Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gifts From the Kitchen....and the Heart!

Gifts from the kitchen....and the heart.

Have you noticed the paucity of actual dinners on Dinner Plan-it lately?  'Tis the season! There's so much going on in the kitchen besides actual dinner.  If you've been following the blog - or even if you just stop in once in a while - you've seen cookies and cocktails recently.  What else has been going on in my kitchen besides dinner? I've been working on some secret food gifts!  And now that my friends have gotten their gifts, I can share the pics and recipes with you...I couldn't spoil their surprises before this!

The picture above?  The ribboned package holds a Chinese takeout container of Orange Spiced Walnuts, a jar of golden Ginger Peachy Marmalade and a little bag of The Captain's Balls (that's the one recipe you already have).  

Now I'm not normally a jam or jelly person, but I am HOOKED on the marmalade!  Tart oranges and lemons, a gingery bite of crystalized ginger and summery sweet peach come together so nicely...without being cloyingly sweet.  It is perfect on buttery toast or an English muffin...bet it would make a nice filling for thumbprints, too!

Ginger Peachy Marmalade

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups peaches, fresh or frozen, chopped (I used frozen - it's winter!)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped fine

Zest the citrus and put the zest in a heavy pot with the water.  Cut up the bald fruit (what else would you call it after it's had it's zest removed?) and put it into a food processor; chop well.  Add the pulp into the pot with the zest and water and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped peaches, sugar and ginger to the pot.  Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally stirring, until it thickens and looks like it is geling.
Heat clean, new jars in boiling water (refer to the directions on the package of jars, lids and rings for proper handling).  Remove from water carefully.  

Ladle the hot marmalade mixture into the hot jars, leaving 1/4" space at the top.  Do not fill more than this.  Put the lids onto perfectly clean jars, making sure the tops of the jars are squeaky clean so the lids can seal completely.  Screw the rings onto the jars and finger tighten.  Put the jars back into the simmering water and process for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water carefully!

Cool the jars on a rack for 24 hours before checking the seal and making sure the lids aren't popped up.  You want them to have that nice concave top.  Probably the nicest sound, when your jams and jellies are cooling, is that soft "pop" sound when the center of the lid goes down.  You know you have a good seal!  If any of them don't seal properly, don't worry...just refrigerate those jars and use in a couple of weeks.

Walnuts Spilling From The Container...YUM!

Orange Spiced Walnuts

  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 cups walnuts, whole (I buy mine at Costco - VERY good price!)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, using electric mixer, beat egg white and water until frothy, not even soft peaks.  Add walnuts and stir gently by hand just to coat.   

Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and add to the nuts.  Stir to coat completely

Have 2 Pam-sprayed rimmed cookie sheets ready and divide the nuts between the two pans.  Spread out thinly.

Bake 20 minutes, stir thoroughly and redistribute the nuts, bake another 15 minutes, stir and redistribute and bake another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir again and let cool completely.

Store in a big zip top bag.  To make pretty gifts, put them into pint or quart jars with lids and tie with a pretty ribbon.  Or put them into pretty cellophane bags from the cake/candy making store and tie with a pretty ribbon.  I used small Chinese takeout containers this year - NEW ones, of course!
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