GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 27, 2012

A homemade gift from your kitchen

Pat's Kitchen
Patricia Altomare

---- — It’s that time of year when we start thinking of major gift-giving, and a big part of that for many of us are homemade gifts from our kitchens.

My preference is to make and freeze as much as I can in the first week or two in December; I am better prepared when plans are made for office parties, class parties in school, and many other occasions that happen at this time of year. Don’t let it overwhelm you, because it’s just too much fun, and after the-fact, you’re left with some real good memories. If I can help with searching for a particular recipe, or in any other way, just email me.

For those looking for a good candy recipe for that candy swap or bake sale, here’s one you may want to try. This chocolate bark has a festive look with the crushed peppermint candy on top. The recipe makes a scant 2 pounds so I usually have to double it at least.

Peppermint Bark

Makes about 2 pounds

Ingredients:

12 ounces high quality semi-sweet chocolate

1 pound white chocolate with cocoa butter

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

3/4 cup candy canes or peppermint candy, crushed

Line a 15-by-10 inch jelly roll pan with foil extended over sides. Grease foil with non-stick spray.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Pour evenly into pan and smooth with offset spatula. Sprinkle with one-quarter cup peppermint candy. Place in refrigerator until firm.

Heat white chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat until chocolate is almost melted. Remove insert from pan and stir until completely melted. Stir in extract. Cool slightly. Pour over chocolate layer and spread quickly to cover. Sprinkle with one-half cup crushed candy.

Chill until both layers are firm. Lift foil out of pan and shake off excess candy.

Peel foil gently from bottom of candy. Trim edges and cut into 2 inch squares.

Note: When I made this I did not use as much crushed peppermint candy as is called for in the recipe.

Readers’ memories and tips

Dot lets us know how she spiced up her bread pudding, re-living a childhood memory.

And Sharon lets us in on a great serving tip for your holiday meal — make use of your Crock-Pot.

Hi Pat,

When I read the recipe in the paper for your bread pudding it brought back memories of my grandmother. I would stay with her in Lawrence as a tiny child, and her bread puddings and rice puddings were my favorite dishes. This was in the early 1950s, and I imagine these were desserts she also made during the Depression years when it was necessary to use up every bit of the loaf of bread, and stretch out the milk and eggs as far as they could go.

I followed your recipe, but used the heels and enough bread from a cinnamon raisin loaf that I had in the house to make the 2 cups of cubed bread. I also added some freshly ground nutmeg, a couple of shakes of extra cinnamon, and a handful of golden raisins. With these delicious spices, I didn’t try the lemon sauce this time. Oh my, the smell itself was enough to make our mouths water, and the buttery taste of that first warm bite brought to mind a mouthful of butterscotch ... I might try brown sugar next time to intensify that taste. The next day we finished it up cold, with whipped cream on top. Both warm and cold, it was wonderful.

Thank you for bringing back a taste of my childhood!

Dot D.

Hi Pat,

Enjoyed all your suggestions (“6-day Countdown”) for early preparation for Thanksgiving (so important, especially as I get older).

Most of our family likes butternut squash for Thanksgiving, but a few prefer turnip, so I always prepare both in addition to whatever else I am serving. I prepare those the day ahead and heat on Thanksgiving Day. A couple of years ago I found myself rushing around to heat things up in the microwave. My Crock-Pot has the usual insert and it also has a divided insert. Now I put the cooked squash and turnip in the Crock-Pot on low on Thanksgiving morning; it’s all nice and hot for dinner and stays warm while we are eating.

Your chutney recipe has become a “regular” on our Thanksgiving table. My grandson just asked last week if I was making it.

Thanks for the great recipes every week!

Roger & Sharon

Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.