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GIFTS OF TASTE

Taste Makers

Gifts You Put Together in Your Kitchen

December 03, 1997|TRACY CROWE McGONIGLE

Seasoned Greetings

The most important ingredients in chili are the spices, and many cooks jealously guard their special blends. But there is a way you can give away your chili recipe without giving away the whole thing. Bottle your seasonings and attach the recipe--without the spice instructions. Tell them that information is too hot to handle.

If you don't have a favorite spice mix or chili recipe, you can borrow ours.

BASIC SPICE MIX

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons pasilla chile powder

2 tablespoons California chile powder

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons basil

2 tablespoons oregano

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Chili powder comes in more varieties than basic red. In the Latino sections of most supermarkets, you can find ground chiles from different kinds of peppers, including pasilla and California chiles.

Combine cumin, pasilla and California chile powders, salt, basil, oregano, dry mustard, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Mix well.

2 cups. Each teaspoon:

7 calories; 232 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.34 gram fiber.

THREE-BEAN-AND-MEAT CHILI

1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage

4 pounds lean ground beef

1/4 cup olive oil

4 onions, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 cup Basic Spice Mix or spices of choice

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1 (1-pound) can crushed tomatoes

2 (1-pound) cans peeled tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans

1 (15-ounce) can black beans

1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans

1 pound Cheddar cheese, grated, optional

1 bunch cilantro, chopped, optional

Remove sausage from casings and add with ground beef to large stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat, then cook through, about 15 minutes.

Using slotted spoon to drain excess fat, transfer meat to large mixing bowl. Discard any excess fat from pot.

Heat olive oil in same stock pot, add onions and cook over low heat, until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, stir in Basic Spice Mix, tomato paste and wine. Stir in crushed and peeled tomatoes. Add kidney, black and pinto beans and simmer, uncovered, stirring often for 30 minutes.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese, extra chopped onion and chopped cilantro.

16 servings. Each 1-cup serving, without garnishes:

448 calories; 1,102 mg sodium; 84 mg cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrates; 24 grams protein; 2.65 grams fiber.

Chili Jar

1 to 2 cups spice mix

1 jar

Hand-written recipe card

Decorative ribbon or trim

* Place spice mix in jar and decorate as desired. Use paints, for instance, to draw chile peppers on the jar.

* Attach recipe card to jar with decorative ribbon.

Tuck and Dip

Dress up a saucer with chocolate-dipped swizzles. Cinnamon sticks coated with white chocolate are a great way to swirl a little spice into your hot chocolate. And small candy canes are the perfect size for a chocolate-coated espresso cup swizzle. Make the swizzles in large batches. They can be given by the dozen, in bags or placed in a cup or mug.

Swizzle Sticks

1/4 pound milk chocolate

1/4 pound white chocolate

24 candy canes (about 2 1/2 inches tall)

12 tall cinnamon sticks (about 5 1/2 inches long)

Clear plastic bags

Ribbon

* Melt milk or white chocolate in top of double-boiler over simmering water. Remove from heat.

* For candy canes, dip straight tip of canes in melted chocolate and roll around until they are covered, leaving curved part of candy uncoated.

* For cinnamon sticks, use frosting spatula to spread chocolate on half of each cinnamon stick.

* Let dry on cooling rack. Canes can be hung on hangar to dry.

* Put sticks in clear plastic bags and tie with ribbon.

It Floats

The bottle of hand soap by the kitchen or bathroom sink doesn't have to be plain and plastic. Get a beautiful glass bottle, fill it with clear hand soap and float star-shaped beads or other objects in the bottle. You'll get something that's as good-looking as it is useful.

Soap Bottle

Clear glass bottle

16 fluid ounces clear hand soap

1 bag small star plastic beads or other similar light objects

Bottle pourer (as used in bars to top liquor bottles)

* Slowly fill bottle with soap, stopping periodically to add a few beads every inch or so until bottle is full.

* Top with bottle pourer.

Cubist Art

Tiny decorated sugar cubes are the kind of detail only perfectionist party hosts can manage. We've seen them in catalogs priced at $14 for a set of 24. You can spend a lot less by making your own. It will take a little time, patience and extra sugar cubes (because you won't always get the design just right the first time). You can make a batch of royal icing, then divide and custom-color it, but the tube frosting works just as well. Small piping tips, however, are essential to make holiday or floral designs.

Sugar Cubes

1 (32-ounce) box sugar cubes

1 or more (4 1/4-ounce) tubes decorating icing in colors of choice or homemade royal icing colored as desired

1 or more pastry bags

1 small star tip

1 pointed tip

1 (2 3/8-ounce) jar silver cake decorating beads

To pipe flowers onto sugar cubes, set sugar cubes on flat surface, squeeze desired color of frosting into pastry bag and use star tip on pastry bag to pipe flowers on top of each sugar cube. Then, using different color frosting and pointed tip, pipe small dot in center of design to complete flower.

To pipe Christmas trees onto sugar cubes, set sugar cubes on flat surface. Squeeze green icing into pastry bag and use pointed tip to pipe tree-like squiggle on top of sugar cube. Place 1 silver cake decorating bead on top of tree.

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