Special of the day: 12 Days of Christmas Holiday Gifts for the Home Cook

28 Nov Special of the day: 12 Days of Christmas Holiday Gifts for the Home Cook

Mini Rum Cakes

Ho Ho Ho! Take a page out of Santa’s book and make a list to guide your gift-giving efforts this holiday season. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve been collecting perfect present ideas so you don’t have to in this week’s Special of the day: 12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Gifts for the Home Cook.  Here’s your list of local, affordable and thoughtful finds anyone would love that you can use as hostess gifts, Secret Santa surprises, and stocking stuffers galore. Let the shopping begin!

Clairette de Die

1. Nothing says celebration like a bottle of bubbly, and topping this year’s list is: Clairette de Die from Wines by Wednesday. A true crowd-pleaser that’s not too sweet, not too dry, Clairette de Die complements almost anything beautifully, including brunch. $19.50 from Wines by Wednesday, 312  5th Avenue South, 761-WINE.

2. Treat someone special to the Chocolate-covered Cherries from Candy Masterpiece, 120 Central Avenue, 727-5955. At just $2.00 a piece, you’ll love building a box of classic amaretto cherries in milk, dark or white chocolate and choco-cherries with vanilla dough in milk or dark chocolate, without breaking the bank.

Bequet caramels

3. Who wouldn’t love a bag of award-winning Béquet Gourmet Caramels, handcrafted in small batches by artisan caramel maker Robin Béquet in Bozeman, Montana? Available in several varieties at 2Js Fresh Market at 105 Smelter Avenue NE, 761-0134, for just $4.25, all bagged up in cellophane and ribboned, they’re wrapped and ready to gift this holiday season.

4. What could be better than a basket of fresh croissants (almond, chocolate or ham and cheese) from Big Sky Bread and Pastry? Big Sky Bread and Pastry is located at 1300 9th Street South, open Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (or until sold out). Call 315-1747.

5. Everybody’s excited about Mama Cassie’s new cookbook, Food is Love by Carol Cassie and Erin Duffy Osswald, and what a nice gift it would make for local foodies and cooks alike. It is available for order online through mamacassies.com.

6. Give the cook a break and treat him or her to lunch downtown at Bert & Ernie’s, 300 1st Avenue South, 453-0601, where they offer a nice selection of great sandwiches, salads and entrees to choose from as well as many micro-brews and wines.

7. A luscious loaf of freshly baked from Great Harvest, 515 1st Avenue North, 452-6941 would be a welcome treat during the busy holiday season. Call ahead or check their website at http://greatharvestgreatfalls.com/ to see what’s hot and fresh and coming out of the oven.

Good Heavens! More from Penny cookbook

8. Home cooks love cookbooks, and who wouldn’t love a copy of Good Heavens! More from Penny ? The cookbook contains over 150 creative, easy to prepare recipes (many of which are gluten-free) from Penny’s Gourmet to Go. It is $20.00 and available from Penny Rubner. Call 453-7070 or email pennysgourmet@gmail.com.

9. Gather an assortment of gourmet oils and vinegars from Pizazz at 403 Central Avenue, 452-6724. They carry the Olivier line of balsamic vinegar and oils, including 25 year aged balsamic ($16.50), Meyer lemon olive oil ($12.50), Blue Cheese Mission Fig Dipping Oil with Balsamic vinegar (12.50) and Herbes de Provence Olive Oil ($12.50).

10.  Stop in to Crooked Tree Coffee and Cakes at 501 1st Avenue North, 315-1221, to enjoy the charming atmosphere and a lovely latte and pick up a special treat from their baked good case for a friend on your list.

11.  Fashion a delightful gift out of fresh-roasted coffee beans and a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans from Morning Light Coffee Roasters downtown at 119  9th Street North, 453-8443.

12. Or, bring someone something fresh and delicious from your oven this holiday season. Mrs. Viste’s Rum Cakes are a tried-and-true favorite that are easy to whip up in the blender, bake and glaze in no time. Making them in a mini bundt cake pan produces six smaller cakes which when wrapped in cellophane and tied up with ribbon makes an attractive and enjoyable gift.

Sending you best wishes for a happy holiday season and stress-free shopping with a list is this week’s Special of the Day: 12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Gifts for the Home Cook and recipe for Mrs. Viste’s Rum Cakes. Happy shopping and baking!

Mini Rum Cakes

MRS. VISTE’S BUTTER RUM CAKE

(From the kitchen of Mrs. Karyl Viste)

For the cake:

½ cup cooking oil

4 whole eggs

1/3 cup rum

2/3 cup water

1 box yellow cake mix

1 box instant pudding

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix all cake ingredients together (liquids first) in the blender until thoroughly combined and smooth. Spray a Bundt cake pan with nonstick spray with flour. Pour batter in the pre­pared pan and bake in preheat­ed oven for 45 to 50 minutes, just until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Do not overbake.

(Or use a mini bundt cake pan. Fill each mini bundt 2/3 full with batter. You may have a little extra batter to make another rum cake in a small round cake pan. Mini bundts only need to bake 15-17 minutes. Check at 15 minutes and see if toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Do not overbake.)

BUTTER-RUM SYRUP

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

2 tsp. rum flavoring (I skip the water here and add 1/3 cup of rum)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring butter and sugar (and water if you’re going that route) to a boil. Remove from heat and add rum or rum flavoring. While cake is still in pan, pour syrup over. Let sit for 30 minutes. Remove from pan.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com.  Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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