“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…”
The halls are officially decked at the Zenner homestead and Christmas music is playing 24/7. The girls LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this time of year. As soon as the turkey is eaten their minds turn to Christmas and everything this wonderful holiday has to offer. Simon, our “Elf on a Shelf”, has returned from the North Pole and is making the mornings more pleasant as everyone is eager to get up and find where Simon has landed.
Last week the Zenner girls, Ellie and Jordan, finished dancing in the Annual Northeast Ballet’s, The Nutcracker, at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, NY. This production consumes our lives from September through the first weekend in December. It is hours of rehearsals and practically living at the theater the week of the show. The production is now over and now we can focus on the Christmas shopping (haven’t bought ONE single gift…yet) and making our annual Christmas treats for the kid’s teachers.
There seems to be a theme here when it comes to the holidays….tradition. The girls have gotten use to our traditions and have already asked when we will be making the treats. We make several different treats and then individually package them in small gift bags. It is just enough of something to indulge in this holiday season. Since the girls have been in the same school for over 5 years the teachers know….and are sending in their requests already because they know that their Mama makes the BEST treats, EVER.
Last week Ellie came home and said, “Daddy has to make his peppermint bark, the teachers all have been asking for it!” So here are some of our goodies that we have made year after year. They are EASY, QUICK and simply delicious. I NEVER try a new recipe out…I want to know that it will be the perfect and who has time to experiment this time of year. (I am including a new treat in the gift bags this year…peanut butter cups…it is a recipe that I came across and have made this year and knew it would be a winner.)
Ready or not here comes, the sugar, the chocolate, the butter ……can anyone say they see visions of Sugar Plums dancing in their heads! Yahoo!
First up….Daddy’s Peppermint Bark:
- 16 oz of milk chocolate
- 16 oz of white chocolate
- 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
- several candy canes crushed for topping (or see below for LOTS of ideas on toppings)
Melt down 16oz of milk and white chocolate seperately over a double boiler. Add ½ tsp peppermint extract to the white chocolate and stir until it is smooth. Then pour the milk chocolate on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Let the milk chocolate cool for a few minutes, then gently pour the white chocolate over and gently spread out with a rubber spatula. Be careful not to mix the chocolate. Finally, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of the melted chocolate. Keep out on counter until cooled and hardened. Break apart in bark size pieces.
Sarah just posted on her bark recipe. But I HAD to include this as it is tradition in our house. However, in this month’s Food Network Magazine it listed several ways to easily change the topping on the bark. It looks beautiful with different dried fruits as toppings. So instead of candy canes try adding dried cranberries, figs, apricots, nuts, or cherries. Check out this great link for ideas for toppings on your bark.
Next Up… Nannie’s Fudge. This fudge my mother made every year and ONLY for Christmas. Throughout the year she would look for wonderful boxes to package the fudge in. Yes…it is the fudge recipe on the back of the FLUFF container…if only I knew as a child how easy it was. I thought my mother slaved for hours making this.
Grease two 9-inch square baking pans; set aside. In large saucepan combine the first 5 ingredients. Stir over low heat until blended. Increase heat to Medium and bring to a full-rolling boil being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly; stirring constantly for 5 minutes while it is boiling. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Add nuts. Turn into greased pan and cool. Makes 5 pounds.
Then I cut them carefully in small squares. You can either wrap each one individually with a small piece of saran wrap if you want to place the fudge in a box or I take a few pieces and place them in the “gift baggies” sold at your party store or craft store and tie a ribbon around the top.
Last but certainly not least….Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. For the first time I will be giving away Peanut Butter Cups. There is nothing that I love more than chocolate and peanut butter and this hits the spot for me! I found this recipe in Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet. It is dairy free and vegan. As you can see below, I slightly adapted the recipe.
MAKES 12 large cups or 24 mini cups
1⁄2 cup Earth Balance butter
3⁄4 cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)
3⁄4 cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
1⁄4 cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener
1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips (Editor’s Note: for those will food allergies try Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips sold at Hannaford and natural food stores around the area- its a staple -Christina)
1⁄4 cup soy, rice, hemp or nut milk
1⁄4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts (I omit this)
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. (I made mini ones in mini muffin pans for my gift bags.)
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well. Remove the mixture from the heat.
Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan.
Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.
Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.
Top with chopped nuts. (I omit this)
Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving.
They are great soft, but even better a little firmer!
What are your favorite treats to give out this time of year? Do you still make recipes from your childhood that bring back memories?