Archive for the ‘Cookies, Candies, and Squares’ Category


Christmas Peppermint Bark 

Here’s another quick and easy Christmas recipe which is elegant on a pretty dish or in a clear jar.  Our kids like to help make this and we often put this in jars and give as gifts. 

You will need: peppermint-bark-ingr

  • 1 pound of white almond bark
  • 2 packages peppermint sticks – crushed (or use 2 12” peppermint sticks) 

I’ve tried crushing the peppermint a couple of different ways.  You may be able to locate crushed peppermint candy in a specialty store.  I prefer to get the large 12” sticks which are about an inch thick. I wrap one in a cheese cloth and hammer away until the candy is crushed – then repeat with the other candy stick.  This time, I used 2 packages of small peppermint sticks.  Surprisingly, it was a bit harder to crush. I’ve also crushed the peppermint sticks in my food processor.  The 12” ones must be broken into smaller pieces before they will fit into my food processor. But they were easier to crush in the food processor than the small sticks. I don’t really know why – perhaps the bigger peppermint sticks are more brittle?? 

Melt almond bark in a large microwave safe dish a minute at a time. Stir after each minute.  Continue microwaving bark until it is melted and smooth, but be careful not to over cook. 

Add the crushed peppermint to the melted almond bark and stir until well blended.  Pour mixture onto wax paper and spread into a thin rectangle.  Let cool until hardened.  I use my Pampered Chef cutter with the serrated edges to cut the peppermint bark into 2×2 inch squares.  Serve or package as a gift.  Store in an airtight container. 


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Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz

Here’s another quick, fun, and tasty Christmas concoction. They are amazing!chocolate-peanut-butter-rit

You will need:

  • 3 Tubes of Ritz crackers
  • 1 jar smooth Peanut Butter
  • 1 pound chocolate almond bark

Generously spread a cracker with peanut butter and add another cracker for a top. Repeat making peanut butter crackers using all 3 tubes of crackers

Lay out a couple of long pieces of wax paper on counter top.

Place all the almond bark cubes in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave a minute at a time, stirring after each minute. Continue nuking and stirring until chocolate is smooth. Don’t over cook though.

Using tongs, or a large metal spoon, drop peanut butter crackers into melted chocolate, flipping once or twice to well coat each cracker. Remove cracker with spoon or tongs and place on wax paper. Repeat dipping and coating until you’ve reached your limit, or until the chocolate is all gone.

These are ready to eat as soon as the chocolate hardens. These may be stored in air tight containers for several days. However, they’ve never lasted more than 48 hours at our house. These are great to put in cellophane baggies, tie with ribbon, and give as a gift.

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Peanut Crock Pot Candy Clusters

When you’ve had a taste of this delectable confection you won’t believe how simple it is. You’ll be amazed how it always comes out & never fails.peanut-crock-pot-candy-ing

1 – One pound jar of Lightly Salted Dry Roasted Peanuts
1 – One pound jar of Unsalted Dry Roasted Peanuts
1 – 12 oz. Pack Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 – 12 oz. Pack Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips
1 – One pound pack of Vanilla Bark

Directions: Pour peanuts into large Crock-pot; add chips and chocolate bark. Cover and turn on low setting. Now, go polish your car, or read a book. Come back in an hour or so. Stir with a large spoon; coating all the peanuts. Spoon onto waxed paper – whatever size is appropriate for you and let harden.

Keep crock-pot on until all candy has been spooned out – but don’t overcook. This is a generous recipe and you will have a gracious plenty. Keeps fresh in plastic bag or container, but don’t expect it to last very long because each morsel is filled with a wonderful taste of chocolate and is chocked full of peanuts. Enjoy!

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Christmas Cranberry Macadamia Nut Crunch
Here’s another quick and easy treat which is always a Christmas tradition at our house.  The recipe makes an elegant holiday dish.  I love giving Christmas gifts “from the heart” and this one is perfect for giving.  I’ve often wrapped a portion of the candy in clear cellophane then tied it with a pretty red ribbon.  This candy is even more tempting when placed in a clear glass jar and embellished with ribbon and perhaps a Christmas ornament.  You will spend more time packaging and embellishing than you will actually spend making the candy.  This is a fun project to do with kids!
In a large microwave safe bowl add:
1 pound of white almond bark
Melt in the microwave a minute at a time, stirring after each minute.  Be careful not to over cook, or burn.  You can also melt the almond bark in a double boiler on top of the stove, but I’m not very patient in the kitchen.  I am always IN A HURRY!
When almond bark is melted and smooth add:
1 6 oz package of CRAISINS (I use the original flavor, but the orange/cranberries are good too).
1 6-8oz jar or can of macadamia nuts.  I like to chop mine a little – not to fine, but not too big either.

Stir until blended and pour onto an 18” piece of wax paper.  Spread into about a 10×14 rectangle.  Let cool on countertop.  After candy cools, you can break the candy into 2×2 pieces.  I use my serrated cutter from Pampered Chef – it makes the edges fluted.  You know fluted edges are important.  It is a critical issue – if you are OCD like me!


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 Christmas Cathedral Windows

I’d never heard of Cathedral Windows as a food, until I started dating the guy who’d later become my husband. His mother would make these every Christmas. They are so easy and incredibly tasty. Like many of my favorites, these can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to serve.


In large microwave safe mixing bowl add:

  • 1 stick real butter
  • 12 oz package semi-sweet morsels

Microwave a minute at a time, stirring after each minute. Continue microwaving and stirring until mixture is melted and well blended. My microwave is pretty powerful, and it only takes about 1 minute, 30 seconds in mine for all to be melted. Be careful not to burn these ingredients. Nothing smells worse than butter and chocolate burnt in the microwave.

Then add:

  • 1 bag colored marshmallows (Jet Puff brand has 12.5 oz)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Gently fold marshmallows and nuts into melted mixture.

Tear off 4 pieces of wax paper, about 18” in length.cathedral-windows-roll

Spoon mixture onto wax paper, creating a 12” strip that is about 1 ½ “ in diameter.

Roll up the wax paper and gently form/press mixture into a log shape.

Repeat this process, creating about 3 or 4 more 12” logs. cathedral-windows-rolled-up1

Place all the rolls of mixture into refrigerator for 3-4 hours, or up to 2 weeks. Remove rolls and slice into ¼” slices. Place on a pretty dish and serve right away. Keep away from heat or extreme temperatures.


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In May of 2008 the Better Nashville show came to Tara’s kitchen to shoot a segment about preparing Mother’s Day goodies.  Tara made her delicious cinnamon rolls.  Channel Four’s Jennifer Herron helped out along with Hope and Micah.

Better Cinnamon Rolls Part 1:

 Better Cinnamon Rolls Part 2:


In large pot add:

  • 1 quart whole milk (4 cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar

 Clip a candy thermometer to pan and into milk mixture.  Turn on medium heat and stir frequently.  You want the temp to be between 105 and 115 degrees.  Turn off heat when liquid is between this range and sprinkle 2 packages fast rising active dry yeast over the top of the mixture.  Let it set a couple of min’s and then whisk the yeast to mix it into the liquid. 

Add 8 cups plain bread flour.  Work flour into liquid using a wooden spoon.  Keep dough in pot and place in a warm (80degrees) place.  I like to turn on my warming drawer for a couple of min’s and then turn it off when I place the dough in there.  It also works well to put dough in an oven with the light on.

 Let dough rise until doubles in size.  This may take about an hour.  I have also left this dough covered overnight and it was ready to roll out the next morning.

 Then add 1 more cup flour to the dough along with 1 Tablespoon salt, 2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Work all this into the dough.  Turn onto floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes.  Instead of forming a ball with the dough, form a rectangular loaf.  Begin rolling dough into a rectangle that is about 10” wide and about 3 feet long and around ¼ inch thick. 

 Cover rolled dough with soft butter – I use around 1 ½- 2 sticks.  Cover with brown sugar (2 cups) and generously sprinkle with cinnamon. 

 Begin on the longer edge away from you and start rolling the dough towards yourself until you have completely rolled the dough into a log. 

 Use any remaining melted butter to brush your pans.  I use 4 disposable 10” aluminum pans.  This way you can cover and give as gifts during the holidays.  Otherwise you are going to need at least 2, 9×13 pans for all this dough!  Maybe more pans.

 Cut dough into 1” thick slices using a serrated bread knife.

 I like to sprinkle chopped pecans on top of some rolls and let them get toasty in the oven. You could also sprinkle the pecans on the sugar/cinnamon before you roll up the dough.

 Continue cutting and placing sliced rolls into pans.

 Put in center rack of preheated 350 degree oven.  I cook mine about 20 min’s.  You don’t want to get them too brown, but they need to cook long enough to be done in the middle.

 While rolls are cooking:

  •  Pour a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar in large bowl.
  • Cream in 1 stick soft butter
  • Add ¼ cup milk or cream
  • Add ½ cup strong coffee
  • Add 1 t maple flavor
  • Add 1 t vanilla
  • Beat with mixer until smooth.
  • Pour over rolls while right from oven.


Use ¾ cup Orange Juice in place of milk and coffee

Use almond flavor instead of maple.


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