Wow, talk about the longest dry spell of blogging ever! With the holidays upon us, the cooking has been put into high gear and my blog time has virtually disappeared! But, thankfully my handy camera man (aka my husband) has been snapping pics all the same. So, now I have no excuses! Which is OK with me.
Last weekend, I had this brilliant absolutely insane idea to create holiday baskets filled with our favorite holiday treats for a few friends. I woke up early and felt pretty excited & motivated on our brisk Saturday morning. With my brand new Kitchen Aid mixer and 2 bags absolutely filled with ingredients, we headed over to my parents house to begin. I figured in my head that it would probably take around 4-5 hours tops and (at the time) I thought, for sure, I could accomplish it all on my own. (I am chuckling at myself now!) Luckily, I had 2 master chefs at my aid and my husband who willingly put in a helping hand. So, about 9 hours later…we were exhausted. But, the baskets turned out great! Below is a little synopsis of our day…
Hour 1: Prepare pumpkin bread in a double batch. Found out that none of our bowls were big enough for a double batch SO we used a stock pot! (Try using one of those in a mixer – it actaully does work). Prepared the chocolate cookie mix and put into fridge. Popped popcorn and more popcorn and more popcorn.
Hour 2: Pumpkin bread into the oven. Started melting chocolate on the stove. No double boiler? We made our own! A pan filled with a little bit of water and a glass bowl on top works perfect. Just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl and that it does not come to a boil, we did low heat and it worked great.
Hour 3: Pumpkin bread out. Learned that doubling a bread recipe takes some finagling…which I didn’t do. So, with bread a little less moist than expected (but still pretty yummy) we set out to create some nice cream cheese frosting to add to it. Started dipping pretzels via assembly line. Clumping of toffee and chocolate ensued to create a massive heap of toffee and chocolate.
Hour 4: lunch break & watching the Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family. I love the 25 days of Christmas marathons! (I started to regret having only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before)
Hour 5: Back to it! Frosting onto the pumpkin bread. Chocolate cookies into the oven. Crushing Oreos and mixing them with cream cheese (then into the fridge). Unwrapping 80+ peppermint kisses. Chocolate cookies out of the oven. Trying several different pans to ensure a round cookie. Found that perfect timing of when to press in a chocolate kiss so that it sticks but doesn’t melt. Perfect-Peppermint timing was finally perfected…round cookies, not so much.
Hour 6: Melt more chocolate. Get chilled Oreo balls out of the fridge and start dipping into melted chocolate. Cookies, pretzels, etc. are cooling. Starting to clean up the kitchen to gain more room.
Hour 7: Melt ingredients for caramel popcorn. First batch we try to mix on a baking sheet – do not do this. Next batch in a very large bowl, mixed great. Popcorn into the oven to bake. More cleaning and starting to prep baskets.
Hour 8: Caramel popcorn complete and out of the oven. (and scraped off pans) Starting to bag everything for the baskets. We decided to mix the chocolate toffee heap with the caramel popcorn – pretty darn awesome and bonus points for not being wasteful. Heated up white chocolate to sprinkle onto the Oreo truffles. AND then Cooking complete!
Hour 9: Baskets finishing touches, written cards, and exhaustion. (And then later that night more Harry Potter at the movie theater!)
All in all a very long day of cooking up a storm – almost literally. With deliciousness to share as part of our celebration of Advent and anticipation of Christ’s coming into the world, all of our hard work paid off to see the goodness we could share with others. I am so thankful for all the people in our lives who have blessed us this year. And I have to give another HUGE Thank You to everyone who helped me create these baskets…because there is absolutely no way I could have done it all without you!
So, without further ado, this is the super easy and delicious recipe for the pretzels…which are my personal favorite. They look pretty and are quite yummy! They are pretty fun to make too & would be great to make with kids for a fun Christmas project.
- 80 pretzel sticks (Ours were Snyder’s and about 7 inches in length)
- 1 package of chocolate Almond Bark
- 2 packages of Heath toffee bits (these can sometimes be hard to find, they sell them at Wal-Mart)
- Heat almond bark over low heat until melted and smooth
- Create assembly line of chocolate (on stove, kept on low), plate of toffee, and then wax paper to place the pretzels to cool
- Dip pretzels into chocolate, then sprinkle on toffee, and set aside to cool. Repeat until all are finished.
- Cool until chocolate hardens.