Meal-In-A-Loaf

Hello, Winnie Griggs here. The other day I was going through my old recipe files as I’m gradually digitizing them. Some of these were handed down from my mom, slipped to me by friends or relatives, or developed by me over time. Just reading through the creased and food-stained notes had me reminiscing over my childhood an early married life – I’d never realized how foods could be so deeply associated with comforting memories.

Today I thought I share one of those with you – a hearty, perfect-for-Fall recipe called Meal-In-A-Loaf.

First of all, since most of these rcipes are more than twenty years old, they come from a time when I was a working mother with four youngsters and a 45 minute commute to and from the office. In those days time was always at a premium (but isn’t it always!). So when it came to meals I took advantage of the weekends and my great big freezer. I’d cook up meals like soups, gumbos, and one-dish casseroles in double or triple sized batches so I could freeze part of it to prepare for a future meal. I would also cook large batches of what I called my meat base.

Ground beef dishes – whether cooked up in a casserole, tacos, chili or spaghetti – were big hits around my house – not only with the diners but with this cook.  However, I’ve always found having to deal with browning and draining the meat itself to be time consuming and something of a hassle.  So I got in the habit of getting that prep work out of the way ahead of time, during one of my not-too-frequent down times.

This is how I do that .

  • Place 5 lbs of lean ground beef and 1 lb of ground pork in a large pot and cook until browned
  • Drain then return to pot with a little water or stock
  • Add seasonings such as chopped onions, green onions, peppers and celery – this varies based on what I have on hand and what mood I’m in. Sometimes I just use Sloppy Joe mix.
  • Continue cooking, adding liquid as needed, until seasonings are tender and flavors are well blended.
  • If I haven’t used Sloppy Joe mix, I’ll add some tomato sauce and cook a little longer
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool
  • Then I separate the batch into six individual one pound portions and freeze them until I’m ready to use one or more in a favorite recipe

Now, on to the recipe I promised you

Meal-In-A-Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 large unsliced French or Italian bread loaf
  • 1 pound meat mixture, thawed
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup, undiluted (Note: I will sometimes take a can of Rotel tomatoes and chili peppers, drained and substitute it in for half of the soup)
  • A large dollop of sour cream (I don’t measure, I just plop it in)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese, shredded

Directions

  • Heat meat and soup together in a saucepan. Just before you remove it from the stove, stir in the sour cream, mixing well
  • Slice the bread loaf lengthwise, making sure the bottom portion is slightly larger than the one on top
  • Scoop out both halves of the sliced loaf, leaving a roughly 1/2 – 3/4 inch shell
  • Break about 1/2 of scooped-out bread into bite-sized portions and stir into warm meat mixture.
  • Spoon meat and bread mixture into the bottom portion of the hollowed loaf, allowing it to ‘mound’ above the top of the bowl
  • Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top
  • Cover with the top portion of the bread shell
  • Wrap loosely in foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes

To serve, unwrap the loaf and cut it into serving-sized slices.  This will make 8-10 servings, depending on the size of loaf and thickness of slices.

NOTE: I sometimes stir in taco seasoning to change it up a bit

That’s it – Enjoy!

Do you have any meal prep or planning shortcuts of your own to offer?  And if you have any quick and easy recipes of your own, especially one that would utilize this pre-cooked meat mix, share!

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for winner’s choice of any book from my backlist.

 

 

Pumpkin Palooza

This year the release of the PSL (pumpkin spice latte—a new acronym I learned this week—) was August 24. As I sat writing in Starbucks, I wondered how we went from my childhood of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread around the holidays to the pumpkin/pumpkin spice frenzy of today. That made me curious about the history of pumpkins, and to the internet I went.

To my surprise, pumpkins are fruit. (Sidebar, so are all squash, eggplants, avocados, and cucumbers. And, so you can answer the why question, it’s because those plant have seeds and the items we eat develop from the flower-producing part of the plant. Botanically that makes them fruit.) Archaeologists believe pumpkins originated in Central America 7,500 years ago, but unlike todays, those were small and had a bitter taste. (Which again makes me wonder how they caught on for food!)

Despite that beginning, a recipe for a side dish with diced pumpkin was published in New-England’s Rarities Discovered, in America in the 1670s. After that, women developed more pumpkin recipes. Serving sweet pumpkin dishes during the holidays didn’t start until the 1800s. However, the first pies were scooped out pumpkins filled with a ginger-spiced milk, then roasted by the fire. Hmmm, an early PSL?

Fun pumpkin facts:

  • Antarctica is the only content where pumpkins aren’t grown.
  • Pumpkin seeds (each pumpkin has around 500) can be roasted, then salted and eaten. The flowers are also edible.
  • Pumpkin, which are 90% water, contains carotenoids which are good for eyes and neutralizes free radicals that can attack cells.
  • Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin which could reduce cataract formation and risk of macular degeneration. They also contain potassium, vitamin A, iron, zinc, and fiber.
  • Irish immigrant brought the tradition of Jack-O’-Lanterns to the U.S., but instead of using turnips or potatoes, they used the American pumpkins.
  • In the United States, the heaviest pumpkin was grown in New Hampshire (2018) and weighed 2,528 pounds.
  • In 2010 a pumpkin pie was baked in Ohio weighing 3,699 pounds and over 20 feet in diameter.
  • Early American settlers cut pumpkin shells into strips, dried them, and wove them into mats.
  • Morton, Illinois is called the ‘Pumpkin Capital of the World’ and the home to Libby’s pumpkin industry. Illinois also grows the most pumpkins.
  • Pumpkins were once a remedy for freckles and snakebites.
Large pumpkins are usually used for feed for livestock.

Yesterday my Pinterest feed was filled with pumpkin recipes. My research didn’t really explain how we went from the first pumpkins to the craze we see today. But maybe the answer has something to do with the following Pilgrim verse, circa 1633.

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

I may not have satisfied my original curiosity, but at least now you can astound and stun your friend and family with your amazing pumpkin knowledge this Thanksgiving!

To be entered in today’s random drawing for Howdy Fall T-shirt, tell me what’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or what fun fact surprised you the most. Happy (almost) Fall, Y’all!

Lessons From My Grandmothers

My Grandma Walter holding me with my Uncle Wayne sitting beside us.

The older I get the more grateful I am for what my grandmothers taught me. I wish I could spend one more day with each of them to ask all the life, history, and family questions I was too young to know would be important later.

Most of the recipes I’ve shared with you were my Grandma Walter’s. I wish I’d made time to write down more of them while she cooked. As my birthday approaches, I remember the times I was on the farm in July. She would ask what I wanted for a birthday cake, and my response was always the same. I wanted her angel food cake with fresh strawberries mashed so they were all syrupy. She also gave me a love of gardening, though my thumb is more brown than green like hers was. I took a sewing class in high school (and still use those skills) because she sewed. From her I learned how women could be quiet, patient, and still possess an indominable strength.

My Grandma Ryan’s grocery store in Ohio, Illinois.

My father’s mother, my Grandma Ryan, possessed a more obvious strength. Widowed young, she raised four sons. With three grown sons, I can’t begin to imagine how daunting and scary that must have been. I wish now I’d asked her how she managed. She remarried, but her second husband died when I was a toddler, leaving her with a general store to run in a town of less than five hundred people. She had breast cancer before I was born and bone cancer as long as I can remember. Through all that, she never complained or thought God was punishing her with these trials. She loved to play cards and would sit with my brother and I playing her current favorite card game. From her I learned to laugh and that a woman could make a life for herself. But the best gift my Grandma Ryan gave me was, making me feel special. As one of only two granddaughters, she made no secret she loved us just a bit more.

A picture of me and my Grandma Ryan when I was two.

No wonder grandparents play such guiding, supportive roles in many of my books. In my most recent release, To Marry a Texas Cowboy, Zane carries a plane full of family baggage. After divorcing, his parents concentrated on their new lives and families. Zane became collateral damage and part of a past they wanted to forget. Who stepped in to fill the void and create the hero I fell in love with the minute he walked on the page as a friend in To Love A Texas Cowboy? His grandparents.

My Grandma Ryan spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, but rarely cooked. Today I’m sharing a recipe she gave me. This one, referred to as “frozen salad,” is easy and great for these hot summer days. Two notes about it. First, while we called it a salad, it could be served as dessert, and second, watch out for brain freeze eating it straight out of the freezer! I prefer to give it a minute or two to thaw some before eating.

Frozen Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 lg. can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Place in 8 x 8 freezer safe container overnight.

 

Giveaway: To be entered in today’s random drawing for the USA y’all T-shirt and a signed copy of To Marry a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about something you learned from a grandparent or significant older person in your life.

 

The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Who doesn’t love the humble but oh-so-yummy grilled cheese sandwich.  Its ooey-gooey goodness not only warms our insides but (at least for me) brings back warm memories of childhood around the dinner table. And, according to my National Day Calendar, April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, so today I thought I’d offer up some history and fun facts related to this well-loved comfort food.

  • It turns out, the idea of taking bread and cheese and heating them together into a quick and tasty meal goes at least as far back as the ancient Romans. However, the grilled cheese sandwich as we know it today is credited to James L. Craft, who created a method to keep cheese from spoiling quickly. With the advent of commercially available sliced bread in the 1920s he decided it was a match made in culinary heaven!
  • Early versions of the grilled cheese sandwich were made open-faced with only one slice of bread and the cheese was usually grated.
  • Schools eagerly adopted the grilled cheese sandwich, more often than not pairing it with tomato soup. It was a cheap and tasty meal option to fulfill dietary requirements for both protein and vitamin C.
  • Prior to the 1960s the grilled cheese sandwich was often referred to as a “cheese dream”.
  • In 1994 Diana Duyser, a work from home jewelry designer, took a bite from her grilled cheese sandwich then stopped when she saw an image of the Virgin Mary on the toasted portion of her sandwich. She kept the rest of thee sandwich for ten years then listed it on eBay. The winning bid was $2800, placed by Golden Palace, an online casino.
  • The New York restaurant Serendipity 3 holds the record for producing the most expensive edible grilled cheese sandwich. The bread contains champagne and gold flakes and the sandwich includes truffle butter and a rare Caciocavallo Podolico cheese. The cost of this sandwich in 2017 was $214.
  • In 2006 competitive eater Joey Chestnut set a record by eating 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes.

Some fun notes from various surveys:

  • The most popular pairing of the grilled cheese sandwich is with tomato soup.
  • The US cities that rank highest on the “grilled cheese lovers” scale (according to UberEats) are Baltimore, San Diego and Cincinnati.
  • By one estimate, an online search for “how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich” will yield over one million results.
  • According to a 2018 market study, Americans consume over 2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches a year.
  • The most popular cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches (in the US) are American and cheddar.
  • Another survey reports that grilled cheese lovers are not only more generous than their non-grilled cheese lover counterparts but they are also more adventurous and travel more.
  • Food & Wine ranks the grilled cheese sandwich from San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen as the tastiest. The chef is an MIT engineer named Heidi Gibson.

 

And of course this post wouldn’t be complete without a  recipe so here is a version for my own personal favorite grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients:

  • Pepper jack cheese – a thick slab or a generous heaping of shredded cheese
  • 2 slices of bread – whatever you have on hand will work but I prefer sourdough
  • Butter seasoned with a touch of garlic salt and cracked pepper to taste
  • Brown mustard

Directions

  • Preheat your skillet on a low heat – I like to use a well-seasoned iron skillet but a regular skillet with a bit of butter will do
  • Spread seasoned butter on one side of each piece of bread (slather it on, don’t skimp!)
  • Add a very thin layer of brown mustard to the unbuttered side of ONE slice of bread (just a enough to flavor but not overpower)
  • Place the cheese on the unbuttered side of one slice of bread
  • Place the bread and cheese, open-faced style, in the skillet with the bread side down and cover for a few minutes, allowing the cheese to melt. Once the cheese starts to melt add the second slice of bread and cook uncovered until both sides are a nice golden brown.
  • Plate and Enjoy!

So let’s discuss. Is there any of the points above that surprised you? Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? Do you have a favorite recipe?  Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for winners’ choice of any of my backlist books.

 

Not Your Grandmother’s Farmers Market

With spring’s arrival, my thoughts turn to planting a garden. I love gardens, and it doesn’t matter what kind: flower, bee, vegetable, whatever. I have fond memories of my Grandma Walter’s huge garden filled with green beans, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, strawberries, and what else I can’t remember anymore. Unfortunately, while I received her crafty, DIY, and gardening soul, I didn’t inherit her green thumb. My vegetable/fruit gardens have been dismal failures except for growing green beans.

When my boys were young, planting a garden was a spring break tradition. Each kiddo picked what he wanted to grow and together we nurtured the small plot along. Again, as I said with limited success, but what mattered was doing the project together. Now that my sons are on their own, planting a garden isn’t the same.

My son Zachary and the carrots he grew one year.

With my grim gardening skills, I’ve started doing the next best thing to growing my own fruits and vegies. I shop Farmers Markets. By doing so, not only do I get fresh produce at a great price, but the farmer receives more for his product. A win-win! But these “farmers” markets have broadened their horizons. No longer are they a group of folks selling produce from the back of pickups along the roadside. A lot are big shopping events. Communities, apartment complexes, and mall parking lots now host these farmers markets. They still have tomatoes, peaches, apples, green beans, squash along with an array of other fruits and vegetables. But now, they have products you might be as surprised as I was to find. Here are some of my favorites non fruit or vegetable items.

  • Candles
  • Plants for my house or yard
  • Pottery (I bought my mother-in-law a cool mug with a bird on it for Christmas last year.)
  • Honey
  • Dog treats, dog bandanas and other dog related items (I buy something from these vendors almost every time because you know me…I have a house full of dogs!)
  • Lotion candle (I love these, but they’re hard to find. When the candle melts  the warm liquid is lotion!)
  • Jewelry
  • Bath products: soap, body wash, shampoo, lotion, lip balm, bath salts

                           

 

Talk about one stop shopping!

To be entered in the giveaway for the cool T-shirt, yes I have this one, too, leave a comment on this question. What’s the most unique or your favorite produce item to buy at a farmers’ market?

The Big Cheese

Hello everyone,  Winnie Griggs here. Happy Monday.

A while back I read a little historical footnote that in 1804 President Thomas Jefferson attended a public party at the Senate where an enormous loaf of bread, dubbed the “mammoth loaf” was part of the food offering.

If you know anything at all about me you know I couldn’t just let this intriguing bit of information go without digging into it further so of course I did some research. And oh boy, did I ever find out more than I bargained for – in fact in the process I came across an even more intriguing bit of trivia.

It seems that enormous loaf was baked to go with a mammoth wheel of cheese that President Jefferson had received as a gift two years earlier.  And for the record, I’m using the word mammoth deliberately, because that’s how these items were described at the time.  I found a notation that stated Americans of this period were enamored with the term due to their fascination with the then recent discovery of the skeleton of a giant woolly mammoth in the state of New York.

This massive wheel of cheese was the brain child of John Leland, the Elder of a Baptist  congregation made up of the staunchly Republican citizens of a farming community located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. The goal was to recognize and commemorate Jefferson’s long-standing devotion to religious freedoms. Leland asked every member of his congregation who owned even one cow to bring all the milk and/or curd produced on a particular day to a local cider mill.

It was reported that the milk from about 900 cows went into the making of the cheese and that the cider press they used measured six feet in diameter.  The final product, once cured, measured more than 4 feet in diameter, 13 feet in circumference and 17 inches high. I read one report that said it weighed in at 1,235 pounds and another that reported 1325 pounds but in either case it was BIG. In fact it was so big it couldn’t be safely moved the entire distance on wheels. The logistics in and of themselves were interesting – it traveled by sleigh from the town to the Hudson River, from there by barge to New York City. Then it was moved to a sloop which carried it as far as Baltimore. The final leg of the trip to Washington D.C was accomplished via a wagon pulled by six horses. All in all, the approximate 500 mile trip took over three weeks to accomplish.

President Jefferson praised the people who had donated the extraordinary gift for the for their skill and generosity   Because he believed he should refuse gifts while in office, he paid Leland $200 for the cheese.

The cheese lasted for quite some time as it was gradually consumed at various White House functions over the next couple of years.  Finally, on March 26, 1804, the President attended the above-mentioned party designed to rally support for a naval war with the Barbary States. A Naval baker created a huge loaf of bread to accompany the remnants of the mammoth wheel of cheese as well as large quantities of roast beef and alcohol.  It’s assumed that the last of the cheese  was consumed during the event.  An alternate theory is that after this party, the remnants were disposed of in the Potomac River.

Is this bit of historical trivia something you already knew about?  And why do you think people are fascinated by things of an unusual size?  Is it perhaps the novelty of it all or is it something else entirely?

Happy Valentine’s Day–A Little Early

I know Valentine’s Day is eleven days away, but I never seem to think about the day soon enough. That means I end up running around like crazy trying to do something special. In order to keep that from happening this year and in case you need ideas, I’m sharing some Valentine’s Day facts and one of my favorite (and easy dessert) recipes for tiramisu.

  • Over 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold every year.
  • Men spend about twice money as much on Valentine’s Day gifts as women.
  • Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by kids, then moms, wives and girlfriends.
  • More than one-third of men are okay not receiving anything on Valentine’s Day.
  • The only other day when more flowers are sold than Valentine’s Day is Mother’s Day.
  • Candy hearts were invented by a pharmacist and were originally medical lozenges! Not only that, but 10 new sayings are introduced every year.  
  • People prefer receiving candy over flowers.
  • Caramels are the most popular candy in a box of chocolates.
  • 40% of people prefer an “experience gift” such as concert tickets or an evening out.
  • 3 out of 10 people say they skip celebrating Valentine’s Day, though they might treat themselves to a small gift or a night out with friends.
  • It was bad luck to sign Valentine cards in Victorian times.
  • 3% of pet owners will give their pet a gift this Valentine’s Day.
  • In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystavapaiva which translates to “Friend’s Day.”

I think making Valentine’s Day about celebrating everyone we care about and appreciate in our lives is fabulous! That could prevent the holiday from being one where so many people feel excluded. This year, let’s all reach out to one person who might feel left out or despondent on Valentine’s Day—a single friend, a widow or widower immediately come to mind. I’m reminded of the song “Love is Something if You Give it Away.” For the lyrics click here. The more love we share, the more we create in this world.

Now on to dessert!

Ingredients—

8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

½ C powdered sugar

½ tsp run extract

1 C heavy whipping cream

Lady fingers

½ C coffee

2 tsp cocoa

Directions–

1. Place Mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and run extract in large bowl. Whisk by hand or with electric mixer until smooth. Don’t over mix.

2. In separate bowl, beat whip cream until stiff peaks form. (If the whip cream isn’t stiff you’ll get a runny filling.) Fold into cheese mixture until combined.

3. Place lady fingers in 8 x 8 dish. Spoon coffee over ladyfingers making sure to cover completely. Top with half the cheese mixture. Layer more ladyfingers on top of this and cover with remaining cheese mixture. (Recipe calls for 3 layers using 1/3 each time, but I only do 2 .) Sift cocoa powder over top.

4. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

5. Top with whip cream, or not. Enjoy with a friend or family!

To be entered in today’s giveaway for a valentine T-shirt and a copy of Home On the Ranch:  Colorado Rescue leave a comment about your favorite Valentine’s Day treat.

Easy Tex Mex Baked Eggs

Holiday Greetings!

I don’t know about you, but when I have a houseful of guests, I love to cook, but three meals a day gets a tad overwhelming. That’s why I love this recipe. It’s quick and easy, and I get rave reviews, even from people who don’t think of themselves as Tex Mex folk.

Here we go:

6 large eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream (I cheat and use half and half)

1 cup of grated cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 4 oz. can mild diced chilies

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or butter a shallow baking pan. I often use a 9×9 brownie pan. In this case I used my fancy pan.

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in cream, salt and pepper.

Add chilies to egg mixture.

Spread the cheese in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour egg mixture over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until eggs are set. (Living at altitude, it always takes longer where I live–usually between 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it.)

Broil the top if you want more browning.

Serves 6.

I’ve doubled the recipe and cooked it in a larger pan quite successfully, because funny thing–in our house, this only serves 4. Hmmm…

We always top the eggs with hot sauce or salsa and serve with bacon or ham. 

Looking forward to seeing everyone in 2021!

Cheers,

Jeannie

Boot Scootin’ Holiday Favorite Cow Pie Cookies

 

As some of you may know, my daughter is a chef and is always coming up with interesting recipes.  I asked her to think up a recipe for Cowboy cookies and she did.  These yummy cookies are now a family favorite. My daughter wasn’t thrilled when I called them Cow Pies, but the name stuck and it makes the grandkids giggle.  Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas. 

 

 

Cow Pie Cookies

              Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of pretzel Bits
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans toasted
  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes

Directions

  • Place pecans on a 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted, stirring every 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture; beat well. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, pretzels, and pecans. 
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the sea salt flakes on top.  Bake at 350° for about 12 minutes or until brown. Move to wire racks to cool.

What is your favorite Holiday treat?

                           What I hear when I’m with you, is two hearts beating as one. 

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It was just his luck to have a run-in with a trigger-happy damsel.

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Classic Christmas “Sweeties” Part 3 ~ by Pam Crooks

If you read my blogs the past two months, you’ll notice a definite theme.

Candy.

My little series began in October with “Satisfying that Old-Time Craving for Sweeties” – you can read it here – and focused on candy from the 1800s.

The sweeties moved on to mid-20th century and featured treats we remembered from our youth, and it was great to reminisce with you!  You can read that blog here.

This month, we’re movin’ on up to modern day treats, and what better time of year to talk about candy than at Christmas?

The classic treats, of course, are candy canes, fudge of all varieties, chocolate-wrapped candy, and sugar cookies frosted and decorated. We could mention divinity, peanut brittle, ribbon candy, or peppermint nougats, too.

traditional christmas candy, old fashioned candy

The list is infinite.  But one thing I can say for certain is that no Christmas is complete without ALMOND BARK!

Yep. The basis for so many treats today is incredibly easy to work with. It’s a magical treat that the hard-working housewives of the 1800s had never heard of.  Likely not the ones from the mid-century, either.

Though I have scoured the Internet, I could not find the origin of almond bark anywhere.  But I know it’s been around for decades. The first time I’d ever heard of it was the seventies, I believe.  I remember being at a grocery store and finding almond bark for the first time. I intended to make some amazing peanut clusters that I’d heard about, and one of my classmate’s mother noticed me studying the package for directions and asked me how to use it. We stood in the aisle discussing the marvels of almond bark, and it’s been a staple in my house ever since!

The name almond bark is a bit of an anomaly. It does not contain any nuts, though it is very often used to coat them. It’s more of a confectionary coating rather than real chocolate since it does not contain cocoa butter.  Instead, it contains other fats like cottonseed or palm oil. Almond bark usually is sold in one pound slabs, supposedly to resemble bark.  I don’t really get that part, but whatever, right? It could also be called candy melts, candy wafers, candy coating, or summer coating.

The best news about almond bark? Your microwave does all the work!  No double-boilers or extra ingredients.  It’s so incredibly versatile, I couldn’t possibly tell you all the ways you can use it.

But here are a few ideas:

 

 

I can’t resist adding this one!  Elf Snack Mix from Shanna Hatfield’s COWBOY CHRISTMAS. So good!

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Of course, you want the recipe, right?  

ELF SNACK MIX

 

10 cups popped popcorn

1 cup cocktail peanuts

2 cups mini pretzels

1 bag red and green M&Ms

1 package white almond bark (or candy melts)

1/4 cup Christmas sprinkles, optional

 

Combine popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, and M&Ms. Set aside.

 

Melt almond bark/candy melts according to package directions. Pour over popcorn mixture.

 

Stir well to coat. Top with Christmas sprinkles, if desired.

 

Store in an airtight container.

 

So there you go!  Classic Christmas treats made from almond bark that are super easy, extra delicious, and more importantly, microwavable!

What is the one Christmas treat that you make every year without fail?

Do you have a favorite almond bark recipe?

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