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Entries in Holiday Gift Guide (3)

Thursday
Dec132012

Holiday Gift Guide - Part 5 - Selections from Gustiamo

Shopping for gourmet Italian goodies is one of my favorite pastimes. However, for the holidays, I must buckle down and buy them for OTHER people. I compromise by buying two of everything - one for me and one for them.

One fantastic resource for online Italian foodie gifting is Gustiamo. Their selection is top notch and comprehensive. 

The above items are all from the Gustiamo online shop and are perfect for the Italian food snob on your list. Right after that chunk of coal you were going to throw in their stocking. Let's go through 'em:

1. Martelli Artisanal Pasta: These beautifully packaged pastas are made daily by a family operation. Read more about the pasta here and purchase it here.

2. Fancy Tomatoes: Getting San Marzano tomatoes from Italy might seem like a bit of an indulgence, but it IS the holidays. And these little numbers will kick your holiday pizzas up quite a few notches. You are making pizza for the holidays, right? Phew... Read all about San Marzano's here and get a can or five here.

3. Faella Artisanal Pasta: Another fantastic pasta option straight from the Campagnia region. Educate yourself here and buy it here.

4. Panettone: A traditional holiday Italian bread - Panettone is one part bread (think brioche in texture), one part cake (it is sweet) and allllll festive. Cut giant slices and make French-Italian toast for your Christmas breakfast. Or toast it up and serve with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and berries. Check it out here and buy a bundle here.

5. Gianduja spread: a spread made from chocolate and hazelnuts. Break out the spoons, this one if from Molina - where they take chocolate very seriously. You can count on a quality chocolate selection. Read about their spread and chocolates here and buy a jar (for me) here.

Monday
Dec102012

The Holiday Foodie Gift Guide Continues - Part 4!

Today I'm bringing you something different - a "Do It Yourself" Holiday gifting option.

First off, I would like to say something about DIY. In general, I prefer other people to do it for me. Even though I'm an artistic gal, crafting projects do not appeal to me. I don't want to scrapbook and the idea of making individual embossed place cards for a dinner party has me heading for the hills....of a craft-free zone.

At one point in my life (a deep, dark time, I will allow), I was mildly obsessed with making beaded jewelry. I do not use the word "obsessed" lightly, as I fixated on every bead, meticulously stringing them on wire, muttering to myself in a manner for which other people have been institutionalized.

Since then, I try to keep crafting projects to a minimum, only embarking on them if I feel like they are worthwhile and non habit-forming. Additionally, although I am opposed to DIY for most ventures, I make an exception for cooking and baking. In those cases, I always prefer to do it myself.

The holiday season usually presents a plethora of DIY gift ideas. For PART 4 of our Holiday Foodie Gift Guide, I would like to contribute Chocolate and Vanilla Homemade Marshmallows - individually packaged along with Elana's Special Hot Chocolate Mix.

The individual serving of hot chocolate mix really is the icing on the cake for this little DIY gift. I've already gifted all of my creations and had the recipients squealing in delight over the combo. So, let us begin and the squealing re-commence:

For the Vanilla Marshmallows:

What You Need:

1 cup cold water, divided

3 1/4-ounce packages unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

half of a vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup powdered sugar

What To Do:

In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and powdered sugar.  Spray a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and coat with  the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture. Set both aside.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment. Pour the three gelatin packs over the cold water and let sit for about 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, honey, corn syrup, salt and the remaining cold water to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Attach a candy thermometer the the side of the pan and bring mixture up to 240 degrees F. There’s no need to stir the mixture, just let it get hot hot hot!

When the sugar is heated to 240 degrees F, turn the mixer with the gelatin and water on low speed. Carefully stream the hot sugar mixture into the bowl and the whisk moves. Be careful onto to pour into the whisk and spatter the hot sugar all over the sides of the bowl.  Gradually increase the speed of the mixer until you’ve added all of the hot sugar mixture.  Beat on high for several minutes until a thick, fluffy, white marshmallow batter has formed… about 8 minutes. Pour in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean and beat for another 2 minutes.

Spread the marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and smooth with a clean, wet spatula to prevent sticking. Top marshmallow with corn starch and powdered sugar mixture and let set and rest for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When set, remove marshmallow from the pan and place on a large cutting board coated with cornstarch and powdered sugar,  Use a pizza cutter, coated with non-stick cooking spray to slice marshmallows.  Once sliced, toss the cut marshmallows in the cornstarch and powdered sugar and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

For the Chocolate Marshmallows:

What You Need:

1 cup cold water, divided

3 1/4-ounce packages unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder - divided

1/2 cup powdered sugar

What To Do:

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of the cocoa powder.  Spray a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and coat with the cocoa powder and powdered sugar mixture. Set both aside.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment. Pour the three gelatin packs over the cold water and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then, add in the remaining 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, honey, corn syrup, salt and the remaining cold water to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Attach a candy thermometer the the side of the pan and bring mixture up to 240 degrees F. There’s no need to stir the mixture, just let it get hot hot hot!

When the sugar is heated to 240 degrees F, turn the mixer with the gelatin and water on low speed. Carefully stream the hot sugar mixture into the bowl and the whisk moves. Be careful onto to pour into the whisk and spatter the hot sugar all over the sides of the bowl.  Gradually increase the speed of the mixer until you’ve added all of the hot sugar mixture.  Beat on high for several minutes until a thick, fluffy, white marshmallow batter has formed… about 8 minutes. Pour in the vanilla extract and beat for another 2 minutes.

Spread the marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and smooth with a clean, wet spatula to prevent sticking. Top marshmallow with cocoa and powdered sugar mixture and let set and rest for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When set, remove marshmallows from the pan and place on a large cutting board coated with cornstarch and powdered sugar,  Use a pizza cutter, coated with non-stick cooking spray to slice marshmallows.  Once sliced, toss the cut marshmallows in the cornstarch and powdered sugar and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

For Elana's Special Hot Chocolate Mix

Makes 8 servings - divide into individual bags for gifting

What You Need:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Optional: Add in 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper for a spicy hot chocolate

What To do:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together well with a whisk.

Divide into individual bags – 3 tablespoons per bag.

Seal bags and accompany with some chocolate and vanilla marshmallows!

Presentation:

For putting it all together, I visited my local Paper Source. Paper Source is a crafter's heaven. So, for the most part, I stay away. But for this project, I knew it would have exactly what I needed. I purchased:

Small white paper baggies

Teeny-tiny red and white striped paper baggies

Holiday-themed place cards

I put the marshmallows (4 to a bag) in the white baggies, and loaded the hot chocolate mix into the smaller, striped ones. Then, I attached it all using a place card stapled to both bags, like so:

Stuff stockings accordingly. People will love you for this. I swear.

* Marshmallow recipes based off this one by Joy the Baker.

Tuesday
Dec042012

The Holiday Foodie Gift Guide Continues - Part 2!

Welcome back to John and Elana's Foodie Gift Guide! We are working hard to bring you fun, functional and fantastic foodie gifts for the holiday season. Well, I am anyway. I asked John for suggestions...twice. Radio silence, people! Can I get some good help?

Speaking of good help, the lovely people of Colavita are here for just that purpose. They are offering our readers a DISCOUNT CODE for 25% off purchases on their online store. 25% - that is pretty substantial. It's valid through 1/31/2013, too. 

Here is the code: JAE25

But what to buy? There are a lot of great products on their site, and I personally do use Colavita olive oils in my cooking. I recently tried out the garlic infused variety for a little fun, and was pleased with the mild garlic flavor. I made some marinated olives with it.

Why would you want to marinate an olive? For FLAVA! MAD flava. Oh yes, it's true. Mad flava for your holiday appetizers and cheese boards. Look how nice:

I first posted about this recipe here. You would just substitute the regular olive oil for Colavita's Roasted Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil variety. 

Now, let's get back to the guide above. I update this guide on Pinterest all the time, and you can check that out here.

1. The Colavita Roasted Garlie Olive Oils! These guys will step up your game.

2. California Olive Oil Roasted Almonds from Gilt Taste. I'm slightly obsessed with Gilt Taste. These little gems will be a nice complement to the marinated olives listed above. Or gift them up and deliver them to the hostess of your next holiday party. You'd be nuts not to...

3. Colavita Extra Virgin Olive oil in nifty packaging! Decorative vessels help, I don't care what you say. 

4. Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap. You eat it, dip your bread in it, now wash yourself with it. This soap is all natural, very mild and ultra moisturizing. Don't be surprised if people start dipping their bread into you...

5. Olive Wood Cutting Board from West Elm. These things are so pretty. The variations in the wood tone really warm up a table if you're using it for display, but the wood is very hardy so they're also practically indestructible. Great for cooks like me who "accidentally" like to throw things around the kitchen...

Finally, don't forget about our discount code for Brooklyn Slate, listed here.

Now get gifting!