Christmas is coming! Santa is near. The girls can feel it in the air.
This year we’ve donated money to our local food bank on behalf of all of our nieces, nephews and family members. To be honest, it was the best thing ever. Each family is taking care of their own little ones with gifts, etc – but we’ve been so happy to teach the girls our reality. And what is that reality? Well, we may not have everything, but we have a heck of a lot more than many others in our community. And there too, but for the Grace of God, …. in this economy, you never know.
For the last few years, my classes and I have held special food drives for a weekend food program for hungry kids in Pre-K through 6th Grade. (Other kids can access food programs through their family aid.) The program (“Backpack for Kids”) sends home a backpack filled with easy-to-serve/make (pop-top cans, etc) and highly nutritious foods for little people. The meals target little ones who may not have access to food otherwise on the weekends. As a teacher, I know too well the look of hunger on a student’s face. This year, the program serves 1,700 kids in our community. That is up from 1,100 kids just last year.
600 more kids in need.
It’s a number that floored me.
I don’t need to hammer you with statistics, you probably know them. Let’s just say, I’m happy to know that our donations will serve a purpose. There are some great places to make a donation on behalf of your loved ones if you are struggling with what to get for someone. Not only to I recommend your local food bank, but please consider joining us in making donations to these other organizations:
- The Spoon Foundation: Working to combat hunger and childhood deficiencies in orphanages worldwide.
- Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry – working in the US to end childhood hunger.
And then make some great cards to let those you love know how they’ve helped another this holiday season.
And when you sit down to write your Santa letter, you could always ask for chocolates for your neighbors too.
At least that is what Zoe did. She and I were talking about the food bank (she’s been there with me to drop off donations, etc a few times). She asked me if the three neighbors near us would be going to the food bank this year. I told her I didn’t know, but that I didn’t think so. So then she asked if they had any ‘ersheys (aka “Hersheys”) in their houses. (Can you tell what we were out of? No chocolate in the house can be a disturbing thing.)
Since I told her that I wasn’t sure, she then added “chocolate for the neighbors” to her Santa letter. Personally, I think fudge is better. Especially at Christmas time.
So have no fear, if a donation doesn’t fit your last-minute gift-giving plan, try making this fudge. I’ve sent some along with my Love to work for his Christmas party and they were a hit. Today, I’m making another batch – more for the neighbors and this time, I’m going to make some salted-caramel mocha fudge too. Yum!
This recipe is based on my mom’s fudge recipe. Her recipe rocks and was so easy to adapt to add coffee extract, etc to make it a mocha flavor.
Dark Chocolate Mocha Fudge with a Toffee crunch topping
Makes one 8×8″ pan – Printable 2 page recipe here
Toffee topping: (you can substitute GF toffee bars if you’d prefer)
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- sea salt (approx. 1 teaspoon +) for sprinkling
- in a shallow pan, place the olive oil and sliced almonds over medium heat. Swirl to prevent burning, but toast the almond slices. Remove from the heat and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board. (Use a piece about as long as a cookie sheet – which will be more than long enough for this small batch of toffee.) Cover with half of the toasted almond slices. (Actually, place a pile of sliced almonds on the parchment and spread them out a bit – about to a 8″ square or so.)
- In a deep pan, using a candy thermometer, bring the water and sugars (white and brown) together to a boil. Cook, stirring the middle of the pan but without scraping the sides (you can swirl the pan a bit if needed), until you reach a temperature of 285F.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla extract. Again, stir these ingredients in but do not scrap the pan.
- Quickly pour the mixture over the almond slices on the parchment paper – but don’t scrap your pan! (Scraping will actually make your toffee crystallize and not be smooth). Cover the top of the toffee with the remaining almond slices and sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside to cool (which won’t take too long).
- Crush or chop the toffee into bits. (About 1/2 of this toffee recipe easily tops one fudge recipe.)
- Make your fudge.
Dark Chocolate Mocha Fudge
Makes one 8 by 8″ pan
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2/3 cup of milk
- 3 Tablespoons instant coffee
- 12 regular sized marshmallows
- 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup or a quarter pound)
- 1 large package dark chocolate chips (10-12 ounces)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coffee extract – OR – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/2 teaspoon coffee extract
- Sea salt for sprinkling
- Butter the bottom of your 8×8″ pan well.
- Cook together sugar, milk, instant coffee, and marshmallows over a medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring it to a boil, then turn the temperature down a bit. You want to keep a low boil – but too high of a temperature will cause the sugar to form large bubbles that pop and become lava-like burn potential while boiling – be carefully!
- Stir constantly over this low boil for 5 1/2 to 6 minutes. (Longer and the fudge will be hard, not long enough and the fudge won’t set.) (Cook until soft ball stage or between 235-240F)
- Remove from the heat, add the butter, dark chocolate chips and coffee extract. Stir until well incorporated.
- Pour into your prepared pan.
- Top quickly with the chopped toffee pieces and sprinkle a little sea salt over the top.
- Allow to cool/set before cutting into pieces to serve or share.
And don’t forget to walk some over to your neighbors as well.
After all, chocolate is for sharing, right?
Merry Christmas, All!
PS. Thanks for the fudge recipe, Mom! I’ve had it for years in my recipe book from you… and don’t think I’ve ever dared to make it. Not that it’s hard… I just knew that I would eat the whole pan! Thank goodness for little girls (who love chocolate) and neighbors, right?