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Thursday November 27, 2008 9:33 am

Holiday recipes for the baking challenged




Posted by Colleen McKie Categories: Advice, Cuisine, Editorials, How To,

Almond Bark

Now, first things first: I can bake. I’m a wonderful baker. I just get no enjoyment from it at all. Zip. So I rarely ever bake anything, depending on my local grocery store instead. But every year around this time, I get a hankering to bake. I don’t know if it has to do with all the chocolate treats being sold, or the candy cane scent in the air, but I feel the need to bake.

Now, I should clarify, that when I use the term “bake” I mean anything I prepare in the kitchen that can be used as a snack or dessert. See, there isn’t actually any baking involved. Yes, it’s kind of like cheating, but who cares? The results are delicious and really, that’s all that matters in the end.

Over the years I’ve fine tuned a few simple recipes that help with my desire to bake and my need to do it quickly. So, if you think you want to try your hand at baking, but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, try out these great recipes that are easy to make and pretty much fool-proof.

Rice Crispy Squares
A favorite of mine since I can remember, this is a traditional holiday treat that is easy to make. Basically you melt a bag or two of marshmallows and ¼ cup of butter in a pot. Once melted you stir in three cups of rice crispies. Still stirring you spread them in a greased pan, throw them in the fridge, et voila! Rice Crispy Squares. You can get fancy and add vanilla extract, chocolate chips, or peanut butter, but I like mine the old fashion way: light on the crispies, heavy on the marshmallow. Now, you can make these babies in the microwave, but a word to the wise: marshmallow expands when heated. After last year’s microwaving fiasco that left me with paper towel marshmallowed all over me, I stick to the stove top.

Peanut Butter Cups
When a friend made these for me one year for Christmas it was my best gift. They tasted so, so good I was curious about the recipe, but figured they were complicated to make and time consuming. Well, I was wrong. They are so easy to make they have become a favorite of mine and I make them throughout the year when I get a craving for peanut butter cups. They are smooth and melt in your mouth and don’t last long around my house.

Take three cups of milk chocolate, put them in a bowl and microwave until almost completely melted. Stir in one cup of peanut butter and pop back in the microwave until completely melted. Stir mixture then pour in small candy cups or mini cupcake cups. Put in the fridge until firm. And that’s it. For a healthier alternative, use dark chocolate and organic peanut putter.

Bark (of all kinds)
Who doesn’t enjoy almond bark? I know I love it, but it can be expensive and it’s really hard to find the good stuff without paying an arm and a leg. So I decided a few years ago to make it myself. And really, it’s so easy! All you have to do is melt chocolate chips or wafers in the microwave, add your almonds and pour onto a wax paper-lined pizza pan. Allow to cool and you have homemade almond bark. I’ve started experimenting, making it with crushed candy canes last year instead of almonds. White chocolate and candy cane is also another great holiday combo. You can also add dried cranberries and cashews for a fancier treat. Really, what you add to your bark is up to you.

When I make these treats for friends and family, they are always a big hit, and everyone goes on about what a great baker I am. I just smile modestly and nod. Little do they know.

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