Never Too Early For Holiday Treat Prep

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Edible gifts from your kitchen can mean the world. Here are some sweet, relatively healthy options that can be made in advance.

For the chocolate lovers on your list, make these Cashew, Cranberry and Chocolate Clusters, and pair them with a bottle of their favorite red wine. If they fancy pistachios and granola, make these Golden Granola Bites, perfect for afternoon tea, especially when combined with a box of Hōjicha—roasted Japanese green tea—or Red Rooibos, which is South African herbal tea.

For the fudge aficionado, I recently uncovered a handwritten note with a “Fanny Farmer” Fudge recipe, with my grade-school penmanship! I changed the recipe by decreasing the amount of sugar, substituting bittersweet for semisweet chocolate chips, and adding Malden salt, with delicious results. It’s creamy, sweet fudge with pizazz.

Bon appétit!

Cashew, Cranberry And Chocolate Clusters(Makes about 6 cups)12 ounces dark chocolate, preferably 60-percent cocoa bean or more, broken into small pieces

12 ounces, or about 3 cups, roasted, salted cashews

12 ounces, or about 3 cups, sundried cranberriesTo prepare:Add chocolate to a dry metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Adjust the heat so the water does not boil.

Stir occasionally, until the chocolate melts.

Remove from heat.

Measure cashews and cranberries into another bowl.

Pour melted chocolate over the nut mixture.

Stir until completely covered.

Moving quickly, drop the clusters of nuts onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet using a metal spoon.

Chill, until the chocolate is set.

Transfer the clusters to jars, or boxes, for gift giving.Golden Granola Bites(About 4 dozen 2-inch bites)4 cups organic granola, your favorite brand

1/2 cup salted, roasted, shelled pistachios

1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), roasted

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup flaked natural coconut

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 cup heavy cream

Butter, for the panTo prepare:Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch square pan with parchment paper.

Generously coat with butter.

Add sugar, syrup and heavy cream to a heavy saucepan over low heat.

Bring to a boil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches a firm ball stage, or 244ºF on a candy thermometer, about 12 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat.

Mix together the granola, nuts and coconut.

Pour syrup over all, stir well, and quickly transfer mixture to a prepared pan.

Press the mixture into the pan with parchment paper-protected hands.

Chill, until firm.

Cut into squares.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap.

Seal the edges.

Refrigerate, until ready to prepare gift packages.Salted Fudge With Pecans(Adapted from Fannie Farmer Fudge recipe, circa 1940)

(About 3 dozen pieces)1½ cups white sugar

3/4 cup, or a 5-ounce can, evaporated milk

10 large marshmallows, cut into quarters, or 2 cups mini marshmallows

1 11-ounce package bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsalted butter, or half a stick, plus extra for lining the pan

1/4 teaspoon Malden salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup roasted pecans, choppedTo prepare:Line a 9-inch square pan with waxed or parchment paper.

Lightly butter the paper.

Add sugar, milk and marshmallows to a saucepan over moderate heat.

Bring to a boil.

Cook, until the mixture reaches a soft ball stage, or 240 to 244ºF on a candy thermometer, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Place chocolate chips and butter into a mixing bowl.

Pour the syrup over the chips.

Add vanilla and salt.

Beat with a wooden spoon, until the mixture has a dull gloss.

Stir in nuts.

Evenly spread the fudge into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle with Malden salt.

Chill until firm.

Cut into 1-inch squares when the fudge is set.

Cover with plastic wrap, sealing the edges.

Refrigerate until ready to prepare gift packages.

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