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These sweet treats add a personal touch to holiday gift-giving

By Jenny Harper Family Features (Family Features) — It’s true — the kitchen is the heart of the home. Ever notice how people always gather there? Whether baking treats, making dinner or spending time with family and friends, the kitchen is my favorite place to be. Since my day job is Consumer Test Kitchen Project Manager for the Nestlé Test Kitchens, you can bet I love to stir things up. This column lets me pass along to you some of my best recipes, tips and baking secrets. Sweet Holiday Gifts Admit it — a lot of you are already thinking about holiday shopping. I know I am! This year I think I’ll spend a little less time in the stores and a little more time in the kitchen, baking up some sweet holiday gifts. I’ve picked some recipes that make large amounts, so I’ll have plenty to give away. Holiday Peppermint Bark couldn’t be easier to make — it only has two ingredients. The pretty red and white candies will look very festive in a holiday tin lined with red or green tissue paper or in a glass jar with a holiday ribbon tied around it. I love making this fudge, too. It can be made with semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate or butterscotch morsels. I like to make a batch of each, then mix and match the flavors in a goodie bag or holiday box. For an extra special presentation, put each piece in a little paper candy cup with holiday designs on it. These tasty treats can be fun for the whole family to make together. Attach a recipe card to each gift — that way your friends will know how to bake up some holiday cheer, too. For more sweet gift giving ideas, visit www.VeryBestBaking.com. Holiday Peppermint Bark (Makes 1 pound of candy)
  • 2 cups (12-ounce package) Nestlé Toll House Premier White Morsels
  • 24 hard peppermint candies, unwrapped
Line baking sheet with wax paper. Microwave morsels in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on medium-high (70 percent) power for one minute; stir. Morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. Place peppermint candies in heavy-duty plastic bag. Crush candies using rolling pin or other heavy object. While holding strainer over melted morsels, pour crushed candy into strainer. Shake to release all small candy pieces; reserve larger candy pieces. Stir morsel-peppermint mixture. Spread mixture to desired thickness on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved candy pieces; press in lightly. Let stand for about one hour or until firm. Break into pieces. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Nestlé Toll House Famous Fudge (Makes 24 servings, 2 pieces per serving)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (5 fluid-ounce can) Nestlé Carnation Evaporated Milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line eight-inch-square baking pan with foil. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for four to five minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for one minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for two hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.
  • For Milk Chocolate Fudge — Substitute 1 3/4 cups (11.5-ounce package) Nestlé Toll House Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Morsels.
  • For Butterscotch Fudge — Substitute 1 2/3 cups (11-ounce package) Nestlé Toll House Butterscotch Flavored Morsels for Semi-Sweet Morsels.
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