The holidays are coming up faster than you can melt butter! Pretty soon we'll not only be throwing but also going to parties that range from neighbhourhood get-togethers to office soirees.
Here are a few fine and frugal sweet ideas courtesy of the Peanut Bureau of Canada (peanutbureau.ca.)
CHOCOLATE PEANUT CRACKLE CLUSTERS
¾ cup (175ml) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50ml) water
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 ¼ cups (300ml) peanuts
6 oz. (180g) coarsely chopped bittersweet (dark) chocolate
¼ cup (50ml) dried apricots, cut into thin slivers
¼ cup (50ml) dried cherries or cranberries
Cocoa powder (optional)
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly oil a wooden spoon. Place sugar in a medium saucepan with water and lemon juice. Set over high heat, swirling pan until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently. At this point watch carefully, sugar mixture can quickly turn from perfect colour to burnt. Without stirring, continue to boil, swirling pan occasionally until a deep caramel colour, 4 to 8 minutes. Stir in ¾ cup (175 ml) peanuts until coated.
Immediately pour onto prepared pan and spread with back of wooden spoon to evenly distribute peanuts. Cool completely. Place in a food processor and pulse to chop (some will be fine and some coarse). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave over medium heat just until melted. Stir in apricots, cranberries, peanut brittle mixture and peanuts. Using a small spoon, dollop onto baking sheet to form cluster. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Dust with cocoa.
Makes about 40 clusters
PEANUT BLAST SQUARES
½ cup (125ml) butter
2½ cups (625ml) graham cracker crumbs
1 cup (250ml) coarsely chopped peanut butter cups, about 4 regular size
1 cup (250ml) EACH peanut butter chips and chocolate chips
1 cup (250ml) peanuts
1 300 ml can sweetened condensed milk 1
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in graham crumbs until blended. Pat firmly into ungreased 9 x 13-inch (3L) pan.
Sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups, peanut butter and chocolate chips, then peanuts. Evenly drizzle condensed milk over top.
Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and deep brown around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. With sharp knife cut into squares.
Makes about 32 squares.
PEANUT TOFFEE PIE
1 9-in. (23cm) frozen pie shell
⅔ cup (175ml) corn syrup
½ cup (125ml) brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. (30ml) butter, melted and cooled
¼ tsp. (1ml) salt
2 tsp. (10ml) vanilla
1 cup (250ml) peanuts
Whipped cream (optional)
Place rack on lower shelf of oven. Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Place pie shell on a baking sheet and let stand 10 minutes to thaw slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk corn syrup with brown sugar, eggs, butter, salt and vanilla until any sugar lumps have dissolved and mixture is combined. Coarsely chop half of peanuts. Sprinkle whole and chopped peanuts over pie shell base. Slowly pour filling over peanuts
Bake on lower rack of preheated oven 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F (180C) and continue to bake until deep brown and just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand at least 1 hour before slicing. Delicious warm or at room temperature served with a dollop of whipped cream.
PEANUT CARAMEL SAUCE
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. (45 ml) water
A couple of drops lemon juice
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
1/3 cup (75 ml) smooth peanut butter
1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla
Place sugar, water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir just until sugar melts. Then, swirling saucepan occasionally and without stirring, boil until sauce turns a deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add whipping cream. Mixture will bubble vigorously.
Return saucepan to low and stir to dissolve any caramel. Whisk in peanut butter until sauce is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Let cool slightly then pour into an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 1 week. For a thicker sauce serve right from the fridge or warm for a runnier sauce.
Makes 2 cups (500 ml).