Peppermint bark is a specialty item available during the winter holidays that can warm the heart and beat the blues. It's a mix of red and white peppermint candy canes, in white chocolate on top of good-for-you dark chocolate. While I've enjoyed commercial peppermint bark available by Ghiradelli's Peppermint Bark Squares — I have withdrawal until it is on the grocery store shelves — now I know it's possible to enjoy DIY peppermint bark!This season it came to me: “I can make this.” After all, a few weeks ago, I watched food guru Paula Deen do it on the Food Network Channel. So, I decided to do it myself. Not only does it save money, it's fun and super easy to put it together without cooking or baking. It's softer and fresher than store-bought varieties (this will make my dentist smile).Peppermint bark takes me back years ago when the new, improved Safeway reopened its doors during the holidays. I brought in film for photos I took of my companion animals, Christmas tree, decorations and candid pics for a pet article assignment: Kodak moments. Sadly, the new photo developing machine went haywire and pulled a Hope Floats scene (when character Birdee Calvert played by Sandra Bullock is working in the photo lab and accidentally ruins a customer's photos). When I got the bad news about my fried photos, I displayed a mega meltdown because of the loss: tears, shock and words followed. So, the manager offered to make the photos gone wrong right. I was gifted with a shopping spree. It included a handsome, pricey plant, huge stuffed bear (I have a collection) chocolate, peppermint tea and peppermint candy ice cream. While the goodies weren't forever prints of my dear four-leggers, an orange-and-white Brittany, Dylan and matching cat Alex — two senior critters close to my heart — the treats helped treat the loss, sort of. After all, I still had my sweet boys and sweet peppermint. And this week, while still grieving the loss of my beloved 6-year-old Brittany, Seth, I needed to make something fun, like my late fun-loving pooch with a smile to write home about.Old-Fashioned Peppermint Bark 7 ounces premium baking chips, 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate 7 ounces premium baking chips, classic white 12 peppermint candy canes, crushed (place in plastic bag and use a hammer to crush into bite size bits)Melt dark chocolate chips in a microwave for about two or three minutes, stir occasionally until melted. Stir the dark chocolate and spread it onto a non-stick flat cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper). Spread and shape into a rectangle. Chill in freezer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, nuke white chocolate chips. Once the white chocolate is melted, stir in half of the candy cane mixture. Remove dark chocolate from the freezer and frost with white chocolate-candy cane mixture. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Put back into freezer for 10 minutes. Take out and pick up the entire chocolate candy slab, place on a plate. (If you use parchment paper, take off. Break into peanut brittle-like square pieces. (Or use chilled cookie cutters if preferred for perfect shapes.) Makes about 1 pound.The pieces of delicious bark can be stored in the fridge. Use small containers and give to friends and family as gifts or a self-gift. Either way it's festive and is a feel-good treat. Sure, nothing can bring back photos or a canine that provided unconditional love. But somehow, peppermint bark gave me a feeling of accomplishment and helped me get through another day without the dog I'll miss this holiday and forever. But note, this peppermint bark gives me hope that there is a Dog Heaven and Santa Claus lives. Motto: While sometimes we can't control events that go wrong, it's the little things in life that can help us to cherish memories and be thankful.(In memory of Seth 2007-12.)— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) “Animal Attraction: A Collection of Tales & Tails” will be released this winter. Her website is www.calorey.com.
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