Carrie's Kitchen: Three breakfast-related food gifts in time for the holidays

Carrie's Kitchen: Three breakfast-related food gifts in time for the holidays
Making homemade granola. (Baltimore Sun file)

The holiday season is getting in gear and I’ve been thinking more and more about the food-related holiday gifts I want to give this year.

Last week I wrote about nut snacks, which were to help us cut back from Thanksgiving grazing and snack more responsibly. This week, now that I have my Christmas decorations out, I’m thinking about staying home and being cozy, and it made me want to explore breakfast food gifts!


Does your family have a special Christmas morning routine? We don’t, what with our children being up by 6:15 a.m. for no reason on a normal day, and even half-an-hour earlier than that on Christmas Days of the past. So my husband and I just focus on getting coffee, letting the kids open their gifts, cutting open the ridiculous packaging used on most children’s toys, and then trying to actually wake up for the next two hours while they run off to enjoy the presents. In our house, breakfast is more of a distraction from sibling bickering than a time to enjoy the first meal of the day.

Therefore, I thought the idea of giving breakfast-related food gifts is sort of a way to offer a friend or family member a bit of peace and finery while they may still be getting their groundings for the day. And these are three recipes that I know my family would enjoy as the coffee wears off and stomachs get hungry.

First up, I often eat granola with my yogurt, and love to make my own granola, so I was instantly attracted to this cranberry and white chocolate granola recipe. The red and white colors, as well as the flavors of cranberry and white chocolate, are perfectly Christmasy, and would make a delightful breakfast. Just know that the timing of granola baking is not always precise, so keep an eye on it and keep testing how dry it is. You want it to no longer feel heavy when you move it around with a spatula, but to look just lightly toasted.

Next, I saw this recipe for homemade marmalade, my 5-year-old’s favorite jam. Warning, this has a lot of steps, but since citrus is in season for December, I figured this would turn out a lot of marmalade quite economically, and your friends and recipients will probably be pretty impressed. It may not become an annual tradition, but it will be a fun thing to say you’ve tried.

And finally, oatmeal jam bars. I used to make a similar version of these for years but with cherry jam instead of seedless raspberry. This version is also a little special because the crumble topping has cream cheese in it — yum! These aren’t going to keep for more than a few days though, so bake them and deliver them the same day if you can.


Cranberry white chocolate granola

2½ cups old fashioned oats

½ cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

⅓ cup maple syrup

⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons canola oil (or melted butter or coconut oil)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, pecans, cinnamon and salt and mix well.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the maple syrup, applesauce, oil and vanilla until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are well coated.

Transfer the mixture to the parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into an even layer.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then remove and stir and flip granola over so it bakes evenly. Return to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove and add cranberries and white chocolate chips to the top of the granola. (This helps get the white chocolate a little softened and melted.)

Let cool completely then store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Note: If you like a really nutty granola, feel free to increase the pecans or walnuts to ¾ cup or a full cup.


1½ pounds oranges

1½ pounds grapefruit

½ pound limes

½ pound lemons


6 cups sugar

Pinch salt

Pectin (if necessary)

Cut citrus in half horizontally then cut each half into quarters. Squeeze each piece over a mesh strainer. Remove but retain seeds. Membrane and pith should be discarded, but pulp should be added back to the liquid.

Using a vegetable peeler, start at the point of one of the peels, lay the peel flat and then peel the entire “skin,” wiggling the peeler as necessary.

Julienne the peels and then chop them into pieces no longer than half an inch. Mix them all together in a bowl.

Place the seeds in a mesh tea ball or tie them up in a bit of cheesecloth.

Place 3 cups of juice, 2½ cups of zest and the seeds in a large saucepan. Heat over medium high heat until mixture reaches a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour into a measuring bowl. Add enough water to make the mixture 8 cups.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Place mixture, sugar and salt in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and continue to heat until mixture reaches a temperature of 220 degrees (gel stage) on a thermometer. About halfway through the cooking process, remove the seeds.

Test your marmalade at this point by spooning a bit onto a plate and placing it in the freezer for 3 minutes. If it crinkles up and looks as though it is beginning to gel it is OK to remove the remainder from the heat. If not, you may consider adding the pectin at this point.

Pour the marmalade into warm, clean jars. If you are going to be using it right away or giving away as gifts to be used right away, it can be kept in the refrigerator.


Oatmeal jam bars

1⅓ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup quick-cooking rolled oats

⅓ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter, softened

¾ cup seedless raspberry preserves

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of pan. Grease foil; set pan aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in oats, brown sugar, and lemon peel; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Measure 1 cup of the crumb mixture; set aside.

Press the remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine preserves and lemon juice. Carefully spread preserves mixture over hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup crumb mixture. Bake about 15 minutes more or until top is golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Pull out foil and cut into bars. Makes 36 bars.