Candy Cane Brittle

Peppermint Bark II

So I'm a sucker for chocolate and peppermint. Sue me. 

And for all those folks who love to complain about Christmas coming too soon, you'd better start complaining about me, too. We already have our tree up. Me and Buddy the Elf are ready. It feels so good to be home, not in transition anymore, not living out of boxes. (Well, pretty much. Trying to be patient.)

I would rather die than go anywhere or purchase anything on Black Friday, but holing up in my kitchen or dragging out the art supplies is another matter. And my mom started a tradition, way back when, of always making some sort of special treat or cookie on tree decorating night. I come by it naturally.

There were many other things I should have been doing yesterday, but I spent a good portion of it getting ready for Tree Decorating Night. Vacuumed the rug, hauled out the plastic tote marked "Xmas," and had to go to two stores to get the ingredients for these little numbers. I was doing it all for Wyatt. Really. He goes NUTS over chocolate and peppermint. Like I've said before in your presence, there's nothing quite as motivating as seeing your kids love something you make. Wyatt really goes for it, too. He rolls his eyes, groans, get chocolate everywhere. It's pretty great. 

I'm keenly aware lately that these are the moments I will miss and romanticize as I grow older and into different seasons of life. Don't get me wrong--I'm dying to go to Greece and Morocco, sleep in every once in awhile, and actually get something accomplished during my day. But all of that is overrated. These moments, unwrapping all the Chrismtas ornaments or cleaning up the playdough, are the real ones. I'll miss the physicality of the kids' little limbs, the completely un-self-conscious way they love things like Christmas lights and peppermint bark. 

This is it, and it's breathtaking. I am blessed beyond belief.

Candy Cane Brittle
Adapted from Bon Appetit. I used to be down on BA after Gourmet went under. I didn't want to like it. But guess what? I can't help myself. The December issue got me out of a kitchen stupor. All of the sudden, I want to attempt everything and travel everywhere. And that inspiration is totally worth the subscription price. 

P.S. I get chocolate for stuff like this at Trader Joes. Their "Pound Plus" bars are the deal of the century. And apparently white chocolate is totally passé. So 1984. I actually had to look pretty hard to find some. I settled for a Godivia bar from the grocery store. I suppose you could go without it, but I like the contrast and the way it binds everything together.

1 lb. high quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 c. chopped candy canes, divided (I used 6 "regular" size candy canes, put them between parchment paper, and pounded them with a rolling pin)
1 c. chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers), lightly crushed
2 oz. high quality white chocolate, melted 

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Stir bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of shimmering water until melted. Stir in 1/4 c. chopped candy and all the crushed cookies; spread mixture over foil till it's about 1/4 " thick. Sprinkle the rest of the candy over, and drizzle with the white chocolate (which you've melted in the same manner as the bittersweet chocolate). Chill until set, about 30 minutes, and break into shards. 

Halloween Bark

Halloween Bark
Yesterday, I was doing an interview for some client work. 30 minutes, me and a stranger in a corporate conference room.  I asked how her morning was going, and she said she was having a hard day.  Then she said, "When I go home at night, there's my daughter and a new puppy to play with, and I remember what matters. This is just work." She teared up a little and, since my tear ducts are connected to everyone else's, I teared up too.

I thought of her today, making this CRAZY sugar-packed Halloween treat.  I had one of those days that makes me feel nuts--"home" with the kids, but forcing Loretta to take a nap so I could make my conference call in time, distracted and anxious, wishing the day had 12 more hours in it but wanting it to end all at the same time. Then Wyatt came home from school, the promised Halloween treat-making ensued, and I HAD to stop what I was doing, be present to them, and remember what really matters.

Of course, it all matters, even the small stuff we're not supposed to sweat. Don't you hate it when people tell you not to sweat the small stuff? If you're sweating it, it's probably big. But there are some things that matter more than others--my seven-year-old sidling up and rubbing my back, my preschooler snuggling with me in the morning, destroying the kitchen by smashing up peanut butter cups and getting chocolate everywhere. The rest? It's just work.

Halloween Bark
Adapted from Bon Appetit. You could, of course, use so many other things on top of the chocolate--nuts, coconut, different kinds of candy bars, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit. This, clearly, favors the preferences of children, for whom absolutely nothing can be too sweet. I won't tell you how much I ate after they went to bed last night. All candy bars are the "regular" size--not king size or mini.

1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
2 Butterfinger bars, cut into irregular pieces
3 Heath bars, cut into irregualr pieces
8 peanut butter cups, cut into 8 wedges each
3 oz. high quality white chocolate, chopped
couple handfuls Reeses's Pieces

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Heat chocolate chips in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently, until melted and warm (not hot) to the touch. Pour chocolate onto foil; spread to 1/4" thickness (about a 12"x10" rectangle).  Sprinkle with butterfingers, toffee, and peanut butter cups, making sure everything sticks to the melted chocolate.

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently, until melted and warm (not hot) to the touch. Remove from heart. Dip spoon into chocolate, wave from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines. Scatter Reeses's Pieces over, making sure it sticks.

Chill bark until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut or break bark into irregular pieces.