Spicy Corn Nut Brittle
Corn nuts aren’t actually nuts—they’re corn kernels that have been soaked in water and then roasted and salted. They’re extremely crunchy and make for a delicious brittle. Some corn nuts come flavored (such as ranch or BBQ), so look for the original flavor when you’re shopping. Making the caramel for the brittle might feel intimidating, but it’s easier than it seems. The key is to get your ingredients ready before starting the recipe, so that you can move quickly when it's time to add something in. Cellophane bags are a fun way to package this recipe as a gift. That way you can show off the pretty, textural shards of brittle.
Cocoa Cereal Brittle
This brittle might be the ideal marriage between things a kid loves and things an adult love. You’ve got cocoa cereal—the stuff of perfect Saturday mornings, and brittle, a sophisticated crunchy treat. For a totally over-the-top treat, serve crushed over a scoop of ice cream. If you don’t have nonstick spray for the parchment paper, pour some vegetable or canola oil on a paper towel and rub it all over the sheet. This is key to making sure the brittle doesn’t stick to the paper.
This chutney doesn’t shy away from interesting flavors. Earthy spices like cumin and fennel seeds add depth to the sweet-tart apples, fresh ginger adds bright heat, and red onion adds savory appeal. The serrano chilies are optional—try a little of the pepper before adding to the pot to test its spiciness When you’re stirring the apples, don’t use too much force, you want them to hold their shape in the pot. Transfer to pretty jars and label to give as gifts.
Brownie Batter Babka Bites
If your dream dessert is a slice of chocolate babka, this decadent treat was made for you. We turned the irresistible sweet bread into individual-sized desserts, with chocolate rippling throughout every flaky layer. To mimic the flavor of brownies, we essentially made brownie batter (minus the eggs and dry ingredients) and spread it onto crescent roll dough. Then, we topped the batter with flaky salt, rolled the dough into a log, and cut it into rounds like you would a cinnamon roll. Brushing each one with egg wash ensures that as they bake, they take on a beautiful golden hue. These are best served warm, straight from the oven while the chocolate is still hot and decadent.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Kale With Crispy Capers
Say goodbye to sad, limp greens. A quick sauté of Brussels sprouts and baby kale keeps the veggies bright and fresh, and cooking them on the stove will save you oven space on Thanksgiving Day. Prepping for the big meal in advance? Slice the Brussels sprouts, onion, and long red pepper (if you can’t find one, substitute a Serrano) a few days prior, and refrigerate in airtight containers. If you have a food processor, take advantage of its slicing blade—it makes quick work of the sprouts. And don’t skip the capers—frying them in olive oil makes them deliciously crisp, and adds a briny flavor to the final dish.
You might think of shortbread as a sweet cookie, but in reality it’s just a method for creating an extra-buttery dough, meaning it can lean savory, too. There’s just a little bit of brown sugar in the dough, giving these an addictive “what is that?” element. Look for oil-cured olives, which are dry-cured in salt, making them less bitter and chewier than normal olives. Make this an entire appetizer platter by pairing with soft, fresh goat cheese, roasted almonds, fresh rosemary, and honey.
Hazelnuts are famous for being paired with chocolate, but this simple, buttery shortbread allows their golden flavor to take center stage. If you bought raw, skin-on hazelnuts, it’s easy to take the skins off. Simple toast them in the oven at 350º F until the nuts are golden and the skins are starting to split, 12 to 15 minutes. Then, transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub until the papery skins start to come off. They’ll cling to the towel, making your job even easier. Let them cool completely before chopping and proceeding with the recipe.
Black and White Chocolate Pretzels
Fair warning: these Black and White Chocolate Pretzels are the kind of treat that can cause a family feud. The salt-meets-sweet combination is addictive, what with the two kinds of chocolate, salt, and crunchy sugar on top. You can use either vanilla or peppermint extract for the recipe, or, make one batch of each. If you’re planning to gift these, why not include the recipe? They’ll likely ask for it afterwards, anyways.
Pizza Pretzel Nuggets
Here’s an important question: Why aren’t pizza and pretzels getting together more often? To make these, you create a seasoned paste with tomato paste, oil, and all the spices that make pizza taste so good. Toss that all with hard pretzels (the kind you can buy from Snyder’s, for example) and bake. If you’re bringing these as a hostess gift, here’s a fun idea for packaging: Buy a six-pack of beer and slide a bag of the nuggets into one of the beer sleeves. Of course, they’d stand alone as a gift, too.