‘Tis the season to give your debit and/or credit card….a break? YES!!  How you ask?  With thoughtful, homemade gifts from the kitchen. I developed the following DIY ‘Gifts From The Kitchen’ as fun-to-make: teacher/coach/neighbour/grandparent gifts/hostess gifts/stocking stuffers and/or little party favours placed at each table setting. These festive recipes are simple to prepare, use ingredients you likely already have on hand, and will not have you regretting gift giving come January.

Grab the kids, roll up your sleeves, crank up the holiday hits and get busy in the kitchen!

Black Bean Brownies w/Candy Cane Cheesecake Swirl

Black Bean Brownies with Candy Cane Cheesecake Swirl.

Black Bean Brownies with Candy Cane Cheesecake Swirl ~ made with Gay Lea Nordica Smooth Plain Cottage Cheese

A decadent and fibre rich holiday inspired indulgence – I’ll take two!!


1 (540 mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 eggs

1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) quality cocoa powder

1/2 cup (125 mL) softened Gay Lea butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped 70% dark chocolate (or dark chocolate chips)

1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp (1 mL) quality ground coffee

1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda

Candy Cane Cheesecake Swirl

¾ cup (175 mL) Gay Lea Nordica smooth plain cottage cheese *click here to learn about smooth cottage cheese*

5 tbsp (75 mL) granulated sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) mint extract

½ tsp (2 mL) pure vanilla extract

1 egg, whisked

Garnish: 2 oz (60 g) quality dark chocolate

¼ cup (60 mL) Crushed candy canes (*Note: don’t attempt to crush whole candy canes it just makes a big mess.  Most bulk food stores now sell pre-crushed candy canes)

Method: Preheat oven to 350 F (160 C). Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper (along bottom and up sides) and set aside.

Place beans in food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse until very finely chopped.  Add remaining brownie ingredients and pulse until well combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl when needed.  Measure out 1/2 cup (125 mL) batter and set aside.

Pour remaining batter into prepared pan.

Stir together ingredients for cheesecake swirl until well combined.

Gently fold cheesecake mixture into reserved 1/2 cup (125 mL) brownie batter.

Pour cheesecake/brownie mixture on top of brownie in pan.

Place brownies in centre of preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until edges are set and centre is slightly jiggly.

Remove from oven and cool completely.

Cut into 16 brownies.  Drizzle individual brownies with chocolate and garnish evenly with crushed candy canes.

Chocolate Dipped Stir Spoons & Gay Lea Chocolate Caramel Whipped Cream


An adorable teacher or hostess gift.  

What you will need:

6 teaspoons

¾ cup (175 mL)*approx* melted dark chocolate

Garnish: melted white chocolate and festive sprinkles of choice

1 can Gay Lea Chocolate Caramel Whipped Cream

Method: Dip each spoon in melted chocolate and scoop a mound of chocolate up on each spoon.

Place spoon a parchment lined baking sheet (repeat with remaining spoons) and place in refrigerator until set (about 30 minutes).  

Re-melt the remaining chocolate.  Dip the chocolate end of each spoon in melted chocolate (to give it a smooth look) and chill for at least 30 minutes.  

When chocolate is set, drizzle each spoon with melted white chocolate and garnish evenly with sprinkles of choice.  

Chill again until set.  Once chocolate is set, place each spoon in a candy bag and tie with decorative ribbon.  Makes 6 spoons.

To give: Give one spoon with a can of Gay Lea Chocolate Caramel Whipped Cream.   

Caramel Rum Sauce

Once you try this sauce, you’ll likely wrap it up and give it to yourself!  Darn good thing calories don’t count at Christmas!

½ cup (125 mL) butter

1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar

⅓ cup (75 mL) 35% cream

Pinch salt

¼ cup (60 mL) dark quality rum

½ tsp (2 mL) pure vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan melt butter, sugar, cream and salt.

Bring to a boil.  Boil, whisking until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Cool slightly.  Stir in rum and vanilla.

Pour into sterilized mason jar.  Tie jar with decorative ribbon.  Store in refrigerator until ready to give.  Keeps in refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups (325 mL).

*Recipe doubles easily*

Grapefruit Vanilla Marmalade

Other than a bit of time, this 5 ingredient marmalade is a delicious homemade gift from the kitchen & heart!

Grapefruit Marmalade
3 medium pink grapefruit (about 2 lbs)

1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise

2 cups (500 mL) water

3 cups (750 mL) granulated sugar

2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lemon juice

Using a serrated knife, peel grapefruit.  Thinly slice peel of one grapefruit and place in Dutch oven (discard/compost remaining peel).  

Slice grapefruit in ¼ inch circles and remove any visible seeds.  Place in Dutch oven with water and sliced peel.  

Scrape beans from vanilla pod, and place beans and pod in with water & grapefruit.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to a simmer.  

Simmer for 1 ½ hours (until reduced by about half).  Add sugar and simmer for an additional 1 ½ hours.  

Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.   

Place marmalade between two, 1 cup (250 mL) sterilized mason jars.  Decorate jars with festive ribbon.

Store in refrigerator until ready to give.  Keeps for up to 6 months in refrigerator. 

*Note: I like to place the vanilla bean pod in the jar as well ~ visually it looks ‘gourmet’.  Recipe yields 2 cups (500 mL).       

Charmaine is a regular guest on Rogers Daytime Ottawa, CTV Morning Live OttawaCHCH Morning LiveBreakfast Television What She Said Radio and food writer for Running Room Magazine sharing her love and enthusiasm forChar B&W
all things food, cooking and running.

Most importantly; Charmaine is the mother of two active (and always hungry) teenage boys, Tyler & Colgan.

Charmaine understands the importance of preparing healthy, wholesome dishes all while keeping budget and time in mind.

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