It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is finally over – welcome to the new and improved Fountain Avenue Kitchen! After nearly four years of sharing recipes, it was time to make a few upgrades to the blog.
My new website includes a fresh look and a structure that will allow for better organization as the recipe archives continue to grow. As I worked on this website, user-friendliness was a main goal as was keeping the overall feel of the website familiar to my readers. So while the logo has been tweaked and the pages will look a bit crisper, you’ll still find all the old recipes and my same basic approach. At the same time, the recipe index will be easier to navigate and, for everyone who has requested it, there’s a recipe box feature. This will allow you to save all of the recipes you’ve tried and enjoyed as well as the ones you’d like to try sometime soon. There’s also a Helpful Tips section, where I’ll continue to add tips, tutorials, substitutions, and more.
My hope was that this site would have a magazine quality, where you feel compelled to keep turning the page, only to uncover unexpected goodies as you go. So after taking a look at the following portion-controlled treat–which is utterly mouthwatering, by the way, and makes a big batch that’s perfect for Valentine’s exchanges, teachers’ gifts, etc.–I hope you’ll take a few extra minutes to look around the new site and maybe even let me know what you think. I always welcome your comments in the space below the recipes, and you can contact me directly via this page. So without further adieu…..
Amidst all of the goodies we enjoy throughout the holiday season, there’s a special delivery that stands out from all the rest. It’s a cookie care package sent by Cindy, a long-time colleague of my husband, who lives and works in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
I can only imagine the time Cindy spends on her holiday care packages. Once the final touches are put on her popular assortment of cookies, candy, and spiced nuts, Cindy carefully packages them in festive boxes and tins to ensure a safe long-distance delivery.
This year, I stowed one of the boxes in the far reaches of the refrigerator in an attempt to—I admit this somewhat sheepishly—have it all to myself. Apparently, no corner of the refrigerator is safe in our house, because my effort failed miserably!
Ostensibly, this box contained basic chocolate peanut clusters, but the first bite told me that they were more than the sum of two simple parts. Plain old peanuts and chocolate are certainly tasty enough, but these offered something more.
When I thanked Cindy, I inquired about these crunchy clusters with their salty-sweet appeal. There were, in fact, a few other key ingredients in these mouth-watering treats. Yet the recipe was easy and conveniently incorporated a slow cooker in lieu of a double boiler, making the initial step hands off.
Cindy found her original recipe, which we both modified slightly, in the 2014 Wisconsin Energies Cookie Book. Cindy makes the chocolates throughout the year, changing the muffin liners to suit the holiday, and says they are always a hit.
I couldn’t agree more. As someone who can be a bit too heavy handed when it comes to dishing out dessert, I also appreciate the built-in portion control. One of these clusters truly satisfies a sweet tooth.
- 2 (16-ounce) jars dry roasted peanuts (you won’t use the entire second container)
- 1 (12-ounce bag) dark chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli or Guittard)
- 1 (4-ounce) bar semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped or broken (like Hershey’s or Baker)
- 1 (24-ounce) package chocolate almond bark or melting chocolate (see notes*)
- Coarse sea salt
- 1. Place 4 1/2 to 5 cups of the peanuts in a 6-quart slow cooker.** (Cindy always uses the whole first jar of peanuts and between 1/2 and 2/3 of the second. There are roughly 3 cups of peanuts per jar, and I used 4 1/2 cups of peanuts.) Layer the remaining ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the mixture and cook 10-20 minutes more or until everything is just melted. (Avoid letting the chocolate cook too long. Even on low, a slow cooker can scorch chocolate if left too long.)
- 2. Using a spoon or small- to medium-size cookie scoop, scoop mounds of the clusters into paper-lined miniature muffin tins. (See tip.) Sprinkle very lightly with the sea salt. Allow to sit at room temperature until completely set, 1 to 2 hours. The clusters can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. They also freeze very well.
- * Cindy uses vanilla or chocolate “almond bark,” which doesn’t actually have almonds in it. Melting chocolate is a good substitute. You may use white, milk, or semi-sweet-- or a combination of--melting chocolate. (In this batch, I used half semi-sweet and half white chocolate melting wafers.)
- **If you don’t have a slow cooker or simply prefer to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate mixture, I would recommend cutting the recipe in half. As written, the recipe is too large for most double boilers.
- Tip: You can purchase sturdy foil liners that don’t require a muffin tin, but the tin does help to support the candies and maintain their shape. I have one 24-count mini muffin tin. Once I filled it, I put it in the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate more quickly, leaving the remaining mixture in the turned-off slow cooker with the lid on. When the chocolate became too firm to easily scoop by the third tin refill, I turned the cooker on low for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.