Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Edible Gifts Spell Tasteful Gifting This Holiday Season

Walnutinfo.com
Edible Gifts Spell Tasteful Gifting This Holiday Season
Advance planning, prioritizing and organizing along with a few expert tips on homemade gifts and holiday spending can help shield your finances and restore holiday spirit this year. Avoid the typical holiday trappings of commercialized festivities and pricey presents by exploring gift giving options that will help keep spending in check and holiday cheer intact.

To bake or to buy? Start by building a recipient list, complete with the gifts each person might like to receive. Taking into consideration age, interests and personal relationships, categorize recipients for whom a material gift ‘needs’ to be purchased and those who might appreciate something with a homemade touch. Keep in mind that edible gifts are ideal for a busy holiday party hostess, or for someone you’re not quite sure what to get; a friendly neighbour or your child’s school teacher. Parents and grandparents who seem to have everything they need might also appreciate a holiday treat that’s thoughtfully made.

“Whoever the recipient, a gift that’s homemade and tickles the taste buds, is much more personal and reflects the amount of thought and energy invested in its creation. Edible gifts not only save you money but reflect a gift made from the heart,” says lifestyle expert, Renée Sylvestre-Williams. “It is always a good idea to check with the recipient, if you’re planning to take an edible gift to a holiday or pot luck party – this will ensure your gift fits within the menu.”

For those gifts that will need to be purchased, Renée advises consumers to “Go shopping without your credit cards and carry only cash so you won’t be tempted to exceed your budget or fall into the trap of ‘one gift for them, one for me.’ And remember, you don’t have to spend a fortune a gift. The thought is really what counts.”

If you decide that delicious homemade gifts are the way to go, create a shortlist of recipes that will suit multiple recipients, so that baking or cooking can be streamlined. For starters, simple recipes that are easy to follow work best. However, you might also want to try experimenting with a fresh twist on festive classics, like these recipes courtesy of the California Walnut Commission. Each of these holiday favourites come packed with the delicious and nutrient-rich goodness of California walnuts, are easy to make and can be pre-prepped and frozen for convenience and safe storage:

Walnut Gougère – Great for freezing and to have on hand as festive hors d’oeuvres
A classic French cheese puff with the tasteful addition of delicate walnut crumbs. These versatile mini delights make for impressive hors d’oeuvres or the perfect accompaniment to a wine tasting. 

Walnut Arroz Con Pollo – A perfect hostess gift or contribution to a holiday pot luck
A wholesome, Spanish-inspired recipe, Walnut Arroz Con Pollo is a delicious, hearty one-pot wonder meal perfect for all occasions.
Walnut Cannelloni – These freeze well and can be made in larger batches
This meat-free entrée is a delicious indulgence and the addition of walnuts adds flavour, crunch and protein.
Fudgy Walnut Brownies (Gluten-Free) – Freeze for easy storage. Once thawed, store these brownies in air-tight containers to keep them tasting fresh
Guaranteed to please any sweet tooth, this gluten-free brownie recipe packs a nutritious punch in every tasty bite. The addition of dates and quinoa flour add to the fudgy texture, while significantly raising the bar for a scrumptious treat that’s full of goodness.

RECIPES BELOW!

 

Fudgy Walnut Brownies (Gluten-Free)

Guaranteed to please any sweet tooth, this gluten-free brownie recipe packs a nutritious punch in every tasty bite. The addition of dates and quinoa flour add to the fudgy texture, while significantly raising the bar for a scrumptious treat that’s full of goodness.

1 cup    dates, pitted (about 16)    250 mL
2 tbsp    water    30 mL
7 oz    dark chocolate (good quality), chopped    210 g
6 tbsp    butter, salted    90 mL
2    large eggs, at room temperature    2
2 tbsp     unsweetened cocoa powder    30 mL
2 tbsp     quinoa flour    30 mL
1 cup    California walnut pieces, coarsely chopped    250 mL
2 tbsp    icing sugar    30 mL

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Line the inside of a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan with foil and set aside.

In the food processor, place dates and 2 tbsp (30 mL) of water and blend into a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring until smooth.

Remove butter and chocolate from heat and mix in the date paste followed by one egg at a time until fully incorporated. Sift together the cocoa powder and quinoa flour in a small bowl and stir into the chocolate mixture.

With a wooden spoon, beat the batter vigorously for at least 1 minute until the batter is no longer grainy.

Mix in the walnuts and pour the mixture into prepared baking pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownies feel just set in the centre. Note: Do not over-bake the brownies. When ready, remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Sift icing sugar over the top of the brownies using your favourite holiday stencil.

Makes 16 pieces.

PER SERVING (1 piece): about 194 cal, 3 g pro, 14 g fat (6 g sat. fat), 19 g carb, 2 g fibre, 37 mg chol, 40 mg sodium. %RDI: 1% calcium, 8% iron, 5% vit A.

Source: walnutinfo.com


Walnut Gougères

This classic French cheese puff remains airy and even more delicious with the tasteful addition of delicate walnut crumbs. These versatile mini delights make for impressive hors d’oeuvres or the perfect accompaniment to a wine tasting. 

Walnut Gougère:       
1 cup    water    250 mL
6 tbsp     butter, salted    90 mL
1 cup     all purpose flour, sifted    250 mL
1/4 tsp    dry mustard    1 mL
1/4  tsp    nutmeg    1 mL
1/4  tsp    cayenne pepper    1 mL
4    large eggs    4
1 1/4 cup    California walnut crumbs, divided    300 mL
1/4  cup    chives, chopped    50 mL
3 cups     gruyère or old cheddar, grated    750 mL
       
Onion Confit:       
2    onions, thinly sliced    2
3 tbsp     balsamic vinegar    45 mL

Walnut Gougère:

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add cup of water and butter and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add flour, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne, stirring constantly to cook the paste, about 3 minutes.

Remove paste from heat and transfer mixture into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mixing on medium-low speed, add eggs, one at a time, ensuring each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Gently fold in walnuts, chives and cheese by hand. Scoop mixture into a piping bag with a 1/2-inch (1 cm) tip and pipe small bite sized mounds 1-inch apart (2.5 cm) on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the centre oven rack for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Repeat process until all gougères are cooked.


Onion Confit:
For the onion confit, place the onions, vinegar, and a 1/4 cup (50 mL) of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly caramelize the onions until they are dark brown in colour, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve the onion confit with the walnut gougères.

Makes about 60 gougères.

PER SERVING (2 gougères): about 135 cal, 6 g pro, 10 g fat (4 g sat. fat), 5 g carb, 1 g fibre, 47 mg chol, 71 mg sodium. %RDI: 13% calcium, 4% iron, 7% vit A, 1% vit C.

Source: walnutinfo.com


Walnut Cannelloni

This meat-free entrée is a delicious indulgence and the addition of walnuts adds flavour, crunch and protein.

Cannelloni:      
 
2 cups     wild mushrooms, sliced    500 mL
2 tsp     red pepper flakes    10 mL
3 tbsp     olive oil, divided    45 mL
2 cups     baby spinach    500 mL
1/2 cup     roasted red peppers, diced    125 mL
1 cup     California walnut pieces    250 mL
1    lemon, juice    1
1/2 cup     parmesan, grated    125 mL
1 cup     ricotta cheese    250 mL
    salt and pepper   
1    225 g box cannelloni or manicotti (14 shells)    1
1/4 cup     California walnuts, finely chopped    50 mL
       
Bechamel Sauce:       
6 tbsp    butter    90 mL
5 tbsp    flour    75 mL
3 cups    milk, warmed    750 mL
pinch    clove    pinch

Cannelloni:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a large pan on medium-high heat, sauté mushrooms and red pepper flakes in 2 tbsp (30 mL) of olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes until browned. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the peppers, walnuts, lemon juice, parmesan and ricotta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta shells with 1 tbsp oil (15 mL) until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, stuff shells evenly with walnut filling and place in a 9-x11-inch (23 cm x 28 cm) baking dish.

Bechamel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then add flour. Stir constantly for 1 minute, then slowly add the warm milk while whisking. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, then add clove. Pour sauce over cannelloni, cover with foil and bake for 35 to 45 minutes until heated through.

Top with finely chopped walnuts.

Makes 6 to 7 servings.

PER SERVING (2 cannelloni): about 561 cal, 20 g pro, 36 g fat (13 g sat. fat), 42 g carb, 3 g fibre, 59 mg chol, 490 mg sodium. %RDI: 31% calcium, 21% iron, 21% vit A, 20% vit C.

Source: walnutinfo.com


Walnut Arroz Con Pollo
(Spanish Chicken with Walnut Rice)


A wholesome, Spanish-inspired recipe, Walnut Arroz Con Pollo is a delicious, hearty one-pot wonder meal perfect for all occasions.

1 cup    California walnuts, coarsely chopped, divided    250 mL
1 2/3 cups    chicken stock    400 mL
pinch    saffron    pinch
2 tbsp     olive oil    30 mL
4-6     chicken legs    4-6
1/2     orange pepper, diced    1/2
1/2    red pepper, diced    1/2
1    onion, diced    1
2    garlic cloves, minced    2
1 cup     rice, long grain    250 mL
1    bay leaf    1
1/2 tsp     salt    2 mL
1/2 tsp     pepper    2 mL
2     tomatoes, skinned and diced    2
2/3 cup    green peas, fresh or frozen    150 mL

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Place 1/2 cup (125 mL) of chopped walnuts into a blender with chicken stock and blend until smooth and creamy. Add saffron threads and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed oven proof pot, over medium-high heat add olive oil. Sear chicken legs until browned, approximately 6 to 8 minutes, remove from pot and transfer to a bowl.

In the same pot, sauté peppers, onion and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in rice, remaining walnuts, reserved chicken stock, bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add chicken legs, cover and cook in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 25 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and green peas just before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

PER SERVING: about 728 cal, 40 g pro, 41 g fat (7 g sat. fat), 53 g carb, 5 g fibre, 105 mg chol, 679 mg sodium. %RDI: 8% calcium, 26% iron, 7% vit A, 115% vit C.

Source: walnutinfo.com

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Once you’re ready to create scrumptious edible gifts, consider involving kids in the kitchen where appropriate, or organize a girls baking night and treat swap. These activities make holiday baking or cooking more fun and meaningful, with time spent enjoying the company of friends and family. Remember that food safety and handling must always be top-of-mind when preparing edible gifts, so ensure to follow the instructions and prepare your kitchen adequately before you begin.

When it comes to pretty packages, you’ll be spoiled for choice, as craft stores and even dollar stores sell great, nominally priced boxes, jars and safe food wrappers. Alternately, you can also bundle (non-perishable) ingredients of a recipe, along with the recipe itself and inspire the recipient to get creative in the kitchen.

For more information or recipe ideas, please visit www.walnutinfo.com