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Yummy Gift-Giving Treats: Mexican Rum Balls, Coquito, Alfajores

Coquito, Mexican Rum Balls and Alfajores by Jacqueline Kleis.

Coquito, Mexican Rum Balls and Alfajores by Jacqueline Kleis. Jacqueline Kleis

Making and sharing homemade Christmas treats when the house fills up with guests is a big part of beloved Latino traditions such as Mexican posadas or Puerto Rican parrandas.

Here are four traditional recipes of sweet and savory confections that are great to have at home to entertain friends and family but are also gift-worthy without spending beyond the limits.

RELATED: The Ultimate Latino Holiday Gift Guide for 2016

Buy a nice bottle at a thrift store and make wonders when you fill it up with Coquito, which we guarantee is so much better than regular eggnog! Wrap up this wonderful coconut and rum-infused drink in a simple bow and take it to a party and see the host fill up with joy. Buy a cookie tin and place the indulgent dulce de leche- filled cookies, Alfajores, for a sweet treat. Add some zing to your Chocolate Rum Ball recipe with some spicy chili powder for an innovative touch on a Christmas favorite. And Sweet and Spicy Nuts with ingredients from the spice cabinet are delicious and healthy. Placed in a bag or in a pretty container, they are sure to be a big hit.

For these recipes, you don't have to be an expert cook but just a good assembler since many of the ingredients are store bought. Write the recipe in a pretty card and hand it over as an additional detail.

Mexican Chocolate Rum Balls with Chili

Chocolate Rum Balls by Jacqueline Kleis.
Chocolate Rum Balls by Jacqueline Kleis. Jacqueline Kleis

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry cake crumbs from store-bought pound cake, vanilla wafers, or dry lady fingers.
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbs. Corn Syrup
  • ½ cup rum
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbs. chopped raisins
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine chocolate, heavy cream, and corn syrup in a microwavable container. Melt for 40 seconds and stir. Melt for another 40 second and stir. Chocolate should be smooth.
  2. If using cake crumbs, crumble a whole pound cake and let dry for a few hours uncovered. Place crumbs in a bowl. And add melted chocolate mix. Stir in the rum, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. Mix well. Place in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  3. Using a small cookie scoop, place a small amount in the palm of your hands and roll into balls. Place chocolate balls in a sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, sift together confectioner's sugar and chili powder.
  5. Place each ball in confectioner's sugar and roll until well coated. Place in small paper cups and place in a pretty box. Cover and keep refrigerated. Keeps up to two weeks refrigerated.
  1. Place dulce de leche inside a decorating bag with a wide tip. Use a teaspoon otherwise.
  2. Place cookies in a sheet back side up. Squeeze ½ oz. of dulce de leche in the center of half the cookies. Take the plain cookies remaining and place against the dulce de leche- piped cookies forming eighteen sandwich cookies.
  3. Sift the confectioner's sugar in a bowl. Place each top and bottom of the cookies in the bowl making sure to coat with sugar. You may also sprinkle some colorful sugars on top.
  4. Place cookies in a tin and cover.

Coquito

Coquito by Check Jacqueline Kleis.
Coquito by Check Jacqueline Kleis. Jacqueline Kleis

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can coconut milk
  • 12 to 16 oz. white rum, to taste
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 to 4 whole cloves
  • Yield: 50 oz.

Directions:

  1. Make a simple syrup with water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and whole cloves by placing in a small saucepan and simmering for 5 minutes. This can be made ahead of time. Let cool.
  2. In a mixing bowl, pour in the milks and the rum.
  3. Remove the whole spices from the cooled syrup and place aside. Add the spice-infused syrup to the milks.
  4. Pour the coquito in bottles and place a cinnamon stick, star anise and some cloves in each bottle. Cover.
  5. Place in the refrigerator for a few days for extra flavor. Keeps up to 1 month.

Easy Alfajores

Alfajores by chef Jacqueline Kleis.
Alfajores by chef Jacqueline Kleis. Jacqueline Kleis

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 oz.) can prepared dulce de leche
  • 36 store-bought round shortbread cookies, small
  • (recipe for shortbread cookie may be used for homemade version)
  • ¼ cup confectioner's sugar or sugar sprinkles
  • 1 decorating bag with wide tip or 1 round teaspoon
  • Yield: 18 small cookies

Directions:

  1. Place dulce de leche inside a decorating bag with a wide tip. Use a teaspoon otherwise.
  2. Place cookies in a sheet back side up. Squeeze ½ oz. of dulce de leche in the center of half the cookies. Take the plain cookies remaining and place against the dulce de leche- piped cookies forming eighteen sandwich cookies.
  3. Sift the confectioner's sugar in a bowl. Place each top and bottom of the cookies in the bowl making sure to coat with sugar. You may also sprinkle some colorful sugars on top.
  4. Place cookies in a tin and cover.

Tip: Cookies are good the same day of assembly if using shortbread cookies. For cookies to last longer, use the Argentinian version of " alfajores" cookies that contain cornstarch in the recipe.

Picante and Dulce Nuts

Picante and Dulce Nuts by chef Jacqueline Kleis.
Picante and Dulce Nuts by chef Jacqueline Kleis. Jacqueline Kleis

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups almonds, unsalted
  • 1½ cups unsalted peanuts
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground annatto

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 320 F. Grease a baking sheet with cooking oil spray.
  2. Mix egg white with all the spices in a mixing bowl. Beat with a wire whisk until slightly frothy.
  3. Add nuts and coat the nuts with the mixture. Pour into baking sheet and spread evenly preferably in one layer.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes until dry. Separate nuts that may have stuck together and let cool in a dry place.
  5. Once cooled, place in a container with a lid until ready to use.

These are all simple and foolproof recipes, so take out your mixing bowls, pull up your sleeves and do not put away your ribbons.

Of course, a little flair when you wrap that final bow helps, but any homemade gift is a celebration of the meaning of Christmas. Placed in a tin, bottle, or box and wrapped up with remnants of your ribbons from your tree, any of these gifts will certainly will be decked with love. Spreading the holiday cheer is just in your pantry and will make any heart sing. It's a simple and delicious way to say Feliz Navidad!

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