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Culinary Capers: Gifts for Hosts and Hostesses this Holiday Season

Think outside the box with these recipes for homemade coffee liqueur and caramel sauce.

One of the true joys of the holiday season is the opportunity to catch up with friends (or make some new ones) at holiday gatherings. Some years it seems every weekend is packed with parties or gatherings of some sort.  Knowing that our festive Patch readers are nothing if not well mannered, it seemed like a good time to offer a thought or two about hostess gifts.

Many of us (this writer included) rely on a nice bottle of wine as way of expressing gratitude, but what better time of year to add a special flare than the holidays?

Hostess gifts are a token of appreciation offered to the person or persons kind enough to include you on their guest list. They are certainly not obligatory but they are always appreciated.

There are some points worth remembering when selecting a gift. Hosts are often strapped for space in the refrigerator or on the counter, in the oven or in the refrigerator. Rather than bringing something that requires precious culinary real estate, opt for something that can be stored at room temperature. Also, a gift requiring immediate unwrapping and organizing, even a fresh floral bouquet, takes hosts away from already planned duties.

  • Referencing a shared memory with a small framed photo from a vacation or special event
  • A scented candle that harkens to the host’s interests — there are countless scents available for you to consider
  • A meaningful ornament
  • A coffee cake or bread to be enjoyed the next day when all have gone home and hosts are recuperating

Homemade treats from you are a great and thoughtful way to thank others, as well. This week, I’ve provided a recipe for homemade coffee liqueur. Coffee liqueur can be added to coffee, many baked goods or just sipped on its own.  Use wine bottles thoroughly cleaned with the labels removed and replace with your own festive labeling.

If you prefer an alternative to a gift with alcohol, the caramel sauce recipe provided is a mouth-watering treat to be drizzled on all kinds of treats over the holidays such as ice cream, coffee, baked apples or gingerbread. Package the caramel sauce in canning jars dressed up with holiday ribbon or fabric.

Whatever your pleasure, the spirit of the season is at its best when giving to each other. Enjoy your holiday gatherings in the month ahead.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur           

Ingredients

  • 1 750 ml bottle vodka or white rum
  • 1 1/4 cups dark rum
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 pound whole coffee beans
  • 1 vanilla bean

Directions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a sealable container. Shake hard to combine.
  2. Label with the date and let sit in a cool, dark place for two to three weeks. Shake or stir the mixture several times each week.
  3. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into a clean bottle.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

  1. Use a heavy-bottomed, 2-quart pan. Pour the sugar in it. Stir in water. This will help your sugar melt completely before it burns.
  2. The water will actually boil off before the sugar will turn an amber color.
    Once the sugar and water come to a boil, do not stir. Just lift the pot slightly and swirl it around.
    Watch the pot closely because you don't want your sugar to burn.
  3. Once your sugar gets to the color you like, take the pot off the fire and whisk in 1 stick of butter; keep whisking until the butter has completely melted.
  4. Stir in the cream and continue to whisk.
  5. The mixture will foam up once you add the butter. Then add the vanilla.
  6. Pour into canning jars. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.

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