Gifts from the kitchen that kids can decorate

Although the message of Chanukah comes from Zechariah — “not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit” — Chanukah in our country has become an occasion for gift exchanging.

A gift from the kitchen gives joy several times over, in the creating, in the giving and in the eating. Chanukah gifts need not be extravagant, but they should come from the heart.

Children love to cook, and they also love to give and receive gifts. I find there is a tremendous amount of love in sharing a recipe or giving a treat to an old friend or a new neighbor.

Beautiful packaging takes gifts from the kitchen to a new level. Containers can be trays, bottles, shells, baskets, crocks or even antique teacups. Children can add their own style and charm to packaging, with imaginative cards, labels and signs. Don’t forget to label the contents, and add a note if necessary with cooking and storing information.

Granola | Makes about 2 quarts

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup pecans
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
4 oz. oil
1/2 cup honey
2 cups mixed chopped dried fruit

Mix together the oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Heat the oil and the honey together over medium heat until dissolved. Pour the oil over the oat mixture and toss well. Spread the granola in a single layer in two sheet pans. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and toss with the dried fruit. Cool completely and put into a French canning jar. Cover the top with a square of decorative fabric and secure with a ribbon.

Hot Fudge Sauce | Makes about 1 pint

1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Bring the cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt and about half the chopped chocolate in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted. Reduce the heat and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, remaining chocolate and the vanilla extract, and stir until smooth. While still warm, pour into jars.

Potted Cheddar Spread | Makes about 4 cups

1 1/2 lbs. sharp cheddar
2/3 cup ruby port
4 oz. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine the cheese, port, butter, mustard and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the cheese spread to small ramekins or crocks. Cover with plastic wrap, then place a fabric square over the top and secure with a ribbon. Keep refrigerated.

Arugula Pesto | Makes about 1 cup

2 cups arugula
4 large cloves of garlic
3 oz. toasted pine nuts
3 oz. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Place the arugula, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and process to a fine paste. Gradually add the olive oil and then the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in a decorative container. Keep refrigerated.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].