Every December, our house is inundated with enough candy canes to last us the entire year. At first, we love to slurp on these sweet treats. However, once we've all had our fill, we still always seem to have dozens of leftover canes in various sizes and flavors. While there is nothing wrong with simply eating a plain ol' candy cane, there is no shortage of creative and unexpected ways to use up this holiday treat.
1. Add candy canes to holiday drinks. Try using a candy cane to stir up your hot chocolate or apple cider and add a little extra flavor. Crush up several candy canes and drop them into ginger ale or sparkling water to make a festive holiday punch.
2. Make dessert toppers or add-ins. Add crushed candy canes to brownies, cookie batter or Rice Krispie treats to add holiday flair. Give your regular brownie recipe a holiday makeover by sprinkling crushed candy canes on top.
3. Create candy cane marshmallows. Mix one cup of powdered sugar and five teaspoons of water together in a bowl, stirring until you have a thin glaze. Place a toothpick into the end of a marshmallow and dip it into the powdered sugar glaze, covering completely. Then dip the marshmallow into finely crushed candy canes (blend in a food processor for best results). Place the finished marshmallows on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid. Store in the freezer until ready to use.
4. Bake "stained glass" cookies. Wow your kids by creating these impressive stained glass cookies. Begin with a basic sugar cookie dough (either store-bought or homemade). Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to make various shapes. Use smaller cookie cutters or a knife to cut out sections within the cookie and fill with finely crushed candy canes. Use a variety of colors and flavors for the most interesting effect. Bake according to directions, carefully monitoring to make sure that the crushed candies melt completely but don't burn. The finished product will feature a hard, semi-transparent "stained glass" effect. If you are planning to use these cookies as ornaments, use a straw to poke a small hole for a ribbon or string before baking.
5. Make no-bake peppermint cheesecake bites. These simple treats are easy for little ones to help make and then eat. Whip one pint of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Set aside. Mix together 12 ounces of cream cheese, ¾ cup of granulated sugar and 1½ teaspoons of vanilla extract. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Spoon the mixture into mini muffin tins greased with a little bit of melted butter. Sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes. Freeze overnight. Serve in individual mini-muffin cup liners.
Store unused candy canes in an airtight container to keep them fresh long beyond the holiday season.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
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