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Pat’s Pantry: ‘Tis the season of giving

By Pat Mills

This season give a gift of love and sweetness. Homemade candies come from the heart. These recipes are easy to make and have just a few ingredients, but will make beautiful gifts to give and receive. – Pat

pecan clusters

1 bag (12 oz) chocolate kisses
1 jar (7.5 oz) Marshmallow Creme
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 can (5 oz) evaporated milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups pecan halves
Place chocolate kisses in large bowl with marshmallow creme; set aside. In 2-qt saucepan, stir sugar and evaporated milk; add butter and heat to boiling on medium. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour hot sugar mixture over marshmallow mixture, and stir until well blended and chocolate melts. Stir pecans into marshmallow mixture; drop by rounded measuring teaspoons onto waxed paper. Cool completely, at least 1 hour. Store clusters in tightly sealed container, with waxed paper between layers, at room temperature, up to 1 week or in freezer up to 3 months. Yield: 8 dozen.  Note: instead of mixing pecans into mixture, you can drop mixture onto waxed paper and then top with a pecan half.

oreo truffles
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 package (18 oz) Oreo cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4-cups), divided
2 packages (8 squares each) Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Mix cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended. Shape into 48 (1-in) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

peppermint-bark hearts
18 (2-1/2-in) peppermint candy canes
5 ounces vanilla-flavored candy coating or almond bark, chopped
2 teaspoons crushed peppermint candy canes
Line cookie sheet with waxed paper. Arrange candy canes on waxed paper in groups of 2 with ends touching to form heart shapes. Place candy coating in 2-cup microwavable measuring cup. Microwave on medium for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking time. Stir until melted and smooth. spoon or pipe candy coating into centers of hearts to fill spaces. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Cool 30 minutes or until set.

christmas hard candy
3-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or peppermint oil
1 teaspoon red or green food coloring
In a large heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook on medium-high heat until candy thermometer reads 300 degrees (hard-crack stage), stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in oil and food coloring, keeping face away from mixture, as odor is very strong. Immediately pour onto a greased cookie sheet. Cool; break into pieces. Store in airtight containers. Yield: about 2 pounds.

chocolate dipped potato chips
1 (7 oz) container milk chocolate or dark-semisweet dipping chocolate
wax paper
1/3  (11 oz) bag classic potato chips  (about 4 oz)
Prepare chocolate according to package directions. Line a jelly-roll pan with wax paper. Dip potato chips halfway into melted chocolate, gently shaking off excess. Place on prepared pan. Chill 10 to 15 minutes or until chocolate is set. Serve immediately with ice cream, or cover and chill until ready to serve. (Up to 24 hours).

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