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It’s not that people in other states don’t enjoy Snickers apple salad, but according to a New York Times article of unusually popular recipes Googled on Thanksgiving in every state, people in South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska searched for Snickers salad more than in any other state. And although we Minnesotans searched mostly for wild rice casserole (which I’ve never made), Snicker salad and apple Snicker salad were two of the top five most searched recipes in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Snickers apple salad

Check out the map in the Times article. If you live in Utah, you searched mostly for funeral potatoes (my favorite) and you are surrounded by frog eye salad lovers. Your only way out is with a handful of turkey enchiladas through Arizona. It’s hard to imagine placing a bowl full of pasta, eggs, and fruit stirred together on my Thanksgiving table. I’d rather buzz up to North Dakota and eat your cookie salad, a kissing cousin to the Midwest’s coveted Snickers salad.

Maine and New Hampshire, you are making a lot of whoopie up there with one of my favorite ingredients. Hawaii, while you were busy searching for cranberry relish, Illinois was looking for ways to make Hawaiian salad. Maybe next year Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad will make the list?

Butterfinger apple coconut salad

I’m making Snickers apple salad for our casual Christmas lunch, along with my kids’ favorite magic chicken noodle soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup | Random Sweetness Baking

Snickers Apple Salad

1-½ cups cold 2% or whole milk

1 package (3.4 ounce) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 tub (8 ounce) frozen whipped topping, thawed

2 Granny Smith apples (approximately 2 cups)

2 Honeycrisp apples (approximately 2 cups)

Snickers candy bars (bag of fun-size bars or 4 (2.07 ounce) bars, chopped into bite size pieces

In a large bowl, whisk milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples and candy bars.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

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Even if you’re ordering pizza delivery while your mother-in-law stirs a pot of oyster stew, may delicious food grace your table this holiday season. And may you not have to eat frog eye salad unless you want to.

Sweet food traditions,

Staci

 

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My daughter loves traditional Snickers apple salad with vanilla pudding, whipped cream, red and green apples, and Snickers candy bars. I was excited to tailor it to other flavors she likes by pouring coconut milk into the pudding and tossing in Butterfinger candy instead of Snickers.

But you’d have thought I added bright red beets.

Me: “Kalani, I made a special salad for you like the Snickers and apple salad you love but it has Butterfingers in it.”

Kalani: “Oh, I don’t really like Butterfingers that much. I like Snickers so that’s why I like that salad.”

Butterfinger apple coconut salad | Random Sweetness Baking

Me: “Um, well, I was excited to make it for you because when we go to the Zesto, you always order a Butterfinger Avalanche with coconut and chocolate ice cream.”

Kalani: “Ya, well that’s because Snickers freeze when they are in ice cream and they are too hard to eat.”

Me: “OK. It’s in the refrigerator if you decide to try some. It has Honeycrisp and green apples.”

The next day…

Kalani: “That salad was actually really good!”

Me: “I’m glad you liked it! Could you taste coconut?”

Kalani: “No.”

Me: “If I make it again I’ll add more coconut milk. I didn’t use too much because I wasn’t sure if the taste would be too strong. I didn’t actually use coconut because I don’t like coconut.”

Kalani: “Oh.”

Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad

1 cup cold coconut milk (coconut milk is found in the Chinese/Oriental food section – do NOT use cream of coconut)

1/2 cup cold milk

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) carton whipped cream

2 Granny Smith apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 Honeycrisp apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces (or your favorite red apple)

bag of fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped (or 5 regular size Butterfinger candy bars chopped)

1/2 cup flaked coconut, optional

In a large bowl, whisk coconut milk and milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples, candy bars, and coconut.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

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We’ve all seen them, probably even eaten a few — pretzels with melted candies gently pressed into their salty crevices. With all the different flavors people have created, I still go back to my favorite that my mom started making a few years ago. She uses Mint M&M’s candies. They’re the white, green, and red milk chocolate candies that have only been available around the Christmas holiday. So stock up, because they will be hard to find soon.

A few fun recipes I’ve seen for different pretzel snacks are Rolo Pretzel Turtles from Steamy Kitchen, Rolo Pretzels with Pretzel M&M’s from Two Peas and Their Pod, Candy Cane Pretzel Kisses from Cookies and Cups, Peanut Butter M&M Pretzel Kisses from Simply Scratch, and Dark Chocolate Mint Pretzel Kisses from Cookin’ Cowgirl.

Mint M&M’s Pretzel Kisses

Bag of mini pretzel twists or squares

Bag of HERSHEY’s Milk Chocolate Kisses

Bag of Mint M&M’s Chocolate Candies (They are usually in the Christmas candy isle.)

Preheat the oven to 200°. Place pretzels on a cookie sheet. (The number of HERSHEY’s Kisses you have determines how many pretzels you need.)

Unwrap the Kisses and place one in the center of each pretzel. Bake in the oven for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes. The Kiss will not look melted. Remove the pan from the oven. Immediately and gently push one mint M&M into each melted kiss. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. If there’s any left after sitting out all day.

If you haven’t made these before, here’s a tip. If you don’t bake these long enough, the kiss will be melted only on the top half. When you try to push the M&M into it, it won’t really stick well. On the other hand, if you bake these too long, the chocolate and turn hard again and when that happens, there’s no going back. You can’t reheat them to fix it. My suggestion, bake at 2-1/2 minutes and then remove the pan and try an M&M. If it works right away, great, you are done. If it seems to only push down halfway, stick in the oven for another 30 seconds. Check again. It only takes a few seconds too long to over-bake.

What kind of pretzel snacks do you make?

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No-bake goodies are a hit in the summer when we don’t want our ovens to heat up the house. Like these S’mores bars. But now it’s fall and kitchens everywhere are heating up with warm nutmeg, spicy ginger, and creamy pumpkin sweets.

Except at my house. My oven is broken. So, to prevent myself from going into a serious I-can’t-bake-depression, I’m flipping through my recipe box for recipes that will satisfy my need to preheat to 350°. Gooey, chocolatey S’mores bars do the trick.

The key to making S’mores bars taste like the real campfire deal is to use HERSHEY’S chocolate candy bars.

S’mores Bars

3/4 cup light corn syrup

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup milk chocolate chips, preferably HERSHEY’S

2 (4.4-ounce each) HERSHEY’S chocolate candy bars, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla

9 cups Golden Grahams cereal (12-ounce box)

3 cups mini marshmallows, plus a handful to sprinkle over the top if desired

Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil, or grease pan lightly with butter.

Microwave the corn syrup, butter, 1 cup milk chocolate chips, and 1 HERSHEY’S candy bar in a large bowl, uncovered, on medium-high for 1-1/2 minutes. Stir until almost smooth. Microwave again, uncovered, until large bubbles form on the surface, about 2-1/2 minutes longer.

Stir in vanilla. Pour the cereal in the bowl and toss until coated with mixture. Fold in the marshmallows. Chop the other HERSHEY’S candy bar and fold into the cereal mixture. Dump into the pan and press evenly with the back of a large metal spoon sprayed with cooking spray. Toss a handful of mini marshmallows on the top and tap down so they stick. If you have a kitchen torch, lightly toast the marshmallows.

Let cool completely. Cut and share.

See more of my no-bake recipes.

What other treats could I make while I wait for my oven to get fixed? The stove top still works.

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Although the names and variations of this caramel cake are as broad as Pink’s hair color, the dessert has been a family tradition for some people for so long they can’t imagine there are people trying it for the first time. For me, it was only a few years ago. My friend, Caitlin O., shared it with us at work and even though I was “cake reluctant,” I slid my fork in it and with one sticky bite I was hoping not everyone in the department knew we had cake = more for me.

The recipe graces pages of community cookbooks, from fundraisers, employee-submitted, family heritage, etc., but to find Better Than Sex Cake in a church ladies cookbook, you’ll find it under a discreet name like Better Than Anything (or Almost Anything) Cake, Better Than Whatever you Wanna Call It Cake, or Heath Cake.

I know, I know – some of you have been reading my blog long enough to know I don’t like cake. Especially the kind you poke holes in and pour in Jell-O or pudding. But this is different. It’s sweetened condensed milk and caramel. You use your favorite caramel ice cream topping. (Like the butterscotch one I drink from a shot glass when I make Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake.) Are you with me?

Better Than Sex Cake

1 box (13 x 9-inch pan size) German chocolate cake mix, and ingredients to bake the cake

1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk

1 jar (approximately 17 ounces or so) caramel ice cream topping

1 tub (8-ounce) whipped topping, thawed

1 package (8-ounce) chocolate toffee pieces (I use Hershey’s Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits)

Bake the cake according to package directions.

As soon as the cake is done, pull it out of the oven and poke holes in the cake with the handle of a mixing spoon. (I use a long-handled lemonade-stirring spoon.) Immediately pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the cake and repeat with the caramel topping.

Let the cake cool in the refrigerator until completely cool. Top with whipped topping and put back in the fridge. Immediately before serving, generously sprinkle the toffee bits on each slice. Store in the refrigerator.

Plan to share this cake because it’s best within 24 hours.

Will this be your first time eating Better Than Sex Cake? Do you have a different name for it?

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It’s happened twice so I hope it becomes a family tradition.

When my two oldest nephews graduated from high school, I offered to bring cheesecake to their parties. Each time, my offer was accepted. On this year’s menu: Caramel Snickers, Raspberry White Chocolate Truffle, Andes Mint and Reese’s® Salted cheesecake. This one is Garritt’s favorite.

{Reese’s® Salted Cheesecake}

3/4 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers

3/4 cup finely crushed pretzels

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

5 packages (8-ounces each) cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for topping if desired

Heat oven to 350°. Combine crushed pretzels and vanilla wafers with melted butter. Reserve 1/4 cup for topping. Press the remaining crust mixture into a greased 9-inch springform pan or 3 greased mini cheesecake pans. Bake 8 minutes in a 9-inch springform or 4 minutes if using the mini cheesecake pans. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add white and brown sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Do not over beat. Stir in chopped peanut butter cups.

Pour cheesecake batter into pan. Bake in 9-inch pan for 50-55 minutes. If using mini cheesecake pans, bake 15-18 minutes or until the top starts to turn a light brown and the center still looks a little shiny.

Remove from oven and cool 2 hours. Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving. Top with reserved crust crumbs and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Do you have a special recipe that is traditionally served at family graduation parties?

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There’s no reason to get sappy. If you can’t buy the real Pearson’s Maple Bun Bars where you live, make them yourself! Click here for a locator to find where you can purchase the candy bars, because I highly recommend you eat the real Maple Bun Bars when you can, and make this recipe for times when you can’t.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bun Bar, maybe the Salted Nut Roll rings a bell? Or how about those little Mint Patties wrapped in silver and green foil, cleverly placed in a big jar near the cash register at your local café? They are all made at Pearson’s in Minnesota.

I like the story of Pearson’s Candy Company, which three Pearson brothers began in Minneapolis in 1909 as a candy distribution company. They did some candy manufacturing and a few years later two more brothers joined the company. At the end of World War II, they got out of the candy distribution business and focused on candy making.  In 2011, Brynwood Partners VI, L.P. purchased the company. Note to the new owners: you’ve got a good thing going here –  don’t change a thing except for making your candy available in more locations. xoxoxo Staci

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Pearson’s Candy Company in any way. Of course we all know this recipe is not really the Maple Nut Bun Bar recipe – it’s my version of the candy bar, just to get me through times I can’t buy them in my area. Unlike my opinion that my homemade Snickers®are better than the real thing, you just can’t duplicate the distinct maple flavor and the slight snap of the chocolate layer in a real Pearson’s Maple Nut Bun Bar.

Maple Nut Bars

Generously butter a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt together the chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, mixing well until smooth.

Spread a generous half of the mixture in the buttered pan. (As you can see in my first photo, the bottom chocolate layer is actually too thin – the bars are easier to get out of the pan if the bottom layer is a little thicker.) Chill in the refrigerator.

Stir peanuts into the remaining chocolate mixture. Set aside. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter.

Slowly add the evaporated milk.

Stir in the pudding mix. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is slightly thickened. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Stir in powdered sugar and maple extract. (It’s easier to use a wooden spoon at this point.) Cool slightly.

Carefully spread the maple mixture over the chilled chocolate layer in the pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Drop the reserved chocolate and peanut mixture by spoonfuls over the chilled maple layer; spread to cover.

Chill the bars until firm.

Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

{Maple Nut Bars}

12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 oz. package butterscotch chips (I’m pretty sure real Maple Bun Bars don’t have butterscotch chips in them.)

2 cups creamy peanut butter (And they probably don’t use peanut butter either.)

2 cups dry roasted peanuts

1 cup butter

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 small package cook and serve vanilla pudding mix (not instant)

2 lbs. powdered sugar (approximately 7-1/2 cups)

2 teaspoons maple extract

Generously butter a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt together the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, mixing well until smooth. Spread a generous half of the mixture in the buttered pan. (As you can see in my first photo, the bottom chocolate layer is actually too thin – the bars are easier to get out of the pan if the bottom layer is a little thicker.) Chill in the refrigerator.

Stir peanuts into the remaining chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Slowly add the evaporated milk. Stir in the pudding mix. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is slightly thickened. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and maple extract. (It’s easier to use a wooden spoon at this point.) Cool slightly. Carefully spread the maple mixture over the chilled chocolate layer in the pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Drop the reserved chocolate and peanut mixture by spoonfuls over the chilled maple layer; spread to cover. Chill the bars until firm. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 48 bars.

What store-bought candy do you make in your kitchen?

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