Tag Archives: hostess gifts

Holiday Bark

Every year I try and find new things to gift that are edible.  At some point no one really needs more stuff and food gifts are a great way to tell people you care.  Second only to my spiced nuts, this bark always gets top ratings from my friends and family.  Bark is by far the easiest thing to make and you can mix up what kind based on the person you are giving it to or what is in your pantry.  This method makes bark even easier as it entails almost zero clean up.  Most recipes will have you “temper” the chocolate, which means slowly melting it over a double boiler while adding more chocolate as it melts to keep a steady temperature.  This keeps the chocolate from getting a gritty texture and a grey color (no good!) but is kind of a pain.

Years ago I saw a tip in Southern Living magazine about just putting the chocolate on a cookie sheet in a low oven.  The heat just barely melts the chocolate so you don’t run the risk of grey bark and it’s already spread out on the sheet so all you have to do is spread it out a bit more and sprinkle on the toppings.  Once the bark is hard you throw away the parchment paper which means only 1 spatula to clean.  Here I give you 2 different variations but use whatever kind of chocolate you like – other good bark toppings are crushed candies like peppermint, chopped dried fruit such as apricot or cranberries, you could even throw on mini marshmallows and graham cracker cookie shards and make smores bark.  The options are limitless so next time you get invited to a last minute holiday party, within an hour you can have the perfect hostess gift.

Holiday Bark 

  • 4 four ounce bars of good chocolate – I used 3 dark chocolate and 1 white chocolate bars
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 a pomegranate, seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and line with chocolate pieces.  If you are going to use two chocolates like I did with the dark and white break up the pieces and mix them together so you can swirl them when they are melted.  Otherwise you can just unwrap the bars and lie them next to each other like I did with the 2 other dark chocolate bars.

Bake for 5 minutes – the chocolate should still be holding its shape but when you press it with a spatula its melted inside.  Using a spatula swirl the two chocolates together and spread them out so the layer is even (if you use one kind of chocolate just use the spatula to spread it out and make sure no logos remain).

Sprinkle with toppings evenly (I did one tray of dark and white chocolate with pecans and sea salt and one dark chocolate with pomegranate seeds and sea salt).

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour.  Break up the bark into smaller pieces and serve or gift.  If you use a fresh ingredient like the pomegranate seeds you should serve them right away or store at room temp for no longer than a day.  Any other topping stored in the fridge will last at least a week.


Spiced Nuts

Coming up with a good hostess gift isn’t always so easy.  Sure everyone loves a bottle of wine but some occasions or some hosts really demand more effort.  I like to mix homemade things with store-bought things so going to parties doesn’t turn into a chore.  Spiced nuts are the perfect thing for this as they are super quick to make, as well as a perfect accompaniment to that bottle you lug along.  Best of all the host can whip them out and toss them in a bowl if they run low on supplies or keep them for themselves later.  The key to making a homemade gift like this special, is the wrapping.  They taste just as good from a ziplog baggie but something about a nice cellophane bag and a pretty bow really elevates them.  I have lots and lots (and lots) of different ribbon on hand – I suggest checking out the dollar section at your local craft store or Target and picking up colorful ribbon when it’s super on sale.  As for the bags, ones like these are perfect to have on hand.

These nuts are adapted from the Union Square Cafe, an amazing spot in NYC where Patrick and I had an unbelievable meal.  It’s eponymous cookbook has tons of amazing recipes so you can recreate their meals at home, including their addictive bar nuts.  My friend Ali requests these at every party I have and I always make extra for her to bring home.  I actually just made these for her housewarming party and since today is her birthday I thought it was the right time to post them.  Congrats on the new house Ali and happy birthday!!

Spiced Nuts

  • 2 cups of unsalted mixed nuts (I like cashews, pecans, and walnuts but use whatever you want or have)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast nuts on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then mix them with the melted butter in a large bowl.  Add the spices and toss.  You can make these ahead of time but not too much – I would say 24 hours.  Eventually the butter makes the nuts a little smooshy and the spices don’t have the same pep.

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