I love to give and receive homemade Christmas gifts. So, today I want to share two recipes with you that make great gifts. The first is a classic: fudge with walnuts. Since I was little our family has always made a batch of fudge at Christmastime. Unfortunately, the recipe got lost a couple of years ago when my mom moved. Fortunately, Art Smith's recipe is really good, and close to what we remember of our original recipe, so we started using that one. I've made a couple of adjustments and now it's perfect.

The second is Coconut Dulce de Leche, a recipe that was featured in Bon Appetit a few years ago. It's made with coconut milk instead of cream making it perfect to give to your vegan or lactose intolerant friends. But, don't reserve it just for them. Anyone who likes coconut will love it drizzled over ice cream and topped with toasted coconut. Roy prefers it over vanilla ice cream, but to me, drizzled over chocolate is the way to go.

Walnut Fudge

4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Two 12 ounce packages semisweet chocolate chips
Two 7 ounce jars marshmallow cream
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups chopped walnuts

Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Bring the sugar, butter, milk, and salt to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed pan (I use my dutch oven) over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to stir and cook for about 5 minutes more until a candy thermometer reads 234 - 240 degrees. Remove from heat.

Add the chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, unsweetened chocolate, vanilla, and walnuts and stir until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Cool completely.

To give as a gift: The fudge can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for two weeks. Cut into small squares and package in small containers or wrap in food-safe clear bags and then pop into a small box. Give instructions to your recipients to consume within two weeks. This makes a lot of fudge so you will have plenty to give away.

Coconut Dulce de Leche

Two 14 ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups packed golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Bring all the ingredients to a boil over high heat in a large, wide saute pan. Then reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into glass containers and let cool completely.

To give as a gift: The coconut dulce de leche can be stored for one month in the refrigerator. Sterilize three half-pint jars in the hottest setting on your dishwasher. When you are ready to store the hot mixture, pour it into these jars, screw on the lids and let cool completely on your counter before moving to the fridge. This recipe makes enough to fill the three jars and leaves you with some extra for yourself. Label the jars, add a ribbon, and include instructions letting your recipients know they should consume it within one month and that it is best served over ice cream (coconut based for lactose-free friends) with toasted coconut. 

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