Making Holiday Gifts Aboard –Articles and Photographs by Lori Ross
Three years ago, we celebrated our first Christmas aboard the boat in Fort Myers. We entertained new and old friends and attended parties, parades and dinners throughout the holiday. As friends came aboard, some brought very special gifts they had made while on their own boats.
Our longtime cruising friends, Bernadette and Douglas Bernon, brought us lovely note cards they designed with Mola (define) fabric they bought while cruising in the (name of) Islands between Panama and Colombia. A sailing instructor friend from Captiva Island Florida, whose house and business had been devastated by a recent hurricane brought us fragrant handmade cedar sachets to keep our hanging lockers fresh. He made these with cedar shavings from the closets he rebuilt in his home after the hurricane.
We opened a lovely Santa Fe Holiday Basket at the home of boating friends who had a home in New Mexico -- it contained salsa, chips, posole, chile stew mix and luminaria for decoration. We received homemade spiced nuts, fresh baked holiday cookies, breads and muffins and delicious homemade Irish Cream Liqueur from new friends in the marina. And snowbird cruising friends gave us jars of their secret family recipe barbeque sauce and piquant honey mustard. Work friends gave us several barbeque seasonings of their own invention (along with recipes to use them), while another friend gave us a “Floribbean” Dinner Basket containing yellow rice, black beans, mojito marinade, rum, lime juice, guava paste and plantain chips. Finally, one couple picked grapefruit from their own tree for us to eat and then take home to Maryland. These gifts were not only thoughtful but they were meaningful – they welcomed us to Florida, they reminded us of our friends and their stories and we were touched by the fact that these lovely people took the time to make (or grow) us gifts.
Our creative artist cousins, Brian and Heather Hoppenstein make gift baskets every year. One year, they made blueberry vinegar with a recipe for “The Blues” salad tied to the bottle and a little bag of candied walnuts to include in the salad. Another year, they made fudge, peanut brittle and cookies and packed it all in a decorative tin that we could keep. They have made fragrant soaps, beadwork jewelry and artwork for us. While I will never be as talented as our cousins, we have started making gifts for family and friends for the holidays -- often to accompany a “store-bought” gift, but to remind them that we think they are special.
Most of these gifts are easy to make aboard and don’t require lots of exotic ingredients. I’ve made many of them on the boat when we are cruising, as hostess gifts or “new boat” gifts and they are fun to make.
GIFTS OF FOOD AND DRINK
Homemade Bailey's Irish Cream
We received this as a gift and it was addictive. I loved adding it to my morning coffee.
Makes 3 cups
1 cup light cream or half and half
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cups Irish whiskey
1 tsp instant coffee
2 tbsp Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 tsp vanilla
Combine all ingredients in a blender and set on high speed for 30 seconds. Bottle in a tightly sealed container (corked bottle or Grolsch beer bottle with attached top) and refrigerate. This will keep for up to 2 months refrigerated. Shake before using and don’t serve over ice of it will be watered down.
Flavored vinegars add excitement to salads, marinades and sauces. They also make special gifts that are easy to make aboard the boat. Because vinegar is high in acid, it does not support the growth of botulism bacteria. I usually use distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar (USDA Extension service says that rice and wine vinegars are susceptible to E.Coli bacteria if herbs, fruits and vinegar are not boiled or dipped in a mild bleach solution before bottling.)
Basic Herb Vinegar Recipe
1 cup fresh herbs, for example, sage, thyme, rosemary,
1 quart distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
Glass bottles with covers or stoppers
Place herbs of choice, in bottle of vinegar. Place in cool, dark place (hanging locker, cabinet, under seats, in the bilge or in refrigerator for 2 weeks; after 2 weeks, the vinegar is ready to bottle.
Preparing the gifts:
Select and prepare containers. Use only glass jars or bottles that are free of cracks or nicks and can be sealed with a screw-band lid, cap or cork. Wash containers thoroughly. Filter Vinegar and bottle: Pour vinegar mixture through several coffee filter papers, discarding the herbs. Pour into clean bottles and top with cork or cap. Write out recipe cards and punch out one corner.
Vinegar should be stored in refrigerator for maximum flavor retention and it is good for 6 months or more. Do not display herb and fruit vinegars on a window sill or in the sun. If left out for more than a few weeks, the vinegar will not retain its maximum flavor.
*Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables with clean water and peel, if necessary, before use. Berries should be placed in vinegar whole with a couple mashed berries and larger fruits should be cut into pieces
** Thread these on thin bamboo skewers for easy insertion and removal.
For more interesting flavors, add the following to original vinegar batch:
Lemon-Herb Vinegar: Add 1 long spiral lemon rind along with one sprig of herb in final bottling.
Spicy Herb Vinegar: Add 2 dried chili peppers
Garlic Herb Vinegar: Add 4 cloves of garlic
Pepper-Herb Vinegar: Add 12 peppercorns
Fruit Vinegar: Add 4 cups berries, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums
Citrus Vinegar: Add the rind of 2 oranges or lemons
Asian Vinegar: Add 1-inch of fresh peeled ginger and 1 cup fresh cilantro
For colorful vinegars, add the following to original vinegar batch:
Fushia – 8 sprigs fresh Purple Basil leaves
Celadon– 8 sprigs fresh tarragon, rosemary, sage, thyme or dill
Pale pink - 2 cups raspberries or strawberries
Pale Blue – 2 cups blueberries (I cup smashed before putting in vinegar)
Peach - 2 cups fresh peach, nectarine or apricot slices
Flavored Salts and Peppers
Flavored salts and peppers are fun to use and a treat to receive. I once received a “do it yourself” pepper mixing kit made up of a lovely basket of various peppercorns (white, black, pink, etc.) and spices (fennel seed, caraway seed, lemon and orange peel) and a peppermill. I’m still mixing combinations from that gift! Use your imagination in mixing combinations for gifts, taste as you go along and toss in a pepper or salt mill or shaker or salt cellar to complete the gift. Add a recipe card to the container of flavored salts or peppers (see flavored vinegar above) or simply write how to use the salts and peppers (e.g. sprinkle seasoning onto vegetables and meats before cooking, or pass it at the table)
Basic Flavored Salt and Pepper
Makes one cup
1 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea salt) or 1 cup whole or cracked peppercorns*
8 tablespoons mixed spices (whole or ground depending on recipe you choose below)
Pepper mills, salt mills, jars or bottles with stoppers or caps
Mix salt or pepper and seasonings thoroughly and place in clear dry glass jars with cork, stopper or screw top lid or in salt or peppermills. If you are including a recipe with punch hole, tie raffia or a ribbon through the recipe card hole and tie a pretty bow.
Ideas for seasoned flavored salts and peppers:
Tex-Mex Pepper: Mix peppercorns with crushed red peppers, whole cumin and coriander seeds*
Lemon Pepper: Mix peppercorns with dried lemon peel
Tex-Mex Salt: Mix salt with chile powder, cumin powder and oregano.
Sel de Provence : Mix salt with dried lavender, dried thyme, rosemary and dried orange peel
Vietnamese pepper: Mix peppercorns with star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick
Tuscan Salt: Mix salt with dried rosemary, basil and dried lemon peel.
Caraway seeds and pepper
* use sea salt and whole peppercorns if you are making gift for use in salt and pepper mills; use kosher salt and cracked whole pepper for use in a shaker or container at the table.
Homemade Spiced Rubs
Spiced rubs make grilled, broiled and roasted foods a treat. Spiced rubs are simply mixtures of salt, sugar, spices, and dried herbs used to season meat, poultry, vegetables or seafood before cooking or grilling. Homemade rubs are quick and easy to make and they can also be more flavorful and economical than the commercial varieties. Once you apply a rub, you can cook foods right away or let larger pieces of food (like roasts, whole chickens, etc.) marinate for 12-24 hours. Either way, the rub will add a burst of flavor. Start with the basic recipe, and then adjust it to your own taste. Experiment with your favorite spices and dried herbs; however, always keep the quantities of salt and brown sugar the same as in the basic recipe – the sugar flavors and, more importantly, it caramelizes the crust when you cook it.
Basic Homemade Spice Rub Recipe:
Makes 1 1/4 cups (enough to season 5 to 10 pounds of meat, poultry, or seafood)
1/3 cup kosher, sea or regular salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon cayenne or other pepper, (optional)
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients, using your hands to break up the sugar. Package in a bottle or jar with stopper or hard plastic container with recipe and ribbon (as in flavored vinegar) and encourage recipients to store mixture away from heat and light, up to 6 months.
Ideas for Rubs:
Southwestern Rub: Replace some of the paprika with cumin, coriander, and chili powder.
Indian Rub: Replace the oregano and thyme with turmeric, curry powder, ground ginger, and cardamom.
Mediterranean Rub: Replace some or all the oregano and/or thyme with dried tarragon, marjoram, rosemary, dill, or basil. Omit the cayenne pepper.
Provencal Rub: Replace oregano and paprika with lavender and rosemary
Citrus Rub: Replace paprika with dried orange or lemon peel
Basic Recipe using spice rubs:
For each pound of meat, poultry, or seafood:
First, coat with 2 to 3 teaspoons vegetable oil, then 1 to 2 tablespoons spice rub. Apply the rub to chicken, turkey, steaks, burgers, roasts and chops up to 24 hours ahead of cooking time. The larger the cut, the more it will benefit from a long marinating time. For fish, shellfish or veggies, marinate about 30-60 minutes maximum, Cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before grilling. To prevent foods from sticking, oil grates well, and don't move the food for the first minute or so of cooking; this will allow a solid crust to form. Rubs are not just for grilling. They're also great for roasting and broiling. Note: Before handling raw meat, measure out the amount of rub you'll need, and set it aside; this way, you'll avoid contaminating the unused rub.
Fruit Crumble Mix
So many times I want to use leftover fruit (alone or in combination) to make fruit crumble and I don’t feel like digging out all the ingredients to make it. This mix is a terrific time-saver for boating cooks because they just need to add butter to the mixture, place it on 3-4 cups of cut up fresh fruit and pop in the oven for 30 minutes. Make sure your recipient has an oven that browns on the boat (e.g. not simple microwave) or has a land-based home (and oven).
The following mixture makes a crumble that serves 6 people (increase proportionally for several gifts):
¾ cup all–purpose flour
¾ cup sugar (white or brown)
½ cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
¼ tsp of salt
Mix above ingredients and place in screw-top jar (alternatively, you may want to layer ingredients in clear glass jar, starting with flour and salt on the bottom, then brown sugar then nuts.
Recipe for Fruit Crumble (to add to recipe card)
1 jar of Fruit Crumble Mixture
½ cup (1 stick) butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 cups of berries, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, peeled apples, pears, cherries (pitted and chopped into ½ inch pieces
To make topping:
Mix Fruit Crumble mixture with butter until mixture begins to clump.
Spread fruit in a 9- inch deep dish pie plate or baking pan. Sprinkle topping over it and bake in the middle of a preheated 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or heavy cream if you wish.
Everyone loves spiced or candied nuts and they are a cinch to make on the boat. Place them in a decorated tin with tight fitting top or a screw top jar to keep them fresh. Attach recipe for nuts so your gift recipient can make them.
Makes 2 ½ cups.
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 ½ cups dry roasted peanuts or mixed salted nuts
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add peanuts and all ingredients into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from heat, let cool and place in attractive tins or jars with recipes and a pretty bow.
Chile nuts: replace garlic and ginger with ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
Makes 2 cups
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups walnut halves or mixed unsalted nuts
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
In a small, nonstick skillet over high heat, melt butter. Add walnuts, tossing to coat for 1 minute, then add honey, maple syrup and salt, cooking and stirring until the nuts are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and break apart any walnuts that are sticking together. Let nuts cool. Package in clean dry tins or jars with tight lids and, if you wish, tie recipe for nuts onto decorative
Sweet and Spicy Nuts: add 1 teaspoon of black or cayenne pepper to nut recipe above.
Breadcrumbs are great for baking, roasting or sautéing chicken, fish, veal or pork scallopini, stuffing vegetables and deep frying. While we often have plain or commercially seasoned Italian breadcrumbs aboard our boats, we don’t usually have these exciting flavors. Each of these recipes yields about two cups breadcrumbs. Place crumbs in a pretty jar or metal or glass container, tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar or around container and attache a recipe like the one below.
2 cups dried plain breadcrumbs or Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs that make a very crispy crust)
3 tbsp dried lemon zest
2 tbsp dried sage
1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
Stir together breadcrumbs, zest, sage and salt, then season breadcrumbs with pepper.
Delhi Breadcrumbs – replace lemon zest and sage with1/2 cup chopped, toasted sliced almonds and 2 teaspoons garam masala (Indian mixture sold in spice section)
Coconut-Lime Breadcrumbs –replace lemon zest, sage and pepper with1/2 cup toasted, unsweetened shredded coconut, 2 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (peels from 2 to 3 limes), and 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Parmesan-Oregano Breadcrumbs – replace lemon zest and sage with1 teaspoon dried oregano and 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese. Decrease salt to 1 teaspoon because cheese is salty.
Chicken, Veal or Fish Cutlets
Four ¼-inch think chicken or veal cutlets or fish fillets
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup bread crumb mix
4 to 6 tbsp oil
2 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp capers (optional)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Gently pound chicken or veal cutlets between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8-inch thickness using rolling pin or meat pounder (do not pound fish filet). Stir together flour, salt, and pepper and place on plate or shallow bowl. Whisk eggs and salt in shallow bowl and place bread crumbs mix in a third bowl. Pat chicken dry, dredge in seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Dip in eggs letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs, coating completely. Transfer to a saran or wax-paper-lined plate and chill 10 minutes.
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sautee cutlets (without crowding) in several batches, turning them over only once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes on each side. Add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet between batches. Drain cutlets on paper towels, then transfer to platter. Add butter and capers to skillet and heat over moderate heat stirring until butter is melted. Stir in parsley and pour sauce over cutlets.
Homemade Granola or Muesli Mix
Homemade granola is so much tastier than commercial blends, your gift recipients will delight in its flavor and texture. A friend of mine made 6 quarts of this homemade granola for his vegetarian son replacing the nut and fruit combination with each quart. When granola is unsweetened and added to yogurt, it becomes Muesli (a Swiss word meaning "mush”), a popular breakfast in Europe. Muesli is made up of a mixture of oats soaked in fruit juice, spices, nuts and dried fruit. When eaten, it is served with yogurt and chopped fresh fruit. Use whatever fruit and nuts you like and let your imagination run wild.
Makes 4-5 cups
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup each slivered almonds and cashews (or other nuts and seeds such as macadamia, walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut (optional)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (e.g. cherries, cranberries, strawberries cranberries, pears, apples, mango, pineapple)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even golden color. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed. Place in clear glass quart canning jars with screw tops. Tie a ribbon around neck of jar with the granola recipe for your recipient to make their own.
Bircher Muesli Mix
Makes 4-5 cups
The origin of the Birschermuesli is Swiss-German; the word muesli means “mush” or cereal. This recipe is based on the most delicious muesli I ever had. The restaurant, Hotel Deidesheimer Hof, was in the Pfalz wine region of Germany. Makes 4 cups of mixture. Make sure to include the recipe that follows so that your gift recipients will know how to make this wonderful breakfast cereal.
1 cup chopped almonds or other chopped nuts of your choice
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit of your choice (dried chopped prunes, apricots, peaches, cherries, berries)
4 Tablespoons of brown sugar
4 cups uncooked rolled oats (not instant oats)
Layer each gift in a clean, dry jar. Start from the bottom of the jar and layer fnuts, then fruit, then sugar, then oats. Tie a ribbon around neck of jar with the muesli recipe below.
For four servings:
8 oz. apple juice or other fruit juice
2 cups non-citrus fresh fruit (cut into bite-sized pieces if necessary) such as berries, pear, apple, banana, peach, nectarine, plum.
3 cups plain yogurt (thick Greek yogurt like FACE is best)
Pour contents of jar of muesli in a bowl and mix well. Add fruit juice and yogurt to muesli and mix well. Soak overnight or for a minimum of 2 hours in refrigerator. When ready to eat, add chopped fresh fruit and nuts.
Variations: Muesli is good with almost any fruit juice, dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, dates, figs), nuts and fresh fruit (berries are yummy). The chopped apple and pear gave a nice crunch though, so you may want to add a crunchy and a soft fruit. Some people use flavored yogurt instead of plain and eliminate the sweetener from the recipe. In winter, grill, sauté or broil a fresh banana with some butter and brown sugar to top your muesli off with this warm treat.
Homemade barbeque sauce is a delight. My brother-in-law makes up new sauces every time he grills ribs or chicken for us. This is a perfect -- and delectable -- gift for the grilling enthusiasts among your friends and family. Feel free to experiment with ingredients. Place in clear jars with lids, label and wrap ribbon around the neck of the jar attached to a recipe for the barbeque sauce itself.
Basic Barbeque Sauce Recipe
Makes 1 1/4 Quarts
3 tblsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes or 2 cans (28 oz each) can tomato sauce
2 canned chipotle chiles packed in adobe sauce, minced, or
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or, if you want a smoky taste, 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and 1 Tablespoon of liquid smoke).
3 tblsp cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or white vinegar or apple juice or wine
1/2 cup molasses or brown or white sugar or maple syrup
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, chiles, Worcestershire, vinegar, and molasses. Simmer until reduced by a third, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.
Working in batches, puree sauce in a blender then season with salt and black pepper. Pour into clean pint dry jars with lids and place in refrigerator. Encourage recipients to keep sauce in refrigerator and use within a month.