Monday , 21 May 2018

Kyra’s Kitchen: Homemade For The Holidays

Making holiday gifts in your own kitchen has a number of advantages:

• You will not see the same gifts coming and going.
• They are given from the heart instead of the pocketbook.
• You can have a great time creating in your kitchen!  Enlist the help of other members of the family and make it a family project.
• You can prepare them well ahead of the holidays and thus avoid the store crowds.

And it is not too late to start……….

Here are some gift ideas – which are EASY, delicious and inexpensive.  Package them in holiday gift-wrap and you are good to go!

Oh! And unless the recipe is a family secret – most recipients appreciate the recipe attached!

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup shredded coconut [preferably unsweetened] ¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable [canola is good] oil
½ cup thawed apple juice concentrate
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup honey
1 cup chopped dried fruit of your choice
½ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Pre heat the over to 300.
Line two jelly roll pans with foil and oil the foil.
Mix together all the ingredients thoroughly in very large bowl and spoon onto the prepared cookie sheets in a single layer.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes – stirring the mixture every 15 minutes so it toasts evenly.
Allow to cool – package in gift bags.
Refrigerate to store or freeze.


1 cup dried apricots
2 ¼ cups water
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt

Soak the apricots in the water in a small saucepan over night then simmer in the same water until the apricots are soft.
Remove from heat.  Allow to cool then place in the processor and add the remaining ingredients.
Process until smooth – and spoon into clean jars.


HOLIDAY BANANA BREAD [our answer to Fruitcake!] [Makes three small loaves]

Preheat oven to 350.
Set out small disposable loaf pans [holiday ones available at craft stores like Michaels] on a cookie sheet.

1 ¾ cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup soft butter
1 cup mashed bananas
2 eggs
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
½ cup raisins
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup chopped cherries [red and green]

Combine the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl [of a mixer].
Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the bananas and eggs and beat on low for about two minutes.
Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Spoon into the loaf pans.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on rack and decorate with icing or to your personal taste.


4 oz unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal [available at most up-market supermarkets] 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Green and red sugar crystals
1 egg white

Cream the butter and sugar until light then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
Beat in the extracts.
Stir in the almond meal and flour.
Form into a log about 1½ “ in diameter.
Wrap in wax wrap or kitchen paper.
Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325.
Unwrap the log and brush with the egg white.
Sprinkle red sugar on one side of the log and green on the other.
Cut into thin [1/4”] slices and set on a baking paper lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookie is firm and has JUST a little color.
Store in an airtight container and package in a bag or box.
Note: the log may be frozen for up to a month, before slicing and baking


Because some people like chocolate in everything!

2 cups ketchup
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons molasses or honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika [optional] ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 oz unsweetened chocolate

Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate in a saucepan – bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and immediately toss in the chocolate.
Stir to melt.
Allow to cool, and then spoon into jars.


1 cup cranberries fresh or frozen
2 cups white vinegar
1 ½ cups rice wine vinegar
2 /3 cup honey
½ cup water

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and boil until the berries start to pop.
Remove from heat and allow to cool, and then pour the vinegar into jars and spoon in the berries.
Leave to stand for at least one week.
Use in salad dressing or in glazes for meats and poultry.
Note:  If you prefer a milder vinegar use all rice wine vinegar.


[Biscotti are very popular now – keep well – do not need refrigeration.]

½ cup [4 oz] soft butter
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt   
1 cup dark chocolate chips

4 oz white chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Beat together the butter and sugar till light.
Beat in the eggs one at a time – beating well in between each addition.
Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough for 10 minutes.
Heat the oven to 375.
Divide the dough into two and form two even logs on a buttered cookie sheet.
Flatten the logs a little.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut the logs into ½” diagonal slices.
Reduce oven to 325.
Set back on the cookie sheet [you may need two] and bake for about 10 minutes, then turn the biscotti over and bake on the other side for another 10 minutes.
Cool on a rack. Set the biscotti upright close together.
Melt the white chocolate – 1 minute on high in the microwave – then stir until smooth. 
Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the biscotti. Allow to set, [you can refrigerate to hasten the process].
Store in an airtight container.  Package in cellophane bags
If you want to learn to create personalized holiday gifts right in your own kitchen, join me at the Collin County Historical society on Saturday November 19.  Click here for all the information you need to attend.

Please note you must register to attend!

Here is the list of the Gifts that will be demonstrated and tasted!  Of course, each participant will get to take home one of the gifts.

Cookie Pops                             Strawberry and Orange Candies
Cranberry Chutney                   Pear Ginger Syrup
Chocolate ‘Salami’                    Pretzel Stix
Cran – Apple – Pom Jelly          Holly Cluster
Chocolate Fudge                      Ida’s Famous Salad Dressing
Poppycock                                Nick’s Famous Lemon Buttermilk Cake
Cookie Cut-Outs                       Spiced Nuts

About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for’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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