Saturday, December 17, 2011

Barking Up The Chocolate Tree

Barking Up the Chocolate Tree

Tis the season to be jolly. Also the season to be overworked, overwhelmed by lists
and chores, and sometimes, sadly, to be overwhelmed by the task of so much socializing. It isn't that we don't want to see our friends. We do. And it isn't that we're not pleased to find that others want our company. It's just that it all seems to come at us at once, like an enormous wave, rolling over us until our heads spin a
nd we're caught in the undertow of dressing, eating, drinking, and recovery.

For those of us who aren't superbly organized or get absent-minded or frantic when we have too much on our plates, I offer the following suggestions for making the holidays go more smoothly. I hope you'll take these in the humble spirit of fellowship in which they're offered. They derive from experience, not expertise.

Holiday survival trick #1: Take your special occasion make-up and put it in a bag and leave it where you can grab it in a hurry: the front of a drawer or by the sink. Then you can find it when you need it and you can drop that bag in your purse for quick touch-ups later.

Holiday survival trick #2: Select one or two outfits that make you look good and feel comfortable. Put them together on a hanger, sweater or top, pants or skirt and jacket. Then gather the jewelry or scarf to accessorize, any special "foundation" garments, like the one bra that works with that slinky sweater or control top pantyhose, and the right shoes or boots, put them in a plastic bag, and slip the handle over the hanger. That way, everything is ready to go when you are, and you don't have fight dust bunnies crawling under the bed to find your shoes, create chaos on the bed trying to find the right sweater, or rush half-dressed down two flights of stairs to the laundry room to find your underwear.

Holiday survival trick #3: Buy some colorful gift bags, a packet of bright tissue paper, some fancy teas or hot chocolate and packets of cookies. Make up some gift bags and leave them where you can grab one as you go out the door in case you need a last minute gift.

And last, but not least, because we all know that chocolate fights stress, because taking something homemade is far cooler than Trader Joe's cookies or another bottle of wine, and because we're all in need of something quick and easy that will make others ooh and aah as we present it, I offer, this week, a selection of Chocolate Bark recipes for the quick and dirty cook.

Jacquie Old's Chocolate Bark

1 lb of good quality bittersweet chocolate from some place like Whole Foods
about 50 tamari almonds from Trader Joe's
Cut up sugared ginger nuggets. They sell them at Whole Foods.

Chop up chocolate a little and melt it in a double boiler or microwave Have a cookie sheet prepared with foil lining. Then sprinkle chopped up almonds and ginger nuggets randomly in an oblong. When chocolate is full melted spread it on top of the almonds and ginger. Let it harden over about 8 hours. Then break it into bark slivers.

Alternative 1:

Peppermint Bark
Spread melted chocolate over crushed candy canes

Alternative 2:
Try regular almonds, or walnuts, pistachios, or pecans. Trader Joe's roasted and salted pecans are great with chocolate.
Use dried sour cherries or cranberries.
Spread your melted chocolate over trail mix.

Red, White & Blue Bark:

Instead of dark chocolate, use a 12 oz. bag of white chocolate chips

Melt and spread out on the baking pan and sprinkle with dried cranberries and blueberries.

Dark Chocolate and Toffee Macadamia Bark

½ box of graham crackers
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
½ lb butter (2 sticks)
3 cups dark chocolate chips (or your favorite chocolate bars, broken up in small pieces)
1 cup roughly chopped macadamia nuts (or other nut if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a lipped baking sheet with a layer of tin foil. Arrange a single layer of graham crackers in the pan without overlapping. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add the sugars. Whisk to dissolve. Let boil and simmer for 5 minutes on low. Very carefully pour mixture onto the graham crackers, working quickly with a spatula to even out the layer. Bake 10 minutes. Remove and evenly spread out the chocolate chips and leave it to melt for 5 minutes. Using spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly. Top with chopped nuts. Let cool. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Break into pieces.

A great treat that you can customize to your liking. Substitute with milk chocolate chips, those fancy white chocolate chips, pecans, walnuts, pistachios.

Share with the world.

note: the Dark Chocolate & Toffee Macadamia Bark takes 2 hours to chill.

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