DIY Christmas Gift Project: Cookie, Muffin and Bar in a Jar Mixes

What unique gift can you give the family who likes to cook? This year, I am making each family member an individualized “Cookie Mix, Muffin or Bar in a Jar Mix.” The basic premise is to include the dry ingredients for the dessert in the jar. The “chef” provides the eggs, butter, vanilla extract etc; which are added to the mix and baked. Of course, you must include the instructions on how to prepare the baked desserts. Sort of like a boxed cake or brownie mix but much more creative (and homemade). The sky is the limit on what recipes can be adapted for this DIY Project and what ingredients can be added. Hey, you can’t find a store -purchased box mix for Matcha Muffins. Here is a batch of my “Macha Muffins with Cranberries” made from my “Jar Mix.” Not only is this a creative gift, but the muffins are extremely tasty, too.

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Black Walnut Cluster Kisses for the Holidays

The holiday season is a great time to bake cookies. Do you know of anyone who can object to receiving a plate of homemade cookies? I love to bake during the holiday’s, but don’t need to eat many of the rich cookies and desserts. So, let’s bake cookies and give them away (well, most of them)! This season I am making a tried and true cookie recipe, “Black Walnut Clusters,” and I am adding a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each cookie for an extra “pop” of chocolate and a festive appearance. This cookie recipe is a favorite with the flavors of chocolate and black walnuts in a rich vanilla cookie. It is simple and quick to mix up.

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Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Flan

I’ve always wanted to make a “Flan” and was excited when I stumbled across a recipe for “Pumpkin Flan” in a vintage cookbook. It is another prefect recipe for Thanksgiving and the holidays. A custard-type dessert with caramel topping is by far my husband’s favorite dessert. In Louisiana, custard flans and a similar dish, crème brûlée, are standards on most traditional restaurant menus. I can always guess what dessert we will order when we go out to eat. This recipe for “Pumpkin Flan” is a baked custard using whole eggs, spices, cream and pumpkin puree. It includes a hard caramel glaze. This recipe, or at least the caramel glaze, is tricky to make. I included fresh pumpkin pulp from my “sugar pumpkins” in the custard which gives this flan a definite Thanksgiving “pumpkin pie” taste. The “Pumpkin Flan” turned out great including my caramel glaze. Creamy and smooth. Delicious.

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Persimmon Rum Pound Cake

This week I’m making a delicious “Persimmon Rum Pound Cake” using some of the Hachiya persimmons growing on my backyard persimmon tree. This type of persimmon tree grows very well in Louisiana, mine was loaded with fruit this fall — I counted over 100 persimmons! While the persimmons grow during the summer, they are firm and astringent — almost impossible to eat. When they ripen in autumn, the fruit becomes very soft and translucent. The persimmons become sweet, gelatinous and lose their pungency.

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Let’s Make Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats

What is this? These are an old-fashioned ice cream floats which I have named, “Green Swamp Floats.” We are getting to the end of summer — Labor Day is coming up. Let’s celebrate by making “Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats.” Sipping an ice cream float in the afternoon used to be a summertime treat when I was growing up. It satisfied one’s sweet tooth and quenched the thirst on those hot summer days. And an ice cream float was so, so easy to make — really just two ingredients — coke and ice cream. When company came for an extended visit, these were sure to be on the agenda. So let’s make a traditional ice cream float using Barq’s Root Beer and also some surprises.

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Moose Tracks-Inspired Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Swirl

I discovered a different brand of ice cream recently while visiting in Houston — Moose Tracks Ice Cream. With such a unique and novel name, it catches your attention. Of course, I had to try a scoop of Denali’s® “Extreme Maximum Fudge Moose Tracks” Ice Cream. The ice cream was pretty good. Being curious, I wanted to learn why I’ve been missing this brand of ice cream all these years. And I am making my own Moose Tracks-inspired version of their original flavor, “Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Swirl and Peanut Butter Cups.”

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Kids Can Cook: Graham Cracker Crush & Banana -Marshmallow Delight

Here’s an easy recipe and a way to use up those extra bananas which perhaps you might have purchased. This “lite dessert” quickly disappears at our house. It is a low-fat dessert — virtually fat-free (although it is not calorie or sugar-free). While sorting through a stack of vintage homemakers magazines, I ran across the recipe for “Banana Pudding Supreme” which actually isn’t a pudding at all but instead uses melted marshmallows. Hum. I haven’t cooked with marshmallows in many years. The recipe is simple and calls for layering melted marshmallows/whip cream along with crushed graham crackers and bananas. Other than melting the marshmallows on the stove, this dessert is an activity which kids can help make.

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Meringue Nests with Fresh Fruit for Passover and Easter

I cannot remember a Passover meal without my mother-in-law’s meringue nests for dessert. These are truly a family tradition. The little meringue shells are made from egg whites and sugar with a hint of vanilla extract and are filled with fresh fruit. They are tasty and colorful and truly remind me of spring. Fill them with whatever fruit is in season — blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries. Best yet, this dessert is fat-free and healthy. It will surely impress! This is the “perfect” and elegant dessert for spring — serve it for Easter dinner, too!

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Classic New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding

I am making “Classic New Orleans Bread Pudding” as a sentimental tribute to all the Mardi Gras parades and festivities which have been cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sad, but true — hard to social distance with these huge crowds and parades — and they have all been cancelled in the greater New Orleans area. Most restaurants in southern Louisiana offer a variation of Bread Pudding on their dessert menus — I view this as the quintessential New Orleans dessert. My favorite bread pudding recipe comes from well-known Cajun chef, Paul Prudhomme, and his Louisiana K-Paul’s restaurant. His recipe hits the spices just right — it is something special. I have adapted Prudhomme’s recipe slightly and am making it in honor of Mardi Gras this year. I will miss the fun and revelry!

 

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Persimmon Spice Bread

Here’s an absolutely delicious “spice bread” recipe which is just right for the holiday season. It comes from my across-the-street neighbor, Kathy. The bread blends pungent persimmons with a combination of spices — cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice — to make a moist, dense and perky quick bread. For many years, another favorite Cajun neighbor treated us to a small loaf of pumpkin bread every Christmas. I remember Essie with great fondness during the holiday season for all of her kind deeds. And so I am making Kathy’s “Persimmon Spice Bread” to use as Christmas and Hanukah gifts. As a bonus, this is quite a healthy bread and the recipe includes a “secret ingredient.”

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