Snickers Cookie Bars

I’m really not too much of a ‘candy’ person anymore, with one very important exception: chocolate bars.

I don’t think I will ever stop loving chocolate bars. I still remember the first one that I was ever allowed to have as a kid: a Nestle Crunch Bar. After that, I think it was a Payday. I’m also a fan of Twix, 100 Grand, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s with Almonds, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream, Krackle, and Butterfinger.

Major pass on Almond Joy, Mounds, Milky Way and Three Musketeers. Those I don’t like.

You may have noticed one glaring omission from that list. It was intentional, for reasons that you’ve probably guessed. I’ve been considering making today’s recipe for several weeks now, but I was nervous about it. Finally, I made a split second decision and just decided to go for it.

And here we are. My tribute to the best, the ULTIMATE candy bar ever made.

I think I was nervous about trying this for several reasons: first, the candybar it’s inspired from is just so perfect all on its own. Nougat, caramel, peanuts and chocolate; why mess with that kind of sheer perfection?

Second, no matter how many times I’ve done it, and done it successfully, the process of making caramel still makes me nervous every time.

Still, since I had all the ingredients I needed on hand I decided to just go for it. Couldn’t hurt to try.

There’s not a whole lot of labor required for these, but I do recommend giving yourself time to do it in stages. Unlike our favorite candy bar, the first and bottom layer of these is a very rich cookie. The dough comes together in minutes. Once it’s baked and cooled off, you can move on to the tricky part: the caramel.

Here’s the thing about caramel: as much as making it makes me nervous, the truth is that if you have a working thermometer that you pay close attention to, you’ll be just fine. This one is far from the most difficult I’ve made and because we’re making caramel and not candy, it doesn’t take very long. After the caramel peanut layer has been given time to set, things get super simple. You melt some chocolate, spread it on top and sprinkle some peanuts on top of that and you’re done. Waiting for the whole thing to set up before cutting into it is the hardest part, honestly. Because these are very sweet and rich, a little bit of one goes a long way in satisfying a sweet tooth, which means there’s more to go around.

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Snickers Cookie Bars

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

For Cookie Layer

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp and cubed
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Caramel Peanut Layer

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup, light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup salted roasted peanuts

For Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • One tablespoon of softened butter, cubed.
  • A couple tablespoons of chopped peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until just combined.

Fold the flour in, in about 2 increments, mixing just until blended and a soft dough forms. Press the dough into a pan and use a spatula to make the top as smooth as you can.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and firm. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour while you make the caramel.

Melt the butter in a high-sided saucepan with at least 2 qt capacity. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar and heavy cream. Cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until sugar dissolves completely and liquid comes to a boil.

Cook until caramel reaches temp of 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit. (I STRONGLY recommend a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer for this). Remove from heat.

Stir in the peanuts. Spray a spatula with cooking spray and spread the caramel over the cooled cookie layer. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes (I let mine sit overnight just to be on the safe side).

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and keep stirring until the butter dissolves completely. Spread the chocolate quickly and evenly over the caramel layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

Let sit for an additional 2 hours to allow the chocolate to set and harden up before using the parchment paper to lift up out of the baking dish and cutting into squares.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #261, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

Gingerbread Marshmallows

Full disclosure ahead: as much as I advocate for intentionally making more things that can be bought from a store from scratch, there are some times–SOME times–where even I question whether or not it’s actually worth it to go to the trouble. Sometimes I just don’t think I’m a good enough baker or cook to make it myself. Sometimes I don’t have the necessary time or equipment. Sometimes, I choose convenience.

I’ve known that it was possible to make marshmallows at home from scratch for several years. I never so much as considered making marshmallows at MY home, by MYSELF until this year. The reasons, I think are probably obvious. I debated the issue with myself for several days.

Making marshmallows from scratch? Really Jess?

Why?  For what? Who even does that?

I don’t know y’all. For some reason, this year I felt differently about it. I got to thinking about how cool it would be if I COULD not only make marshmallows, but if I got to do it for the 12 Days of Christmas. And how much more cool would it be if they turned out even better than those I could just buy in a store?

(If you think this is all ridiculous & unnecessary, I get it. Kraft absolutely does sell gingerbread flavored marshmallows during the holiday season. If you were to go to a local grocery right now, you’d probably be able to find them with no problem.)

But if you’re like me and you’re feeling a little bit adventurous, then maybe you ought to keep reading. You may be pleasantly surprised when I tell you that making marshmallows isn’t complicated. It’s really not. You’re going to need 2 very crucial tools: an instant read thermometer and an electric mixer. It doesn’t have to be a standing one, a handheld one will do, but trying to do this without the thermometer and by hand…eh. I can tell you why it’s a bad idea.

Marshmallow is made when a sugar syrup gets poured over gelatin, then whipped at a very high speed for a certain amount of time. You need the thermometer to let you know when the sugar syrup has reached the right temperature. You need the mixer because the gelatin syrup needs to be whipped/beat for up to 10 minutes. Trying to do this manually by hand will put your arms in a whole lot of discomfort. Capisce?

Like a proper gingerbread, these are flavored with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and molasses. What most makes a homemade marshmallow different from a store-bought one is texture. Homemade marshmallows are fluffier and chewier. They melt and are far gooier than storebought ones. They’re just so much better. As you can see, they go beautifully in a cup of hot chocolate, and give it AMAZING flavor. I also found another use for them….that I’ll be sharing on Day 6 of the series. Stay tuned!

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

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Gingerbread Marshmallows

Recipe Courtesy of Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • Butter or shortening for greasing
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus more for sprinkling & coating
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Directions

Generously grease the bottom of an 11 x7 baking dish with butter or shortening. Line it with parchment paper, grease the paper and sprinkle the bottom with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl) sprinkle the gelatin, ginger, cinnamon and cloves over 1/2 cup of cold water to soften. Set aside.

Place a glass of ice water next to the stove. In a medium saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, water and molasses over low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Bring to a boil and cook without stirring until mixture to comes up to approximately 240 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. If you drop some of the mixture into the glass of ice water, it should form a soft ball that forms its shape, but is still pliable. Remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer onto low speed (or use a handheld one). Slowly pour the syrup mixture over the gelatin. Once all of the sugar has been poured in, turn the speed of the mixer up to high. Beat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture turns white and becomes thickened and shiny. It should also triple in volume.

Use a spatula to pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Wet your hands to make it smooth across the top. Let stand uncovered at room temp for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle a clean surface with powdered sugar. Use the corners of the parchment paper to lift the marshmallow out of the baking dish. Turn it out onto the sugared surface. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel you’ve greased with butter to cut the marshmallows into squares.  Dip each one into powdered sugar and lightly dust off the excess.

Store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Alright y’all, so listen. I’m just gonna be honest about something right up front.

The best peanut brittle that I’ve ever had comes from my grandmother. That recipe is one that I’ve been eating, and now using, nearly all of my life and it’s unmatched by any other peanut brittle I’ve tasted. Her recipe is the best. All others pale by comparison.

ALL.OF.THEM. (It’s also already on the blog, although I was just starting out as a blogger and my photography skills were basura at the time, so apologies for that. Still, go ahead and check it out after you get done reading this one, kay?)

Having said that, I can now also say that this year was the first time that I made peanut brittle that wasn’t hers. The main reason was curiosity; because the ingredients I was using were a bit different, I wanted to see how it would turn out. If you’ve been following along with the 12 Day of Christmas series at all, then you’ve also seen that I’ve used what I called a Winter Spice blend in another recipe, which brings together spices that I think give baked goods an extra ‘Christmas-y’ taste. As most peanut brittle isn’t flavored with much else but peanuts, sugar and vanilla, I also wanted to see how it would taste if there were extra spices added to it.

Couldn’t hurt to at least try, right?

I say all of this in the recipe instructions, but because it’s so important I’m going to make the time & space to give those same housekeeping instructions here too. Guys, listen. If you choose to make this, or ANY form of brittle in general, it’s very very important that you take this advice.

#1) Grease your sheet pan up with butter and shortening. Slather it on there, to all four corners. Do this before you do ANYTHING else in the recipe directions. Make sure that it’s good and schmeared on. Why? Because you’re not going to have time to do it while the candy is cooking, or after you take it off the heat, and if the sheet pan is not properly greased, the brittle will stick to it. You might (BIG might) still be able to get it off but you’d likely have to use a mallet or chisel to smash it into inedible crumbs/dust/powder. If you grease it ahead of time, it will pop right out, no problem.

#2) Pre-measure all of the ingredients before you begin. There is a very small window between the time where the candy reaches hard crack stage and where you need to add the baking soda, vanilla and spices to it. You’re already going to have been standing over a hot stove, stirring your tush off to make sure the caramel doesn’t burn and are going to have to move fast between taking it off the heat and spreading it into the sheet pan. It will go a lot smoother if all you have to do is reach to your right or left, and pour the stuff in as opposed to scrambling to measure everything out WHILE STILL STIRRING to keep it from sticking. Don’t ask me how I had to find this out for myself. Just take the advice.

Provided you follow my instructions to the letter….ta-da! This is what you’ll get. Pretty cool, huh? I’m not going to say this brittle is as good as my grandma’s–no peanut brittle is, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But I did like it very much. And gosh, did it get rave reviews from everyone that I shared it with. I think if you’re looking for a different twist on peanut brittle then this is it. I’m gonna go ahead and link this up to Fiesta Friday #202, co-hosted this week by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

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Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For Winter Spice Mix:

  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For Peanut Brittle:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons winter spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Special equipment: candy thermometer or instant read thermometer (This really isn’t optional if you want to be sure the brittle will turn out.)

Directions

Before you do anything else, thoroughly grease a 15 x 10 sheet pan with softened butter or shortening.  Have a kitchen towel or 2 pot holders ready to place beneath it.

Get all of your materials and ingredients measured and set out ahead of time on the countertop.

Combine the ingredients for the winter spice mix in a small, air-tight container and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Whisk together to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Once it reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit, stir in the peanuts and butter, stirring CONSTANTLY (no seriously, do not stop stirring), until it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove saucepan from the heat and immediately add the winter spice, baking soda and vanilla extract. Pour out onto your greased sheet pan, using a spatula you’ve sprayed with cooking spray to spread it out into a somewhat even layer (it won’t be perfect; that’s fine.)

Make sure the kitchen towel or pot holder is placed beneath the bottom of the pan (it will be very hot). Allow the brittle to cool completely, then use a sharp knife to break it into shards. Store in an air tight container.

Spiced Cookie Bark

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Do you have folks in your life who are really tough to Christmas shop for?

I’m sure you do. Heck, maybe you’re even one of those people.

Let me just make a simple recommendation for you from my experience and observations as a cook, baker & blogger: give food. I mean it. If yo really don’t know what material present to buy someone, scrap the idea entirely and just give them food. Think about it for a second:

Food is your fail-safe. A guaranteed winner. There’s plenty of options, it’s customizable to whatever favorites your intended has, and it also doesn’t have to be an expensive gift–especially if you’re willing to cook or bake it yourself.

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I’ve found that when it comes to Christmas goodies, people are EXTREMELY easy to please. Cookies. Pie. Cake. Brownies. Candy. Bread. As long as it’s tasty and appealing to the eye, there isn’t much that’s going to be turned down.

(I still haven’t met a fruit cake that’s palatable, but hey, maybe someday.)

If your gift-giving is going to be limited to your near vicinity, then you’ve got a lot of options for baking. However, if you’re planning on sending long distance then you’re gonna have to be willing to make a few conscientious decisions as to what you’re baking and sending just for practicality’s sake. It’s possible to mail just about anything, but that doesn’t make it convenient or cheap–not to mention the fact that you’ve got to ensure it’ll get to where it’s going in one piece.

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Today’s recipe would be a perfect one for gift-giving and shipping in the mail for a couple reasons: first, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated or kept cool. It doesn’t go stale. Second, you won’t have to have the same concern about cracking and breaking the goods in rough transit, because this stuff is already supposed to be broken into shards.

Looks better that way anyway.

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I took my first foray into the bark making field two years ago for the Christmas series with this Graham Cracker Toffee Bark. It wasn’t just extremely easy to make, it also tasted glorious. I knew that I would want to give it another go sometime; albeit it with more variety to the recipe. What makes this one different is that instead of using graham crackers as your base that you pour hot sugar over, this recipe makes the cookie itself. The dough is flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, then spread nice and thin in a sheet pan then baked in the oven until it browns and essentially caramelizes itself and takes on a crunchy toffee flavor and texture.

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After that, all that’s left to do is drizzle it with some icing and melted chocolate, pop it into the freezer, then started smashing it apart, peanut-brittle style.

BAM. You’ve got a tray full of goodies that would make the very pickiest of people to shop for, extremely happy. If you wanted to group them into individual treat bags for a crows, I would even include this recipe written or typed onto a little card attached to it. It’s pretty simple and it’s always a great idea to pass Christmas cheer like this along, don’t you think?

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

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Spiced Cookie Bark

Recipe Courtesy of Land O Lakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spiced Sugar Topping

  • 3 tablespoons coarse sugar (like turbinado or demerara)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Drizzle

  • 2 tablespoons semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
  • Christmas colored Sprinkles, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan wit aluminum foil, making sure the foil extends over the ends, about 1/2 inch. Spray thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium size bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugar, melted butter and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Fold the dry ingredient mixture into the wet, using a fork to begin with. Once it starts to come together into a solid mass, switch to your hands.

Dump the dough out into the prepared pan and use your fingers or a rubber spatula to press it into an even layer.

Combine all of the spiced sugar topping ingredients together, then sprinkle on top of dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are light golden brown. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then using the foil to gently lift out of the pan and onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

Melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate chips in separate bowls. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle on top of cookie bark alternately. Sprinkle the Christmas sprinkles on top. Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes to allow chocolate to set.

Break bark into pieces with a knife or bench scraper. Store in an air-tight container.

Popcorn Graham Cracker Toffee

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So you guys want to hear a pretty fun fact about my niece? She’s three years old and she already has an all-time favorite movie.

And nope. It’s not “Frozen”. (Thank God. She certainly loves Frozen but we’ve been given a temporary reprieve from Elsa and Anna for a long while now. I’d be fine if they made that reprieve permanent as well, but that’s probably wishful thinking).

Surprisingly, it’s also not one of the Pixar films like “Finding Nemo” “The Incredibles” or “Toy Story” (Come to think of it, I can’t remember right now if she’s EVER seen any of the Toy Story movies, which means I am majorly failing in one crucial aspect of my auntie duties.)

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There’s no point in me telling you guys to try and guess what her favorite movie is. You won’t guess. No way. This is NOT what you would think a typical three year old girl’s favorite movie would be. Kinda like…the exact opposite.

But we’ve all accepted long ago that my niece just isn’t a typical three year old and by now this is just normal to us.

Ok, so….her favorite movie?

Its’s “Jurassic Park”. Yeah. the ACTUAL “Jurassic Park” movie.

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See the thing is, my brother in law got her started on LOVING all things that have to do with dinosaurs. From there she graduated from playing with figurines to actually being able to sit through and be entertained by the actual movies with them. I have no idea why a tyrannosaurus rex doesn’t scare the living daylights out of a three year old. I’m pretty sure it would’ve scared the living daylights out of THIS girl when she was three.

But like I said: she’s not a typical three year old. And she loves the movie….to the point where she likes to watch it preeeeetty much every day. Seriously.

I have seen “Jurassic Park” so many times in the last year that I’m sick of it.

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What does “Jurassic Park” have to do with this post?

Well, there’s a scene in the move where the character Dennis Nedry is getting ready to try and sneak the dinosaur embryos off the island and in order to do so, he has to come up with a “believable” excuse for why he has to leave the control room of the park and shut off all the security systems so that he can leave undetected. He goes into this hilarious nervous rambling about going to the vending machine for something salty since he’s only had something sweet. I thought about that scene when I was making this recipe, since it’s a pretty good combination of both sweet and salty flavors.

Actually, correction: it’s an AMAZING combination of both sweet and salty flavors.

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I’ve made a recipe similar to this one before for the second year of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog; the main difference there with that toffee bark was that it was missing the extra add-ins that we see here. I’m pleased to announce that today’s recipe is actually a vast improvement. I first saw this on Bon Appetit and when I saw the list of ingredients, decided to go ahead and make my own modifications to it for my own personal tastes:

First, instead of using regular peanuts I went ahead and used the honey roasted variety, since those are a perfect mixture of sweet/salty all on their own. I also used cinnamon flavored graham crackers, as I do tend to prefer them to regular honey. However since having done this I CAN also see chocolate flavored graham crackers being a VERY delicious swap for choco-holics. I also made a note below regarding the sugar syrup mixture that gets poured over the add-ins before baking; if you prefer a very gooey toffee then I recommend you checking it out and reading the whole recipe before beginning.

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Look, I don’t have to sell you guys on this stuff, right?

You’ve got eyes. Use your “imaginatory” tastes buds to just stop and think about what this stuff would taste like: honey roasted peanuts, salty popcorn, cinnamon graham crackers, rice cereal that are all stuck together in a candy-toffee bite. It’s some SERIOUSLY addictive stuff.

Basically, it’s Moose Munch on steroids. And who doesn’t want some of that? Boom.

Happy Fiesta Friday #123, co-hosted this week by  Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Linda @ La Petite Paniere.

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Popcorn Graham Cracker Toffee

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 15 cinnamon graham crackers
  • 4 cups popped popcorn (from ¼ cup kernels)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted, honey roasted peanuts
  • ¾ cup puffed rice cereal
  • cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter*
  • ¾ cup sugar*
  • 1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips (about 6 oz.)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Arrange graham crackers in a single layer on baking sheet, breaking to fit as needed to cover entire surface. Top with popcorn, peanuts, and puffed rice.

Bring butter and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Once boiling, stir once, then reduce heat and simmer, swirling occasionally, until mixture is golden brown and syrupy, 8–10 minutes.
Pour toffee mixture evenly over graham crackers and popcorn mixture. Bake until toffee is slightly darkened in color (the shade of a brown paper bag) and bubbling, 10–12 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly top with chocolate.
Turn the oven off, then return pan inside, just long enough to let the chocolate chips start to begin to melt and get gooey.Remove baking sheet from oven and using a fork or butter knife, begin to swirl and smear the softened chocolate so that it ‘sticks’ to the popcorn/peanuts/rice cereal.
Let cool in baking sheet before breaking into pieces. You can also place the sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so to harden faster.
*This recipe I found created JUST enough boiled sugar syrup to cover the ingredients, with a few loose leaf pieces escaping after they cooled. This was fine with me, but if you personally prefer a ‘gooier’ texture to your toffee, then I do recommend doubling the sugar syrup mixture. You’ll probably have a little bit of extra, but better extra than not enough.

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

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We made it you guys! The 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport has reached its final day. Sick of seeing all my posts in your blog reader yet? Don’t worry, this is the last one…at least for a few days. I thought I’d keep things simple with this post and wrap up the series with an Ultimate Christmas Survey. Although I’ll be providing the questions and answers to the questions, I invite all of you guys to pick up a few and record your own answers in the comments section- cause I’m nosy like that and would love to read about your Christmases.

Favorite Christmas Move: A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is tough, but if I have to pick just ONE, then the Peanuts gang wins everytime. I always get a little misty-eyed at the end when Linus shares the true meaning of Christmas. Plus, this is one of the only movies I watch more than once every Christmas season.

Favorite Christmas Cookie: Thick, iced and soft sugar cookie. Nothing ever beats one for me- no siree bob, it doesn’t.

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White Light or Colored Lights: If it’s just me, then I’m gonna go with white lights and gold accents. If I’m gonna have kids around, we’ll go for the colors.

Gingerbread Men Cookies or Gingerbread: Gingerbread Men Cookies

Favorite Christmas Music Album: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas. Every track is flawless.

Fake or Real Christmas Tree: Fake. I’m not about that shedding,possibly flammable tree life. Plus, I know it’ll always be the right shape and size.

Christmas Wreath: Yes. My mom decorates them for fun, so it’s really very pretty.

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Egg Nog or Apple Cider: I’ve never had egg nog before, so cider is my choice.

Christmas Brunch or Christmas Dinner: I’m a Christmas dinner girl; I’ll usually have a cup of coffee or something like that in the morning and let myself get REALLY hungry by dinner time so I can build up one heck of an appetite and throw down on dinner.

Favorite Christmas Tradition: Watching all of our Christmas movies with my sisters, then driving around on Christmas Eve in the city looking at people’s lights.

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Worst Christmas Gift You’ve Ever Received: Those chintzy, cheap art sets from bargain stores. You know what I’m talking about: the ones where the colored pencils don’t even really work, the markers dry out within days and the crayons shed all over the place. Yet, when I was young I would still get one from somebody EVERY year.

Star or Angel Tree Topper: We’ve had both an angel and a star, but I think I’m partial to the star.

Ham or Turkey: I love baked ham, but I love turkey more for the holidays, so it’s turkey for me.

Favorite Christmas Book: The short story A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

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When Do You Open Presents: Christmas morning. No exceptions. I want the full surprise on the actual day.

White or Non-White Christmas: I’m from Michigan. I either have to like white Christmases or curl up in a ball and weep in complete and total despair.

Name 1 Thing You Really, Really, REALLY Want For Christmas: A DSLR camera. I can’t afford one. But if there really was a Santa Claus, I’d be begging him to send me one from the North Pole.

This last recipe in our series is dangerous stuff, guys. Krytopnite dangerous. Beware: self-control is not likely when eating this. I’ve seen recipes elsewhere that used saltine crackers as the base for making chocolate candies and toffee. But I decided to go ahead and use cinnamon dusted graham crackers for mine. And it turned out ridiculously well. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m blowing my own horn, but it’s just the truth. The melted butter and sugar makes the graham crackers take on a texture that almost like nut brittle and melds so well with the creaminess of the chocolate. The toffee bits give it just the right amount of crunch. This toffee is PERFECT for gift-giving…if you don’t eat it all yourself first.

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Aaaaand, I guess that’s all she wrote. I’d really like to thank all of you that have been following along with the 12 Days of Christmas here on Cooking is My Sport. I’ve had a lot of fun making all these Christmas goodies and hope you’ve had a good time reading the posts, or even been inspired enough to make some of your own. I’m thankful to reach another Christmas with my little blog baby and all you lovely people. I can’t wait until next year to start all over again.

Okay, I take that back. Maybe I can wait a little while. 12 days of blogging, photographing, editing and posting takes its toll on a girl. I’m kinda tired….

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Day 11: Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

Day 12: Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bark


Recipe Loosely Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 8-10 Cinnamon sugar Graham Crackers
  • 11.5 oz. of semi sweet chocolate chips (little less than 2 cups)
  • 1 cup of butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla baking chips
  • 8 oz. English toffee bits (like Heath)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 °. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 half sheet pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray,

2. Lay graham crackers in the bottom of the sheet pan, breaking into pieces if need be to cover entire surface.

3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar then bring to a boil.. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the graham crackers, spreading with spatula to make sure they are evenly covered.

4. Bake 8-10 minutes, until sugar mixture is bubbling. Melt vanilla chips in a glass bowl or cup in microwave, in about 15 second increments.

5. Remove half sheet pan from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over crackers. Allow them to soften for a few seconds, then use a spatula to spread out evenly.

6. Dip a fork into the melted vanilla chips and swirl it through the melted semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze until chocolate is set and firm, about an hour. Remove, and use a knife to break toffee into shards. 

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls2

Welcome to Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport! Just in case you missed the first post yesterday, I’ll include a complete list of the recipes at the end of each post as we go through all of the days.

Let’s talk about Christmas popcorn tins. You all know which ones I’m talking about; the metal tins with the fancy, or sometimes wonky designs on the outside and three flavors of popcorn on the inside. Yeah, those. I’ve got mixed feelings about the Christmas popcorn tins. When I was young I really dug them, but in retrospect I kinda chalk that up to being a young, growing girl with a rabbit fast metabolism that could eat just about any Christmas treat without complaining. Now, eh…I’m not much of a fan. But for the sake of conversation, I’ll give my own rating of each of the flavors:

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The caramel corn is the obvious star of the three for me; there’s very little that caramelized sugar cannot make taste good, and the combination of the sweet with the saltiness of the popcorn is a pretty solid combination. Caramel corn for the win- 8/10

The regular butter popcorn is…well, regular butter popcorn. If the popcorn you’re buying is still relatively fresh (meaning it didn’t come from a dollar or low-budget store), then it’ll taste pretty decent. I gotta say though, I rarely get a strong butter flavor from it. It’s something for you to eat when you get the munchies, but not much else- 5/10

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls4

The loser of the Christmas popcorn tins is the cheese flavored popcorn- no question. Whenever someone gave us a tin for a gift when we were growing up, none of us would touch the stuff. It just stayed there, untouched while the caramel corn and butter popcorn would get eaten. I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong with the cheese popcorn: for one, the cheese coating just tastes so artificial and processed. Number two, it sticks and coats on your hands and turns them orange (blegh, yucky fingers). Three, there’s just something about the cheese coating that makes the popcorn taste stale to me. I’ll pass on the cheese popcorn every time, thank you- 2/10

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls3

Before I even started baking for the Christmas series on the blog, I knew I wanted to make popcorn balls. They’re easy, they make GREAT gifts for friends and co-workers at Christmas parties, you can poke holes through them and hang them on a tree for decoration, and there are so many different flavor combinations that you can use when putting them together. I did two flavors this year, and this was one of them.

Think about a sweetened honey roasted peanut; now think about the saltiness of that peanut meeting and melting with a sticky caramel coating. That’s what these are. Salty, sweet balls of goodness. Think it can’t get better than that? Think again- the stickiness of the coating is tempered by the crunchy outer layer of sesame seeds that the balls get rolled in after they’re molded. So friggin good. I literally had to stop myself after taking an undisclosed amount of bites. They’re kryptonite powerful. So you should get in your kitchen and make some, stat.

Thanks for following our series, and once again: if you’re late to party then feel free to check out the complete list of recipe links for this year’s 12 Days of Christmas below!

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

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Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls


Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 12 cups freshly popped popcorn (preferably made over the stove)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. butter, plus 2-3 extra tbsp. for buttering your hands
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for rolling (about 3/4 cup)

 Directions

1. Bring honey, butter, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar and water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring.

2. Remove from the heat; using a rubber spatula, stir in popcorn and 1 cup chopped salted mixed nuts until coated.

3. Butter your hands, then shape into balls and roll in toasted sesame seeds, working quickly before balls cool off. Place finished balls on parchment paper lined baking racks to set.