MUMBAI MIXED NUTS

Makes 6 cups.

Note: From "Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself & Wrap With Style," by Dinah Corley.

• 1 scant cup turbinado sugar or raw sugar

• 1 tbsp. finely ground sea salt

• 2 tsp. onion powder

• 2 tsp. garlic powder

• 2 tbsp. ground cumin

• 2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

• 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 2 tsp. ground white pepper

• 2 c. whole roasted unsalted almonds

• 1 c. walnut halves

• 2 c. whole roasted unsalted cashews

• 1 c. shelled unsalted pistachio nuts

• 2 egg whites

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine the sugar, salt, onion and garlic powders, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and white pepper in a small bowl. Combine all the nuts in a large shallow casserole. Beat the egg whites until they are frothy and pour over the nuts.

Toss the nuts in the egg whites until they are well coated and no egg white remains at the bottom of the casserole. Add the sugar-spice mixture and continue to toss and mix the nuts until they are thickly coated with spices.

Line a large (11-inch-by-17-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the nuts to the baking sheet and gently flatten them into a compact solid layer that covers the entire surface of the pan.

Roast the nuts on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and roast the nuts for another 25 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven, reduce oven temperature to 140 degrees, and prop the oven door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon. Use a large metal spatula to turn over the large clumps of nuts in the pan. Return the nuts to the oven and allow them to dry 5 hours.

Cool the pan on a rack at least 3 hours, until completely cool. Break the nuts by hand into bite-sized clusters and place them in an airtight container. Keep the container in a cool, dry area until you are ready to assemble as a gift.

Nutrition information per ¼ cup serving:

Calories 218 Fat 16 g Sodium 300 mg

Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 2 g Calcium 54 mg

Protein 7 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 3 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 other carb, 1 high-fat meat, 1 1/2 fat.

 

FLEMING'S TRUFFLES

Makes variable amount.

Note: The truffles can be out of the refrigerator for a few hours as long as they are resting in a cool place, so they don't get too hot and melt. They have a creamier texture when they are allowed to warm slightly. Zest is the outer skin of orange (not the white pith). From Erick Nixon, executive chef of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Austin, Texas.

• 6 oz. heavy cream

• Zest of 1/2 orange (see Note)

• 13 oz. semisweet chocolate

• 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1/2 c. white chocolate shavings

Directions

In a medium-large saucepan, heat the heavy cream and orange zest until it comes to a boil.

While the cream and orange zest are heating, grate the chocolate with a cheese grater into a coarse powder. Add the chocolate to a large mixing bowl and pour the hot cream through a strainer into the chocolate, removing the orange zest.

Whisk the chocolate and cream mixture until smooth and all of the chocolate is melted. Pour into a shallow container, such as an 8-inch square glass baking dish, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. When the chocolate has thoroughly cooled, scoop the mix with a small ice cream scoop or melon baller.

Take the scoops and roll into balls using the palms of your hands. Place the cocoa powder in a mixing bowl and white chocolate shavings into a separate bowl. Roll half the truffles in cocoa and half in white chocolate. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

 

ORANGE CHAI VODKA

Makes 1 liter (33.8 ounces).

Note: This warm, spicy infusion is a surprising flavor mixture that can stand up equally in a dessert drink when mixed with cream and simple syrup, or as a refreshing cocktail mixed with ginger beer. Organic oranges are preferred because the rinds of conventional grown citrus absorb most of the chemicals in the pesticides used to treat them. From Tito's Handmade Vodka.

• 1 organic orange

• 1 liter vodka

• 3 black chai tea bags

Directions

Peel the rind from one fresh organic orange, being careful to take as little of the white pith as possible. Add to 1 liter vodka and let sit 3 to 5 days. Steep three black chai tea bags in orange-flavored vodka for an additional day, or until desired flavor is reached, then strain off the liquid.

 

GRANOLA

Serves 6.

Note: From Alton Brown and the Food Network.

• 3 c. rolled oats

• 1 c. slivered almonds

• 1 c. cashews

• 3/4 c. shredded sweet coconut

•1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

• 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. maple syrup

• 1/4 c. vegetable oil

• 3/4 tsp. salt

• 1 c. raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut and brown sugar.

In separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes for even color.

Remove from oven and transfer to large bowl. Add raisins and mix thoroughly. Let cool. Keep in airtight container.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 710 Fat 36 g Sodium 345 mg

Carbohydrates 89 g Saturated fat 8 g Calcium 123 mg

Protein 15 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 8 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 fruit, 2 bread/starch, 3 other carb, 1 medium-fat meat, 6 fat.

 

CANDIED CITRUS PEEL

Makes a lot.

Note: From "Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It," by Karen Solomon (Ten Speed Press, $24.99)

• 4 organic oranges (or lemon or grapefruit), washed and dried

• 1/2 c. sugar

• 3/4 c. water

Directions

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the top layer of skin on the oranges, avoiding as much of the white pith below as possible. Reserve the oranges for another use (such as juice). Cut the orange zest (the skin) into 11/2-inch-long pieces.

Bring 2 small saucepans of water to a boil -- boiling the zest will help remove some of its bitterness. In one pan, boil the zest for 1 minute. Drain and discard the liquid, and put the peels into the second pan. Boil the peels for an additional minute. Drain and discard the liquid.

Combine the peels with the sugar and water in a small saucepan (you can use one of the pans you used for boiling). Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to low, uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes, pressing down on the skins as needed to make sure that they are covered in the syrup for the entire cooking time. Simmer until almost all of the liquid evaporates and the skins are covered in thick syrup speckled with bubbles.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a wire rack and place it over a baking sheet. Have tongs or chopsticks at the ready.

Test the peel for doneness by moving a single piece to the cooling rack, using the tongs or chopsticks. Crystals should form on the outside within 30 seconds of being removed from the pot. If not, keep cooking the peels and let the sugar solution reduce further.

Test again, and when the peels are done, work quickly to transfer the pieces, one by one, to the rack -- don't let them touch each other on the rack.

Careful: The candy will be very hot! Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Store in a paper towel-lined airtight container in the pantry for up to 3 months.

 

CHEESE CRACKERS

Makes about 10 dozen.

Note: In Charleston, S.C., these are a popular hostess gift, usually served with cocktails. From Saveur magazine.

• 12 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

• 6 oz. sharp white Cheddar, grated on small holes of a box grater (to yield 11/2 cups)

• 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

• 11/2 c. flour

• 1 tsp. salt

• 3/4 tsp. cayenne

Directions

In a medium bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add cheeses and beat well.

Sift flour, salt and cayenne together into another bowl. Using your hands, quickly work flour mixture into butter mixture without overworking dough. If dough remains crumbly, stir in 2 tablespoons ice water.

Gather dough into a ball. Quarter dough, shape each piece into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out 1 piece of dough on floured surface to 1/16-inch thickness. Using a 11/2 -inch round cookie cutter (or use small shaped cutters), cut out about 30 rounds and transfer to a cookie sheet lined in parchment. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake crackers until puffed and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer crackers to food-safe paper bags or paper towels to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to 1 month.

Nutrition information 1 cracker:

Calories 23 Fat 2 g Sodium 42 mg

Carbohydrates 1 g Saturated fat 1 g Calcium 11 mg

Protein 1 g Cholesterol 5 mg Dietary fiber 0 g