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Christmas tree

Ellwood's awesome Christmas tree. Just wanted to share!

It’s that time of year. You know, the time when you rush around spending more money than you have on people you may or may not like. The time of year when you spend time with family, whether or not you want to. The time of year you bake. Oh wait. It’s the time of year other people bake.

Last year, Ellwood and I went all out baking for his teachers and our friends and family.

Fudge, peppermint bark, pretzels

Fudge, peppermint bark and chocolate covered pretzels. Yummy!

We had fun cutting out gingerbread shapes, squirting red and green icing out onto chocolate covered pretzels and breaking up mint-flavored chocolate. This year, our oven is on the fritz. (Actually, it should be fixed- dare I say it- within a few days.) So I had to be creative this year. Here are the results….

Homemade Fudge

(This recipe is from a friend, Meredith Taylor, who also has a sweets shop on-line- Sassy Sweets.)

One 11.5 ounce bag milk chocolate chips
One can chocolate frosting
One 6 oz bag dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Line 8×8 pan with foil and butter it (I used spray). Melt frosting and chocolate chips in saucepan on the stove. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Put in fridge to chill. Turn out with the foil and cut into squares.

Notes: I used wax paper since I was out of tinfoil. It worked just fine.

Peppermint Bark

(This recipe is from my MOPs friend, Mary Lynn. As a school teacher, she had some great ideas for activities with kids.)

1 cup crushed candy canes

2 pounds white chocolate

peppermint flavoring (optional, but I think this makes it awesome!)

Place candy canes into plastic bag and hammer into ¼ inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy and chocolate; add peppermint flavoring, if desired. (Trust me on this- it’s desired!) Pour mixture onto cookie sheet lined with wax paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle).

Chocolate covered pretzels

(My own creation)

1 bag pretzels

1 bag white chocolate chips

2 tbs vegetable oil

Place pretzels in a large bowl. Melt the chocolate chips and the vegetable oil in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour melted chocolate over pretzels and stir until they are completely covered. Spread the pretzels on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Break apart after the chocolate hardens.

Hot chocolate

(This is delightful yummy goodness that can be heated in the slow cooker all day long. The recipe is from my friend Julie.)

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

6 ½ cups hot water

Mini marshmallows (optional)

In large saucepan over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla and salt; mix well. Slowly stir in water. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Top with marshmallows, (optional). Store covered in refrigerator.

Notes: This can also be made in the microwave. In 2-quart glass measure, combine all ingredients except marshmallows. Microwave on 100% power (HIGH) 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Top with marshmallows if desired. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tip: Creamy Hot Chocolate can be stored in refrigerator up to 5 days. Mix well and reheat before serving.

Happy eating, everyone!

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