With visions of brownies, candies and popcorn dancing in their heads

Old-fashioned Christmas candies, fudge, and other sweet treats are not only nostalgic but can also provide the ultimate sugar rush needed to get through an adrenaline-fueled, yet sleep-deprived, Christmas Day. Just a few chocolate-covered cherries or another slice of pecan pie can help get you through until the next big meal arrives. Recollections of white divinity fudge, Martha Washington candy, chocolate cream drops, gumdrop trees, butterscotch haystacks, and fruitcake cookies bring make memories from childhood. The classic holiday treats are delightful, but I also enjoy some of the more modern-day recipes too, like a Starbucks-inspired cranberry bliss bar, a favorite dessert that also pairs well with a steaming cup of coffee.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Blondies

• ¾ cup salted butter

• 1 ½ cups light brown sugar, packed

• 2 large eggs

• ¾ tsp. pure vanilla extract

• 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

• 1 ½ tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1/8 tsp. cinnamon

• ½ cup dried cranberries

• 6 oz. premium white chocolate baking bar, coarsely chopped

Frosting:

• 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temperature

• 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

• 6 oz. premium white chocolate baking bar, melted

• ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped

• ½ tsp. freshly grated orange zest

For the blondie layer, melt the ¾ cup butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the brown sugar. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Use a mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the chopped chocolate and the dried cranberries. Spread the batter into a well-greased 9x13 baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 18-21 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Use a wire rack to cool the pan completely. For the frosting, use a mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add half of the melted chocolate and beat until blended. Frost the cooled brownies; sprinkle with the chopped cranberries and drizzle with the remaining melted chocolate and orange zest. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve, then cut into bars or triangles.

Coconut-Pecan Logs

• 1 ½ cup finely chopped pecans

• 1 (12 oz.) box vanilla wafers

• 1 cup shredded coconut

• ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

• 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

• Powdered sugar

Crush vanilla wafers until the consistency of very fine crumbs. Place crushed vanilla wafers in a bowl and stir in the chopped pecans and coconut. Add the vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk. Mix well. Shape the mixture into four separate logs. Spread the powdered sugar (about 2 cups, but you may need more) onto waxed paper. Roll the logs in the powdered sugar, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, use a knife to cut the (chilled) logs into ¼-inch slices.

Crockpot Candy

• 16 oz. salted dry roasted peanuts

• 16 oz. unsalted dry roasted peanuts

• 1 (4 oz.) German sweet chocolate baking bar

• 1 (11.5 oz.) package milk chocolate chips

• 36 oz. vanilla almond bark

Layer as listed above in a large crockpot. Cover and heat on low for two hours.

Remove the lid and stir after two hours. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Marshmallow Popcorn

• 3 bags microwave popcorn, or 15 cups, popped popcorn

• 2 sticks butter

• 1 cup light brown sugar, packed

• 16 oz. large marshmallows

Place the popcorn in a single layer on a sheet of wax paper. Remove any unpopped kernels from the popcorn. Place the butter and brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in the marshmallows, then return the bowl to the microwave for an additional 30 seconds. Stir again and repeat until the mixture is melted and thin enough to pour. Immediately pour the contents over the popcorn; use a spatula to stir together and to make sure the popcorn is evenly coated. Note: You can use a low-fat popcorn or use a popcorn popper to make your own popcorn.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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