Recipe Sharing: No-Bake Peppermint Cookie Truffles with Candy Cane Sprinkles

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

This is a recipe I found on LovaLatte last year and we all thoroughly enjoyed them. Emily is Vegan and therefore her recipe … is vegan (surprise, I know!). So if you are looking for an incredible vegan dessert … DO IT!

But last year I also looked up the nutritional info between the vegan and non-vegan options and was reminded of a certain reality: just because something is Vegan or Gluten-Free DOES NOT mean it is healthy or low-fat/calorie/whatever!

So when I decided to surprise the family with these … I went for the non-vegan options.

Ingredients:
– Package of Mint Oreos
– Bag of milk chocolate chips
– 4oz cream cheese
– Candy Canes
– Muffin cup liners

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Just five simple ingredients

Two Thoughts
– Cream Cheese – mine was the ‘light’, but in this case it doesn’t matter which you choose … so do full fat, light or the non-fat types. It is flavor and consistency that matter (so probably stay away from the ‘whipped’ stuff)
– If you buy pre-smashed ‘peppermint dust’, you are paying WAY too much and losing the opportunity to smash things with a hammer … your loss. 🙂

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Your weapon of destruction

Directions

1. Put the Oreos and candy canes in sealable plastic bags (squeeze out the air)

2. Smash them to bits.

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Former candy canes

3. Combine the Oreos and cream cheese in a mixer until they form a smooth paste. Start on lowest setting and work up … otherwise the cookies will get everywhere.

4. Using the microwave, melt the chocolate until it is smooth and creamy. Tip: it is easy to seize chocolate – so do it for 30 seconds and stir with a spoon, then in 10 second increments. You actually want to see chunk in it while you stir it, as they will work out over a few seconds of mixing.

5. Take a melon-baller or small ice cream scoop and make balls out of the cookie paste. There is no ‘right size’ … I make them large so I only get 12, but there is no reason you can’t get 24 more reasonably sized servings.

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You can dunk the cookie balls or put chocolate on the top and bottom. Either way is awesome

6. This is personal preference, I’ve done both to equal acclaim:
– Dunk the balls in the melted chocolate and transfer to the muffin cups.
– Or, put a teaspoon (ish) of chocolate at the bottom of the cup, then drop the ball on top, then put another teaspoon or so on top.

7. Sprinkle some of the smashed candy canes on top of each cup. Make sure that the chocolate is still melted while doing this so the pieces will embed.

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Just one trip to the freezer away from eating!

8. Transfer to the freezer to chill.

9. Enjoy!

And that is it for me until next week – I hope everyone who celebrates has a great Christmas, everyone who gets time off from work gets to relax and enjoy, and in general I wish the best for everyone 🙂

Friday Playlist – Five Favorite Christmas Songs That Are NOT Overplayed

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We are now coming up on the weekend before Christmas, and by now we’ve all heard Bing and Nat King Cole and Burl Ives and Mariah Carey and so on so much that it is enough to make you want to go punch the mall Santa! But seriously – whether you work in a mall or an office that streams in holiday music, or it is on constantly at your home or in the car, chances are you have heard the same bunch of songs over and over again.

So I figured it would be fun to make a list of less played Christmas songs. In fact, in spite of being the most annoying about constantly switching on Time Warner’s Music Choice or the Slacker ‘Yuletide Classics’ (really … my family is DONE with me), I have not heard ANY of these songs this year! Check them out!

Winter Wonderland – Harry Connick Jr. – best known as a Sinatra-style crooner, Connick is also a deft pianist, as this enjoyable read on the classic shows. But it avoids falling the typical ‘Sing Along With Mitch’ feel … thankfully!

“Fairytale of New York” The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – welcome to real life, folks! This is hugely popular in the UK, but not here.

Christmas (Baby please come home) – Darlene Love – a beautiful song that was used in the titles of Gremlins.

Queen – Thank God it’s Christmas – despite being a hit when released, it was never attached to anything so has faded through the years.

Somewhere in my memory – John Williams (Home alone soundtrack) – Home Alone remains massively popular, but this song has never gained traction outside of the film. But it is gorgeous in a way that reminds us of what John Williams can do when he tries.

Ring Out, Solstice Bells – Jethro Tull – something a little different than the typical Mannheim Steamroller (overplayed) song!

The Lord’s Prayer by Sister Janet Mead – OK, this isn’t really a Christmas song, but what better time to post about it. Here is more info, but it was a song Lisa knew from growing up, and we were able to locate it several years ago before it went out of print for a long time.

Father Christmas – The Kinks – cynical and dark, but totally catchy hook that reflects the late 70s when it was released. Seems kids these days don’t even know who The Kinks were …

Christmas in the Trenches – John McCutcheon – as opposed to Snoopy & the Red Baron, let’s take this stroll through the trenches during the WWI Christmas truce.

I Believe In Father Christmas – single by Greg Lake – 1974 and Vietnam was just winding down and the malaise of a stagnant economy, global struggles and post-60s letdown were in full force. Greg Lake is a great singer and songwriter, and this is one of my faves from him.

Carol of the Bells – Wynton Marsalis – another song that itself gets played on nearly every commercial on TV, but with this cool arrangement Wynton keeps it fresh! Love his Crescent City Christmas Card album!

Soulful Christmas – James Brown – Really, what Christmas celebration is complete with James Brown?

OK … so what are YOUR favorite underplayed Christmas songs?

Seasonal Saturday – A Place for Everyone on our Mantle

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The subject of Christmas Stockings came up on a couple of different blogs I follow, and I also saw discussion about ‘what happens to the pets’ when you have kids on a blog and a forum. In terms of stockings, some see them as decorations while for others they are purely functional and not hung if they won’t be used due to holiday travel plans.

In terms of pets, the thought on one forum sprung up with someone getting annoyed at the term ‘fur babies’, saying that their attitude would change when they had a REAL baby. I have a draft rant about the crap that parents need to stop saying to those without children … and suffice to say this is one of them.

The picture of our mantle shows how I feel about all of this stuff. All of the loved ones who will be here for Christmas are included.

We have Lisa and myself, and Danny and Chris. We have our two norfolk terriers Rosie and Riley (half-siblings through the same breeder back in Massachusetts), our 13 year old cat Leo (who has used up about 47 lives and been cancerous for more than two … but still hunts everything!), and our adopted orphan cat Dolly. My brother John and his daughter Marisa are coming to visit, so they are there as well! They are bringing their gods Ginger and Lia, but will have gifts with them for those two.

I will never understand why there is such a need to create distinctions and separation – for us our family includes all of our loved ones whether or not they are furry. So on Christmas we will have a house full of love, and a bunch of crazy dogs chasing each other around while the cats take refuge and hope things clear out soon.

What do you do with your stockings? Do you give your pets gifts?

Throwback Thursday – First Family Picture With Santa

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Last week at Bri’s blog she talked about how her daughter wanted nothing to do with Santa … and it really brought me back. Back in 1997 Danny was just over a year old, and had already done one picture with Santa when he was about 6 weeks old.

We wanted to head to the Burlington Mall and get a bit of shopping done, and get a picture taken with the Jordan Marsh Santa while we grabbed our annual Lenox family ornament. As it turned out there was quite the snowstorm going on – and where we lived northwest of Boston we got pounded on a regular basis! But since we just wanted a quick trip, neither Lisa nor I were really dressed – I hadn’t even shaved!

So naturally after standing in line for a while we got to the front and Danny decided he wanted nothing to do with Santa! That is why he has such nice rosy cheeks – he was all out of sorts, but with us sitting there and a solid grasp on his candy cane, he took the picture. And that is how we ended up with a family picture with Santa!

That was 1997 … and in 1998 Christopher was born, so I can’t help but share this picture, because … CUTE!

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Sunday Run and Decorating Fun!

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I never got around to writing up my run on Sunday, and then yesterday we had loads of fun decorating that I wanted to share, so here is more of an annotated photo dump!

I did have at least somewhat of a ‘run with purpose’ planned for Sunday – actually TWO purposes. First I wanted to put some new hardware to the test, and second I wanted to do a long run at a solid pace – part of my ‘ready for a half-marathon at a moment’s notice’ goal for the winter. I managed to do both – but the first one was somewhat of a comedy of errors!

In terms of the run itself, I chose the ‘airport loop’ with the addition of one of my hill routes and the 1-mile add-on neighborhoods off of the main local street. Overall it was a great 14.5 miles, and it felt great. Gorgeous day!

The hardware I was working with was the Polar RC3 GPS watch – with heart rate monitor strap, the Magellan Echo – which syncs to my iPhone over Bluetooth, and my trusty old Garmin. I got them all setup as shown in the picture at the top so they wouldn’t bump each other and started them up and was on my way. Things started acting up when the heart rate snap came loose about a mile into my run; then a couple of miles later my shoe came untied and I needed to stop; finally I got a large rock in my shoe so I stopped to remove it and re-attach the heart rate strap!

And after I got home I discovered that the heart-rate monitor gives up looking for the watch after a while, and that I must have bumped the Echo at some point between tying and reattaching, because MapMyRun lost a mile or so, and the Echo stopped … errm, echoing my data. So on my NEXT run I just brought the Polar RC3, and the subsequent one will use the Echo, and so on.

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After the run and as I was working on decorating and picking things up around the house I decided to try the ‘100 Burpee Challenge’ as part of the Elf For Health. Burpees are a great challenge, and I ended up doing mine in four sets of 25 – I put up some decorations, did a set, put together the nativity scene, did a set, and so on. Anyone who tells you they’re easy … isn’t doing them correctly!

Speaking of setting up the Lenox Nativity scene, here is the final product. I have always loved this – we’ve had it for years and years, and if you look you can see there are actually THREE styles of figures! That is because Lenox keeps retiring the other ones we have! Last year the little glass loop holding the star broke, so I need to get something to reattach that, because it adds a nice touch.

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The weekend before last Lisa and I were out doing some shopping, and she was looking for something festive to wear when working on Black Friday. At Target she found an amazing light-up Christmas tree hat. Here she is in the hat along with the scarf, sweater and other things she wore to work … oh, and a cherry martini courtesy of her personal bartender.

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The night we got Lisa the hat we were shopping for a new Christmas tree. We had gotten a fake tree about 10 years ago when we finally accepted that the allergies Lisa and Chris had to trees were making them sick and it was time to get a fake tree. Last year part of the tree would no longer light up (despite being one of those ‘will work with dead bulb’ trees), and no matter what I did I couldn’t find the source of the problem. So it was time – and we found one that was a solid replacement!

Some of the traditions we have while decorating are putting on the fire, tuning into ‘Sounds of the Season’ on Time Warner’s Music Choice, putting on our Santa hats and drinking egg nog! I love egg nog, but somewhere between a fairly rich dinner and the fact that we drink skim milk, I have to confess that the egg nog felt like drinking liquid cheesecake to me!

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Lisa found a couple of collars for the dogs, one with big bells and the other a jester collar. Riley took to his big loud collar without a problem, and while Rosie seemed fine with hers, the second day I discovered a scattering of little jingle beads under the kitchen table. When I sat down for a bit and she sat near Danny and I, we watched her picking them off the collar! So much for that! But for fun, just before decorating the tree I put the collar on Leo, who was not amused but tolerated the collar:

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Having a pre-lit tree means no testing or de-tangling light strands, but we still had to untangle the cranberry and gold stands we wrap around the tree … and at some point the strands got the better of Lisa!

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Our tradition is that our Lenox crystal star is the last thing we put on the tree. This year the boys wanted to do it – and even with a 7.5′ tree they didn’t need the step-stool!

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After that Lisa put the tree skirt around the bottom … and it was time for Chris to strike an oh-so-vogue pose!

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And – here is the finished product! After this we just hung out on the couch and enjoyed the view for a while.

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We had an absolute blast together and are looking forward to sharing new and old traditions in the coming weeks through Christmas and into the New Year!