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I want (easy) candy

When I was growing up, my mother, sister, and I used to spend the weekends leading up to Christmas making cookies and other confections for the annual celebration at my grandmother’s house. It was very exciting to make old favorites and try new recipes as the freezer and refrigerator filled up with sweets. I don’t do much baking these days because we no longer have a big Christmas celebration and Jared and I have no self control when it comes to sweets in the house. This year, though, I decided to make some quick and (very) simple candies. I chose candy cane popcorn and peppermint bark, both of which involved the very satisfactory task of crushing candy canes with a mallet.

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Oddly, the supermarket where I bought the rest of my ingredients was out of candy canes except for a few rainbow cherry ones. I guess it is two days before Christmas, but I always thought that candy canes, like conversation hearts and Easter Peeps, magically replenish until the holiday is over, when stores sell leftover packages by the truckload for a quarter apiece. I managed to find a box of 28 mini candy canes at CVS; the whole box yielded about a half cup of crushed candy crumbs.

First I made the candy cane popcorn using this recipe. I used some fancy organic popcorn, since it’s what I happened to have on hand. Our air popper died a couple years ago and we never bothered to get a replacement, so I used the paper bag in the microwave method. I separated the good, fluffy pieces and put them in a big mixing bowl.

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I melted almond bark in a double boiler and poured some onto the popcorn, mixed it gently with a wooden spoon, and repeated until it was reasonably coated. Then I added some crushed candy canes and mixed again. I ended up using about half a package of almond bark. When the popcorn was satisfactorily coated, I put in the refrigerator to cool. The result was delicious. I think this would be really good with other ingredients, like almonds and pretzels.

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I decided to make two kinds of peppermint bark: chocolate vanilla and dark chocolate. For the first, I melted the remaining half of the almond bark, mixed in candy cane bits, and spread it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then I added half a bag of melted dark chocolate chips, swirled it together with a spoon, and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top. For the dark chocolate bark, I used the other half of the dark chocolate chips and a bag of extra dark chocolate chips. So easy and so delicious.

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Now to try not to eat it all in the next couple of days.