As we continue this year of firsts, many beloved events have been curtailed including holiday parties, concerts, shows and family gatherings.

We know the drill; at this point all we can do is make the best of everything, be grateful for our health and make the tastiest Christmas dinner possible even if the gathering is only a fraction of the number we typically enjoy.

The other thing we can do is remember those we won’t see with gifts of food, whether it is something from your home kitchen or a local farm, farm market, winery or distillery (it’s good to remember to shop local).

Even the most experienced bakers love to receive holiday cookies or other baked goods to help brighten the season. If you are a beginner baker, look for no-bake cookie recipes and those with a short list of ingredients. Or look for recipes where you start with a cake mix and transform them into multiple kinds of cookies.

At farm markets you can find applesauce, jams and jellies made with New Jersey-grown fruit, tomato sauces and honey.

The easiest food gift of all is a gift card for a favorite local restaurant. This will help struggling restaurants stay in business while offering promises of a winter meal that could be takeout or dine-in, and better days to come.

Happy holidays and see you next year.

Farm markets open

The weather has turned colder, but don’t forget some of your local farmers markets are still in business. You could brave the cold for the outdoor West Windsor Farmers Market on Saturdays at MarketFair in West Windsor and the Princeton Farmers Market alternate Thursdays on Franklin Avenue. Or you can stay warm while social distancing at the Trenton Farmers Market in Lawrence or the Stockton Farmers Market in Stockton.

In addition to hardy apples and vegetables out of storage, the markets offer locally raised meats, baked goods, seafood, prepared foods and candy. Some also offer breakfast sandwiches and lunch items. Availability varies with each market.

Visit the goats

Gorgeous Goat Creamery & Soap in Stockton is offering a different kind of holiday gift: a visit to the farm and creamery.

Jan. 1 through 18, the farm is offering tours where visitors will learn how to make cheese, snuggle with some of the 26 goats and shop in the farm store.

The events are held outside and participation is capped at 12 people for each tour.

Register for the tour at or on the farm’s Facebook page. Tours cost $10 to $15.

Salted-Caramel Cracker Candy

The clock is running down for Christmas gift buying, but there is still time to make this no-bake recipe from that satisfies salty and sweet tastes.

  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutions)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt

1. Line large jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil; lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange crackers on pan in single layer.

2. In large microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter on high 1 minute, or until melted. Whisk in granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and vinegar until smooth. Microwave uncovered on high 6 minutes in 2-minute intervals, whisking thoroughly after each interval before returning to microwave. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes more or until dark amber (or until candy thermometer registers 320 degrees).

3. Carefully remove caramel from microwave; pour over crackers in pan. Spread caramel into thin layer using offset spatula; tap jelly-roll pan on flat surface to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Let cool 15 minutes, or until caramel hardens; break into pieces.

Quick Tortilla Pinwheels

Even if the gatherings are small for Christmas or New Year’s, an appetizer like this one from is fast and flavorful.

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup sliced green onions
  • ½ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeno pepper
  • 8 to 10 flour tortillas (8 inches), room temperature
  • Salsa or picante sauce

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Spread on 1 side of tortillas and roll up tightly. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Serve with salsa or picante sauce.

Editor’s note: Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.

Nutrition: 1 pinwheel: 47 calories, 3g fat (2g saturated fat), 6mg cholesterol, 51mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 1g protein.

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