Friday, September 17

Gift Baskets

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From your kitchen to their front porch — homemade gifts will hit the spot.

While we can’t stop the holidays from coming, they will be different this year. You may not be able to throw a big party, host a huge dinner or scour a hundred stores at the mall to find a gift that shows you care.

A great way to bring that holiday feeling to your own heart and into the homes of friends, family and neighbors is to share these easy but elegant treats. Box up an assortment and mail or personally deliver your homemade gift baskets — the message of love and joy will be received.

So let the bells ring out — church bells and doorbells! It’s time to get cooking. The holidays are coming!

Baked Pizza Wedges
Include a small jar of pizza sauce for dipping!
  • 2 cups all-purpose baking mix
  • ¾ cup shredded Swiss or Provolone cheese
  • ¼ cup dried sliced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup sliced black olives
  • ¼ cup chopped pepperoni
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the baking mix, cheese, tomatoes, olives, pepperoni, shallots, cornmeal, garlic salt, onion powder, Italian seasoning and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Make a well in the center and stir in the buttermilk until a soft dough forms. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch circle. Brush with oil and sprinkle with pepper and remaining Parmesan. Cut into 8 wedges and transfer to the prepared baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Dried Cranberry Scones
Great to give with a small jar of honey!
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in 5½ tablespoons of cream and the eggs. Fold in the cranberries and almonds. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until the dough is sticky. Roll into a circle of 1-inch thickness, cut the circle into wedges and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake 13–15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Coconut Pecan Cookies
  • 1¼cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup crushed cornflakes
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, coconut, cornflakes, brown sugar, oats, granulated sugar, pecans, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, egg and extract. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Place heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the parchment, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake 10–12 minutes or until light brown. Let cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets before cooling completely on wire racks.
Bacon Cheddar Muffins
  • 5 thick slices applewood bacon
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with cup liners and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Drain on paper towels, then crumble when cool enough to handle. Remove the hot drippings from the heat and add the chives. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, paprika and cayenne. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Stir in the cheese, crumbled bacon, chives and drippings. Add to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Evenly divide among the muffin cups, filling ⅔ full. Bake 20–24 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Can easily be doubled or tripled!
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon garlic or onion salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the pumpkin seeds and saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet and spread the seeds in a single layer. In a small bowl, stir together the salt, cayenne, black pepper and paprika. Sprinkle evenly over the seeds and bake 12 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels and cool completely.
Pecan Buttermilk Fudge
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans
  1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, buttermilk, butter and corn syrup. Stir constantly about 20 minutes or until the mixture reaches 234 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Stir in the baking soda. Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes or until the thermometer registers 180 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside. Stir in the extract and pecans. Beat with a wooden spoon 2 minutes. Pour into the prepared pan, cool completely on a wire rack and cut into squares.
Honey-Spiked Nut Brittle
  • 4 cups dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment and grease well. Set aside.
  2. In a large, deep saucepan over high heat, stir together the peanuts, sugar, honey and lemon juice. Stir constantly and boil until it reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. When the mixture begins to turn dark, stir in the butter, baking soda and salt. The mixture will begin to immediately expand.
  3. Carefully pour the brittle mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and set on a wire rack to cool completely in the pan. When completely cool, break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Tammy Algood develops recipes for The Tennessee Magazine that feature farm-fresh Tennessee food. Those fresh, local ingredients will always add cleaner, more flavorful foods to your table. We recommend visiting local farms and farmers markets to find the freshest seasonal produce.


  • Include the recipe for each item so it can be made again by the recipient. It also helps make the receiver aware of any ingredients that might be disliked or cause allergic reactions in some family members.
  • Anchor the basket or box with a bottle of local wine for an extra special treat.
  • If giving multiple food gifts, label each item with serving suggestions if applicable.
  • Decorative tins provide a sturdy way to protect the food items during transport and are great for storage.
  • If delivering in a basket, line with festive fabric scraps, a bandana or cloth napkins.
  • If delivering in a box, cover in gift wrap after turning in the flaps at the top.
  • Include a holiday card with a handwritten note of thanks for the recipient’s friendship.
  • Call ahead to make sure the recipient is home before making the delivery.

ASK Chef Tammy

Email your cooking questions to Tammy Algood:

Suzanne asks: “What is the difference between a custard cup and a ramekin? I am not sure which I have. Can I use them interchangeably?”

Suzanne, a custard cup is more often than not made of glass (occasionally ceramic) and can hold between 6 and 10 ounces. The sides are a bit flared. A ramekin, on the other hand, has straight sides and looks like a miniature version of a soufflé dish. It is usually between 3 and 4 inches in diameter and is typically made of porcelain or earthenware. You most certainly can use them interchangeably.

William writes: “Would you please tell me the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk? Other than the thickness, aren’t they the same?”

William, condensed milk does go through the evaporation process as it is made. In fact, about 60 percent of the water is removed, but then sugar is added, and that’s anywhere from 40 to 45 percent of the total volume. That’s why it is sometimes labeled “sweetened condensed milk.” Evaporated milk is not sweetened at all. And it has a shorter shelf life because it doesn’t have the added sugar. So you are right that at one point they are the same, but the addition of sugar changes the consistency (thickness) and extends the shelf life of condensed milk.


About Author

Tammy Algood develops for The Tennessee Magazine recipes that feature farm-fresh Tennessee food. Those fresh, local ingredients will always add cleaner, more flavorful foods to your table. We recommend visiting local farms and farmers markets to find the freshest seasonal produce. For more information about our recipes, contact Algood at

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