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Joni Woolf: Christmas treats for giving

Much of our recent writing has been about getting ready for the holidays — preparing large amounts of traditional foods for the family gatherings that are the hallmark of the season for many.  But wouldn’t it be nice if — instead of your hurrying to prepare some special treats for nibbles during the season — some good friend or relative or neighbor dropped by with a tin full of goodies for you or your family’s enjoyment? And wouldn’t it be just as nice if you did it for a friend, or relative or neighbor?
The recipes today are for simple, easy-to-make bite-size treats that can be packed in a tin or cardboard container, do not need refrigeration, and keep well for at least a week. So hurry to the kitchen, as the song says, and create some of these tasty bites to give to others. And keep a few for yourself.

Pecan Puffs
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Beat butter and granulated sugar together until creamy. Add vanilla, beating well. Combine pecans and flour, stirring well; stir pecan mixture into butter mixture until thoroughly combined. Roll dough into small balls (I use rubber gloves for this) and place on baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Roll cookies in confectioners’ sugar while hot and again while cool. Makes about 40 cookies. (I always double this recipe — they go fast!)

Rum Balls (require no cooking)
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup rum
3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (I use food processor for this)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa
Mix syrup and rum together; then add remaining ingredients. Using rubber gloves, shape into 1-inch balls, roll in extra confectioners’ sugar. Store in airtight containers. Makes about 40 balls.

Peanut Butter Fingers
12 ounce jar smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup cooking oil (such as canola, etc.)
Thin-sliced loaf bread (white or wheat)
Trim the crusts from half a loaf of bread. Toast these crusts until brown and dry; roll or crush to make fine bread crumbs. Cut each slice of bread into five strips and place in 200 degree F. oven for at least one hour until thoroughly dry and crisp. Mix peanut butter and oil in top of double boiler until well blended (you could also do this in microwave). Dip each strip in peanut butter mix to coat and then roll in bread crumbs. Place on waxed paper to dry. Store in covered container or freeze. Delicious and healthy.

Cheese Bites
1/2 cup butter
1/2 pound extra sharp cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pecans, ground,
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cream together butter and cheese. Add other ingredients to blend well.
Form rolls of dough about the size of a nickel in diameter. Roll in waxed paper and chill thoroughly. Slice in half-inch slices and place in shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 22-25 minutes until slightly browned.

Rice Krispie Cookies
2  8-ounce packages dates, chopped
2 sticks butter, softened
1 can (7 oz.) flaked coconut
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups pecans, chopped
Confectioners’ sugar
Cook the dates, butter, coconut and brown sugar in a slow boil for six minutes. Remove from heat and add the Rice Krispies and nuts and mix well. Roll into small balls and then roll balls in confectioners’ sugar.

Peppery Spiced Pecans
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pound pecan halves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In skillet, saute pecan halves in butter until hot; add remaining ingredients. Arrange nuts in shallow pan and bake at 325 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

Now don’t all of these sound easy, and doable? So go to the kitchen. Make some goodies. Parcel a few of each treat (four of five, and more of the Spiced Pecans) in separate pint-size baggies, then place all the baggies in a pretty gift bag or tin. Or treat yourself. Either way, you’ll make someone happy.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net