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Basic Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can condensed milk
1/2-1 tablespoon unsalted butter (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the chocolate, milk and butter and heat on medium-low heat until melted, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla. Pour/scoop onto a prepared surface: a marble slab, silicone baking sheet or waxed paper. Use a butter knife dipped in warm water to shape the edges and let it set. Cut into squares and store in a sealed container.

Variations:
mint fudge: replace 1/2 teaspoon or the vanilla with peppermint extract. Garnish with crushed candy cane pieces if desired.
cherry fudge: replace 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla with cherry extract and/or garnish with halved maraschino cherries.
orange fudge: replace 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla with orange extract.
nut fudge: garnish the tops with walnut or pecan pieces.



Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge

This is the kind that dissolves in your mouth. The timing is tricky, but even mistakes taste great! This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Ingredients:
235 ml milk
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) golden sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 oz. (56 ml / 2 squares) chopped or grated unsweetened chocolate
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 1/2 cup broken pecans or walnuts

In a medium to large saucepan bring the milk to a boil then remove from heat. Stir in the sugar, salt and chocolate.
Return to the heat and bring to a boil, then cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Uncover, turn heat to low and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches soft-ball stage (234 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep a close eye on your candy thermometer!
Remove from the heat without stirring and let cool to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the butter and beat a little; add the vanilla and continue beating until it is smooth and no longer shiny. Stir in nuts if adding. Cut into squares before it hardens.

Tip: If it turns out runny, it is slightly undercooked. Serve on ice cream or add hot water and milk for some very decadent hot chocolate. If it is too hard to cut easily (slightly overcooked), wet your knife with hot water. You can also dissolve this in water and/or milk for hot chocolate or add it to coffee for mocha if it is too hard to eat as is.



Maple Fudge

Ingredients:
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not the President's Choice brand, as it is too thick for this particular recipe)
1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
dash salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts (optional)

Before you get started, be sure you are using pure maple syrup, not pancake syrup or maple flavoured syrup. The ingredients should only list maple syrup (no corn syrup, or glucose-fructose etc.). Using artificial maple syrup will cause this fudge to fail.
Combine the syrup, sugar, milk. salt and butter in a medium saucepan. Heat for about 20 minutes until the mixture turns a rich brown colour. It will be at the soft ball stage at this point (234 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove from heat and stir in nuts if desired. Pour into a silicone or waxed-paper lined 8"x8" pan and let cool before cutting into squares.



Magic Bars

Dried cranberries make these traditional bars even more decadent. This recipe is versatile and virtually fail-safe.

Ingredients:
2 cups of cookie crumbs (lady finger or animal cookies work well--use a blender or chopper to crush whole cookies)
   If using animal cookies: 2 Tablespoons butter, melted, and 2 teaspoons sugar
unsweetened shredded coconut, about 1-1.5 cups
1 can of condensed (not evaporated!) milk
1 cup dried cranberries
1-1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds or raw pumpkin seeds

Combine crumbs, butter and sugar (or just crumbs if using lady fingers). Press down into the bottom of a baking dish (~9 x 11, but close will work!). Pour about 1/3 of the can of condensed milk evenly over the crust. Sprinkle on the coconut, and pour on another 1/3 of the milk evenly over the coconut. Sprinkle on the cranberries and chocolate chips. Use a fork to gently press the layers together. Add the nuts, then the remaining milk. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit, removing when the edges start to turn beige. Let cool at room temperature and cut into squares.


Cherry Balls

A lost recipe from my childhood that I spent several Christmases re-inventing, this remains our family's favourite hands-down.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons milk (dairy, soy, rice etc.)
about 48 maraschino or glace cherries, drained and patted dry with a clean cloth
optional: chopped Dairy Milk or Jersey Milk chocolate
powdered sugar or shredded coconut for rolling

Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the vanilla, egg and 1 teaspoon of milk. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. If the dough seems dry, add the second teaspoon of milk. Chill the dough for 3-4 hours.
To form the balls, take a pinch of dough and roll it to a flat circle n your hand. Place a cherry (and a piece of chocolate if desired) in the centre and form the dough around it. Roll it gently to seal the seams, then roll it in coconut if desired. (If rolling in sugar, wait until the balls have been baked, then roll them in sugar while they are still hot.)
Repeat for the rest of the dough.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6-8 minutes.

If you use both red and green cherries, be sure to tell everyone that the green ones are lucky!


Easy Fruitcake

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 jar (750 mL) suet-free mincemeat
1 can low fat sweetened condensed milk
*1 1/2 cups chopped mixed glace fruit
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Combine flour and baking soda, set aside. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, mincemeat, condensed milk, chopped fruit and nuts. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Grease two large (9" x 5") loaf pans, and divide batter evenly between them.
Bake in a preheated oven for 80-85 minutes at 300 degrees F. Cool 15 minutes, then turn out of pans and cool completely. This recipe freezes well for up to a month.



Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies

A seasonal twist on an old favourite. Revised version.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal flakes, blended to a fine powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3-1/2 cup broken candy cane pieces (~3-4 candy canes--use a chopper, or crush them in the wrappers with a rolling pin)

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Combine wet and dry ingredients, add chocolate chips and candy cane pieces. Use a teaspoon to spoon onto a baking sheet (these will spread quite a bit during baking, so space them well apart). Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. Recipe can be doubled.


Butter Shortbread

I am perhaps the only person alive who makes whole wheat shortbread. I dare you to give it a try!

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, unsalted
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (aka superfine sugar)--you can also run regular white sugar through your blender in a pinch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine dry ingredients then blend into the butter. Press the dough into a 9" x 9" pan (I've used 8" x 8" and added 2 minutes to the baking time with success). Score the top as desired. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are starting to turn golden. Let sit 5 minutes, then cut into squares while still warm.

For a truly decadent treat, add 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips to the dough before baking.




Energy Cookies

The seeds and whole grains in these cookies add protein and nutrients without using nuts like most commercial energy bars.

Ingredients:

Wet:
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sunflower butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons water or milk
2 teaspoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons hemp nut seeds

Dry:
3 tablespoons sunflower flour
2 teaspoons brewer's yeast
fill up the rest of the measure with whole wheat flour to make 2 cups
    then add (& stir in well):
1 teaspoon each of salt, baking soda & aluminum-free baking powder
1 tablespoon powdered eggs
    In a separate measuring cup, measure:
2 tablespoons wheat germ, then add
add oatmeal to make 2 cups
optional: 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries or semisweet chocolate chips

Gluten free (wheat free--still has oats) version:
Replace the whole wheat flour with 3/4 cup buckwheat flour, 3/4 cup sorghum four and fill the remainder of the 2-cup measure with your favourite gluten-free all purpose flour, such as Bob's Mill or similar.


In a large bowl, cream the butter, sunflower butter, sugar and molasses together until smooth. Add remaining wet ingredients, stirring well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well, then add a bit at a time to the wet, stirring after each addition. The oatmeal and wheat germ can be added separately at the end to conserve dishes.
Spoon out onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 F for 11-13 minutes.


Child-Friendly Cheese Ball

Ingredients:
1 package cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup finely grated carrot
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 drops hot pepper sauce or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coating: your choice of chopped nuts, seeds or cracker crumbs

Combine the cheeses, onion, carrot and pepper until well mixed and form into a ball. Roll the ball in the coating, then cover and refrigerate over night.


Root Vegetable Casserole

Ingredients:
4-5 large or 6-7 small potatoes washed and any eyes removed (peeling is optional)
2 turnips or 1 rutabaga, peeled
2 large yams or sweet potatoes, peeled
3 large or 5 medium carrots, peeled
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
3 cloves roasted garlic
2 tablespoons butter (for a vegan version, substitute olive oil for butter)
optional: 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, milk or sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

To roast the garlic:
Method 1: Trim the top off of a bulb of garlic and drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil inside, leaving the skin on the rest of the bulb. Place on oven-proof dish and heat at 375 F for 40 minutes or until the flesh starts to soften. Do several bulbs at once. They will keep, refrigerated, for a month.

Method 2: Peel cloves of garlic and place in microwave safe dish. Cover loosely and microwave on medium-low for 1 minute. Check the tenderness of the garlic and repeat if necessary until the cloves are soft.

Cut up the potatoes, yams, and turnips into small pieces and boil until soft. Drain & remove from heat.
While those are boiling, and in a separate pot, boil the squash and carrots, or for a little extra flavour, roast these in the oven with a light brushing of sunflower oil until soft enough to mash.
Mash the potato mixture with 1/2 the butter, the garlic and yogurt/milk/ sour cream if using. Mash the carrot/squash mixture together with the remaining butter.
Serve in a casserole with the potato layer on the bottom and the squash layer on top.

Easy Baked Apples

So simple, yet warming and not overly rich, these are a perfect sweet treat in a season of decadence.

Ingredients:
unwaxed apples, suitable for baking

Wash and bake apples (with skin on and core still in) on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 350 F. Since apples vary in size and cooking time, you will need to check them and continue baking as needed, up to an hour for some types.
Serve whole. The flesh will taste like a rich applesauce, and may be best eaten with a spoon.