Friday, December 6, 2013

Neighbor Christmas Gift Ideas

     Doing nice things for neighbors at Christmastime is something we learned from our mom.  The was an awesome example of serving other people including our neighbors. She would really go out of her way to say thank you to them and our family friends at this time.  We would usually spend days baking and cooking a large amount of treats to put together for this project.  Among them was almond roca, fudge, peanut brittle, carmel corn, chocolate dipped pretzels.  These always turned out so delicious and us kids were always so sad we weren't the ones getting all of the goodies, but we still had fun delivering them to our various friends and neighbors.

Below you will find the various recipes!

Almond Roca

2 Cups Sugar
1 lb. Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Chopped, Blanched, Almonds
1/2 lb. Chocolate, melted
1 Cup Finely Ground Almonds

1.  Put sugar in a skillet first, then add butter and salt.  Cut butter into small pieces coating well with sugar.  2.
    Turn control to HIGH, stirring constantly.  When butter is melted and well blended with the sugar, turn
    burner to MEDIUM.   Cook mixture until it is a deep amber.  Be sure to keep the mixture from the sides
    of the pan.
3.  When the mixture is at the brittle stage (it will spin a thread when you hold the spoon up, or it will be rock
    hard if you drop some in a cup of cold water), pour onto an ungreased tray or cookie sheet.
4.  When set, brush with melted chocolate and sprinkle with the finely ground nut meats, pressing firmly in the
5.  When this has set, turn over and do the other side.
6.  Break into irregular pieces.

** This recipe stores well in an air-tight container!


2 1/2 C. Sugar
3/4 tsp Salt
1/2 Stick Butter or margarine
1- 5 oz can of Evaporated Milk (approx. 2/3 C)
1- 7 oz Jar Marshmallow Fluff
3/4 tsp Vanilla
1- 12 oz package of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 C. Chopped Walnuts (optional)

1.  You will use a 9X13" pan for this, so grease it and set it aside.
2.  In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, butter, evaporated milk, and marshmallow fluff on low.  Once it is all mixed well, increase your heat to medium until you have a full rolling boil.  Boil and stir constantly for 5 minutes.
3.  Remove from heat and add your chocolate chips and vanilla.
4.  Once the chocolate chips have melted, if you are going to add walnuts, add them now.
5.  Pour into your greased pan and let it cool.
6.  Cut into approximately 1" squares to share!

Peanut Brittle

1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
Dash of Salt
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Shelled Raw Peanuts
1 Tbsp Margarine
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Vanilla

1.  Grease your cookie sheet heavily.
2.  Combine sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a 3 quart casserole dish.  Stir in peanuts.
3.  Microwave on high until the mixture is light brown (about 8- 10 minutes).  Stir once or twice during this
4.  Stir in remaining ingredients until light and foamy.
5. Quickly spread onto the greased baking sheet.  Spread as thin as possible for brittle candy.
6.  Cool and break into pieces and eat.

Carmel Corn

A LARGE bowl of air popped popcorn  (I also really like to use the puffed corn now so you don't have to deal with kernels)

1 Cup Butter or margarine
1 Cup of Sugar (you can also use 1/2 Granulated and 1/2 Brown to make it lighter)
1 Cup Karo Syrup
1 tsp Baking Soda
1-2 Tbsp Milk (only if you want to make it sticky)

1.  After you have popped your popcorn, it is a good idea to sift it into another big bowl so you can minimize how many seeds are left.  Set it aside.
2.  In a medium to saucepan, melt the butter.  Add in your karo syrup and sugar.  Mix pretty constantly until you have a rapid boil.  The mixture will start rising in the pan just a little bit.  Continue stirring for about 1 minute or until you are sure the sugar has dissolved.  Take off the hot burner.
3.  Add the baking soda and stir in well until it is mixed completely.  Again, your mixture will rise even more, that is why you want a larger saucepan.
4.  Add your milk if you want the end result to be a sticky carmel corn.  If you want the crunchier type, do not add the milk.  I really don't even measure this anymore.  I just tip the jug for a second or two and that is the perfect amount.
5.  Start pouring this over the popped corn until it is evenly coated.  If you want the sticky carmel corn, stop here.
6.  If you want a crunchy carmel corn, preheat your oven to 200.  Spread the popcorn out onto a cookie sheet, into a 9X13" glass pan, or if you mixed this in a metal bowl, you can use this, it will just take a little longer to finish.  Stick this in the oven and cook in 15 minute intervals, stirring each time until it reaches the crunchiness you want.  Let it cool before putting onto your goody plate!

Almond Joys

This was also a favorite of us kids during Christmas time.  I don't recall making these at any other time of the year!

2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups White Karo Syrup
1/2 Cup Water

Boil to 225° (soft ball in cold water), remove from stove and add:

1 1/2 Lbs. Coconut
1 Cup Chopped Almonds
1/4 tsp Almond Extract

1.  Stir well.
2.  Pour into a buttered pan.
3.  When cool, cut into small squares and dip in chocolate.

**If you would rather make Mounds Bars, just leave out the almonds!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

    These are so easy and just delicious.  All you need is a bag of pretzels and some chocolate or white  chocolate almond bark.  Melt the almond bark in either a double boiler saucepan or a microwave safe bowl (on 50% heat) until the chocolate is melted.  Add a little bit of oil or vegetable oil to the chocolate to make it smooth.  Once it is melted, take a handful of pretzels into the chocolate.  Use a fork to scoop them out one at a time, tap the chocolate off into the pan, and place the pretzel onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper or wax paper.

    After they have dried, you can either leave them like that, or take the opposite flavor of almond bark and lightly drizzle that flavor over the top.  You can also add green or red sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet.

Snow Stacks

This was something our mom used to make to add to the plate and they were always so good.  They are also REALLY easy.  All you need for this is white almond bark and chow mein noodles.  Melt the chocolate as above with the chocolate covered pretzels.  Once the chocolate is melted, pour the bag of chow mein noodles in the chocolate.  Mix around until they are all covered and start scooping them onto a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper in little mounds.  Let them dry completely before moving them.  They take a little longer than the chocolate covered pretzels.  You can add peanuts or cashews or something if you  would like.

12 Days of Christmas Gifts

    We did this as a family a few times and then had it done to us too.  It was really fun on both ends.  Being the one to give the gift, you really had to start coming up with creative ways to deliver the gifts because after the first day or two, the families would start keeping an eye out for you to see who their secret family was.  We would do the same thing.  It was fun to have to try and hide while making the delivery, or sitting at the window to try to catch whoever was delivering to you.  I can't remember what criteria we used to pick our families other than just friends, but one suggestion would be to pick a family you know may be struggling or needing a little extra help around the holidays.

Some of the gift suggestions are:

  • A pie
  • A goody platter (you could count each different treat as a different day.  Example: 4 different types of treats could be given on day 4)
  • Christmas Pillowcases (1 for each member of the family and again, just assign it to the day that coordinates with the number)
  • A Christmas mug with either candy or Hot Chocolate packets inside.
  • These hot coco packets were just made out of the icing decorating bags.  Just add 2 packets of hot coco, mini marshmallows, and some sprinkles for flare!
  • A Christmas music CD
  • A Christmas movie or a movie night packet (basket, pop, chips, popcorn, movie theater style candy, Christmas movie).  
    • Polar Express
    • Elf
    • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    • Miracle on 34th Street
    • Home Alone
  • An ornament for each member of the family (or just the days-  this could be a good 12th day idea)
    • You could spell a word, multiple words, decorate with a reindeer or Christmas Tree
  • Candy canes
  • A bag of Reindeer food (full of bird seed and glitter)
    • You can attach a card with this little saying on it
      • "Sprinkle on the lawn at night
      • The moon will make it sparkle bright
      • As Santa's Reindeer fly and roam,
      • This food will guide them to you home!
  • Apple Cider Packets
  • A cute container long chocolate dipped Pretzel Sticks (12)
  • Christmas Cake Pops
  • Decorate an empty jar like a snowman.  Fill it with the dry ingredients for cookie dough.
  • If finances or not a problem, may a gift of 2 for each family member on the final day.
  • Possibly fixings for Christmas dinner: Ham or Turkey, potatoes or mashed potato mix, vegetable, rolls, stuffing, salad (or whatever else you might have for a Christmas dinner.  I am sure everyone is different!)
  • A popcorn Tin
  • A nativity Set (here is a link for an idea)
  • 6 pack of IBC Rootbeer or Cream Soda (or other 6 pack pop) dressed up like Reindeer (idea here)
  • A Christmas Decoration
  • If you can find a Christmas jello mold, give that and green or red jello
  • Christmas cookie cutters and a package of cookie dough mix

Day 1   Day 2   Day 3   Day 4   Day 5   Day 7   Day 8   Day 9   Day 10   Day 11   Day 12


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