Whisk you a merry Christmas with gifts of food cheer


My neighbor recently told me that food was my “language of love.” And she’s right. Homemade food is a gesture of love and friendship, and I can’t think of a better holiday gift. Gifts from the kitchen are my favorite. They are personal and delicious. If you want to share some edible love, here are several original recipes. I hope you enjoy them and have a very merry Christmas!

Crazy Good Popcorn

I didn’t know what to call this popcorn, but people absolutely love it. It’s so easy, which makes it a wonderful gift from the kitchen. It’s also a little crazy, so I call it crazy good.

Makes enough to fill about 4 cookie tins.

3 bags of butter-flavored microwave popcorn, popped
8 squares of vanilla almond bark
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Zest from 1 orange
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds

Microwave the popcorn according to package directions. Pour popcorn into a large bowl or spread it out on cookie sheets lined with wax paper.

Microwave almond bark according to package directions until melted; immediately pour over the popcorn, stirring to coat as much as possible. Immediately stir in cranberries, orange zest and almonds. Add an extra dash of salt.

Cool and store in airtight containers.

Note: This is best made fresh, but it will keep for one week.

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes

Makes 16 cheesecakes

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes

16 pecan shortbread cookies
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Prepared caramel sauce
Chopped pecans

Allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature for 2 hours.
Heat oven to 325.
Paper-line 16 muffin cups. Place one cookie in each liner.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in sour cream and sugar until blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, pour batter into muffin cups. (You won’t use a full 1/3 cup, but it’s a good tool.)

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more.

Before serving (or prior to refrigerating), heat the heavy whipping cream over medium-low heat until bubbles start to form on the side of the pan. Add in the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Add about 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate to each cheesecake. Top with a dollop of caramel sauce. (I recommend the caramel dip for apples!) Sprinkle pecans on top and serve.

Pistachio Cranberry Bars

Makes 16 bars.

Pistachio Cranberry Bars

1 box yellow cake mix
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
3 eggs, divided
Cooking spray
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 3.3-ounce package instant pistachio pudding
2/3 cup dried cranberries
Zest from 1 orange

Heat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine yellow cake mix, 8 tablespoons melted butter and 1 egg, stirring until combined. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray, and press mixture down evenly in the pan to form a crust.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in sweetened condensed milk and beat again. Add pudding mix, 5 remaining tablespoons of melted butter, 2 remaining eggs and beat until combined.

Stir in dried cranberries, keeping a few back for the top. Spread mixture over cake crust.

Sprinkle on orange zest and add the remaining cranberries.

Bake for 35-38 minutes. Center should still be jiggly; it will set as it cools. Cool for at least 2 hours before serving. If refrigerating bars, allow them to sit out for 20 minutes before serving. They’re easier to cut, and they taste better, too.

Lime Pomegranate Trifles

These make a great office gift because they are easy to transport, and people can take them home. You can also make these in half-pint jars for a party; just use one layer of cake.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Lime Pomegranate Trifles in Mason jars

1 prepared angel foodcake
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 8-ounce tub whipped topping
Seeds of 2 pomegranates

Cut or tear cake into pieces. Divide half of the cake pieces between 6 to 8 (16-ounce) Mason jars. Set aside.

Whisk together sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Pour half the mixture evenly over the cakes. Add a huge dollop of whipped topping and 1 teaspoon pomegranate seeds.

Top with remaining cake pieces, the remaining lime mixture and then additional whipped topping. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. Keep jars refrigerated unil ready to use.

Notes: For this recipe, I used an angel food cake made from a mix, and I filled 8 jars. If you use a store-bought cake, which tend to be denser and smaller, expect to get about 6 jars.

If you can’t find pomegranates, you can substitute strawberries.