Last Minute Quick Breads: Foodie Gifts 18# and #19

They don't call them quick breads for nothin'!  Here are a couple of recipes I've used to great acclaim over the years, and my source for these is my mother--a great baker in her own right.  These two breads in particular have been appreciated as Christmas gifts by my own family, and I just shipped a batch of them out--they are very good travelers, and keep wonderfully moist for a long time. So if you are looking for a couple more quick gifts, these may serve!   Dawn's Applesauce Bread   1/2 c. shortening or butter, or half and half of each 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 t. vanilla 2 cups flour 1 t. baking powder 1 t. salt 1/2 t. baking soda 1/2 t. cinnamon 1/2 t. nutmeg 1 1/4 c. applesauce 1/2 c. walnuts (optional)   Glaze:  1/2 c. confectioner's sugar mixed with 1 T. apple juice or cider   Cream sugar with shortening till light, mix in eggs and vanilla.  Whisk together dry ingredients, and mix half into the creamed mixture till blended; stir in applesauce, then follow with the rest of the dry mixture. Stir until just well blended.  Pour into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, or two 7 inch loaf pans, or four 5 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for up to an hour, testing the smaller loaves beginning at 40 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans and glaze. Then let cool completely.     Dawn's Banana Bread, with Christmas Bread Option   1 cup mashed ripe banana 2 eggs 1/2 c. oil 1/3 c. buttermilk or sour milk 1 t. … {Read on...}

Never-ending Vanilla Sugar: Foodie Gift #17

A jar of vanilla sugar is one of the most underrated and sublime items to keep in your pantry.  A sprinkle on top of cookies or muffins, or in coffee or tea takes something that's already good and transforms it into something amazing.  If you're wondering how to procure this ambrosia I have a couple pieces of advice for you.  For starters, do not pay crazy amounts of money to buy vanilla sugar from some very reputable food places.  The prices are ridiculous.  $26 and change for 3 pounds of sugar?  I don't think so.  And making something so divine? Well, shoot.  It's so easy it doesn't even count as a recipe, but I'm putting it up here anyway because it's the gift that keeps on giving.  If you give someone vanilla sugar they need never be without it again.  You just keep adding sugar to the jar and giving it a shake and the vanilla flavor just keeps on kicking.  Are you ready?  Here's how you do it.   Never-Ending Vanilla Sugar:  Foodie Gift #17. Pretty this up by tying a wooden spoon and a recipe card containing a sugar cookie recipe with raffia or satin ribbon to the jar.  It'll look as good as it tastes.    Ingredients: 2 vanilla beans 4 cups granulated sugar Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and pry open a bit.  Place beans in a quart jar that has a tight fitting lid.  Pour sugar over the beans.  Screw the lid down tight and shake.  You're done.  REALLY!  It's that simple. … {Read on...}

No-Cook Mint Patties: Foodie Gift #16

I remember coming across this recipe years ago--it was an instant hit then, and its been the same in all the years I've shared it since. These creamy, buttery mints are easy to put together, store well, and make a lot, so there is plenty to share. I usually make a double batch at a time, since there is enough room on my table and cake racks to handle the drying needed for these candies.   From Cooks.com, here is the recipe (with a couple of my own tweaks included):   NO COOK MINT PATTIES Printed from COOKS.COM 1/2 c. light corn syrup 1/4 c. butter, softened 1 tsp. peppermint extract 4 c. sifted powdered sugar 2 drops red food coloring 2 drops green food coloring In small bowl combine corn syrup, butter and peppermint. Beat until well combined. Gradually add 2 cups of sugar beating well. Stir in as much of the remaining sugar you can to mix with a spoon. Turn out onto a surface lightly coated with powdered sugar. Knead in remaining sugar-enough to make a stiff dough that is smooth. Divide into thirds. Leaving one of the three white (I actually used yellow food coloring for the third portion)-Knead in food coloring-red and green-in the other two. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Press with fork. Let dry several hours (or overnight), then move to a cooling rack to complete the drying process (usually 24 hours is enough). Place in an airtight container and store in a cool place. … {Read on...}

Homemade Montreal Steak Seasoning: Quick and Easy Foodie Gift #15

This is truly quick and easy--inspired by having this seasoning used at Beccy's house on various meats and roasted veggies, but unable to find it at our local markets, I went online (of course) to see if I could find a homemade version, and low and behold, I did!  There are a few sites in cyberspace that specialize in finding ways to mimic foods that you enjoy, like these spice mixes, restaurant favorites, etc. and I have nearly always been able to find what I've been looking for.   CD Kitchen was the first site I found that offered this particular blend. Since I didn't have exactly the forms of the herbs and spices involved, I threw everything into a pint jar, attached it to my blender base and gave it a whirl. Everything was perfectly ground up, and the flavor was fantastic!  We tried it on chicken legs, just rubbing the seasoning on each leg all around and roasting at 350 till done, turning the heat up to 425 for the last few minutes to make sure the skin became good and crispy. I also cut up some potatoes and onions, tossed them with some baby carrots, olive oil and more of the seasoning, and roasted those alongside the chicken.  This made for a wonderful winter meal, and we enjoyed every bite. This seasoning is good on most meats and poultry, as well as on roasted and grilled veggies. And it makes a nice savory gift for friends who don't have an appreciation for all the sweet goodies that appear around this time of year.  Enjoy!   Homemade Montreal Steak … {Read on...}

Provençal Fish en Cocotte with Garlicky Tomato Sauce

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My Dad called me up the other day and gave me a piece of his mind.  "Where are the healthy recipes for folks with dietary restrictions like me?  Your stuff looks great, but there's a lot there I can't eat.  People need healthier recipes, too."   "Sure, Dad," said I.  I offered to get to it after Christmas and New Year's Day.  He kindly suggested that dietary restrictions didn't take a holiday and that some people might really enjoy a lighter food break occasionally even if it was Christmas...   After a week of my kids climbing the walls, bouncing off the ceiling, and being on each other like ugly on apes, it occured to me that perhaps the steady diet of Christmas treats might be affecting them adversely.  My Dad had been right.  Of course I realized this at about 5:30p.m. and had nothing remotely healthy on the radar for dinner that evening.  I stuffed the block of cheese and the ground beef back in the fridge, took a minute to reconsider my plans and stuck a pot of rice in the rice cooker.  I rifled through the freezer and dug out a pound and a half of individually frozen blue hake fillets.  Surely I could do something with that!   Twenty five minutes later I had thrown together what is a new favorite in our house; Provençal style fish en cocotte with a garlicky tomato sauce.  Don't let the name fool you.  We've done cocotte here and here before and it was super simple and quick.  Cocotte is the French word for casserole.  We all know casserole=easy. This fish … {Read on...}