I used to read every issue of Oprah Magazine; I like almost everything about it. Lack of time has made me put my subscription on hold for a while – you could say I’m sort of on a break from Oprah at the moment. But I have learned a lot from her monthly magazine over the years, and she has given me great ideas for shopping, parties and life strategies.
Last year, the December issue provided beautiful gift ideas on how to make holiday offerings to friends and family, each complete with recipes and how-tos. I indeed became so inspired that I invited a few close friends to a gift-making party at my house. I gave each guest a recipe with instructions to make six servings prior to coming together – one for each guest – and with the request to bring jars, tins or other type of containers to hold each offering. We assembled each gift at my house amid wine, appetizers and lots of laughter.
Here is what we collectively made and shared with each other:
- Cranberry Chutney
- Lemon-Pepper Rosemary Salt
- Blood Orange Vodka
- Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Sweetened Dried Cherries and Pumpkin Seeds
- Maple Caramel Sauce
- and my personal favorite – Christmas Pecans
Everything turned out tasty and beautiful. The Christmas pecans ended up as the personal favorite for most of us, and are very easy to make. Assemble pretty little portions in a hemp bag and adorn with a bow – voila you have a beautiful hostess gift for your next holiday gathering. Here is how you make it:
- 2 egg whites at room temperature (do not use refrigerated liquid egg whites)
- 1/8 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 pound shelled large or jumbo pecan halves
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
- Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 275°. Have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet, preferably a light-colored nonstick pan for easier cleanup.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add salt and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, pour vanilla extract over brown sugar. Then add sugar mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, to egg white mixture, beating on high speed to form a strong, shiny meringue (about 10 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in pecan halves until well coated.
- Meanwhile, melt butter on a baking sheet in the oven (3 to 5 minutes). Be careful not to let butter brown. Gently tip baking sheet so that butter coats bottom of pan.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread nuts over butter, without stirring, to form an even layer without deflating meringue.
- Bake nuts for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir nuts with a spatula so that nuts at center of pan move to outer rim and those at edges move closer to center. Bake nuts for 15 minutes longer and stir again. Continue baking another 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until nuts are separated, have absorbed butter, and are beautifully browned but not dark brown.
- Immediately turn nuts out on a counter lined with a long sheet of aluminum foil. Spread them on foil and allow to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered tin or covered glass container, or present in gift bags or boxes lined with decorative waxed paper. The nuts will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
(Taken from The Christmas Table: Recipes & Crafts to Create Your Own Holiday Tradition by Diane Morgan)