Peppermint Bark

This is the easiest candy on the face of the earth, and a refreshing, crunchy addition to a goody tray.

1 package almond bark
1 ½ pounds of unwrapped peppermint starlight mints OR
3/4 lb. each of peppermint and spearmint starlights

Melt the chunked-up almond bark in a microwave or crockery cooker, stirring now and again until smooth. Meanwhile, place the unwrapped candies in a large resealable plastic bag, lay on top of a towel, and pound carefully with a hammer until all the mints are broken into coarse chunks. (Yes, the bag will get little holes in it. Helps to turn the bag over now and again.). Stir the crushed candies into the melted bark. Line a 10 x 17” pan with wax paper, then pour the hot candy into it and quickly spread it into a fairly even layer. Cool completely. Break into serving pieces. Store covered, in a plastic or wax-paper lined container, etc. in a cool, dry place. No need to refrigerate, but you can.

Pistachio Cranberry Bark

This is a close cousin to the peppermint bark, but in a salty-sweet-crunchy league by itself.

1 package almond bark
1 bag dried cranberries
1 C. semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
2 C. shelled, salted pistachios

Chop the bark into chunks and melt in the microwave or a crockery cooker, stirring until smooth. Line a 10 x 17” baking pan with waxed paper. Stir the cranberries and pistachios into the bark and pour the hot mixture onto the wax paper. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and swirl the chocolate as you spread the candy into an even layer (use a cake spatula). Cool completely, then break into chunks. Store in a plastic- or wax paper lined container in a cool, dry place.

Kitchen Hint: Depending on how much crunch you prefer, you can add more berries and nuts.

Chocolate Coconut Cake

When the Coblentz twins request this cake for their birthday, they’re girls after my own heart! This looks like an ordinary cake until you cut in and discover a layer of moist, chewy coconut filling.

1 chocolate cake mix (pudding in the mix)
1 C. sugar
1 C. milk
24 large marshmallows
1 14-oz. bag of coconut

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray two 9 x 13” pans and cut wax paper to line the bottom and both ends of one pan. Mix the cake according to package directions and divide batter into both pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until firm. Cool in the pans.

Filling: Bring the milk and sugar to a boil in a medium pan. Reduce heat and stir in the marshmallows to melt them. Stir in the coconut and cool. Spread this filling on the cake without the waxed paper. Run a knife along the edges of the papered cake, invert onto the coconut filling, and peel off the wax paper. Press down lightly.

Frosting: Place 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 C. evaporated milk, and one stick of butter or margarine in a medium pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Add an 11-oz. bag of chocolate chips, stirring to melt them, and stir in 1 C. chopped nuts. Pour this over the cake and spread evenly. Cool. Chill for several hours and store in the fridge.

Kitchen Hint: You can use any flavor of cake mix with this coconut filling, and simply frost it with a tub of coordinating frosting. Strawberry and lemon are especially good!

Butterscotch Twist Rolls

Leave it to Nazareth and Jerusalem Hooley to tempt us with a breakfast treat that makes the house smell like butterscotch and looks especially pretty in its unique round shape (before you break away one twist after another, that is!) You can substitute maple flavoring for the butterscotch, too.

1 T./ 1 pkg. yeast
1/4 C. water
3/4 C. milk
1/4 C. butter
1 egg
1 tsp. butterscotch flavoring
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. sugar
3 C. flour

1/4 C. butter, softened
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. chopped nuts
1 tsp. cinnamon

1 C. powdered sugar
1 T. melted butter
1 to 2 T. milk (or enough to make drizzly)
1/2 tsp. butterscotch flavoring

Dissolve yeast in water. Heat milk and butter until scalded (steaming but not boiling). Cool and add yeast. Beat egg, butterscotch flavoring, salt, and sugar. Add flour and mix well with the liquid. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Divide into 2 equal parts. Roll out 1 part and put on a greased round pizza pan. Put filling ingredients on top. Roll out second part of dough and lay over filling. Use a greased pizza cutter and slice toward the middle, leaving 2” in the middle not cut. Continue cutting, making 12-14 slices. Twist each slice 2 times. Let rise and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Drizzle with glaze. Devour.

Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding

A reader asked me for this recipe, so I’ve included it here—you can make this basic bread pudding to suit any occasion with just a change of add-ins! It’s also a great way to use up leftover bread, heels, or slices that have gone dry. I’ve even crumbled in a few stale biscuits, and it still comes out great!

2 C. milk
4 C. bread cubes
1/4 C. butter or margarine
1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C. raisins
1 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray or grease a 2-qt. baking dish.

Scald the milk (on the stove, or in the microwave for about 3 minutes, until it’s steaming), stir in the butter/margarine until it melts, and then pour it over the bread cubes in a large bowl. Cool slightly, then mix the sugar, eggs, raisins and cinnamon. Stir into the bread mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake about 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serves 6.

Add-ins: Along with, or instead of, the raisins, you can stir in 1 C. chocolate chips, or 1 C. butterscotch chips, and/or some chopped nuts, or 1 C. chopped apple. You can substitute dried cranberries or other dried fruits, as well. Adding flavorings like buttered rum, almond, or lemon extract makes a nice variation, too. You can also drizzle ice cream toppings or maple syrup over it before serving.

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