a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Copy-Cat Holiday Treats #1 of---Several

Keeping You Posted on Chocolate and Other Good Things to TR-eat—yourself or others.

I have been posting ideas for homemade, original and copy-cat---gifts you can make for your holidays, quickly and cheaply.  I’ve encouraged you to look at the myriad gift catalogs filling your mailbox with a new eye — copying not buying. I’ve “talked” a little bit about how to recreate the expensive food and treat offerings from these catalogs.

Today I will give you some basics to get your thought process going and then --- teach you how to “bark.”

For the next several days I am going to share more of my ideas on holiday goody-gifts.

Again, I am not doing this to rush the season—rather to give you a chance to think about and plan ahead for the season. Most, probably all, cheap, simple and quick. Three of my favorite words!

I will start off with catalog-copy-cats — a wide variety — and continue from there. 

The glossy catalogs tempt you with luscious photographs of their products, their clever packaging and descriptions that make your mouth water—at absurdly high prices.

One company offers their products in your choice of either decorative tins or (for a reduced rate) in “home boxes,” which are, as far as I can tell from the photograph, nothing more than plain, unadorned cardboard boxes with a warm and fuzzy sounding name.

Check out garage sales, thrift shops and, if you are a “big” spender, the dollar stores for great containers.

With the recipes I will show the 1996 prices for the commercial versions of these recipes. 1996 is the year I self-published the bookette introducing these copy-cat candies.

And remember, the listed prices do not include shipping and handling!

I will not identify individual companies with these prices; however, my sources will include, but may not be limited to Sunnyland Farms, The Popcorn Factory, Crate and Barrel, Swiss Colony, Hickory Farms and Especially Yours.

Commercial “bark” is very expensive, especially when you consider how very simple it is to make: “Something” stirred into melted candy coating which is then spread thin and broken into irregular pieces after it has hardened. That’s all it is.

  • Gift tin twin pack with both dark and light chocolate pecan bark – 18 ounce for $17.25.
  • White bark with green and red peppermint chunks, packaged in a tree container – 16 ounces for $19.99
  • Combo of four barks (milk and dark chocolate with pecans, white with almonds, and light green with shelled pistachios in a gift tin — 16 ounces for $17.00.

How to “Bark”
The only challenging  part of the candy-making  is to be very careful, when melting it,  not to scorch it or let a drop of liquid into it,

1. Carefully melt the coating flavor of you choice in a microwave according to directions or over very low heat, stirring often. It will hold its shape until you stir it so you must be attentive.

2.When it is melted, stir in the additional ingredient(s) and using a rubber spatula, spread out to desired thickness on a foil or waxed-paper covered surface. Refrigerate.

3.When firm, break into chunks of desired size. That’s it!

Coating Possibilities: Starting, naturally, with the cheapest!

  • Almond Bark (comes in white, chocolate and butterscotch in the baking aisle with the chocolate chips) These are the cheapest and what I usually use. Sometimes I will combine it with a handful of chocolate chips. 
  • Chocolate Chips or Pieces (used in baking cookies)
  • Candy Melts (all colors and flavors usually found in the cake decorating/candy making section of a craft store)
  • Chunk chocolate (available in wide range of variety and price)

Some cooks get very picky about the quality of their chocolate — choose what fits your pocketbook comfortably. I use the cheapest and the only complaints I have ever had is when the candy is all gone!

Mix in Additions:
Coarsely crushed peppermints or candy canes
Chopped nuts, a single variety or mixed
M&M’s or mini M&M’s candies
Crumbled cookies
Anything that sounds good to you!

Working quickly, before the bark hardens, you can top it with sprinkles or additional chopped items. Press down lightly on the toppings to help them adhere.

You can decorate your bark with drizzles of a contrasting color. To do this, melt a small amount of coating, place it in a small plastic zip-lock bag, cut off a tiny piece of one corner and drizzle it over the bark’s surface. Refrigerate until firm.

Next post: Popcorn(s)

Til we eat again
           Simply, Gail

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