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

 

Italian Orange Cake

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Cuisine Apron Dress in White Linen from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop
Orange Gingham Trimmed Linen Napkin from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop

A had my first warm slice of this cake on the island of Sardinia. It was a game changer –not too sweet, refreshing and easy to make. The perfect weeknight OR entertaining cake. There’s something about bringing a sprite little cake pulled from the oven just a few minutes before straight to the dinner table.
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Italian Orange Cake
serves 8

What you need:
1 orange
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia extract (optional) *recipe to follow
Powdered sugar for dusting

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray a 7-8″ springform pan with non-stick baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the top of the parchment. Set aside.
2. Boil and Process Orange: Add orange to a small saucepan with boiling water. Boil orange, moving around often, for 30 minutes. Remove from water to drain. Cut into quarters and remove any visible seeds. Add the entire orange to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse to process until any large chunks are gone. Set aside. (BOILING IS OPTIONAL, I think it makes the rind less bitter and produces more juice but if you are in a time crunch just pulverize the thing!)
3. Start Batter: In a large mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, whisk in yogurt and butter until incorporated (Note: there may still be lumps of butter in batter…this is totally cool.). Set aside.
4. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.
5. Finish Batter: Gradually add flour mixture to batter until incorporated. Do not over mix! Stir in pulverized orange and extract (optional).
6. Bake Cake: Pour mixture into prepared springform pan and bake until set in the middle (about 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 205ºF.)

To Serve: Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
*Fiori di Sicilia Extract Recipe: 1 part orange extract + 1 part lemon extract + 2 parts vanilla extract

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DIY: Candy Cane-inspired Holiday Table

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

A simple red and white candy cane inspired this fabulously festive (and fun) holiday table! It checks all the boxes…inspirational (yes), attainable (YES, anyone can do it) and affordable (yes, minimal dollars spent).

Here’s How You Can Do It!
Step 1: Make a Tablecloth (create a woven ribbon “tablecloth”)
Lengths of inexpensive holiday ribbon were cut to run the length of the table and taped securely under the edge. My table was white so I love the idea of using the white as part of the pattern, so I left space between the ribbons. Then going the width of the table more of the same ribbon was cut as well as widths of a coordinating bandana ribbon. Then the ribbon was woven (under and over/alternating) into the already taped ribbon. Once each piece has been woven, adhere under the edge with tape.
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Step 2: Make a Centerpiece (we made “kissing balls” out of starlight mints). I hot glued starlight mints onto a varying sizes of styrofoam balls that had been painted with red craft paint (optional). You could also use other soft candy and pin the candy to the styrofoam ball with long straight pins.  Soooo much fun drama. The balls were placed on old milk glass as holders for elevation and some just on the table.
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Step 3: Set the table.
Since the woven ribbon tablecloth and centerpieces are so over-the-top, I wanted to keep the place setting fairly neutral. I used hand thrown white dinner plates, simple white-handled flatware, clear tall cut-glass water glasses and pink champagne glasses. To bring the bandana ribbon into the rest of the setting, I used a ric-rack trimmed red bandana from the Yum Yum Smile Shop as each napkin. For the name card, I wrote my guests name on white paper cut into a tree shape and tied it onto a peppermint stick with red and white baker’s twine.
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Finally, add a little extra candy cane flare with candy canes as glass “garnishes”.
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Nantucket Salad

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Photography by Teresa Earnest Social

If I were to take everything I love about Nantucket and put it in a bowl it would taste just like this.

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Nantucket Salad
(lobster, grilled corn, new potatoes, lettuce, radish + lemon vinaigrette)
serves 4

What you need:
3 lemons, 1 quartered and 2 halved
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
Flake sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound new potatoes, boiled until al dente, chilled and quartered
4 ears corn, grilled or boiled and kernels removed from the cob.
4 radish, thinly sliced
2 pounds lobster, cooked and shelled (I purchase my lobster from Beals in Southwest Harbor Maine)
6 cups of salad greens (I used a mix of butter lettuce and arugula)

What to do:
1. Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together juice from 3 lemons, mustard and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Make salad: In a large mixing bowl, add the potatoes, corn, radish, lobster and greens. Whisk the dressing again and pour over the salad. Gently toss to coat. Serve with lemon wedges.
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Pool Party Cake (Recipe)

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

Three layers of delicious cake colored in an ombre of “country club” blues. Butter cream frosting, sides covered in Yum Yum Smile Shop Country Club Sprinkles, white gum balls and miniature pool floats. Quite possibly the most adorable, delicious and easy to decorate cake in all the land.

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Pool Party Cake
serves 20

What you need: 
2 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can substitute extract)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Blue food coloring gel in three different colors (I used a turquoise, cornflower and royal)
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (recipe to follow)
Yum Yum Smile Shop Country Club Sprinkles
White gum balls or other white candy balls
Small pool float toys (I bought mine HERE)

What to do: 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 9-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. |
4. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
5. Add flour mixture alternating with the milk JUST until smooth (don’t overbeat).
6. Stir in the extracts.
7. Divide mixture evenly between 3 bowls. Add a little of the different food colorings into one of each of the bowls (each bowl will only have one color in it). Stir until well mixed. Add additional food coloring as needed to achieve the color you like. I liked mine super saturated, so I added enough to achieve that.
8. Pour each color of batter into one of the prepared pans and bake until tester inserted in the cake comes out clean (about 20-25 minutes). Allow to cool before removing from pans.
9. Frost cooled cakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and decorate with sprinkles on the side (watch video below for sprinkling the sides of a cake and final decorating), gumballs on the top and pool float miniatures floating on the sea of gumball bubbles!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
yields about 5 cups

Ingredients:
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
6 to 8 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (can sub vanilla extract)
4 to 8 tablespoons milk
copper colored food coloring (or any color you like!)

Directions:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add 6 cups of the confectioner’s sugar. Add the salt, vanilla paste and 4 tablespoons of milk. Beat for 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thin, add more of the sugar (1/2 a cup at a time). If the frosting is too thick, add more of the milk (1 tablespoon at a time). Stir in a little food coloring at a time until you get your desired color. Refrigerate the frosting for a few minutes before using.
*Vanilla sugar is sugar that has been with a vanilla bean in a jar for a few weeks imparting a mild vanilla flavor
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Watch the video here for easy decorating!

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