A gift from your kitchen: sugar and spice nuts
For those who like the pleasure of cooking, and the joy of sharing the results, and for those who find a handmade and homemade gift more delightful than a store-bought one, here are two recipes from ''With Love From Your Kitchen'' by Diana and Paul von Welanetz (Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, $10). Both would be perfect for entertaining, too. Sugar and Spice Nuts 41/2 cups mixed, unsalted nuts (walnut halves, pecan halves, blanched almonds, cashews) 2 cups sugar 1 cup water Grated rind of 1 or 2 oranges 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace Pinch ground cloves
Mix all ingredients in large, heavy skillet. Simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until water evaporates and nuts look sugary -- about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour nuts onto large, greased baking sheet. Using two forks, separate quickly to prevent from sticking together. Let cool, then store in airtight container in refrigerator or freezer.
These will keep up to a month in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 cups, or enough to fill 3 1-pint or 6 1/2-pint gift containers. Cream Cheese With Garlic and Herbs 8 ounces cream cheese 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Beau Monde seasoning 1 medium to large clove garlic, pressed 1/4 teaspoon Herbs of Provence 1 teaspoon minced fresh or dried parsley 1 teaspoon water 1/4 teaspoon wine vinegar 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce Crackers Place cream cheese and butter in large bowl of electric mixer. Beat at high speed until mixture is smooth and fluffy, stopping motor often to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.
Add remaining ingredients and continue beating until well combined. Pack mixture into containers and allow to mellow at least 12 hours in refrigerator before serving. Serve with crackers.
Can be made in advance, will keep at least a month in refrigerator. Do not freeze. Makes 11/4 cups of spread, enough for 2 5-ounce gifts.