Monday, December 31, 2012

A World Full of Christmas, Part 2

Christmas is over but last week was the stretch run and I had a few days off to finish everything up. Though I worked most of the first day it was still nice to hang around the house in pajamas, puttering here, wrapping there, primping the decorations and watching the fire.

In addition to the cookie boxes, I made several food gifts for some special people in my office. Two of the recipes were courtesy of Shutterbean, both really easy to make but quite impressive. Caramelized Onion Jam is very tasty but perhaps should be reserved for the foodies on your list. I love caramelized onions on my pizza (as I told you here) and it's handy to have them pre-made to add great flavor to a panini, mashed potatoes or pasta. The only drawback - the onion smell clinging to everything for days! Herbed Cheese Sticks, made from frozen puff pastry, look great and taste even better. I used raffia ties, natural parchment paper and custom-printed hang tags to give them a unified look. Add a takeout container chock full of fresh-baked cookies and pack it all together in a photo box with natural shred and some tissue paper, tied up with more raffia and a sprig of fresh evergreen. These are great gifts for all kinds of people on your list, especially if the question of how much to spend is awkward or if you don't know the recipient's likes and dislikes very well.

The kitchen got quite a workout this season. I made rich dark chocolate ganache - the base for yummy homemade truffles. I've made these before and finished off the melt-in-your mouth balls with just a dusting of cocoa powder but I wanted to experiment this time with other looks and flavors. I divided the still-liquid ganache into 3 batches and added a different flavored liqueur to each - Amaretto (almond), Chambord (raspberry) and Godiva (dark chocolate). I planned to dip the well-chilled shaped balls in couverture chocolate and sprinkle them with toasted coconut, ground peppermint candies and chopped nuts but they're still a work in progress. I'll keep you posted!

The final touches to this 2012 Christmas season - gifts wrapped in gold and silver, darling little character mugs lining the kitchen shelf, swags on the cupboard doors, a mixed era display in the dining room cum lounge and the main tree, all decked out, resplendent in the cozy firelight - were complete. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and now: Happy New Year!

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