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Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Stumped for ideas? Take to the kitchen and bake away

December 5, 2001

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As the last of the turkey leftovers disappear, many of us experience the first uncomfortable stirrings of gift-giving anxiety.

Others, who are strongly affected by store displays, have been in Christmas-distress mode since Labor Day. But for most folks who do it at all, the serious agonizing about what to get for whom doesn't kick into high gear until a little after Thanksgiving.

Like about now.

This is when many of us find ourselves trying, and often failing, to think of things that our friends and relatives might enjoy and that they don't already have.

The notion of a gift from your kitchen something ready-to-eat that you put together yourself is always appealing in this situation. It's a gift of your time and effort, not just your wallet.

And, after all, everyone needs to eat several times a day, and most folks enjoy eating, so a gift from the kitchen is one that almost everyone might appreciate.

You might not need any recipes to carry out the notion of a kitchen gift with or without a charitable donation. A batch of chocolate chip cookies (if you don't have it, the recipe is on the bag of chocolate chips) is a perfect gift. If you must be fancy, you can pack them in a nice box and tie it with a ribbon. Ditto marshmallow fudge (there's a recipe on jars of Marshmallow Creme and another on many bags of marshmallows).

But if you'd like to go just a little further, below are a few simple recipes for kitchen gifts that are pretty sure to please.

Be sure to read (and follow!) the directions. Prepare the recipe exactly as it is written at least once before making any changes. Pay particular attention to what temperature ingredients should be, because this can have a big effect on baking success.

Another tip: Measure, don't guess. In baking, accuracy really counts. For measuring liquids, use transparent or 1- or 2-cup marked measuring cups. Set the cup on a flat surface. For measuring dry ingredients, graduated cups make it easy to obtain the exact amount needed by leveling off with the sweep of a long-bladed spatula or knife.

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