Monday, December 21, 2009
My mother emailed to let me know that the Christmas package had arrived, so I finally get to spill the contents! As you can see, the presents are professionally and expensively decorated >.> Those old spaghetti sauce jars and construction paper booklets really come in handy.
What the jars contain is not the product of exact science. I had the vague idea that I would give my father some spiced nuts, my mother some fancy granola, and my brothers a big helping of puppy chow. I'm too impatient for actual recipes, so, armed with a vague idea of what each dish should contain, I got out my mixing bowls and started throwing things in.
#1 Heart-Healthy Curried Nuts for Dad
-a bag of walnut halves and pieces
-enough whole almonds to equal the volume of walnuts
-two tablespoons canola oil
-generous shake of curry powder
-less generous dose of cinnamon
-miserly dashes of ginger, garlic powder, and salt
After coating the nuts in the oil and spices, I spread them out on a foil-lined cookie sheet and baked for 15 minutes at 325°, shaking the pan every five minutes to prevent sticking/burning. The nuts had to cool for a couple hours before they were ready to be transferred to the jar.
#2 Mixed Fruit Granola for Mom
-2 cups old-fashioned oats
-1/2 cup milled flax seed
-heaps of cinnamon
-smaller heaps of ginger and nutmeg
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 cup canola oil
-1/3 cup water
-one bag of dried fruit (apple, apricot and prune mix), cut into bite-sized pieces
-the almonds remaining from Dad's recipe (a couple handfuls), sliced
I mixed the dries (sans fruit and nuts) and added the wets, squishing everything together with my hands. I spread the granola onto a foil-lined baking sheet and popped it in the oven at 325° for about 25 minutes, tossing with a spatula every once in a while. The cereal was wetter than usual, but with a little patience it morphed into crunchy sweet clusters. I spread the fruit and nuts over the granola to dry out as it cooled. Not all of the granola fit into the jar, so I had a container of leftovers for breakfast over the week :D
#3 The Big 'Un: Puppy Chow for the Boys
-half a stick of butter
-a package of chocolate chips
-peanut butter (about 1 cup)
-canola oil (indeterminate amount)
-a big box of generic Rice Chex ("Rice Bitz," but we'll pretend it was the genuine stuff)
-powdered sugar (lots)
I melted the butter in a saucepan, turned off the heat and added the chocolate chips. When the two had melted together (with some frictional persuation), I added the peanut butter and stirred. Hard. Eventually, the two came together into thick frosting-like consistency. I added canola oil, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the mixture could be classified as a liquid.
I put the Chex in my biggest mixing bowl and poured the chocolate/peanut butter over it. Then the fun began: I used my hands to mix everything together. It took a while--maybe 15 minutes--because there was a lot of cereal and the chocolate was very messy. When the cereal was coated, I divided it over cookie sheets to lessen the volume and poured powdered sugar over everything. More messy hand-mixing, then more powdered sugar, then more mixing until each bit of puppy chow could sit independently without sticking to its neighbors like tabloid journalists to Tiger Woods' wife. I let it cool and harden for a few hours before stuffing it into jars.
There was enough puppy chow to fill two large jars, a regular jar and a small plastic butter container. I decided to put the second large jar in my California box to offer extended family when they visit for the holidays (Grandma, the uncles, cousins, etc.). The regular jar was sacrificed to my employer's holiday party. And the little container I'll leave up to the imagination :p
Most of the effort didn't go into making the gifts, but in cleaning up after them. There was canola oil everywhere, chocolate on all the utensils and escaped granola/nuts/Chex littering the floor. But eventually I got it all sorted out...then promptly destroyed my handiwork by baking the week's loaf of bread. C'est la vie.
Posted by Tamara Marnell at 12/21/2009