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Treats make tasty gifts

  • SEATTLE TIMES

    Candy cane brittle makes a sturdy holiday gift.

It always feels nice to give a gift that’s homemade. You’ve put time, energy and thought into creating something special.

But how many people really have time to toil in the kitchen? Save your sanity and make something in a large batch, and divvy it up for your various friends. These two recipes — one sweet, one savory — have become my go-tos. Happy giving!

Candy Cane Brittle

For the sweet, make peppermint brittle, break it into pieces, toss it in cute holiday-themed cellophane bags, and you’re good to go. It’s a great way to use those tiny candy canes that seem to multiply like rabbits this time of year. And to release some built-up holiday stress — you get to smash the candy canes with a mallet!

Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 pound high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped candy canes, divided
  • 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers), lightly crushed
  • 1 ounce high-quality white chocolate, melted

Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Stir chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted.

Stir in 3/4 cup chopped candy and crushed cookies; spread over foil. Sprinkle 1/4 cup candy over. Drizzle with melted white chocolate. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Break into shards.

Note: To break up the candy canes, I find it easiest to use the tiniest canes, put them in a zip-top bag and smash them on a sturdy counter with a mallet. You don’t want to grind them so far that they become dust, just shards.

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Candied Jalapenos

On the savory side is this “cowboy candy,” a riff on the spicy jelly you’ve seen served with cream cheese as an appetizer. It’s easy to make, has a nice mix of sweet and spicy, and looks quite pretty, especially when made with a mix of green and red peppers. Be sure to turn on your stove’s fan and open a window, though. The smell of boiling cider vinegar, peppers and turmeric can last in your kitchen for days.

Adapted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from tastykitchen.com

  • 3 pounds fresh jalapeno peppers, washed
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Wearing gloves, remove and discard stems from peppers. Slice into uniform rounds no more than 1/4-inch thick. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, garlic and cayenne to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add pepper slices; simmer exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer peppers into clean, sterile canning jars to within 1/4 inch of rim.

Turn up heat under pot and bring liquid to full, rolling boil for 6 minutes. Ladle boiling syrup into jars over jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick into jar 2 or 3 times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe rims clean and attach two-piece lids to fingertip tightness.

If eating right away, refrigerate. To can, place jars in a canner and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring water to a full rolling boil, 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. Transfer jars to cooling rack. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Wipe clean, then label.

Serve on top of cream cheese and serve with crackers. Makes 4 (8-ounce) jars.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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