My Mom and I have a few things we “bake” each December. I say it in quotations because it’s not really baking. More like coating pre-made things in chocolate that we can then say we “made” or as Food Network’s Sandra Lee commonly says, “Semi-Homemade.”
Here’s one of our favorites, pretzels with a melted chocolate with a Vermont Nut-free skipper on top to smush all the chocolate into the pretzel. Once it cools, you have a very tasty little sweet and salty treat that’s easy to package up and gift, or travel with.
Chocolate is difficult this time of year since so much of it is just not made in a facility that’s safe. Here are the safe chocolates that we melt in the oven at 160* over Snyders Pretzels for 5 minutes before adding the skippers.
- Hersheys Hugs, Classic package, not holiday package
- Hersheys Kisses, Classic package, not holidays package
- Rolos, classic packaging
“I love candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” Buddy the Elf
If you follow me on Insta, you saw that yesterday I was making chocolate covered pretzels when I suddenly ran out of chocolate skippers to top each pretzel with. Some quick thinking led me to an entire unopened box of candy canes in our pantry. I did not know why they were sealed shut, or if they were even safe? Who knows – when I clean up after the holidays, things get crazy and I just start chucking stuff. So I decided to find out who the heck Bobs Candy’s Canes really is.
After some research, Bobs is owned by Farleys & Sathers Candy Co., which in 2012 was purchased by an even bigger conglomerate, Ferrera Candy Co. Ferrera owns:
- Black Forest Organic
- Now and Later
- Red Hots
- Lemon Heads
- Atomic Fire Ball
- Jaw Breakers
- Super Bubble Gum
- Fruit Stripe
- Boston Baked Beans
A friendly customer service rep named Jamie called me back today to let me know that the candy canes are nut free. If the UPC code ends with the letters “BR” they are also made in an allergy free facility. How cool is that?! She also stated that if an allergen is present in the facility, it will be indicated on the label, everything will be on the label under ingredients! I’m glad I called because now I know what to look for on their labels and what candy they make.
Just thought I’d share some of our snack week ideas:
Monday: Mandarin Oranges + Teddy Graham’s Travel Size Bags, Original flavor
Tuesday: Fruit Leather by Target (simply balanced) + Mini Cucumbers – photo below
Wednesday: Holiday Party Food + Cheese-Its
Thursday: Pirates Booty individual bags
Friday: Skinny Pop individual bags
Once upon a time, I had two very young kids. Lets see, they were 1 and 3, and I was frantically preparing for the holidays. At this point in life, I was still thinking that I had to “do-it-all” – but I’m older now, by three years to be exact, and while I’m still learning, and things are still changing, I do know this:
Whatever I do not finish, you will never know about!
The holidays put a lot of pressure on us to do certain things. Sometimes they are traditions that we feel we MUST do, other things are just nice gestures, of which I usually go over board on!
Three years ago, I didn’t have enough time to make ALLLLLL the millions of Holiday cookies that I had planned. So, Santa was coming (literally the next day) and we needed to put SOMETHING out by the fireplace for him and the reindeer to eat. Pantry items that came to mind: chex cereal, chocolate chips, sunbutter = presto! We have “Reindeer Food!” Us Moms can be so creative when we need to be.
Reindeer Food is a tradition in our home now – and it’s nice too – it lasts for WEEKS in tupperware or a zip top bag and the kids love it. Oh, and if you’re wondering, this is the same exact recipe for Puppy Chow! We just add some Chocolate Skippers in to make it festive for the reindeer, of course.
This year, we’re sharing Reindeer Food at my daughter’s school since it’s nut-free and easy to share.
- 9 cups chex rice cereal
- 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips – Enjoy Life Brand, Target, top Shelf in baking aisle
- 1/2 cup Sunbutter
- 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1.5 cups of powdered sugar
- In large bowl, measure cereal and set aside.
- In 1-quart double boiler, melt chocolate, sunbutter, and butter until smooth.
- Stir in vanilla
- Pour mixture over cereal
- If using a giant tupperware, combine, put lid on, and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE with the powdered sugar until all is coated.
- Sprinkle in your favorite nut-free chocolate or candy to make it fun
If you’re in a pinch this holiday season,Walgreens has some nut-free options! This package has 8 small travel friendly packages that include a “to and from” for gift giving, too! The Santa shape was a crowd pleaser here!
Quick little post here – last night I grabbed a holiday tall,non-fat peppermint mocha, full whip – when out of the corner of my eye I spied a little Starbucks Gingerbread House + Cookies! Both appear to be 100% nut-free. I called Starbucks corporate office today and they also confirmed the label, stating no nuts or cross contamination. The peeps at Starbucks didn’t seem completely knowledgeable about food allergies, so that was a little concerning to me. However, when I talked with my #1 Mom/Food Allergy friend, she agreed that it was probably safe since Starbucks is actually really, really good about labeling cookies, mints, etc. Have you looked at their ingredient listing lately? We can’t eat AnYTHING from Starbucks. So, if you try it, let me know. I may or may not do it. We shall see! We already have a gingerbread house this year….
After playing in the snow, my kids almost always ask for Hot Chocolate. Usually, my answer is yes, if we are at home. Like everything else we eat, we must check the label. Hot chocolates are usually NOT safe for us to drink. Like regular chocolate candy, most hot chocolate mixes are made in facilities with nuts, or other winter/holiday items that contain nuts. Rather than memorizing a million different safe brands, I have chosen 2 safe brands to research and stay on top of.
1. Swiss Miss
2. Quick Bunny powdered mix
I have been a Swiss Miss fan since I was a little girl, so I’m happy when my kids ask for it. It really brings back good memories of my brother and I sledding and playing in our yard.
Swiss Miss is also made in Wisconsin, which I love. They use real milk (sorry if you have dairy allergy) and patronize over 80 dairy farms in our state to make their products. Swiss Miss is owned by a large food conglomerate ConAgra. Since ConAgra manufactures a ton of different items, I felt it was necessary to write to ConAgra to see how safe the SwissMiss chocolate is that we have been drinking:
” Quote from Swiss Miss coming soon!”
Please note the big name hot chocolate mixes are NOT safe. I repeat, NOT safe to drink if you have nut allergies of any kind.
- Starbucks: cafe, drive thru, store bought, target packets – NOT SAFE
- Ghirardelli: store bought or in a coffee shop (many small coffee shops use this brand, ask to see a label) NOT SAFE
- Hershey’s: I don’t trust their labeling
- Archer Farms: Target brand, NOT SAFE
If you’re out and about this season and want to get a safe drink for you, or your child, I recommended a vanilla milk steamer. STARBUCKS makes these for my kids all the time, and they even keep the temperature down so they can drink them right away.