This is my second recipe in the inexpensive and easy baking category. Technically, this is not baking at all. It is, however, the easiest candy you will ever make. Or very close.

The full recipe is posted, but I highly suggest you make half unless you have 999 people on your Christmas bake-for list. That's a laughably high estimation, but in all seriousness, the full recipe makes around 150+ clusters.

Slow Cooker Peanut Clusters
Yields about 150 clusters

24 oz package Chocolate Bark
24 oz package White Chocolate Bark
2 containers (16 oz each) Dry Roasted Salted Peanuts
2 containers (16 oz each) Dry Roasted Unsalted Peanuts

Place both white and chocolate candy coating in your slow cooker on low setting. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Stir mixture until melted candies are combined thoroughly. Pour peanuts over mixture and stir until peanuts are coated. Drop by spoonful onto parchment or wax paper. Allow to set completely, approximately 1 hour.

When it comes to ingredients, I use store brand peanuts. I find little difference in taste and quality when compared to name brand products. I made the halved recipe and spent $9 with a yield of 76 clusters. When I first saw this recipe I almost pish-poshed the fact that a fine grade of chocolate was not used. After I tasted them, I realized why. Using a high cocoa content would make these much too rich. This is a very well balanced sweet/salty peanutty candy. We have Ms. Bobbie to thank for this recipe. You may remember her from the Tea Party post earlier this year when she made us pick beans. I should have known better. I should not have doubted Ms. Bobbie.

One more thing. I had the absolute pleasure of working with a very talented and gifted photographer earlier this month. Her business bears her name "Morgan Trinker Photography". She photographed my sweets and you can view them HERE in a well choreographed slide show. Also, please check out her blog. Her wedding photos are beyond compare, and she brings a gentleness to every frame. So, a very special thank you to Morgan. Until next time, I'll be up to my elbows in peanut clusters!

I would first like to start by saying, most any shape can be made out of a Crispy-Rice treats recipe. The one I use for the Hedgehogs is the basic one you probably have filed away, or it is on the back of your cereal box. You'll need to make 1 recipe for this project.

After combining all ingredients, let your treat mix cool for a couple of minutes in the pot. You'll be handling these with your bare hands and you don't want hot marshmallow to stick to your fingers.

All the recipes I've ever read about shaping treats says to butter your hands before shaping. This does not work for me. I use a bowl of cool water. Lightly dip your hands in water before you pull a lump of treat mix out of the pot for shaping. Nary a crumb will stick to you. Continue to dip your hands in water if sticking occurs. When you are shaping try to form a teardrop with one slightly pointed end.

For dipping I use 1 cup of chocolate chips and 2 teaspoons shortening. Microwave the ingredients in a bowl at 30 second intervals until smooth and runny. Spoon over the rounded end of the treat, avoiding a 1-2" space at the pointed end for the Hedgehog's head. (see pictures below)

You'll need to get some chocolate sprinkles. These are relatively inexpensive and make the perfect spiny look for the hedgehog's coat. I found these at the Amish market, but they do carry them at most all grocery stores in the baking section.

Almost there!




I piped some icing for the eyes and nose on these little fellas. I also added a fondant flower for the Mama Hedgehog since I had extra from a previous project. You could also use chocolate chips for the eyes and a red-hots candy for the nose. EASY!

Have FUN!

These are good. The kind of good you find when something is quick, inexpensive and has simple ingredients. With the added bonus of using one saucepan to mix the whole recipe in, your kitchen will be largely undisturbed! You'll want to curl up on the couch with a plateful of these, a book and a cup of hot tea. Or if you are like me, you'll be eating them from a paper towel in front of the TV while watching 30 Rock. I sometimes feel like Liz Lemon's long lost (blonde) fraternal twin. Off point, I know. But still, I love that show!

I first got the idea when I was experimenting with a basic brown sugar bar recipe. I was at my mother's house when she first tasted them. She looked at me with one eye closed and said "...tastes kinda like Bit-O-Honey candy". That's all she had to say. I tinkered around with a few ingredients and came up with something pretty close flavor-wise.

I always wanted to enjoy Bit-O-Honey candy and still keep my dental work in tact. Now I can and so can you!

Bit O'Honey Bars
Yields 12 servings

¼ cup butter or margarine
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg well beaten
3 Tbsp. honey
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. vanilla extract
⅓ cup blanched almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pan with shortening or spray with cooking oil. Melt margarine in a small sauce pan and remove from heat. Add the brown sugar and honey to the saucepan and stir until combined. Stir in egg and mix well. Combine flour and baking powder, then stir into the brown sugar mixture. Add vanilla and fold in almonds. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.

Coconut fanatics, this one is for you!

Like many, I take pleasure in searching out beautiful confections. When I first saw Coconut Ice on display, the contrasting pink stripe drew me in and the name confused me. I soon found myself gathering recipes and any other information I could find about the fudge-like candy. The origins are claimed to be from the UK, but I could not find a substantial history to share with you. It is as much eye candy as it is the edible kind, and that's really all I needed to know.

I'm proud to say, that after much trial and error and many recipes, this one is the best. Take it from someone who has labored over a boiling saucepan of napalm sugar syrup and has tossed out her weight in organic coconut. Perhaps it is my lack of candy making expertise that caused the aforementioned to bomb terribly. All I know is that a blindfolded monkey could make this version, and it looks like a million bucks!

One word of caution: don't even THINK about using sweetened coconut. The end result is much too sweet and you will probably be sad that it doesn't taste as good as it looks.

Coconut Ice

An interesting and pretty coconut fudge-like candy.

See Coconut Ice on Key Ingredient.

Things I learned while making this recipe:

Abandon your wooden spoon. Mixing with your hands and squeezing the batter through your fingers will help to incorporate the ingredients. The mixture will be quite stiff.

Use a little strawberry or cherry candy flavoring in the pink mixture. It's delicious and provides another level of contrast.

Pink on top, or white on top? White is most commonly pressed into the bottom of the pan. This provides a crisp and uniform upper layer. I have used both pink and white on bottom and both versions were pretty.

A sprinkling of powdered sugar on top of the finished product makes a nice presentation. Bag and tie with ribbon for holiday gift giving.

Last week I was browsing Etsy and happened upon this cute Sugar Cookie Brooch made of felt. I bought it immediately. I could not resist, mostly because of the pink icing and sprinkles.

When I opened my mailbox yesterday, I knew (without reading the return address) that the anticipated Cookie had landed. Amongst bills and advertisements lay a bright metallic purple bubble mailer. Etsy sellers are some of the most meticulous in crafting and packing that I have ever seen! I was happy enough with the festive envelope, but inside was a nice gift box tied with ribbon. I also received a hand-stamped Thank-You note with a cute little bunny embellishment. Upon opening the box I found the cookie pin and a teeny little plastic iced doughnut. Little flourishes of this nature are why I love buying from Etsy sellers.

If you haven't shopped Etsy much (or at all) I would encourage you to do so. Perhaps you are a crafts-person looking for inspiration, if so just take a look at the front page. It's a different planet, and one that I visit often.

P.S. My plans for the unexpected doughnut? Pendant, cell phone charm or ... ? Any ideas?
"Fad –noun : a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal."

I subscribe to a number of food magazines, and as I page through I can't help but put my finger on one recurring theme. Bacon is for dessert.

I've seen bacon topped cupcakes and bacon toffee. I've even seen bacon lollipops and bacon cookies with bits stirred right into the batter. Don't get me wrong, I'm not mad at this idea. I like fresh ideas and challenging the way people look at food. I have, however, smirked a little at how much the fad has caught on. I had earlier witnessed the phenomena of "Baconnaise" and "Bacon Salt" which both, ironically, contain no meat products and are considered vegetarian. Normally the type of people I find connected to these products are those who like to flex their carnivorous muscles whilst spouting anti-vegetarian sentiment. Not my kind of party.

With some ambivalence I decided to give this bacon-dessert thing a try. I wanted to make a bacon cookie, but couldn't bring myself to put it in the batter. I decided to make a maple-pecan cookie with Candied Bacon as a topping.

It was... delicious. I have to remind myself that behind (most) every fad lies a kernel of truthful goodness that puts the trend into motion. The bacon was delightfully crunchy, sweet and salty. The flavor reminded me of pecan waffles with a side of bacon. If you'd like to try Candied Bacon yourself, directions are below.

Candied Bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook bacon in a skillet on stove-top until almost cooked through (not crispy).
On a parchment lined cookie sheet sprinkle bacon with brown sugar and bake 10 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved.
Let bacon cool completely.
Peel from parchment and enjoy!
Last Friday I was finishing up a custom order for two dozen cookies when something peculiar happened. As I pulled the last batch out of the oven, I heard a distinct "bzzzzz....POP!" I looked around, because it certainly could not have been the oven. We had just purchased it one year and four months ago. Four months outside the warranty I might add.

The lack of blog updates has been solely due to my lack of an oven. Luckily Frigidaire has agreed to mail us the part and soon I'll be baking again. The model we have has a small lower oven and I have just discovered that it still works as normal. This is great news because the very talented Morgan Trinker will be photographing my goodies this coming Monday. I'll admit, I was beginning to sweat a little.

So, until the full repair, you may hear from me a little less, and find me hither and yon. I'll be baking in Mother's kitchen or sitting on my snail bench roasting marshmallows over the chiminea flame.

Makes me wonder if we should have gone with Whirlpool? Oven suggestions, anyone?
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