Sucre à la Crème-French Canadian Fudge

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While most college care packages include cookies, mine held sucre à  la crème.  Sucre à la crème is a rich caramel candy similar to fudge though distinctively different in its grainier and more crumbly texture.  Once you taste it, you will never forget how delicious it is.  Although enjoyed any time of the year, it is often the star of the sweet offerings at Christmas in French Canadian homes.

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Sleighride by Candlelight-A Tablescape

Growing up with a French mother who required little help in the kitchen and was an incredible cook, I was most often enlisted to decorate the table.  I’ve been playing with dishes ever since and confess to often planning an entire menu around how a dish will look when served!  Creating the ambiance of a gathering is still my favorite part of entertaining and what I am known for.  For a Christmas Eve Soirée, a sleighride was my theme.  This tablescape can easily be used for a Christmas brunch or dinner.  The beauty is that it is a make-ahead décor, which we all could use at this busy entertaining season. Continue reading

Edible Gifting: Recipes for Citrus Infused Salt and Deer Valley Inn Granola

Today I invite you into my kitchen as I create a savory and a sweet(but healthy!) gift that can outlast the holidays and be enjoyed by its recipient long after the last present has been unwrapped.

These non-commercial, homemade and inexpensive edible gifts will make personal gifts for a chef on your list or for a lucky hostess.  For each gift, I will take you through each step, provide the recipe and demonstrate two presentation ideas.  Winter citrus infused salt and a nutty granola are 2 gifts sure to please any hostess.

WINTER CITRUS INFUSED SALT

This infused salt can be made ahead and can last 2 months.  It may be tweaked to your liking by changing the zest mixture or the seasoning( eg:  cumin-lime).  It will add a bright finishing note to soups, stews, fish or poultry.

Preheat oven to 300F

1/2 cup flaky sea salt of medium coarseness

1 T grapefruit zest

2 tsp orange zest

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp freshly ground fennel seed

Mix all ingredients together.  Spread out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes until the zests are dried and crumbly.  Cool and store in an airtight container.  Makes 3/4 cup.9

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For gifting, I portioned the infused salt in small Bell jars.  For one presentation, I topped the lid with a fabric round, tied on a raffia ribbon and added a tag.  For the second presentation, I glued a label tag on the bare lid and added a wider ribbon and glass berries. ( recipe courtesy of Heidi Swanson, author of Super Natural Every Day)

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The second edible gift is granola.  It is a perfect gift for overnight guests or for a hostess to enjoy at a later date.  It is healthy with just a hint of sweetness coming from honey. This recipe was shared with me by my dear friend Deedee who had made it for me.  She obtained the recipe after enjoying the granola at this inn in Utah( all I got was the recipe!!!).  Over the years we have both tweaked the recipe and the ingredients denoted as “optional” are our modifications from the original.  If you like your granola more like muesli, bake it 10 minutes less.  No matter how you make it, it always turns out great, the recipe always gets requested and it lends itself to creative combinations of ingredients.  I make it year round and in the summer like to substitute the pecans for walnuts and use blueberries.

DEER VALLEY INN GRANOLA

Ingredients:

3 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cups shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds

3/4 cups sliced almonds

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/3 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup honey

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup pecan halves(optional)

1 1/2 cups dried fruit(optional) (I used cranberries and apricots)

Directions: Preheat oven to 300F.  Combine dry ingredients except the fruit.  Coat measuring cup with oil, add vanilla and honey then pour over the dry ingredients and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon.  Spread 1/2 inch deep on a lined, rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.  While the granola is still warm, add the fruit.  Makes 9 cups.

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Presentation ideas:

Fill a large Bell jar with granola.  Top with a fabric round, add a ribbon and tag.  To underscore the origination of this recipe from Utah, I used a suede topper, a tag made out of birch bark(use a metallic gel pen to inscribe), and fresh greenery.  The second presentation is a cellophane bag tied with a sugar snowflake ornament and a winter wonderland tag.  This wrapping could be suitable for New Years or anytime over the winter months.

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However you choose to wrap your edible gifts, they will be delicious and elegant offerings that will fill you the joy of giving a homespun delight from your kitchen!  Happy edible gifting!

Garden-Themed Christmas Tree

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I did not grow up with anything close to a themed Christmas tree.  So why I started putting up a second tree for me evolved from a growing collection of beautiful ornaments relating to the garden gifted over the years or acquired during travel.  I felt these interesting ornaments were getting lost in our family tree and did not have relevance to the rest of my family members, all non gardeners!  So with already an overflowing to-do list, I actually find tremendous joy in decorating “my” garden tree. Continue reading

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend: Repurposing Costume Jewelry Into a Christmas Tree

imageThere are times in one’s life when you touch another person in a truly magical way.  For me, that was Nana.  Nana personified the spirit of Christmas.  Her German Christmas Eve parties were legendary and people lined up to get in.  When Prince Charming proposed to me in late November, Nana threw us a surprise engagement party and asked everyone to bring a love-themed ornament.  Those ornaments are still one of my most treasured possessions.  So when Nana was hospitalized in a nursing home over Christmas, I knew I had to do more than bring her an amaryllis or pointsettia. Continue reading

From Supermarket to Sensational: Pointsettia Topiary Tutorial

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I cannot tell a lie:  I am not a fan of pointsettias.  A pointsettia topiary however, gets my gardener’s heart beating a little faster.  I love bringing natural elements in my holiday decor and the lowly pointsettia lends itself perfectly to a Cinderella transformation.image Continue reading

A Scottish Tradition Fit for a Queen: The Royal Family Shortbread Cookies

For more than 30 years a pink slip of paper has traveled with me through moves to 2 countries, 3 apartments and 3 homes.  It reappears every year right about now when the holiday baking frenzy begins.  The pink slip is handwritten by a lovely woman of Scottish heritage who was a patient of mine in Toronto long ago.

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