Gifts from the Kitchen – Toffee Dip

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I am very blessed to come from a family of people who love to give.  Now, as a kid, when I helped picked and shell 5 bushels of peas, only to have my daddy announce that we were giving them to someone, I probably didn’t appreciate it as much!  I was using lemon juice to take the purple stains off my fingers and wondering why Daddy was loading up the truck with the results of our hard work!

I remember watching my mama make her famous Coconut Rum Pound Cake.  I loved the smell that came from the oven while it was baking!  Nine times out of ten, she was making it to take to someone.  Someone who was sick.  Someone who was grieving.  Someone who she knew was having a bad day.  I can remember very few times when we got to eat that particular cake.  Don’t get me wrong.  She made plenty of stuff for us, too.  Her carrot cake is legendary.  Her chocolate cake with fudge frosting is to die for.  We get one of those on our birthdays.

But not the pound cake.  It’s her go-to, take-to-somebody cake.

I don’t know how things work in the rest of the world, but in the south, when someone is in need, we take food.

When we want to say “Thank you,” we take food.

When we want to say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” we take food.

When we want to say, “I love you,” we take food.

When we want to say, “I heard your sad news,”…well, you get the picture.

My kids’ teachers grow accustomed to small gifts of pumpkin cheesecake in a jar, brownies, apples and toffee dip (which you’re about to learn how to make!).  At Christmas and during testing week, I take pans of chicken spaghetti or chicken enchiladas for their teachers.  Those may seem like unorthodox gifts, but as a teacher myself, I know that during the craziness of the holiday season, receiving a pan of something means that I don’t have to cook after a busy day of teaching followed by an evening of Christmas shopping!

I’m blessed that both of my kids love to give, too.  If I’m making chocolate chip cookies or Oreo balls or muffins or pretty much anything, they will usually ask if I can package some for their teachers or friends.  They’ve even been known to take a container of pasta salad or potato soup to a teacher.  Sometimes they ask if we can make something for the sole purpose of taking it to someone.  I’m always happy to oblige, with one condition:  whoever has made the request has to help make the gift!

This week, The Boy asked if we could make something for some special people.  I told him that we could and that he just needed to choose what we would make.

He went through my cookbook.  He went through other cookbooks.  He thought for a while.

And then he came to me with a big smile and announced his choice:  Toffee Dip.

We love this sweet dip!  I had it for the first time at a wedding a few years ago.  As soon as I tasted it, I asked who had made it.  When directed to the creator of this awesomeness, I asked – nay, humbly begged – her for the recipe.  She very graciously recited the simple recipe and I typed it furiously into my phone.  I couldn’t wait to get home to make it!

It comes together quickly and easily with only five ingredients!  It’s particularly yummy served with Granny Smith apples.  I’m sure it would be just as yummy with another type of apple, but the tartness of Granny Smiths is just right to balance the sweetness of the dip.  I’ve had dreams of using it to frost brownies or fill cupcakes, but it never makes it that long.  As soon as it’s done, there are apple slices, grapes, bananas, spoons, and fingers dunked into the bowl!  It never lasts for very long!

I love Heath candy bars.  Who am I kidding?  I love toffee – of almost any description.  Heath bits can be purchased with or without the milk chocolate coating.  I prefer the ones with the chocolate because – well, it’s chocolate!  The original recipe called for about a cup of Heath bits, but I figured, what the heck?  Let’s just put the whole bag in!  It makes the dip a little chunkier, but I like that.

As always, this dish works perfectly with lower-fat cream cheese.

Toffee Dip

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Bag of Heath candy bits

Mix cream cheese with sugars.  You can either mix by hand or with a mixer.  Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Stir in candy bits.  Can be served immediately or store covered in the refrigerator.

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Well Duh #1:  If you simply cannot wait for the cream cheese to come to room temperature, remove it from the foil packaging, place in a large mixing bowl, and microwave on high for one minute  to one and a half minutes.  Stir to see if it’s softened and then let it cool for about five minutes.  If it’s too warm, it will melt the chocolate on the Heath pieces.

Well Duh #2:  If you can’t find the Heath bits (they are usually found on the baking aisle near the chocolate chips), you can finely crush 4-6 Heath candy bars.  Just unwrap them, put them in a sealed plastic bag, and use a rolling pin or mallet to crush them.

Well Duh #3:  If you’re taking this dip to someone, you’ll want to be sure the apple slices don’t brown.  There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Lemon juice works great, but since Granny Smiths are already tart, lemon juice may bump up the pucker factor a little too much!  You can actually use any citrus juice – or even pineapple juice.  Just soak the slices for a few minutes and then drain, rinse a little, and pat dry.
  • You can use Fruit Fresh.  It’s a natural fruit pectin that some people use when canning fruits and vegetables.
  • You can research on the Internet to find a zillion and one other ways to prevent browning in sliced apples.
  • You can do what I do!  I fill a bowl with lemon-lime soda – today, I had Sprite Zero, so that’s what I used.  As you cut the apples, dunk the slices into the soda.  Keep cutting and adding to the bowl.  When the bowl is full, let the apples sit in the soda for 3-4 minutes and then drain on paper towels before placing slices into zippered plastic bags.  Make sure you get as much air out of the bags as possible before sealing.

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To take this snack on the road, I put the dip into small jelly jars and put the jars and the bags of apple slices in a big basket.  Then we took off!  The Boy really enjoyed surprising his friends and mentors with this sweet treat!

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Next time, it will be The Redhead’s turn.  Wonder what we’ll be making then!

I just hope that my kids grow to realize how important giving is.  I may not have understood it when I was shelling peas or watching Mama wrap up a pound cake to take to someone, but I do understand now.  Giving – even giving something simple from your kitchen – can make someone’s day.  Make them feel appreciated.  Make them feel special.  Make them feel loved.  We have to take care of each other!

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Theresa

 

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