Chow Town

Five last-minute morsels from your kitchen

Jars of hot cocoa ingredients.
Jars of hot cocoa ingredients. The Kansas City Star

On National Cookie Day we shared a recipe for cookie mix you can give as a gift. Here are four more ideas for sweet presents that you whip up in the kitchen at the last minute. Each of these easy recipes requires five ingredients or less.

Dark Chocolate Bark With Pistachios and Sea Salt

This bark tastes just like an artisan chocolate bar — it’s the perfect gift for people who love mixing sweet and savory flavors.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Vegetable cooking spray

8 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), melted

1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, such as Fleur de Sel or Maldon

Lightly coat an 8-inch pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving a small overhang. Pour in chocolate and smooth with a spatula into an even layer.

Sprinkle with pistachios and sea salt. Chill in fridge until completely set, about 30 minutes. Peel off parchment and break into pieces.

Per serving, based on 6: 211 calories (53 percent from fat), 14 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 82 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.


Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa in a Jar

Warm someone’s heart by handing them a jar of hot cocoa fixings that will come in handy on a cold, snowy night. Include a note with these instructions: “To make the hot cocoa, place the contents of the jar in a medium saucepan with 8 cups of milk. Simmer until the chocolate is melted and the hot cocoa is warm and smooth.”

Makes a mix that yields 8 mugs of hot cocoa

1 (16-ounce) Mason jar with lid

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 cinnamon stick

In a small Mason jar, layer the cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, and top with the cinnamon stick.

Per serving: 104 calories (34 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 2 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


Cranberry Almond White Chocolate Bark

It doesn’t get easier than this festively colored bark. Use green shelled pistachios if you want a red-and-green motif.

Makes 16 servings

8 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries), divided

1/4 cup salted almonds, coarsely chopped, divided

Sea salt

Line a cookie sheet or other large pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Bring an inch of water to simmer in a small pot. Turn down the heat to low. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium metal bowl that can sit on top of the pot without touching the water. Stir the chocolate constantly over the hot water until it is completely melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from heat.

(You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between to prevent scorching.)

Add three-fourths of the cranberries and three-fourths of the nuts to the melted chocolate and stir to coat. Spread the warm chocolate mixture on the prepared pan to more or less even thickness between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. The dimensions don’t matter.

Sprinkle the remaining cranberries and almonds over the top, pressing lightly, along with a pinch or two of sea salt. Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened, about an hour.

To serve, break the bark into asymmetrical pieces. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Per serving: 94 calories (58 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 10 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Source: Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home (Running Press 2013)

Honey Nut Pralines

These sugar-coated nuts add crunchy sweetness to ice cream, pancakes, oatmeal, salads - pretty much anything. Sprinkle on cinnamon for a hit of spicy warmth.

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup pine nuts, walnuts, black walnuts or pecans, halved if you prefer smaller bits

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the nuts with the remaining ingredients in a bowl, tossing to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Stir and bake for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring twice; the nuts should look bubbly and somewhat dry.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely, stirring the nuts every couple of minutes to break them up.

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 138 calories (63 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 60 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Source: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home (Artisan 2011)

Contact Sarah Gish via email at or tweet @sarah_gish.