[Editor's note: This column was originally published in Clinton Patch.]
Making your own candy, preserves, chocolate sauce, breads, cookies -- you name it and giving it as gifts to friends, family, and neighbors is truly the gift that "comes from the heart."
If you have a special recipe that everyone loves -- something that is easily transported and doesn't need refrigeration, then half of your Christmas shopping is done!
For years, my mother has made Hobo bread (raisin bread baked in coffee cans) to give to neighbors and friends. It is delicious toasted and spread with cream cheese.
My aunt is the lucky recipient of her neighbor's chocolate sauce. What is ideal about the sauce is once opened, it keeps in the refrigerator for months (if you can make it last that long.) Take the metal top off the glass container and you can microwave it as you need it.
The presentation is important when giving home-made food items as gifts. Plastic wrap or tin foil just won't do it at Christmas. Purchase some cellophane wrap, ribbons, decorative tins, etc. The choices at some of the gift stores are endless.
Anne Grenier, a friend and co-worker of my mother's, makes this delicious and different banana bread. Try it!
½ cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups mashed banana
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup white zinfandel wine
1 cup walnuts, chopped
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add in banana and mix lightly.
In separate small bowl, mix flour, soda, and salt together.
Alternate adding the dry ingredients to the batter with the wine. Stir in the walnuts with a spoon, reserving a few for the top of the loaf, if desired.
Grease and flour a large loaf pan, bake at 350 degrees for approximately one hour.
Aunt Colleen's Neighbor's Chocolate Sauce
Makes seven 8 oz. jars
2 sticks butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 pint heavy cream, slightly warmed
¾ cup cocoa (like Hershey's)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add sugar, brown sugar and salt, stirring. Add cream and stir well on medium heat. Add cocoa and stir constantly until sauce just bubbles.
Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir.
Pour into clean 8 oz. canning glass jars (like Ball's). Let cool slightly. Top with lids, and cool.
After opening, chocolate sauce needs to be refrigerated.