Happy holidays, friends! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Feliz Navidad, and all that jazz. This is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. Hot cocoa, candy canes, some fluffy white stuff outside, evergreens covered with twinkle lights inside, Christmas movies on every channel, and neighbors who say “electric bill be d@mned” and cover their houses with LED bulbs synchronized to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It’s MAGICAL, I tell ya!
It’s also crazy hectic. How many Christmas parties did you attend this year? No less than four here, with even more invites that we just couldn’t make it to. And you’re usually expected to bring some sort of tasty treat for the hosts/other guests, right? Which of course, you have TONS of extra time to make, right?
Well, before you break down & bring sugar cookies* from the supermarket, I’d like to suggest a couple quick & easy alternatives.
(PS—we do not condone store-bought sugar cookies. Try this family recipe here, instead.)
These treats arose because, with The Scoop closed for the season, we happen to have about 6 packages of almond bark & melting chocolate, which we use during the season to make our specialty cones:
(Yes, that’s bacon. Don’t judge.)
We also had a large can of peanuts leftover… Peanuts…chocolate? You see where I’m going. Right? …no? Okay, I’ll show you.
Yes, PEANUT CLUSTERS! Seriously, these could not be easier.
Ingredients: (Makes about 15 clusters)
3 squares melting chocolate
1 dash vanilla extract
Peanuts (about 1 1/2 cups)
First, place a metal cookie sheet in the freezer or fridge.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 60-90 seconds in the microwave. Stir with a spatula & add in the vanilla, then add the peanuts, and toss until well coated. Add peanuts about 1/2 cup at a time, till you have a good chocolate : peanut ratio (if you add too many peanuts, the clusters won’t stick well to each other & the peanuts might not get completely covered.
Pull the cookie sheet out of the fridge & cover it with wax paper; then drop the peanut mixture onto the wax paper in spoonfuls. When you’ve used up all of your mix, place the cookie sheet back in the fridge until set. (It shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes.)
As a fun variation of this (if you have some extra time), you can mix some peanut butter & peanuts together, drop spoonfuls of that mix onto a waxed cookie sheet & freeze for about 30 minutes, then coat those in the melting chocolate. It’s like a Reese’s PB cup!
Not much for peanuts? How about peppermint?
Ingredients: (makes approximately 8x12 sheet of bark)
3 squares white almond bark
3 squares melting chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 candy canes, crushed (a plastic baggie + meat mallet work well)
Cookie sheet => fridge or freezer, then cover with wax paper
Melt white chocolate first (60-90 secs in the microwave) and add 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract. When that’s well combined, pour the white chocolate onto your wax papered cookie sheet and spread out as evenly as possible. Place in fridge to harden.
Now melt your milk chocolate in the microwave, and add the peppermint extract to it. Mix well, and then pour on top of the white chocolate.
Spread evenly over the top, and then immediately sprinkle your peppermint crumbles over the top. Press into the chocolate if necessary so they stick well.
Place back in the fridge for about 15 minutes, and then break apart into pieces. It doesn’t have to be pretty—think Peanut Brittle. You can cover the top of the bark with another sheet of wax paper if you don’t want to put your hands all over food that may eventually go in someone else’s mouth.