Janet's Notebook
Homemade Hostess Gifts for the Holidays

Pecan Pie Balls

It's party season! Seems, for me, every weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas I'm attending some sort of holiday party. Wherever I go, I like to bring a small homemade gift for the host.

"I have bought cashew butter at the grocery store, but do not like the price for the amount you receive," explains Cathie Valentine (Graniteville, SC). "I decided to try making my own."

Rich, smooth, salty and sweet, Cathy's Honey Cashew Butter (Plain or Crunchy) is divine. It's so easy to make at home with a high-speed blender or a food processor. It would be delicious on a slice of toasted bread, served with some fruit or smeared on a graham cracker. Enjoy it however you'd eat peanut butter. It makes two half pint jars - give one as a gift and save one for yourself.

Barbara Oseland's (Two Harbors, MN) Chocolate Pecan Coffee Fudge is the easiest and creamiest fudge I have ever made. Dianne Joyner (Suffolk, VA) made this recipe and loved it too. "I wish I could give this more [than five] stars," jokes Dianne. "The taste and ease of preparation is fantastic!"

The addition of espresso powder adds a richer flavor to the chocolate and is what sets this apart from other fudge. If you don't love nuts, leave them out. This recipe will be just as good nut-free.

If you have leftover espresso powder from the fudge, make a cup and enjoy Annamaria Settanni McDonald's (Brooklyn, OH) Chocolate Mint Biscotti. They're perfect to dip into coffee. This divine biscotti is full of chocolate flavor and has just enough of the refreshing mint flavor to give them a holiday flair.

"This is the basic chocolate biscotti recipe that I have that is so full of chocolate flavor, only this variation add a touch of mint to make it more decadent," shares Annamaria. I love that the actual biscotti dough has chocolate/mint flavor and there are the chocolate chips and Andes candies to give an extra punch of flavor. So delicious.

Party mix satisfies everyone's sweet tooth. A favorite is Amber Franks' (Savannah, TN) White Chocolate Party Mix. "This recipe is perfect for sharing," says Amber. "I usually make this with the addition of red M&M's for the holidays."

The white chocolate that coats everything is sweet and a nice contrast to the salty pretzels and peanuts. I loved Amber's suggestion of adding M&M's. The chocolate is a tasty and festive addition.

Joey Wolf (Oquawka, IL)uses extra candy canes to create her Peppermint Marshmallows. They're a fabulous gift idea. "This makes a nice gift when combined with nice cocoa mix or packets and a cute cup," suggests Joey.

The marshmallows and peppermint melt into the cocoa adding an extra pop of flavor. Just make sure the candy canes are crushed really fine or you may have a problem with them sticking. I suggest not giving them all away, though. These would be fun on Christmas morning with the family.

During the holidays, pecan pies are a very popular dessert. Camille McClendon (Houston, TX) turned all the flavors of a pecan pie into Pecan Pie Balls. "The yummiest part of a pecan pie with a little kick," reveals Camille.

They seriously taste like bite-sized pecan pies. They're great for the host to snack on while making last minute preparations. In the Test Kitchen, these were a huge hit. There is bourbon in these little goodies. If you don't like the taste of alcohol, you can easily substitute an extract (like rum or vanilla) and a little water.

We all know how much goes into planning a party. Sometimes a small gift is just what a frantic host needs to put a smile on their face. If you give them any of these recipes, you'll get a big smile (and probably a hug too). Happy Pinching!

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