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Last minute food gifts

E4024, Wikimedia Commons

You can add whatever you like to a batch of homemade bean soup if you feel it needs something more, such as a few greens or even some meat.


Every year the holiday season goes out of its way to sneak up on me. I always think I have another week before Christmas, only to find out my brain completely made that up. If the same thing happens to you, it helps to have several recipes on hand that are quick to make. And sometimes you can make a gift of the ingredients rather than going through with the baking, thus creating a homemade mix.

I try to give things that I would like myself, but the only problem with that is I don’t get to eat any of it. This is what happened a few days ago when I made some really tasty popcorn balls, and shipped every one of them off to one of my sons. You all know what I am going to do first chance I get, right? Yep — I am going to make another batch so I can have some too.

Merry Christmas to me, and to you, too. I am including the recipe for those tasty popcorn balls right here.

Chewy popcorn balls

This recipe is adapted from an old cookbook from the folks who make Jell-O gelatin. Use any flavor you want. It’s a good idea to pick all the “old maids” out after you pop the corn, so nobody chomps down on any.

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1 package (3-oz.) gelatin (any flavor)

9 cups popped corn

1. In a medium saucepan, bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and add the gelatin, stirring again until dissolved.

2. Pour mixture over the popped corn (in a large bowl) and with a wooden spoon, mix well, tossing the popcorn so it becomes evenly coated.

3. Butter your hands well and when mixture is just cool enough to handle, form into firmly packed balls. You will probably need to butter your hands between each one. One batch should make about 12 popcorn balls, depending on the size. When cool, wrap each one in plastic wrap and tie off each end with some curling ribbon.

Blueberry muffin mix in a jar

2 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 to 1 cup dried blueberries

1. Pour sugar into a 1-quart wide-mouth canning jar. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; pour half into the jar.

2. Place the dried blueberries into a small resealable plastic bag and seal. (You can add the blueberries right into the dry mixture, but they tend to sink to the bottom. Keeping them in a bag will help keep the mix looking layered.) Add remaining flour mixture.

3. Place lid on jar and attach a tag with instructions.

4. Instructions for baking: Gather 2 eggs, 4 ounces melted butter, 1 cup milk or buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Whisk together the eggs, melted butter, milk or buttermilk and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, stir in the blueberry muffin mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, filling each muffin cup about 3/4 full. If desired, sprinkle tops with sugar or a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes. Makes 18 to 24 muffins, depending on the size of the muffin cups.

Holiday bean soup mix

1/2 cup dry kidney beans

1/2 cup split green peas

1/2 cup dry black beans

1/2 cup red lentils

1/2 cup dry red beans (or pinto beans)

1/2 cup split yellow peas (or substitute more green ones)

Seasoning packet:

1 tablespoon dried green pepper flakes

2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon granules

2 teaspoons dried minced onion

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Layer the ingredients in the order given into a wide-mouth 1-quart canning jar. Mix and place the seasonings in a small plastic bag. Place the packet on top of the peas. Attach a gift tag with the cooking directions.

2. Directions:1 jar bean soup mix, 2 cans (14 1/2-oz. each) stewed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or as an option use a meaty ham bone). Remove seasoning bag from soup mix and set aside. Rinse beans and place in a large soup pot. Pour 4 cups boiling water over beans, cover and let soak overnight. Drain the water. Add 6 cups fresh water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Add tomatoes, seasoning mix and liquid smoke or ham bone. (Note: It’s a good idea to add the ham bone in right at the beginning, as it intensifies the flavor.) Cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Uncover beans and continue to simmer about 1 hour longer or until soup thickens.

Salty sweet snowflake treats

3 cups bite-sized rice cereal squares

3 cups bite-sized corn cereal squares

1 cup small pretzel twists or sticks

1 cup honey-roasted peanuts

2 packages (12-oz. each) white baking morsels

1 package (12-oz.) mint-flavored candy-coated milk chocolate pieces (or any flavor you like)

1. In a very large bowl combine cereals, pretzels and peanuts; set aside.

2. Melt baking morsels according to package directions. Pour melted chocolate over cereal mixture. Stir gently to coat.

3. Spread on a large piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 1 month. Makes 16 cups.


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