Not talking about the stores, which whisk Halloween decor away on November 1, blow by Thanksgiving (in the US; in Canada we had ours), then fill aisles with Christmas presents. I'm talking about your kitchen, relatively placid and tidy this time of year.
So now is the time to make holiday or house gifts, before the onslaught of invitations and outings. Among my post-50 friends, no one wants a massive sweet tray, it ends up at the grandkids' or the office. So, think outside the cookie box, set aside an evening, and you're a big step closer to a serene holiday season.
Each of these recipes is just decadent enough to make it special.
Sweet chilli jam
Make from now to immediately before giving; do not freeze.
A savoury jam is terrific with meats or grilled vegetables, and thinned just a little, makes a piquant glaze for roast chicken or pork. (This is a quick recipe but you do have to sterilize jars, which I do in the dishwasher. ) The jelly keeps three months in a cool cupboard.
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce
Make any time now and freeze.
An alchemic recipe that's a last-minute dinner or lunch lifesaver and a break from heavy festive meals. (Don't hesitate to give it frozen.) Uses fresh or canned tomatoes (San Marzano), and don't hold back on the butter, that's the magic. You might add a hunk of parmesan, now that's a luxe gift!
There is also a Bolognese version which is more work, but pleases serious carnivores.
Lynn's Brandied Fruit
Make at least 3 weeks before giving
This deep, cognac-infused compote is a sophisticated, adult indulgence. The recipient can keep it going, adding more fruits and brandy or cognac (as long as the fruit is immersed in alcohol it will keep practically forever), or snarfle the whole thing up and hope you give it again next year.
Sleepover Cinnamon Buns
Make these up to three weeks ahead.
You are the guest, and the party went late, but in the morning, the house awakens to the irresistible smell of fresh-baked cinnamon buns. Not the kind in a package—fresh, homemade plump buns. The folks at King Arthur Flour show you how to do it. You can hide the frozen buns in your car or the host's freezer; just remember to
- thaw them the night before
- bring a cup of confectioner's sugar and a little cinnamon if you want to ice them
Other comestibles, like nuts, charcuterie, or the eternally-loved box of chocolates do not require your effort. But it's so gracious to give something made by your hand. Knowing what your friends prefer can guide your choice; not everyone likes pickled fiddleheads.
If you have your own treasures and are willing to share, please add them,