Holidays

Christmas gifts from the heart

Christmas gifts from the heart

You know what people really like for Christmas? They like a gift that tells them you listen to them, that you pay attention to them. It doesn’t have to be something big; it just has to come from a big heart. Homemade hot chocolate, a mug that screams, “AUNT CINDY,” a lovely bow, and boom! Another relative checked off your list. But here’s how you make it real special. What does Aunt Cindy like? Dark chocolate? Chocolate on top of chocolate? Ginger? Peppermint? Chocolate caramel? Personalize the hot chocolate. Me, just in case anyone needs a last minute gift for me … dark chocolate with crystallized ginger. Mix cocoa powder and sugar at a 1:1 ratio. If you are using a pint Mason jar, that would be 1 cup cocoa powder and 1 cup sugar. Chop up a dozen or so chunks of crystallized ginger into much smaller chunks and mix it all together. Make a cute little tag, instructing them to use one spoonful of cocoa with every cup of milk. If your loved one likes their chocolate on the sweeter side, many hot chocolate recipes call for 2 cups of sugar (powdered sugar mixes in better, but you can use any kind) to 1 cup of cocoa powder. Other ideas for personalizing your hot chocolate mix – crushed candy canes, their favorite candy bar (a Heath bar would be AWESOME), pieces of milk chocolate or dark chocolate, those little chocolate cups with caramel in them, butterscotch candies. Really anything that will melt or dissolve would work (that is edible of course). People always appreciate gifts you make. Even if it’s not that good, they will appreciate the effort. You know what else people appreciate? Butter. Butter makes everything better. And butter is super easy to make, not as easy as buying it in the store, but still pretty easy. Even the kids can help. You can make it in a butter churn if you happen to have one hanging around, or a blender, but I kind of think that’s cheating. The easiest way is making it in a mason jar. One quart of heavy cream equals 1 pound of butter and 2 cups of buttermilk. The cream should be at room temperature. Fill your Mason jar half full of cream, put the lid on, and then shake, shake, shake. It’ll take about 15 minutes of steady shaking. You’ll see it get thicker, like whipped cream, and then all the sudden there will be a gob of yellow and a cloudy liquid. The yellow gob is butter, the liquid is buttermilk. Pour off the buttermilk (save it for baking). You will have to rinse the butter and squeeze it to get the excess buttermilk out.  To make it extra fancy, add some honey or maple syrup. Put it in a nice little basket with a jar of jam and a loaf of bread or warm biscuits or scones.     Here’s a recipe for Cranberry Scones, but you can switch out the cranberries for almost anything. Aunt Cindy would like chocolate chips.     2 cups flour (I used Maine buckwheat) 2 eggs 1 cup sour cream 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup (one stick) butter 8 oz whole cranberries Bake at 325 for 15-20 mins. Speaking of baskets. Who doesn’t have a cheese lover in their family? Maine has a number of excellent cheesemakers using Maine milk. Maine Cheese Guild at mainecheeseguild.org and the Get Real. Get Maine! site at getrealmaine.com would both be resources for finding local cheeses. And most major grocery stores in Maine carry cheeses from...

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Lemon, toasted coconut, almond yogurt cake (wheat free)

Lemon, toasted coconut, almond yogurt cake (wheat free)

Probably my favorite cake I have ever made, and it doesn’t even have chocolate in it! Super moist and fluffy. Not super sweet but flavorful.   1 cup oat flour (grind rolled oats in your coffee grinder) 1 cup buckwheat flour 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp almond extract 1 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 cup yogurt 2 1/2 cups toasted coconut 1 cup sliced almonds 2 lemons – zest and juice 1/3 cup honey   Toast your coconut in a low pan in the oven. Put it on 325 and flip often with a fork every couple of minutes. Will take about 10 minutes or less. Heat your oven to 350. Mix your dry ingredients and then add in everything else. Bake 20-30 minutes in a bundt pan (until top starts to crack slightly, edges are golden and you a knife comes out clean). If you want to serve this with ice cream, yogurt or a scoop of Ricotta as pictured, add a little lemon zest to top it off.  ...

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Ham and Asparagus Quiche

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

A super simple crustless quiche, great for brunch. The in-office cheese expert suggested Jarlsberg cheese would be the best for this dish.   4 eggs 1 1/2 cup milk 1 cup chopped asparagus 2 cups cubed ham 1/2 cup Ricotta 1/2 cup Cheddar, mozzarella or Jarlsberg.   Bake your ham and asparagus ahead of time (or use leftovers). Heat your oven to 350. Whisk your eggs and then add everything else in and pour into a buttered glass baking pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the liquid is all cooked out and it doesn’t jiggle. The edges will have a nice brown....

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Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

For the cupcakes: 1 cup buckwheat flour* 1 cup oat flour* 2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp nutmeg 1-2 tsp ginger 2 eggs 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup applesauce 1 ½ cups shredded carrots (3-4 carrots) 1/3 cup maple syrup   For the frosting: 2 sticks butter 1/2 cup maple syrup (still tastes good if you want to use a little less) 3/4 cup powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar or if you like me and use sucanat – just grind it into a powder with your coffee grinder) ½ cup ricotta ½ cup whipping cream or heavy cream   Prep your frosting first so that you can put it in the fridge while you’re making the cupcakes. Use a beater or your fancy stand up mixer if ya got one. Make sure the butter is soft – room temperature, beat it, and then add your other ingredients. Mix until smooth.   For the cupcakes: Set your oven to 350. Mix your dry ingredients, followed by the wet. Place your cupcake papers in the cupcake tray and spoon in your batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes (until you can stick a toothpick or knife into the cupcakes and it comes out clean). *You can use regular all-purpose flour for this, but I would halve the baking powder....

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