Tasty Tuesday: Two more delicious homemade treats to give as gifts

In the early days of my marriage, I had an important cooking mentor and friend named Karen. My kids all called her Auntie Karen although she wasn’t related. When we talk about our family’s favorite recipes, sooner or later, we end up talking about Auntie Karen.

Years ago, when my children were tiny, Auntie Karen gave me this recipe. These homemade caramels make a wonderful Christmas gift. The time-consuming part is something that even very little children can help with. After you eat one of these homemade caramels, you’ll never want to eat the kind you buy in the store again!

Homemade Caramels

  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 2 c. cream and or milk (can also use 1 can evaporated milk.)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 t. vanilla

Cook first 4 ingredients together slowly in a heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally. Cook over a low burner until the caramel reaches the “firm ball stage” or 248° on the candy thermometer. (I always use a candy thermometer for this because I can never quite figure out which “stage” candy is in when it cooks.) This will take a long time–approximately an hour! Don’t rush this part; it’s worth it in the end.

Stir in vanilla. Pour into a buttered, 9-inch square baking dish. Cool for a bit. Before the caramel cools completely, cut into very small squares. I try to cut them into 1/2″ x 1/2″ squares. This is candy, so they should be small. Wrap each piece individually in wax paper, twisting the ends of the wax paper to secure it on the candy. This wrapping step is the one that children can help with. If you’re giving these caramels to grandparents, that makes them all the more special!

If you want to make chocolate caramels, you can melt 3 squares of bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate into the candy as you’re cooking it.

The second recipe for today is for Peanut Butter Balls. This is a super easy recipe, but it makes a great gift during the holidays. It also happens to be very difficult to control any chocolate-peanut butter fanatics when these are around.

Peanut Butter Balls

  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • chocolate chips
  • 1 T. parafin wax
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix the peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Roll this mixture into walnut-sized balls and freeze on a cookie sheet.

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips and wax together. (The wax will give the chocolate a shiny, smooth finish that looks really nice.) Roll the frozen balls in the liquid chocolate and then in chopped nuts (optional.) Freeze again.

These go well in gift baskets and goody plates. They also disappear quickly at any buffet. In fact….they disappear quickly anywhere!

We’re in the countdown to Christmas and this is the week to make the giveaway goodies for the special people in our lives.

Check out this week’s new recipes on My Sister’s Kitchen. So far, this week’s favorite is the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. In the next day or two, we’ll be putting up a couple of Christmas baking posts that link to ALL our holiday recipes.

Barb Kelley.