Friday, December 30, 2011

What to Do With All Those Holiday Food Gifts

It happens every year.  January to November friends don’t share so much as a potato chip with you then all of a sudden in one month of holiday giving your kitchen counter is filled with every food gift under the sun.  There are cookies and quick breads, infused vodkas and hot chocolate mixes, and a jam and jelly to match every farmer’s stand fruit.

What is one person supposed to so with so much food all at once?  And where are all those cookie bakers when you really need them?  A good homemade chocolate brownie sure would taste good during March and the final bleak days of winter. 

I’m not sure you will convince anyone to start giving IOUs at Christmas for Springtime food gifts, but at the very least you can make the most of what you have been given and make sure it doesn’t go to waste. 

Chocolate:  Chocolate is chocolate, even if it originally came wrapped in foil and shaped like Santa.  Enjoy some holiday catharsis while smashing up some pieces of dark and milk.  Voila!  You have chips and chunks perfect for baking. 

Jams and Jellies: I’m not much for toast in the morning but those jams and jellies tied with ribbon are good for most than just a morning spread.  Melt down a plum jelly and thin it out with vinegar and maybe a little booze and you have a great glaze for pork loin.  Or try my new favorite use for my mom’s pepper jelly: dollop atop crostini spread with young, tangy goat cheese.  It makes a wonderful and easy appetizer for everything from a fancy New Year’s Eve get together to a casual January book club meeting.

Quick Breads: Ever since I tasted The French Laundry’s banana bread and foie gras torchon, my eyes have opened to the potential of quick breads beyond breakfast food.  If you are having a champagne toast at midnight tonight, consider squares of banana bread or ginger bread topped with store bought foie gras pate as a simple and surprising appetizer.

Cookies: One word.  Re-gift.

Infused Spirits:  Use it now or run the risk of that peppermint vodka still taking up precious bar space at next year’s holiday festivities.  Mix up a punch bowl full of a signature cocktail using that infused vodka for tonight’s party and let your guests help you clear another bottle off the shelf. 

Seasoned Popcorn and Nuts: Put it out at a party.  Take all the credit. 

Here’s to a Happy New Year, and a January with fewer food gifts lingering around the house. 

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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