Homemade for the Holidays

BY Victoria Carlborg

White chocolate melts slowly in a double boiler the delightful aroma permeating the kitchen. Flour is sifted. Candy canes are pulverized. Graham crackers gently crushed. All by hand. All with love.

It smells like Christmas Ali Eldridge says.

For Eldridge a senior in Sara Butchers Foods I class at John T. Hoggard High School mixing and layering ingredients for peppermint bark is a highlight of her cooking experience so far this school year.

I feel like Paula Deen she says. This is so easy to do and so old-timey.

Freshman May-May Andrews collaborates with juniors Diamond Huff and Karina Nunez ensuring no water seeps into their bubbling white chocolate. About the time when the white chocolate causes students to salivate its time to pour it into their baking pan with the crushed peppermint candies and place it in the refrigerator to cool.

The students under the guidance of Butcher have spent a winter morning preparing three different dessert recipes in attractive Ball jars for homemade Christmas gift-giving. All three recipes were adapted by Butcher to create simple pretty and inexpensive edible gifts for the holidays.

We wanted to use common kitchen pantry items for our project that people could even prepare with little children for easy edible gifts Butcher said.

The peppermint bark is broken into chunks and stacked in the jar ready to bite into. The recipients of the smores bake and cookie jar gifts only have to add a few wet ingredients like eggs and buttermilk and bake to have a delectable homemade holiday dessert. Butcher estimates each attractive gift jar costs a mere $3.50 to make.

The Festive Peppermint Bark prepared by Butchers first-period class hardens for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before being broken into single-serving pieces and placed in the decorative Ball jars. Butcher printed the recipes and cut festive decorative fabric circles so when the students are finished measuring and layering the cooled peppermint bark in each tall Ball jar all they have to do to wrap the gift is add a fabric swatch decorative ribbon and recipe card to each one.

Butchers second-period students assemble a Fireside Smores Bake a modern take on the classic campfire treat hearkening back to childhood camping trips and cookouts with crushed graham crackers marshmallows and chocolate chips. Butcher recommends serving the baked bar cookie warm in a bowl topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Butchers third and last class of the day assembles a cookie jar consisting of a sugar cookie base with M&M candies as a colorful crunchy addition.

The hardest part of this is ensuring there is enough room for all the dry ingredients 12th grader Devyn Bond says. I will definitely make one for a gift and then the best part is baking and eating our sweets together.

The students hope to sell their completed jars as a fundraiser an alternative to the standard bake sale fare.

Many of Butchers students enrolled in her introductory cooking class because they had very little home cooking experience.

Some have cooked before but some have never even held a knife Butcher says. They are learning life skills.

Butcher is raising competent cooks by imparting kitchen basics such as cutting prepping cooking and handling kitchen equipment. She also teaches budget-conscious recipes nutrition food laws sanitation and food safety.

Her students in grades 9 through 12 spend 90 minutes together in each of her three daily class periods collaborating in small groups for cooking assignments from prepping to clean up. Hers is one of a few such programs left in the area preserving the past while preparing students for the future.

For Eldridge and Bond they will have to cook for themselves when they go to college.

You have to cook to live Bond says.

My dad is a former pastry chef and was always teasing me about me not cooking. After taking this class I made my dad pasta the other night Eldridge says.

You dont have to go to culinary school but everyone should learn to cook Butcher says. And how easy is this?


Fireside SMores Bake



10 graham crackers (one sleeve of crackers) crushed

1/3 cup of packed brown sugar

1 and 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows

1 cup of chocolate chips


Jar Directions: Use one quart-sized canning jar with lid and ring. Layer in jar in this order: pour the crushed graham crackers on the bottom; place the 1/3 cup brown sugar in the center of the jar; surround and top the brown sugar with the 1 and 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows; top with 1 cup of chocolate chips. Cut a 7-inch circle in the decorative fabric of your choice.  Place lid on jar and put fabric on top of lid. Screw ring onto jar. Attach baking directions to jar.


Baking Directions: Empty jar contents into a large bowl and stir. Melt 1/2 cup

of butter and stir into dry mix. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stir. Add in 1/3 cup of buttermilk and stir. Press mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Fireside Smores Bake is best served warm in a bowl topped with vanilla ice cream.



Merry M&M Cookies



2 cups flour

1/2 tspn baking soda

1/4 tspn baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup M&M candies


Jar Directions: Use one quart-sized canning jar with lid and ring. Layer in jar in this order: measure two cups of flour; stir baking soda and baking powder into flour; pour into jar; add granulated sugar; place the brown sugar in the center of the jar; surround and top brown sugar with M&M candies. Cut a 7-inch circle in the decorative fabric of your choice.  Place lid on jar and put fabric on top of lid.  Screw ring onto jar. Attach the baking directions to the jar.


Baking Directions: Empty jar of cookie mix into a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Beat one egg and add it to the cookie mix and stir. Stir in one teaspoon of vanilla. Add one stick softened butter and mix together with your hands. Roll into 1-inch balls and place two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees or until edges are lightly browned.



Festive Peppermint Bark

This recipe will make enough bark to fill two 1-quart jars.



Two 12-ounce bags of white chocolate chips

30 peppermint candies or about 8 candy canes crushed

1/2 tspn peppermint extract


Directions: Line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper. In a double boiler melt two bags of white chocolate chips stirring constantly. (If you do not own a double boiler you may use two similarly sized sauce pans. Place the boiling water in the bottom saucepan and the chocolate in the top saucepan. Be careful not to get water in the chocolate.) Once the chocolate is melted add in 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Stir in the peppermint pieces. Remove pan from heat and pour mixture into 9×13-inch pan spread evenly. Chill

in refrigerator until bark is hard (about 30 minutes). Remove from pan by lifting the parchment paper. Break into pieces and stack in jars. Cut two 7-inch circles in the decorative fabric of your choice.  Place lids on jars and put fabric on top

of lids. Screw rings onto jars.