Homemade Gifts from the Kitchen

By Libbie Summers for Better Homes and Gardens
Photography by Andy Lyons

With the holiday season approaching, here are some homemade gift ideas to create from your kitchen quarantine. 

In a large mixing bowl combine both flours, salt, and baking powder. Stir in seed mixture. Add oil and stir until combined. Add water and stir until a loose dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 times until smooth. Divide into 8 portions; cover with a towel and let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll dough into a very thin rectangle, about 11×5-inches. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet. Bake each for 4 minutes; turn. Bake for 4 minutes more or until browned and crisp. Cool completely. Break into irregular shapes. Store an airtight container up to 5 days.

 

Herbed Nuts and Honey
Inspired by a Middle Eastern sweet snack, this jarred recipe makes for a fantastic party appetizer or holiday gift!
Spoon some over your favorite soft cheese. 


What you need:
1 cup salted mixed nuts (cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, and/or walnuts)
4 sprigs fresh marjoram
1 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

What to do:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread nuts on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins from hazelnuts. Cool.

Rinse marjoram sprigs well. Pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a small saucepan combine the honey, marjoram, and black pepper. Heat over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Divide nuts between four clean 4-ounce jars. Pour the honey mixture evenly between the jars atop the nuts. Gently tap jars to remove air bubbles. Seal jars. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Candied Ginger
Homemade ginger candy is the perfect hostess gift or cocktail addition. With just 4 ingredients, this Candied Ginger recipe is as easy to make as it is to enjoy.

What you need:
2 cups water
2½ cups sugar
pinch of salt
1 large ginger root (8 ounces), peeled and very thinly sliced

What to do:
In a large saucepan stir together the water, 2 cups of the sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat until just boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add ginger to sugar mixture. Boil gently, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until syrupy.

Strain, reserving syrup (place in clean bottles for gift-giving*). Arrange ginger slices on a wire rack set over a shallow baking pan. Allow to dry overnight (ginger will still be sticky).

Place remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Add ginger and toss to coat. Divide into four 4-oz. jars. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Spiced Bourbon Cherries
Spiced Bourbon Cherries are one of the best ways to add boozy fruit to your favorite cocktail. (Hint: They taste especially amazing in whiskey drinks!) Sweeten up your next cocktail hour with a batch of bourbon-soaked cherries. Not a drinker? Spoon some over a scoop of vanilla ice cream and thank me later. 

What you need:
1¼ cups water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1¼ cups bourbon
1 pound fresh or frozen pitted dark sweet cherries

What to do:
In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, vanilla bean paste, cayenne, and cinnamon. Bring just to boiling over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Cool slightly. Add cherries and let stand 30 minutes. Divide into four 8-oz. jars. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Toasted Seasoning Salts
Whip up a big batch of these savory seasoning blends and give them to the meat-lovers in your life to season their steaks. Vegetarians can toss this no-cook food gift with popcorn, nuts, or roasted chickpeas.

What you need: 
Regular:
1/2 cup flaked sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup garlic powder
Smoky Hot: 
1/2 cup flaked sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground chipotle powder

What to do:
In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients…yep. That’s it.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Use to season meats before grilling or roasting or combine with flour to coat chicken before frying.

More Gifts From the Kitchen Ideas:
Candied Ginger Syrup
Sweet Maple Mustard
Spiced Ketchup
Everything Bagel Topping Mix

 

A Thanksgiving Table Inspired by Goldenrod

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
I’m wearing the Everyday Beautiful A-Line Apron Wrap Skirt from Yum Yum Smile Shop

There’s no denying that this Thanksgiving is different, but to me it feels more authentic. Giving thanks for the blessings we have in our lives without the worry of who’s bringing what to put on the table (note: never let your sister be in charge of the mashed potatoes). This year is about a meal shared with my immediate family and a couple of equally minded “safe” friends. We have only spent time in the presence of each other for months and months, so I wanted to take us to a different place -to have a special happy memory of  Thanksgiving 2020. If you follow me on instagram you’ll know there’s a majestic spot just a few miles south of our home where quail thrive among the tall grasses and a certain crusty bird dog works hard to find them. This time of year, the goldenrod is prolific and stunning and the happiest shade of mustard yellow in this perfect spot -it served as my inspiration.

This Thanksgiving, on a mowed path surrounded by tall grasses and mustard medicinal weeds, this family of 8 will share a delicious meal, give thanks for how fortunate we are and raise a glass to those that others have lost.

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Love is in the details…
Table Linens: Floral flat sheets lay over two simple work tables and then topped by yardage of mustard colored linen fabric. Finally, 4 table runners were sewn from storied scraps of fabric into a patchwork pattern and were draped over the width of the table top. Two people sitting across from each other at the table shared one runner.
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Place Settings -Dishware, Flatware and Napkins: To continue with the homespun chic feel of this table, I chose to use mix and match vintage and antique china along with a mismatch of antique silver flatware. The patterns on the china worked beautifully against the patchwork quilt and added even more layers of storytelling. With all the busyness of the runner and china I knew I wanted to use a more subdued yet organic napkin. I chose the natural colored linen pulled from the Agen napkin set from Yum Yum Smile Shop.
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Place Cards: Thick card stock printed with the names of each guest were cut into small ribbon like pieces. A hole was punched at the end of each piece and a small strand
of green twine was threaded through the hole and tied to a boutineer-sized bundle of goldenrod.
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Flowers and Vases: I’m a believer of using what grows around you any chance you can. Naturally, it saves on cost, but more importantly it brings the season to the table. This time of year in Coastal Georgia, goldenrod is prolific. I let it and my new Mustard Colored A-line Apron Wrap Skirt inform the color pops! For vases, I mixed a tin can craft (new diy blog post to follow) with my collection of old mustard tins and biscuit tins. Mixing the two, I ran them down the middle of the table among the place settings and then filled with low bunches of the beautiful goldenrod.
Fun Fact: Goldenrod does NOT cause seasonal allergies. Some confuse it with ragweed which is a real problem. You would never want to sit a table with any wild floral that could potentially light a guest up!
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I hope my take on Thanksgiving gives you inspiration to create something a little different this year -a table layered with stories and surrounded by love.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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She Wanted a Beetlejuice-inspired Birthday Party

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey 

A small group of friends from all over the United States gathered together in Savannah, GA for a Beetlejuice themed birthday celebration. The client/guest of honor contacted me to design the dinner table at a boutique hotel where the event would be taking place. When I spoke with the client about the party, her only direction was “You do you. I’m looking for a Libbie Summers take on the dinner scene in the movie”.  When I pushed her further, she mentioned how funny Wynona Ryder’s character, Lydia Deetz, was when she was wearing black lace over her face…and THAT nugget is where the ideation for the table design began.

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For Cocktails: Guests arrived for specialty cocktails in the downstairs lounge of the hotel where they opened an antique dictionary the size of Montana to choose their drink. Prayer candles ran down the bar to add just the right amount of light (see craft below).
For Dinner: Guests walked through draped black lace to enter the space.
The table was layered with a rich grey velvet and then topped with black lace.
Antique silver candle sticks ran down the middle of the table while lace covered led lights were dimly lit overhead.
Fruit and vegetables painted black were wrapped around the candle sticks as beetles peeked around the corners when guests weren’t looking.
Dark grey linens from the Yum Yum Smile Shop were at each place setting with a simply printed menu card.
Facing each guest…propped on a vintage book was a floral head draped in black lace. (NOTE: Staff removed heads before dinner service began and placed them against the wall behind each chair…again creepy cool.)

Craft Takeaways: 
1. Freaky Chic Florals: At each place setting and as the floral element, styrofoam heads were decoupaged with cut up prints of Dutch still life paintings. The day of the party, humble florals (there was a budget here) were pinned into the heads as hairstyles. Some heads were lit with small twinkle lights among the flowers. Finally, black lace was draped over each head before guests arrived.
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2. Beetlejuice Character Prayer Candles: Inexpensive prayer candles were used to make these fun character candles for the cocktail portion of this party. Labels were soaked off the original candles (found in the grocery story at $1.50 each) in hot water and characters from the movie were printed out on regular printer paper and decoupaged using Modge Podge onto the outside of the candles. Make sure to coat the entire candle, even the parts that don’t have the picture on them.
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She said “This party was EVERYTHING. It was a better party than my first wedding.”
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Kiss Me Frosting

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Chamber Apron in Light Pink and Chambray Striped Linen from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop

 

STOP! If you save no other recipe…save this one. Kiss Me Frosting is my go to, never fail, everyone loves it, “what the hell is in that frosting” frosting! This time of year when love is in the air Kiss me Frosting tastes even sweeter on the tongue. I love this cinnamon candy colored frosting on everything from my Hot and Heavy Baby Cakes , chocolate cookies, graham crackers, cupcakes, biscuits and my husband’s lips (I had to). BOOM!
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Kiss Me Frosting
(cinnamon candy buttercream)
yields about 3 1⁄2 cups

What you need:
1 cup (2 sticks ) butter, at room temperature 4 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can sub vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/2 heaping cup cinnamon candy/Red Hots (basically a 6 ounce box), pulsed in a food processor to a fine sugar

What to do:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Increase the speed to medium and add the salt, vanilla paste, and evaporated milk. Beat for 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thin at this point you can add more of the confectioners’ sugar and mix for 30 seconds, or just until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more evaporated milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix for 30 seconds, or just until combined. Add the crushed cinnamon candies and stir until combined (BONUS!! They will also color the frosting pink). Frosting can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

 

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Two Last Minute Gifts From The Kitchen

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

Two fun gifts that require very little time, but pack a big punch! Don’t forget to package them in reuseable containers!

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Everything Bagel Topping Mix
makes 2 cups

What you need:
1/3 cup black sesame seeds
1/3 cup onion flake
1/3 cup garlic flake
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup flake salt

What to do:
In a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, add all the ingredients and stir together. Cook, stirring constantly until spices start to become fragrant. Remove from heat to a bowl and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Uses:
•Sprinkle over a poke bowl •Top a fried egg •Mix into coleslaw •Sprinkle on a salad •Season roasted vegetables
•Make a compound butter •Sprinkle on a bloody mary •Sprinkle on avocado toast •Season popcorn •Sprinkle on mac and cheese.
•Sprinkle on fried rice •Sprinkle over white rice •Sprinkle over a hot dog •Season grilled vegetables
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Tipsy-Spiced Cherries

What you need:
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 stem fresh rosemary (optional)
1 ¼ cups Gosling’s Black Seal® Rum
12 ounces frozen Sweet Black Cherries, thawed

What to do:
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and 1 ¼ cups water. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the cayenne pepper, cinnamon sticks, rosemary (optional) and rum. Cool slightly. Add cherries and let stand 30 minutes. Remove rosemary stem. Store in airtight jars and refrigerate for 3 days before using. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.

Uses:
•Spoon over ice cream •Make a Rum Old Fashioned •Use cherries for a Tipsy Black Forest Cake •Spoon onto chocolate mousse.

 

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