Give the Gift of Good Taste

Easy gifts for food-loving friends

Foodie 12:17:15Do you still have a few names left on your holiday list but can’t stand the thought of another trip to the mall? Why not roll up your sleeves, head to the kitchen, and prepare some mouthwatering gifts? We’ve got no-fuss ideas that are sure to please.

Hand-shaped marzipan candies are easy to make, and children love to create with this popular German almond confection. Think Play-Doh but stickier — and tastier! Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on a clean work surface and have fun experimenting with shapes. Three round balls can easily become a snowman, and a small round oval of marzipan rolled in cocoa powder looks amazingly like a potato. Fondant tools are ideal for carving and creating, but knives and cookie cutters work well, too. You can color your creations by kneading a few drops of food color into the marzipan before you start. If you store the confections in an airtight container, they’ll last several weeks. Look for marzipan in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.

Chocolate-dipped dried fruit is easy, looks impressive and makes a great gift. Choose large pieces of dried pineapple, apricots, pears or papaya spears. Candied ginger is a personal favorite — spicy, sweet and addictive. Melt one cup of chocolate chips in the microwave, stopping every 30 seconds to stir. Dip the fruit, shake off the excess and set them on wax paper to dry.

Tangy candied citrus peels make an unusual candy treat, and with Florida citrus season currently in full swing, now is the perfect time to make this sparkly treat. Candied orange peels dipped halfway in chocolate
make a visually stunning gift when wrapped in a cellophane bag. Make a double batch and treat yourself to a piece with a cup of afternoon coffee.

Spice things up with a collection of herbs and spices for the chef in your life. For a friend who loves to bake, assemble some vanilla beans, cinnamon and cloves in a basket with a recipe or cookbook. Or make an easy barbecue rub by combining 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup paprika, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1 tablespoon each of black pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder. Combine ingredients and put into decorative, airtight jars with a personalized label.

Candied Orange Peels

5 medium oranges

2 cups sugar, divided

1 1/2 cups water

Wash oranges thoroughly. To remove the peels without tearing, slice off the stem end of the fruit, then make vertical cuts about one inch apart through the peel. Carefully peel off the scored sections of the rind. With a sharp paring knife, trim away as much of the white pith from the peel as possible. Cut the peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. In a small pan, cover the peels with water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Drain off water. In the same pan, stir together 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the water over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the peels and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 40 minutes. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet, and use a slotted spoon to transfer peels to the rack. Let them stand for about an hour, until almost dry. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Roll the peels in the sugar to coat, shaking off excess. Place the peels on waxed paper to dry completely, about 4 hours. Store in an airtight container.

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