last-minute christmas treats!

Christmas is just a few days away! Are you ready?

There are some people who finish their holiday shopping by August. They’re the super planners, the people who make copious to-do lists, whose vocabulary doesn’t include the word “procrastinate”.

Then there’s another sort of person. One of those people who waits til Christmas Eve to finish their shopping. Someone who ends up rushing around at the eleventh hour in search of the perfect gift, only to be met with empty shelves at the store. Yep, I’m talking to you! What if you could quickly create the perfect gift that your friends and loved ones would absolutely adore? Good news! I’m here to save the day.

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If you have even a little bit of kitchen skill and a free afternoon, throw together one of these tasty treats for those last-minute gift ideas. Try some Mexican spiced hot cocoa mix, squishy homemade vanilla marshmallows, or crispy cookies with pistachios, chocolate chips and dried cherries — Pack them in a cute tin or wrap them in some pretty paper, then go ahead and cross that name off your list!

mexican spiced hot cocoa mix

This is the easiest recipe in the world, perfect if you just have half an hour to make a cute, edible gift!

14 Tbs (196 g) granulated sugar
1 c (85 g / 3 oz) dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a medium sized bowl, add all the ingredients. Whisk well to combine thoroughly. Done! This mix fits perfectly into a pint sized Mason jar, so pour it in, tie the top with a cute ribbon and a gift tag, and that’s it. To serve: Mix 3 level Tablespoons of the dry mix into 8 ounces hot milk of your choice. Stir well and enjoy! This recipe yields about 8 servings.

soft vanilla marshmallows

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Recipe modified from Alton Brown.

3 packets (22 g) powdered gelatin
1 c cold water, divided
1 1/2 c (12 oz) granulated sugar
1 c (11 oz) light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/4 c each powdered sugar and corn starch

Pour half the cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Sprinkle on the gelatin powder and let sit. Grab a quarter sheet pan or a 9″x13x baking pan and line it with a piece of parchment paper. Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with cooking spray, and sprinkle on some of the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture with a small strainer to coat the entire thing in an even thin layer. Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, add the rest of the water, along with the sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir to combine. Turn heat to medium-low and cook without stirring for 20-23 minutes, until the temperature of the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a good digital thermometer.

Turn on the mixer to speed 1 and slowly pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl in a thin to medium stream. Once all the syrup is added to the bowl, turn it up to speed 5-6 and whip for about 10 minutes, until the marshmallow mixture has become very fluffy and thick. Add the vanilla extract and mix on medium briefly to combine. Using a rubber spatula, pour and spread the marshmallow into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Dust on any extra powdered sugar and let the marshmallow sit uncovered at room temperature for a minimum of 8 hours.

Once the marshmallow has set up, carefully brush excess sugar mixture off the top, and lift the marshmallow out of the pan and place sugared side down onto a cutting board. Divide the whole thing into thirds lengthwise, and then into quarters going the other direction. Divide each square into thirds in both directions, to end up with 9 – 1 inch marshmallow squares. Toss in a large bowl with more powdered sugar and cornstarch, shaking off the excess in a strainer. Package in pretty tins or airtight containers, or store in a zip-top bag at room temperature; they will stay soft for over a week. Goes perfectly in a steamy mug of Mexican Spiced Hot Cocoa! Makes 108 – 1 inch marshmallows.

pistachio, cherry, + dark chocolate cookies

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Recipe modified from Epicurious/Gourmet.

1 1/2 c (7.5 oz / 213 g) all purpose flour
1/4 tsp (2 g) kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbs / 169 g) unsalted butter, softened
6 Tbs (84 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp (6 g) vanilla extract
1/2 c (78 g) roasted and salted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 c (64 g) dried cherries
1/3 c (64 g) mini semi sweet chocolate chips

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the soft butter, sugar, and vanilla. Cream together on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and the paddle, and beat again on medium for 1 minute.

Add the flour mixture in two parts, mixing on speed 1 for 30 seconds to incorporate the first addition, and again on speed 1-2 for 30 seconds to incorporate the second addition. Scrape the bowl down once again.

Add the chopped pistachios, cherries, and chocolate chips. Mix on speed 2 until combined, 20-30 seconds.

Scrape out the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper or wax paper. Shape into a rough log in the center of the paper, about 2 inches wide. Roll up in the paper, pressing down to square off the sides of the log. Let chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours, or in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the cookie dough and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices using a very sharp knife, rotating the log after each cut to keep the edges squared. Place the cookies on two parchment lined sheet pans and bake for 9 minutes. Rotate the pans and swap their shelf positions, and bake for another 9 minutes or so, until the cookies are just turning golden brown. 

This recipe yields 36 little cookies. They pack great inside a cute tin, or a pretty airtight giftbox! Crispy and lightly sweet, they’ll go great with some mulled wine or ice cold milk (perhaps to set out for Santa?).

These treats are sure to alleviate some of your gift-giving worries! I hope every one of you lovely readers have a very merry Christmas!

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