South Park Magazine

Homemade food gifts come from the heart

Most folks will send cards, wrap store-bought presents and buy gift cards for family, friends, neighbors and co-workers over the holidays. It is only the thought that counts, right? However true, nothing is more thoughtful than giving handmade food gifts.There is something special about making someone’s gift. It is heartfelt and is an opportunity to get in the spirit of giving in a very personal way. Taking the time to plan, shop, cook, wrap and deliver a gift is something that has given way to the quick fix and convenience of a gift card.If you have young children, food gifts are a way to show them that giving is more than just something that has to be done this time of year. It is a way to show that giving comes from the heart.Made with your very hands, any family, young couple or empty nesters will feel the satisfaction of making gifts rather than purchasing them.This is a version of a peanut brittle that my grandmother made around the holidays. For me, it is a way every year to reflect on the family traditions that my grandmother passed on to us and a way to always have her a part of our holiday celebration.The only thing that makes that better is by sharing it with others and knowing that it may make someone else’s holiday a little more special with handmade gift.

Roasted Pecan Brittle

Makes 1 1/2 pounds

· 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

· 3/4 cups light corn syrup

· 1/4 cup unsalted butter

· 2 cups pecans, roasted and rough chopped (see recipe below)

· 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a sauce pan over low heat, add the sugar, corn syrup and butter. Stir over low heat until dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water to keep the sides from burning.Place a candy thermometer in the pan, bring the mixture to a boil and cook without stirring to 330 degrees or the light caramel stage.While waiting for the mixture to reach proper temperature, lightly oil a wooden spoon and oil a baking sheet.Remove mixture from the heat and quickly stir in the pecans and almond extract.Pour mixture onto the oiled baking sheet and spread to about ¼-inch thick.Let cool completely, then break into pieces.Store in an airtight container separated with wax paper.

Roasted Pecans

· 2 cup pecan halves, shelled

· 3 tablespoons canola oil

· 4 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toss pecans with oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Place pecans on a baking sheet; using a rubber spatula, group all of the pecans on a single layer, leaving out any excess oil. Next, sprinkle the remaining salt on top of the pecans evenly. Place in oven and roast for 4 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and continue to cook pecans in 1-minute increments until toasted and fragrant. Remove from oven, drain on a paper towel and allow to cool.