Wait – what??? It is December??? How in the world did December turn up already? Wow, I have to say this has been one of the zippiest years I can ever remember. With my 187 year-old house under renovation, the Christmas decorations remain in the basement this year. Yet, this girl is not one to miss a good holiday! Bring on Christmas!
The thought of going to a crowded mall (well, candidly any shopping mall) makes me depressed so it was time to get creative amongst all the chaos. I simply adore giving and receiving homemade gifts from the kitchen for Christmas. Thoughtful, creative gifts are the fastest way to warm the heart and let those closest to you know that you care enough to spend the time making them something from the heart. (No one needs to know that these gifts take minimal time and are super easy. We will keep that our little secret!) Pack them in a pretty jar, add a touch of special ribbon and your family and friends will be forever grateful.
These are three of my favorite Italian-inspired gifts: homemade Nutella for the chocolate fan in the family, red-wine infused sea salt for the foodie in the group, and Campari lollipops – well, just because you can.
First up – a somewhat healthier version of Nutella. I love that I can control how much sugar I use. Feel free to play around with the hazelnut to chocolate ratio to make the taste exactly your own. You, of course, will need to taste multiple batches in the name of research. This year, I happened to score a bunch of small antique silver spreaders at a local flea market so I am adding one tied with ribbon to each jar.
Then we have red wine infused sea salt. The red-wine infused sea salt was inspired by an (extremely expensive) jar I recently spotted at a foodie store. This salt could not be simpler to make and looks so pretty in a little jar. I used sea salt as I like the flake and granule size. You could use a coarse sea salt if you like larger granules. The key is to be patient and allow the wine to reduce until nice and think. Then just add the sale, spread on a tray and let dry. Simple! And the color screams CHRISTMAS!
And then there are Campari lollipops – well, just because. (From this blog, you will know that I am slightly obsessed with Campari desserts and drinks.) These look so pretty on the holiday table or attached with a ribbon to a bottle of wine. And they taste yummy!
Wishing everyone the merriest of Christmases,
Buon Natale, dear friends!
Super easy homemade nutella
- 2 cups hazelnuts (about 9 ounces)
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or a mild vegetable oil such as canola)
- 1/3 cup sugar (or to taste)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are browned and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skin as possible.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave. Stir until smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.
Place the hazelnuts in a food process and grind until they form a creamy paste, about 5 minutes. Add in the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Blend until a desired consistency. (I like mine a bit chuncky and do not mind any little chucks of hazelnut.)
Add in the melted chocolate and blend well. Taste and adjust sugar and salt to your preference.
Transfer to a glass jar and let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.
- Serving Size: About 2 cups
Red wine infused sea salt that makes your holiday meals sparkle!
- 1 bottle good red wine (I used a Chianti)
- Approximately 2 cups sea salt
Simmer the wine, in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat until thick and syrupy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Wine should coat the back of a spoon and reduce to just a few tablespoons. Be careful towards the end of the process as it can quickly turn very syrupy and burn.
Allow to cool slightly. Add 2 cups of sea salt to the pot and stir to allow the salt to absorb the wine. If the mixture is very wet and/or wine still remains, add another half cup of salt. (Rule of thumb: I use about 1 ½ cups salt for every tablespoon of reduced wine.)
Spread the salt on a baking tray and allow to air dry for at least 24 hours. Stir the salt occasionally to prevent any sticking. Once dry, store in airtight jars.
- Serving Size: About 2 cups
Easy homemade Campari lollipops – because you can!
- ¼ cup + 1 ounce Campari, divided
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1/3 cup corn syrup
- A few pinches of salt
- Candy thermometer
- Lollipop sticks
- Lollipop mold or silicone mat
If using a silicon mat, place it on a baking tray.
Combine the ¼ cup Campari, sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan. Stir until combined.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and allow to boil until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F.
Remove from the heat. Working quickly, add in the remaining Campari, giving it a quick stir.
Pour the syrup onto the silicon mat forming about 2-inch disks or into the lollipop molds. Lay in the lollipop sticks and turn to coat.
Let cool completely and enjoy!