Great tidings of comfort & food
If a store-bought gift for everyone isn't in your budget this year, consider giving gifts of food. They're less expensive and always appreciated, and they can even seem more thoughtful than the typical trinket.
Christmas lists seem to get longer every year. Families grow, new friends and acquaintances are made, and there are lots of people to be thankful for. Luckily, most people love food, so here are two of my recipes for foodie-friendly gifts that are sure to please. For more ideas, check out my recipe page on QVC.com.
Don’t be afraid to consult your own recipe box as well. If you’ve made some great sauces and spice blends lately, jar them. If you make a killer coffee cake, put the dry mix in a nice cake pan. And don't forget about your favorite wintry soups and casseroles.
Just remember — if you make a casserole or a big batch of soup and plan to freeze it, be sure to use freezer-stable ingredients. Cream-based sauces tend to separate and turn watery when frozen, and cooked potatoes often lose their texture. Also, avoid any recipe that uses eggs, and don’t add crunchy toppings (like chips, crackers or breadcrumbs) before baking, as they'll get soggy.
White bean & ham soup
Lots of folks are already dreaming about that Christmas ham, so give them a real treat with a helping of this warm, hearty soup. And don't forget to keep this recipe handy for the days after Christmas!
To save you time — and for more convenient gifting — freeze this recipe. Cook as directed, cool completely and divide the soup into airtight, freezer-safe containers. Write cooking directions (i.e., thaw overnight, gently warm before serving) on a gift tag you can attach to the top.
- 1 pound dry Great Northern beans
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 meaty ham hock or 2-3 pounds ham shanks
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups ham, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Fresh parsley (optional garnish)
- Rinse the beans, sorting out any that are broken or discolored.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans, and remove the pot from the heat. Let the beans sit in the hot water for at least 1 hour.
- When the hour has elapsed, return the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for another hour.
- Remove the ham bone and discard it. Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley (if desired).
Fudgy brownie gift mix
Your friends and acquaintances may be swimming in cookies this time of year, but brownies would make for a sweet change. Just add the dry ingredients and attach the baking directions as well as a printable gift tag that you can download from QVC.com. It's up to your recipient to make the brownies either right away or a month from now.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup candy-coated peanut butter pieces
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl, then transfer it to a jar or airtight container.
- Layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed above (except for the candy-coated peanut butter pieces, which should be stored in a separate container or small plastic bag).
- Be sure to press each layer firmly into place before adding the next layer. Also, wipe the insides of the container with a dry paper towel after adding the cocoa powder so that the other layers will show through.
Fudgy brownie baking directions
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
- Empty the brownie mix into a large mixing bowl and stir it to blend. Stir in the butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
- Evenly pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the candy-coated peanut butter pieces on top. Bake for 45-48 minutes. Do not overbake. Let the brownies cool completely before cutting them.