Lent is Almost Here!

Planning on your last treat before Lent yet? Giving up chocolate seems to be a popular ‘give up’ for many people. Here is a win/win situation. Make yourself a batch of Chocolate Truffles for Mardi Gras to brace yourself for those forty ‘no chocolate’ days ahead. It gives you a chance to try the recipe and a recipe to think about making for Easter.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

1 1/2 sticks butter (margarine will NOT due!)
1/4 cup baking cocoa powder
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons of rum (You can use flavoring extract)
1 cup finely chopped pecans – which will be divided.

Melt the butter in a pot and stir in the cocoa until combined and smooth. Stir constantly while slowly pouring in the condensed milk. Continue cooking and stirring for about five minutes more until smooth and thickened a bit. Remove from the stove and stir in the rum and 3/4 cup of the chopped pecans.

Pour mixture into a baking pan and refrigerate until mixture is firm enough to hold its shape. With either a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, remove spoonfuls of the mixture from the pan and roll into small balls -3/4th to 1-inch balls. Roll each ball into the rest of the chopped pecans and place on a plate and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

Idea:

You don’t have to go with rum and pecans. Walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds can be very good, too. There are a lot of extract or alcohols you can flavor it with, too. Mint chocolate?

If you don’t like nuts, make the balls a bit smaller and roll them in colorful cake decorations. You can usually find the nonpareils in holiday colors in the baking section of most store.

I like to add a bit of very finely chopped fresh orange zest to the chocolate/nut mixture.

Really want to be fancy, get some candy coating in white or chocolate and dip your refrigerated candy in that and then the colorful outer decorations. You could even drizzle a contracting bit of coating on top of that.

Quick Fudge!

You get that craving for something sweet and you don’t want to spend time over a pot of boiling chocolate to calm that yearning for fudge NOW! This is a fun and fast way to get that chocolate fix.

Quick Fudge!
3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Place everything except the extract in a large pot. Gently heat to melt and combine the ingredients. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and mix well. Spread the chocolate into an 8-inch square pan lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate two hours our until set. Remove from the pan and cut into serving pieces. Keep in refrigerator.

I like the ease of this recipe and the fact that we have so many different kind of candy chips to use. I like using 2 cups of the semi-sweet chocolate and one cup of peanut butter chips. There is also mint flavored one that can be used for a holiday flare. I’ve been thinking of butterscotch chips with a cup of chopped, dry roasted peanuts might be good. Haven’t tried that one out yet!

The Trouble With Truffles . . . You Don’t Want to Share!

Christmas Truffles

1 ½ sticks butter (no margarine, please!)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons brandy
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (pecans or almonds work, too)

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in the cocoa until smooth. Keep stirring while slowly adding the condensed milk. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickened and is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in rum, zest, and nuts.

Pour into a pan and refrigerate for several hours or until the mixture is firm enough to shape. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon roll into 1-inch balls. At this point, you can roll the balls into more ground nuts or some red and green decorations for the Christmas spirit. Place on a plate to refrigerate a few more hours before serving. Something that can be made the day before to have on hand for a party or just a great treat.

Ideas . . .

This recipe is open to other flavors! Mint? Add a little creme de menthe in place of the brandy or just add some peppermint extract. Could mix in some crushed candy cane in lieu of the nuts, too.

A bit of instant coffee power in the cooking stage take the treat to a more grownup level.

You can roll them in either sweetened cocoa power or the unsweetened version depending on the state of your sweet tooth!

Adventurous? You can get some coating chocolate in either chocolate or white, melt it, and dip some of your truffles in that and sprinkle with decorations for an added dimension.

Quick and Easy Candy Treats

Here is a fast and easy way to have some almost-instant treats on hand for unexpected guests who have just called and will be there within the hour! This happens a lot during the holidays so let’s put the ingredients on our shopping list and be prepared to amaze!

Quick and Easy Candy Treats

1 pounds Almond bark (You can find this in the baking section of most grocery stores in white or chocolate flavors.)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows. (If you can find the multicolored ones, think how pretty that would be!
2 cups crisped rice cereal
1 ½ cups of roughly crushed pretzels

Carefully melt the almond bark either in a glass bowl in your microwave or over a pot of simmering water on the stove. This stuff can burn easily so be prepared! Don’t get any liquid in the mix or it will seize up and it won’t be pretty or usable! Don’t ask me how I know that!

Remove from heat and gently stir in everything but the marshmallows. Carefully fold the marshmallows in last so they don’t over melt and you can still see them in the finished product. Drop by generous teaspoons full onto either parchment paper or waxed paper and let set completely. In a hurry, the refrigerator will hurry up that process.

Ideas:
If you can corral a helper aka one of your wandering children who have been whining about there being nothing to do, he/she can be offered the job of sprinkling the candy with colorful decorations before they set.

You aren’t limited to peanuts!

If you like a really sweet concoction, browse the cereal aisle for an alternative to the crisped rice cereal.

If you do chocolate candies, melt down a bit of white almond bark and drizzle it over the set candy. Switch around the concept if you used white almond bark for the candy.

Want to go for a slightly healthier approach, pumpkin and sun flower seeds can work in your creation.

Awaiting Payday – Bargain Candy Treats

Awaiting Payday, Bargain Candy Treats

Why is it that the benefits of payday seem to disappear much sooner than the next payday appears? Even with the close call on making ends meet, looking around the cupboard we can still find the means to prepare a treat for the family without a trip to the store.

Candied Cracker Treats

*Enough of your favorite crackers to line a vegetable oil sprayed 9×13-inch baking pan. (The buttery type or even the standby plain cracker will do)
*3/4 cup butter, margarine won’t do it!
*2 packed cups of dark brown sugar
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 cup of milk chocolate chips. (You can get creative and use white chips or even a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt together the butter and brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for three minutes, stir in the vanilla extract, and then pour over crackers. Bake for 5 minutes and turn off the oven.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crackers. Return to the still-warm oven and let stand about five minutes or until the chocolate chips are spreadable. Smooth evenly over the crackers. Cool thoroughly and break into pieces.

Ideas to ponder:
-You could generously scatter colorful sprinkles over the chocolate before it hardens.
-Randomly scatter two kinds of chips over the crackers and when you spread it out, do it in swirls to form a pattern.
-Chopped nuts are always a nice touch to add after you spread out the chocolate.
-Instead of chocolate chips, place peppermint patties on the cracker surface and then spread out when softened.

Perfect Pot Luck Offering!

I would venture that most people enjoy the peanut butter/ chocolate combination. This is a fast way to get some treats ready for a dessert, pot luck, or snacking. I like the fact that the ingredients are usually already in the house. You can go extra fancy and put on colorful sprinkles before it sets. I mean, what’s a little more sugar? 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter Marshmallow Candy

12 ounces milk chocolate chips

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest – it really brings out the peanut butter taste.

4 cups miniature marshmallows

Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil leaving an overhang on the edges of the pan so you can lift out the candy when it is firm. Give the foil a light spray with vegetable oil spray.

Carefully melt the chocolate and peanut butter together, stirring often to prevent scorching. Continue stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts, extracts, and marshmallows. You can mix until the marshmallows are completely blended or leave a few pockets of white here and there,  Chill until firm and cut into serving pieces.