Holiday Candy Gift Platters made with Love

Do you give out tins of home-baked cookies for Christmas? Me, too. I can remember one year in particular, when Kiddo and I spend an entire weekend hand painting sugar cookie cutouts. Wow, I just looked at the pictures of Kiddo’s cookie artwork – that was seven years ago! Where did the time go?

Continue reading “Holiday Candy Gift Platters made with Love”

Sweet Christmas Gifts from Your Kitchen

How many of you out there are baking cookies as gifts this holiday? Great! Homemade gifts are those that truly come from the heart, wrapped tightly in love. I bet a lot of you are going to include a tin of fudge with your cookies – you know, that fantasy fudge we all grew up on  from Kraft made with Marshmallow Fluff. The first candy I ever learned to make was Fantasy Fudge. It’s been around since before I was born. I grew up thinking there was no other Fudge on earth. While the recipe has been modified by Kraft over the years, I still use the one as it appeared on the back of a jar of Marshmallow Fluff way back when.

People once sent tins of cookies and candies and the notorious Fruit Cake. Gifts were made rather than bought. With the influence of social media and all those DIY sites, we seem to be embracing those traditions once more. Nothing could please this old gal more.

Years gone by, Hubby’s Mom would send us big tins of Rum Balls. You could smell the rum long before the package was opened. During her final years on earth, while the Rum Balls still managed to deliver a punch, we did notice that the rum content seemed to go down with each passing Christmas. I’m not saying that my Mother-in-Law was hitting the sauce when she was making her holiday gift baskets. I’m just making an observation – there was less rum in the balls and they weren’t nearly as round. Hum . . .

Funny story about those balls. Back in the day when they were still powerful, you could actually get a buzz if you had too many of her Rum Balls. Mom always mailed her rum balls to Hubby’s office for reasons I’ve never understood. One year while we were unloading the car packed full of pot-luck goodies and Mom’s Christmas offerings, our dog was begging for a little nibble. I gave her a rum ball. She continued to beg until she fell over. It turned out Hubby gave her a rum ball, as did each of our children. Poor thing, she was drunk!

This year, in addition to my usual Soft Gingerbread Cookies and Melt-in-your-mouth Peanut Butter cookies, I’ve decided to make some candies. Do you have a favorite Christmas Candy? I’d love to hear about it . . .

Christmas Gift Candies
Chocolate Clusters: Caramel Cashew Clusters
Divinity: Betty’s Delicious Divinity
Fudge: Eggnog Christmas Fudge
Fudge: Kraft Fantasy Fudge
Fudge: Layered Mint Chocolate Fudge
Rum Balls: Two Drink Limit Rum Balls
Truffles: Candy Cane Mint Oreo Truffles

Caramel Cashew Clusters
1 heaping cup Planter’s cashews
2 cups soft caramels , unwrapped
14 ounces Hershey’s chocolate bars

Line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Place piles of about 6-7 cashews all around the pan.

Place unwrapped caramels in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until caramel is melted.

Pour a small spoonful of caramel over each cashew pile, making sure some of the caramel touches all of the cashews so they will stick together.

Place the pan in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to harden the caramel.

Meanwhile, break the chocolate bars into pieces and add to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Remove the baking sheet from the fridge and use a spoon to coat each cluster in chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drip off and place back on the baking sheet.

Refrigerate for a few more minutes for the chocolate to set. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.

Betty’s Divinity
2 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Cook sugar, corn syrup and water (use 1 tablespoon less water on humid days) in 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, to 260 degrees on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball that holds its shape but is pliable.

Beat egg whites in medium bowl with electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form.

Continue beating while pouring hot syrup in a thin stream into egg whites, beating constantly on medium speed. (For best results, use electric stand mixer, not a portable handheld mixer since beating time is about 10 minutes and mixture is thick.) Add vanilla. Beat until mixture holds its shape and becomes slightly dull. (Mixture may become too stiff for mixer.) Gently stir in nuts.

Drop mixture from buttered spoon onto waxed paper. Let stand at room temperature at least 12 hours, turning candies over once, until candies feel firm. Store in airtight container.

Eggnog Fudge
½ Cup Butter
¾ Cup Eggnog
2 Cups White Sugar
2 Cups White Chocolate Chips
(1) 7 Ounce Jar Marshmallow Creme
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
½ Teaspoon Nutmeg, Grated

Line a 9×9 pan with foil, leaving 2 inches over sides to use as “lift” handles. Spray with non stick cooking spray.

In a medium sauce pan, combine butter, sugar, and eggnog. Bring to a boil.

Cook until the temperature reaches 234 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat. Stir in white chocolate until melted.

Stir in marshmallow creme, vanilla, and nutmeg.

Evenly spread into prepared pan.

Garnish with more grated nutmeg if desired.

Let fudge cool and set completely before serving. To cut, lift from pan. Place on a cutting board and cut with serrated knife or wire.

Kraft Fantasy Fudge
3 cups  sugar
3/4 cup  butter or margarine
1 small  can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (about 2/3 cup) (Do not use sweetened condensed milk)
1 (12 oz) package Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips
1 jar  (7 oz.) JET-PUFFED Marshmallow Creme
1 cup  chopped Walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

LINE 9-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Lightly butter the foil.

Note: A 9-inch square pan will yield thick chunks of fudge. If a less thick piece of fudge is desired, use a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-qt. saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 5 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234F, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

ADD chocolate and stir until the chips have completely melted. Fold in marshmallow creme; stir until no streaks of marshmallow cream remain. Add nuts and vanilla; mix well.

POUR into prepared pan; spread to cover the pan completely. Work quickly as the fudge will set up in no time. Cool completely at room temperature.

Use foil handles to lift fudge from pan and transfer to a board. Peel off foil before cutting into squares.

Layered Mint Chocolate Fudge
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 oz premium white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
Green food coloring (optional)

Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with waxed-paper. Set aside.

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with 1 cup sweetened condensed milk; add vanilla and stir to blend. Spread half the mixture into prepared pan; chill 10 minutes or until firm. Hold remaining half of chocolate mixture at room temperature.

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt white chocolate chips with remaining sweetened condensed milk (mixture will be thick). Add peppermint extract and food coloring (optional). Spread on chilled chocolate layer; chill 10 minutes longer or until firm.

Spread reserved chocolate mixture on mint layer. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn onto cutting board; peel off paper and cut into squares. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Two Drink Limit Rum Balls
1 (12-ounce) package vanilla wafers
1 (16-ounce) package pecan pieces
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup dark rum
Sanding Sugar for garnish

Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add vanilla wafers. Process until crumbs are fine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place pecans in processor bowl; process until finely chopped. Stir into vanilla wafer crumbs. Stir in honey, bourbon, and rum.

Shape into 1-inch balls, and roll in sugar or additional vanilla wafer crumbs. Place in an airtight container, and store in refrigerator up to one month.

Candy Cane Oreo Truffles
36 Oreos (Mint filled or original)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
16 oz. white chocolate chips
¼ cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies, for decorating

Place the Oreo cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground.

Add the cream cheese and pulse until the mixture is well combined and smooth.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a cookies scoop, scoop the mixture into balls about 1-inch in diameter. Place the cookie balls on the baking sheet. Once all the balls have been created, place in the freezer until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

Remove truffles from freezer and dip in melted chocolate.

Return to baking sheet, immediately sprinkle tops with crushed candy canes then allow chocolate to set.

Store the truffles in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Wishing everyone a blessed Holiday Season filled with joy and all the makings of precious memories.

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