Easy Christmas “Cookie”–Cracker Candy (w/gluten free option!)

2012 update: Thanks to the power of Twitter and a recommendation from Mary Ann Vadnais, this recipe now has a gluten-free option. To make gluten free, substitute the saltine crackers with Yehuda Matzo Style Squares. I’ve been told since from several people who tried this, that it worked very, very well!

2011 note: I originally posted this recipe nearly 2 years ago in 2009. It’s probably the single most popular post on this website, and I still get people asking me about this recipe, sharing the link and talking about making the cracker candy. It’s just that easy to make and just that good. So I decided to pull it back to the top for all of you who never saw it the first time. In the comments are discussions for variations, and I’ve tried them all, including the club crackers, adding crushed candy canes, etc. Honestly, my favorite cracker candy is still the kind that’s just the saltines and chocolate, not even any nuts on top. But this is a forgiving recipe, so experiment and find your own favorite way!

I think most of you are going “uh…what?”. I had never heard of cracker candy until about 3 or 4 years ago, when we did our first cookie exchange for our playgroup. My friend Jennifer did this for the exchange and I fell so madly in love with it. It’s probably just about the easiest Christmas cookie you can make (it took me twice as long to write this post as it did to make the actual candy) and super tasty.I have, in the past, made these and sent them to people who think I’m crazy when I talk about them. But the combination of the salty cracker and the butter/sugar that turns into a toffee, with the sweetness of the chocolate is so addictive! Here’s how to do it, complete with (bad) photos.

Spread out your crackers in on a jelly roll/cookie sheet pan. One with edges that you’ve lined completely with foil. Trust me on this, line the pan with foil. I decided to do a mix of soda crackers and club crackers, because I thought the buttery taste of the club crackers might be divine in this recipe.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and bring to a boil for at least three minutes. It may take a bit longer, but you’ll see it thicken and get a bit more gooey. I think there’s an official candy-making term for this. Soft ball stage? I don’t know, I’m totally making crap up now.

Warning!! Do NOT walk away from your pot. You must stand and stir the entire time or you’ll end up with a huge mess on your stove and probably burnt butter and sugar.

Pour the butter mixture over the crackers. All over the crackers. You won’t be able to get them all coated just by pouring, you’re going to have to pour it as evenly as you can (I didn’t do that and made it a little harder on myself) and then go back and spread it out with a spoon.

It should look like this, all cracker surfaces covered with butter goo. Now put the crackers in the oven on 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Set a timer. You’ll be ticked if you leave them in too long and burn them. And that can happen.

While your crackers are in the oven, grab your commercial-size can of cashews–what do you mean you don’t have one? Everyone has one, right? Well, anyway, at this stage, if you’re going to use nuts like pecans, walnuts or cashews, even peanuts, you’re going to want to chop them up.

Like this. I used my handy countertop Black and Decker chopper. You’ll see this featured a lot in my cooking posts. I just chopped the cashews until they were appropriate for topping. I use cashews because I like them best, but you can use whatever you want. A cup of cashews unchopped resulted in enough chopped cashews for the entire pan of cracker candy.

Here’s a shot of the crackers in the oven. This was longer than five minutes because I had to run upstairs and tuck Brianna in.

I pulled them out of the oven, see how they look kind of brown? That’s not bad, but you don’t really want them to get any darker than that. Don’t try to go for any particular color. Just bake them for five minutes and pull them out.

Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over as soon as you pull them from the oven. I also had an industrial size bag of dark chocolate chips (hey, I shop at Sam’s Club) so I had to guess at how many to put on, but it’s hard to have too much chocolate. I use dark because it’s my favorite. The chips will begin to melt immediately, but get them sprinkled on and then worry about spreading. You have lots of time. I spread one side out, the other side looks like they’re still formed but really they’re melted too. Spread the chocolate evenly. I had to move some around because I had a bare spot after I was done.

Look to see if anyone is around.

Lick the spatula. You’re done with it, it’s okay. Now put it in the sink and wipe the chocolate off the corner of your mouth. Be glad no one saw you.

At this point, you can just leave your cracker candy naked. You don’t have to do anything more to it if you don’t want. You can be done now.

I added cashews to only half, because I do like naked cracker candy too. Instead of adding nuts, this year Jennifer added Christmas color candy sprinkles to hers. I almost put some fancy sea salt on one corner of this, because dark chocolate and sea salt? Yum. But I didn’t want to get the salt out (I’m lazy).

Now the hard part. Waiting. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer. Possibly overnight on the counter if it’s cool in your house, but you might need to stash it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. You don’t want the chocolate to be soft at all. You want it totally set. Now break it apart. You can be anal and break it into the cracker squares, or you can just break it into random pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It all tastes the same. Addictive. Oh, and next time? I’m making them all with club crackers. The extra buttery taste made them insane!

Cracker Candy

35-40 Saltines
2 sticks of salted butter -do NOT use margarine
1/4 cup sugar (I use white but some people use brown. Your call!)
1 bag of milk (or semi or dark) chocolate morsels
Sliced almonds or any other nuts

Line cookie sheet with foil (sides too). Lay saltines side by side in one layer, sides touching. Melt butter, add sugar and boil 3 minutes. Drizzle over crackers, (keep crackers together). Bake 5 minutes @ 400A?. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate over baked crackers. They will start to melt – spread over crackers. Sprinkle top with nuts. Refrigerate until cold, even overnight. Break into pieces.

Weekly Menu: 5/16/10-5/22/10

I almost forgot about the weekly menu (again) because I’m currently in Toronto, where I’ll be until Tuesday. So, of course, that means an abbreviated menu this week, but I still need to cook the last part of the week, so let’s see…

Wednesday: pork chops. On the grill if it’s nice, in the oven if it’s not. Baked potatoes. Corn on the cob.

Thursday: Ranch chicken (I was supposed to make this last week, but didn’t). I have no idea what sides I’m going to serve. Side dishes are the hardest part of meals!

Friday: Grilling… fish for me, hamburgers/hot dogs for the others. Corn on the cob and roasted potatoes.

Saturday: Date night! Brianna is going to my in-laws for TWO weeks, leaving this day.

Heh. So it’s a lot easier when I only have to plan for three days. The next two weeks of meals will be different because I’ll be out of town both weekends (once for fun, with Josh, then for work) and because Brianna won’t be here. I tend to cook less and plan ahead less when she’s not around. But there will still be three of us, so we’ll see how the planning goes.

Anyway, what’s on your menu?

Expectant mom on bedrest needs your meal ideas!

My friend E. is the mom of 2 toddlers. She’s also pregnant w/her third child and has just been put on bedrest. Yikes! Thankfully, her husband works from home so he can help out, but the biggest challenge is meal ideas. Here’s what she has to say:

I am drawing a blank when it comes to suggesting simple meals for J. to make.

Breakfast is easy. We’ll do cold cereal, fruit, yogurt, toast, etc.

Lunch will be sandwiches, soup, salads (like egg, chicken, garden, etc.), chicken fingers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc.

Dinner is where I am drawing a blank. I need stuff that is really quick and easy to prepare. He is not interested in spending more than like ten or fifteen minutes preparing stuff. I guess that what we need is more lunch type ideas to eat at dinner.

What relatively easy, kid-friendly meal ideas can you share? Do you have super simple crockpot recipes, cold meal ideas, or quick stovetop meals? Please share them in the comments and help E. and her family out so they have one less thing to worry about as she concentrates on cooking a baby bean!

Weekly Menu: 5/9/10-5/15/10

This weekly menu thing is for the birds. Who thought this was a good idea? Okay, the truth is, I NEED the weekly menu, because it’s ugly when I don’t have one (like last week). We seem quite aimless and are always guessing at what we’re going to eat. It causes stress and makes me tired. So a weekly menu it is, it’s just that some weeks, it seems SO hard. Why can’t someone do this for me?

Sunday: it’s Mother’s Day, so I’m not cooking (much). Josh is grilling steaks and corn on the cob. I’m making Crash Potatoes and sauteing some asparagus and maybe some zucchini. And I made both Strawberry Pie and Strawberry-Rhubarb crunch (recipes to come on Wednesday) for dessert because we picked strawberries yesterday (I LOVE strawberry picking!)

Monday: Spaghetti. Yeah, we have this a lot. It’s my favorite meal to cook and to eat. And I love having spaghetti leftovers for lunches.

Tuesday: Chicken stir fry with rice

Wednesday: Pioneer Woman’s Ranch Chicken with mashed potatoes and salad

Thursday: Shish kabobs on the grill (ingredients to be determined but probably beef and/or chicken, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, potatoes, onions and green peppers)

Friday: Parent’s Night Out. Date Night!

Saturday: I’m going to stop planning Saturdays because we always get busy and don’t follow the menu

Etsy shop: Snappy Shop (Aprons)

I’m a big fan of Etsy stores and I can spend hours surfing on Etsy. Sometimes I’ll look for something in particular, other times I’ll just hit a general browse and look to see what catches my eye. That’s what I was doing when I stumbled upon this apron shop, Snappy Shop. Not only are her aprons full of win, but she has amazingly fun pictures that she uses to model them. In fact, going through her site, I became convinced that I’d love to head over to her house for a meal with her family, because they look like hella fun people!

I’m still deciding which apron to buy (I really love the ones with the matryoshka doll though), I’ll probably get a half apron, since I don’t have one in my collection, but she has such fun “marketing” on her page and such whimsical apron designs, I think they have to be rewarded with a purchase, don’t you?

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