The treats turned out really good! Here's a quick run down for you on each and a link to the recipe.
The fudge is easily the simplest recipe around! Essentially you microwave chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk together and stir. Then pour the melted chocolate mixture out onto a lined tray and top (or don't) with whatever you'd like. Refrigerate, cut and eat. It will firm up enough to eat within 20 minutes or so but it will be more like the consistency of the more complicated fudge recipes after several hours of refrigeration. We topped ours with mini dehydrated marshmallows and candy cane crunch so that it had a hot cocoa vibe. The upside is it's cute and tastes good. The downside is the candy cane crunch turns runny after a day or two and then isn't quite so appetizing. So just eat it all right away!
Requiring more adult supervision is the caramel corn recipe. I make this every year to give to my neighbors, but I make it with tons of nuts as the original recipe was written. The orange zest is the clincher in this recipe! Give it a try with nuts, if your so inclined. It's divine.
I was surprised by how much I loved the white chocolate cranberry cookies. Once again, it must be the orange zest that hooks me! I want to try these with some oatmeal in them too. Also with cocoa powder so that the cookies are chocolaty and the chips are white chocolate. And maybe with dried cherries instead of cranberries. Options!
Trickier than I thought- mostly because of the chocolate melting- is the candy bark. We tried two different approaches- swirling the two chocolates together and layering one on top of the other. Now that I have done both here's what I will do next time: Melt the dark chocolate, spread it very thinly on the lined tray, refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Melt the white chocolate, pour on top of the dark chocolate and spread very thinly on top. Then don't use pretzels and m&ms for the topping. It tastes great but it's not a great fit for the breaking into pieces part. The candy and pretzels popped right off the chocolate when broken into bite sized pieces. Maybe the fudge should have the pretzels and m&ms and the bark should have the candy cane crunch. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Last, the messiest one of all- home made cocoa mix. For these jars sent home, made in my kitchen and not yours, you're welcome! To cut down on the mess, help kids with the measuring of the powdered ingredients and maybe use a funnel to transfer the mix into a mason jar. This makes 4 servings of cocoa mix but it doesn't leave a ton of room in the jar for the toppings and also it was really hard to keep the toppings separate from the mix. The plastic wrap that we used as a barrier between the two was more successful for some kids than others. It isn't really necessary. It can all be layered together. Or the toppings can be bagged and given on the side or in their own jars. It's more for the aesthetic of the gift than the functionality. The instructions call for 1 cup of hot water and 1/2 cup of cocoa mix. That seemed a little over the top to me, but that's for real. There is a ton of powdered milk in the recipe so using hot water is just fine (as opposed to heating up a cup of milk) but don't skimp on the mini chocolate chips. They really make the cocoa yummy. I would love to hear back if you try any of these recipes!