salted Butter

      1 cup half-and-half
      1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
      1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (see note)
      1 pound superfine sugar (about 2 3/4 cups)
      1/4 cup corn syrup

      Bring the half-and-half, butter and fleur de sel to boil in a heavy,
      3-quart saucepan. Set aside.

      Stir together the sugar and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Bring
      to a temperature of 293 degrees on a candy thermometer over medium
      heat. As the sugar begins to melt, swirl the pan often until all
      the sugar is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and add the
      half-and-half mixture. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the
      mixture to 248 degrees, stirring frequently. This will take 10 to
      15 minutes. (The mixture will look like a caramel sauce.)

      Pour into an 8-inch-square nonstick pan and allow to set 2 hours.

      After the caramel has completely cooled, set the pan over very low
      heat just enough to loosen the caramel, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
      Invert the pan onto a nonstick surface. Cut the caramel into 36
      pieces and wrap individually. Store in a dry place.
      Servings: 36 caramels.

      1. re: cocoagirl

        I tried this recipe last weekend and the results were FABULOUS! thanks for sharing it!

        My only problem was with getting the caramels out of the pan. They definitely would have needed longer than two hours to be fully cooled, but that was the limit of our patience. I used a good nonstick Calphalon pan and warmed it as recommended, but they didn't come out readily. We gave up (probably too soon!) and just dug them out with a table knife and devoured them. But eventually, I do want to make them again to give as gifts, so I'd like to be able to get them out intact. Anyone have suggestions? Would it help to butter the pan before pouring in the caramel, or would it just make them sticky? How about lining the pan with parchment paper--would that stick fast to the caramel after it's cooled?

    2. I've always wanted to make marshmallows. You could add essential oils or extracts for variety or dip them in chocolate...

      1 Reply
      1. re: piccola

        There's a great recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) on the Food Network site. I'm gonna try it....search for coconut marshamallows on the site.

      2. This year, it has to be truffles. Many chefs have become rich and famous with this simple recipe, but use a myriad of wierd and non-traditional, non-sweet flavors, like herbs, spices, salt, tropical fruits. Here in SF bay area, there are at least a dozen such truffle boutiques where you can get these things. I personally do not care for these flavors, but I know that Chocolatier magazine recently devoted an entire issue to it. Most of the exact flavor recipes are closely guarded secrets by the company owners, but the basic recipe they use is pretty much the original by Medrich in the book 'Cocolat'.

        1. How about pate de fruits? Lemon, lime or orange curd?

          1. What about the Paris-style macaroons a la Pierre Herme that have become all the rage of late? They certainly look lovely and festive...

            1. How about flavored nuts? Curried Cashews etc.

                1. I am going to make up some containers of the potted country ham with bourbon recipe I posted a few weeks ago. If I get ambitious I may make some homemade crackers to go with.

                  1. I'm creative, but not always trendy :)
                    Half pints of my famous Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Applesauce and packets of my homemade chai mix.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: foodrocks

                      So foodrocks, is that famous applesauce recipe confidential? Would love to have it if you'd be willing to share. Sounds delightful. Thanks if you can!

                      1. re: szmn

                        not really...only my chili recipe is confidential!
                        I use a blend of different apples, and I peel them (the skin irritates my stomach), chop them up and simmer them in a small amount of high quality apple juice until they are soft.(Martinelli's is the best). You can chanage the amount of liquid or even the type depending on what flavor you want and what consistency you want. Then I mash or blend the apples, and add brown sugar, ground cinnamon, a pat or two of butter and vanilla bean paste to my liking. I like Niellson Massey Vanilla Bean Paste best, because it's easier and cheaper than the bean, but still has those flecks of beans in it that I love so much. And thats it...hope this helps--I don't usually write out recipes that are in my head!

                        1. re: foodrocks

                          Thanks for the recipe! Sounds yummy. This gives me an excuse to buy vanilla bean paste which I've been considering purchasing now for awhile. I LOVE applesauce....

                          1. re: foodrocks

                            Do you really blend the apples? Twice I used my stick blender on home-made apple sauce and it turned into baby-food. It loses the grainy texture which is integral to apple sauce.

                      2. how about fruits dipped in chocolate- like dried apricots, pineapple, orange slices, grapefruit slices...(like Godiva makes) you could vary the type of chocolate too.
                        Also could do pretzel sticks, potato chips, etc... with fancy toppings on the chocolate

                        1. You might want to pick up a copy of the Martha Stewart Living holiday special issue entitled "Holiday: Handmade Gifts"... there are some fantastic ideas in it this year and lots of inventive ideas on how to wrap your food gifts once you've made them.

                          Unfortunately, most of the people I give gifts to aren't really foodies and so don't appreciate the kinds of things I would like to make. I usually just bake lots of cookies or make toffee and everyone loves that. If I *were* going to make presents for foodie friends, I would consider candied citrus peel, unusual jam flavors like blackberry and rosemary or crystallized ginger and peach, homemade spice mixes like jerk or 5-spice, homemade nutella... just some of the ideas I've thought of in the past. Martha (I'm so outing myself as a Martha fan! ;-) also has a gingerbread palmier recipe in the December issue that I am going to make even though I know most people won't go for it! My immediate family will and that's what counts!

                          Some good ideas from last year too: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/28048...

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: Katie Nell

                            Ditto. I'm just about sick of going to the trouble of making something homemade and creative for my family (aunts, uncles, cousins). In the past I have made:

                            Raspberry Vinegar
                            Boxes of frozen Cheddar/cumin puff pastry straws
                            Ginger scented pecans
                            Lemon Verbena Muscadine jelly
                            Hot Cocoa mix w/ homemade marshmallows
                            Spice Rub for Beer Can Chicken + a recipe and a holder

                            Nobody EVER tells me the stuff was good. Granted, I may not see some of these people again for a couple of months, but you'd think at some point, someone would say "hey, I got those pastry straws out and baked them when we had company last month" or SOMETHING.

                            Screw 'em. This year they're getting grapefruits. That'll teach 'em.

                            1. re: danna

                              Grapefruits! Too funny! See, that's another thing I was thinking of making... pink grapefruit marmalade! Maybe we should send each other the presents we make Danna!! ;-) I like the puff pastry straws idea.

                              (P.S. Haven't your people ever heard of thank you notes?! Perfect opportunity to tell you your stuff was yummy!)

                              1. re: Katie Nell

                                Send them grapefruits AND a package of nice blank notecards - that should pose a challenge! :)

                                1. re: Cinnamon

                                  Perfect!!! I would *so* do that for one person in particular! ;-) (Evil Laugh!)

                                  Back to the subject at hand, I actually thought this triple chocolate bark looked pretty good on the FN Holiday Gifts special: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                2. re: Katie Nell

                                  The marmalade sounds wonderful. Perhaps we should start a homemade-gifts-support-group. Next year, when I have forgotten my current pledge, I'll send you one of whatever I make!

                                  I thought the candied grapefruit looked nice in that MS homemade gift mag. I have done that before for my own personnal use, and it really is nice, but not nearly as pretty as the mag, of course.

                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                    The first thing to be completely consumed at my house is grapefruits, because if we don't eat them, the kids will beat us to it!

                                    1. re: Katie Nell

                                      hey i think you ought to give a box of thank you notes INSTEAD of the grapefruits!

                                      1. re: rmarisco

                                        I feel I must comment in defense of my relatives.

                                        We all live near enough each other that we exchange gifts under the tree at my grandmother's house in the Norman Rockwell fashion. Thank yous are made in person at the time of gifting, so no notes are required. It just feedback I am in want of, not thanks.

                                        1. re: danna

                                          Danna- I hope I didn't offend you; I was just joking all the way! :-) Our family functions are the same as yours and I wouldn't have it any other way!

                                          1. re: Katie Nell

                                            Oh gosh, no. I am practically un-offend-able. Just after the 4th person commented on the thank you notes I thought I better explain.

                                            My husband says perhaps they ARE being polite by not commenting on how the things tasted ;-)

                                            BTW, PittmanDavis.com has marvelous grapefruits, nicely packaged.

                                    2. re: danna

                                      Oh Danna, I'm dying laughing. Maybe one year I'll learn my lesson and give 'em grapefruits.

                                      One year I made raspberry cordial soaking about 15 pints of fresh raspberries in vodka and sugar for about a week and then straining and aging it for months and then packaging up in pretty bottles. It was amazing and now I wish I didn't give it all away.

                                      Let them eat grapefruit!

                                      1. re: danna

                                        I guess I am lucky. I make candies (fruit rinds, almond buttercrunch, white chocolate pistachio bark), cookies and caramel corn for friends and family. I used to pack a tin for each family and as the kids got older I would make the tin bigger. When I asked my nephews which cookies they liked best they looked at me blankly. Apparently my brother wasn't sharing. Now everyone get a box of their own.

                                        1. re: danna

                                          LOL...I know what you mean. You slave yourself in the kitchen to think up something inventive for a gift and then you get no kudos! I'm trying to spread my love for "foods outside the box" with my family.

                                          1. re: danna

                                            If your recipients are anything like my mother, the lovely gifts are still in the pantry for a "special" occasion. The normal cookies and candies get eaten during the holiday season, but all that "fancy" stuff gets a place of honor in perpetual storage. Same mindset as never using the good china and silver...

                                            That's why I send apples and cheddar ;-)

                                        2. I'm in the same place as Katie Nell- None of the ppl. i am making the gifts for are foodies- this year im baking an array of cookies (shortbread, holiday biscotti, ginger spice), homemade pepper jelly (great over cream cheese with crackers), spiced and candies walnuts, fudge, some kind of bark, my famouse banana bread, homemade hot cocoa mix and homemade marshmellows. I hope this can give you some ideas... I know its not fancy but is always appreciated! :)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: gastronomy

                                            Would you mind posting your recipe for homemade hot cocoa mix? Thanks.

                                          2. I like the macaroon idea that was suggested, everyone is always impressed when I make them as if I've gone to some big trouble. They are nice given with a good high quality chocolate. What about...
                                            Apple or pear butter (very shipable)
                                            Herbed olive oil
                                            Breads (The Bread Bible has some nice ones)
                                            Spice blends (it seems salts with assorted spices are popular in the stores, why not make your own?)

                                            1. I think we'll be making muffaletta again this year.

                                              1. One friend gave me a variety of homemade salsas: traditional tomato salsa, peach salsa, mango and pineapple, and salsa verde. It was amazing, but they were all fresh, so I only had a couple days to use them. No problem since I was having a party, but worth considering.

                                                You could definitely do a canned salsa and that would last longer.

                                                1. Norwegian black pepper - cardamom cookies (there are a few Google-able recipes out there - I doubled the portion of black pepper and cardamom called for).

                                                  Or if you can figure out an interesting way to make a white bundt spongey cake and stripe it with colors and different liqueurs and additions in different sections or layers - that could be great. I was going for an Italian neapolitan cookie effect and just played around. I recall that grenadine and maraschino cherries were involved, as well as some Gran Marnier and some other fruity or nutty thing. Ideally, would find four liqueurs that wouldn't be awful next to each other, and four complementary fillings to add to them, then mix the batters individually and pour in or layer as necessary. Wouldn't want to use things with way too high an alcohol content for safety, though there's always the option of alcohol-soaking after the stuff comes out of the oven.

                                                  1. I usually make chocolates- peanutbutter cups, crispies, nuts, toasted coconuts, truffles. I have also done the toffee both with and without chocolate.
                                                    You could make your own Kahlua- I use to do this for years. People love it.

                                                    1. I'm making what I always make--homemade limoncello, my "all-purpose" seasoning (big jars full of it, with the proportions listed on the labels so my friends can make more--though they never do, they just return the empty jars...), and homemade hot chocolate mix (special people get homemade marshmallows, too).
                                                      The limoncello takes a couple of weeks to do, but all it takes is vodka, lemon rind, sugar and time.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Elizzie

                                                        Can you post your hot chococlate and marashmallow recipes?

                                                        1. re: JoLi

                                                          JoLi, I will dig them out for you...

                                                            1. re: JoLi

                                                              I haven't forgotten you, JoLi; I've just not been on the right computer...

                                                      2. Pomegranate vinegar
                                                        A few years ago - before the pomegranate craze really took off - I found this fantastic pomegranate vinegar by a company that is currently defunct. My sister and I loved the stuff - it made great vinaigrettes - anyway, we made an attempt to replicate the recipe based on the ingredients on the bottle: Here's what we came up with:

                                                        2 cups rice vinegar
                                                        1 tsp kosher salt
                                                        3⁄4 cup sugar
                                                        1 cup water
                                                        1 cup pomegranate concentrate

                                                        Yields 4 cups

                                                        1. Debby- I am still playing around with the recipe for the hot cocoa- when i get it right i will post it! :)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. Well, I didn't end up doing it, but last year I came up with all these different combos for brittle. I can't remember all of them right now (the list is at home; I'll try to remember to post it), but they all had a nut and a flavoring.... things like cashew/five-spice, coffee/almond, cinnamon/peanut, etc. It's an idea, anyhoo. Hrm... there's still time for me to get going on that.....

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: juster

                                                              Here's that list of brittle ideas, just in case anybody could use them. I have recipes for some, but was going to improvise/combine with others:

                                                              almond/almond oil (croccante)
                                                              red chile/pinon
                                                              honey/sesame/lemon zest
                                                              pistachio/dried cherry/vanilla
                                                              espresso/orange zest

                                                            2. I just want to know how I can get on y'all's gift list :-)

                                                              Those that aren't necessarily foodies...cough, cough, family, cough, cough....I'm more inclined to make the old family favorites. Grandma's recipes, cookies, jellies, coffee cake, peanut brittle, stuff like that. They love them and don't have the time to bake.

                                                              Anything a little more detailed I make for those that I know enjoy food and because I like making and trying new things.

                                                              1. I am going to make pumpkin pie spiced nuts and Kaluha for gifts this christmas. Easy and yummy

                                                                1. I'm cracking up.

                                                                  My giftees this year are getting the caramel assortment--Fleur de Sel, Butter Rum, Pumpkin, dried cherry chocolate and salted chocolate (December Gourmet).


                                                                  1. This year, I'll be giving salts:

                                                                    saffron sea salt
                                                                    lime sea salt
                                                                    and either sesame salt or szechuan (sp?) peppercorn sea salt.

                                                                    By the way, does anyone have Kylie Kwong szechuan (sp?) peppercorn smoked salt? I'd love to make it, but can't find the recipe. It was given in one of her tv programs...

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: pâté chinois

                                                                      I'm giving salt this year, too! But only to my friends who I know will appreciate them. I have a few friends who bring their own salt to restaurants in a little salt carrier (okay, I do it, too).

                                                                      1. re: Non Cognomina

                                                                        May I ask what kind of salts you are giving?

                                                                    2. While I follow trends with interest, when it comes to holiday 'gifts', some of my closest friends and my family are becoming accustomed to a tradition I have chosen to carry on in loving memory of a dear family friend - the Christmas cookie tin.

                                                                      For as long as I can remember from my childhood, and well into adult life, she would bake a bounty of cookies - at least a dozen varieties. Some were decorated for Christmas, others were simply classic cookies. Each one of us had a 'favourite', but all were enjoyed. The Christmas holiday always "officially" started when Mrs. Kraus' cookie tin arrived. So while trends are wonderful for discovery, there are times when tradition is appreciated.

                                                                      And, yes, a thank you note to her was always one of the first in the mail. The first Christmas after her passing left a bit of a void for us all, and impressed upon me the power that tradition has to memories and moments. While my selection is not as grand, I keep track of everyone's favourites and put a few more of those than the rest in their tin.

                                                                      1. Also, just saw in the latest issue of Country Home a special on gifts of food. They are a couple in there that look good. I thought the Mexican three bean chili looked yummy.

                                                                        1. Salts and rubs seem to be the rage. Trader Joe's even has wild Hawaiian Red or Black salt and Whole foods is supplying a large variety of salts in bulk (near the olives at my store). Making herb rubs for meats, or herb blends would be lovely. If I give herbs or salts, I find that the non-foodie family types really, really, really love 3-4 recipes to accompany such gifts. Then they actually use them!

                                                                          Here are gifts I have given in the past: A Sangria Kit, (canned, homemade) Blueberry Chutney & Peppermint Bark. Read recipes here: http://talkoftomatoes.com/category/gi...

                                                                          And I always consider a yummy entourage of cookies: russian tea cakes, iced cookies, thumbprint cookies, nut-lace cookies, thought I need a new favorite chocolate cookie... and since I just learned canning this year I may have to give a jar or two of my red sauce (very sendable!).

                                                                          Good luck!

                                                                          1. A Hot Chocolate Mix Gift Recipe

                                                                            Combine 8 C dry milk; 4 3/4 C powdered sugar; 1 3/4 C dry creamer (usually non-dairy but any kind will do); 1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding mix. Stir well, stir some more. Place the mix in airtight jars. Optionally, place a handful of mini marshmallows in the top of the jar, or attach a lunch baggie full to the jar with a bow; or tie on some small candy canes for stirrers...

                                                                            Attach this instruction to the jars: 5 T (1/3 C) Hot Chocolate Mix + 1 C hot but not boiling water. Add marshmallows or whipped cream.

                                                                            This recipe is from livingonadime.com. so there are variations you can make if $$ permit. For grownups, add some good inst. coffee powder. Any kind of dry flavoring. The pudding is to add a bit of mouth feel... Granulated sugar should work fine, the powdered is just a fine grind plus a little cornstarch which wouldn't really thicken. Cinnamon is the flavoring in Mexican chocolate. It makes a difference if you use American cocoa powder or Dutch Process style, it's a taste preference thing, not critical--pick what YOU like. Fairly fine grated chocolate could be added generously to the mix (adjust portion size up a tad)for eye and tongue appeal, both...

                                                                            1. I know that someone in here has a recipe for cajun pralines, not the typical pralines, but something off the chart as it'll be a special gift for a friend this weekend. Help me find the best praline recipe of this type please, and TIA