Sunday , 20 August 2017

Kyra’s Kitchen: Christmas Gifts From Your Kitchen

By Kyra Effren, TSB Food Writer

Black Friday has come and gone – Cyber Monday is history and now you have time to go into the kitchen and create your own gifts! No waiting in line – no fighting the crowds – less expensive – more creative and these gifts will not be returned!

Coconut Strawberries
½ can condensed milk
2 cups sweet flaked coconut
3 oz box of raspberry or strawberry Jell-O [divided use] 2 cups dried unsweetened coconut
½ teaspoon coconut flavoring
Red food coloring [optional] 1/2 can vanilla frosting
Green coloring
(The recipe can be doubled.)

Combine the condensed milk, sweet coconut flakes, half the box of Jell-O crystals, unsweetened coconut and coconut flavoring.
Stir together until well mixed. Add coloring if desired.
Chill the mixture for about two hours then, using about 1 tablespoon of the coconut mixture, form into strawberry shapes and set on a parchment paper lined tray.
Pour the remaining Jell-O crystals onto a flat plate and roll the ‘strawberries to coat thoroughly.
Chill.
Tint the frosting with green coloring.
Pile into a plastic freezer bag – cut a small hole in one corner and ‘pipe’ leaves* onto the tips of the strawberries. Place in small candy paper cases.
Chill again, then arrange in a gift box.

*Note: If you want more authenticity you can find ‘real’ [plastic] strawberry hulls at cake decorating stores or on line.

Snowballs 
(To use up the coconut flakes and ground coconut you purchased for the recipe above!)
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 cups dried unsweetened coconut
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt
3 egg whites
4 oz dark chocolate cut into small chunks
(Note: Scharffen Berger sells baking chocolate chunks that are just the right size.)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place the coconuts, sugar and salt in the processor and process on an off until finely chopped.
Add the whites and process again until the mixture comes together.
Spoon tablespoons of the mixture onto baking paper-lined cookie sheets.
Form into smooth balls using wet hands, then insert a piece of chocolate into each ball, covering the chocolate completely.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the macaroons are slightly colored and puffed.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully lift macaroons off the cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container.

Cranberry Chutney
1 bag cranberries (they can be fresh or frozen)
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
½ cup Craisins
½ cup chopped celery
1 apple – peeled, cored and grated
½ cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan – bring to the boil – lower the heat and simmer gently uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the chutney has thickened.
Spoon into hot clean jars.

Cheese Puffs
(These are far too easy to be so delicious.)

1 box puff pastry
2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry [there are two sheets in the box].
Sprinkle one cup of cheese evenly over the sheet and roll pastry up tightly. Wrap roll in baking parchment.
Repeat with the second sheet and second cup of cheese.
Refrigerate for at least eight hours.**

Pre heat oven to 375°.
Cut the rolls into ½” slices and set on a parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the pastries are golden and crisp.

**Note: The unbaked rolls freeze well. To bake later– thaw in refrigerator overnight and proceed with slicing and baking instructions.                                                

Chocolate Pretzel Stix
12 large pretzel stix
8 oz white or milk chocolate
½ cups finely chopped nuts or praline mixture [see recipe below]

Melt the chocolate and spread on upper ½ of the pretzels.
Roll in finely chopped nuts or praline.
Set on baking paper-lined cookie sheet and allow to set.

Praline
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cream

Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix together the nuts, sugar and cream and pile onto a buttered cookie sheet – spreading the mixture evenly.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling and slightly browned.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool, and then finely chop.

About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for TownSquareBuzz.com’s “Food” section.  She is a retired food stylist and contributing writer for the “Food” section of Dallas Morning News. In 1975, Effren opened Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas and in 1978, she was awarded The Commanderie des Cordon Bleu in France for her contributions to French cooking.   She has edited multiple cookbooks and served as recipe tester for a number of cookbooks including both of the Mansion on Turtle Creek cookbooks by Dean Fearing and baking books by Nick Malgieri.

Kyra welcomes any and all reader comments and suggestions.  What would you like to have for dinner?

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