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6:10 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Easy-to-make truffles are the perfect holiday gift

Thinkstock<br>
Kids love to roll truffles in their choice of coating. Use a mellon baller to keep the truffles uniform in size and shape.

Thinkstock<br> Kids love to roll truffles in their choice of coating. Use a mellon baller to keep the truffles uniform in size and shape.

As we say goodbye to 2014, it is also time to say goodbye to my readers of the past 10 years.

This column began in December 2004, and it has been both a joy and privilege to share recipes and meet many of you. It's been fun talking about our mutual interest of collecting and trying new recipes and food finds. Many of you have started your own recipe collections as you clipped articles from the column.

With the holidays here, most of us are looking for quick and easy recipes that are also special to share with family and friends. Since the original column began with holiday truffles, I thought I would end with more truffle recipes. (You can't have too much chocolate at Christmas!) These are easy and make wonderful gifts. Most people have no idea how easy they are to make.

Make it a family affair and get kids in the kitchen, too.

Handy hint: A melon baller helps keep the truffles the same size and makes for easy scooping.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

3 packages (6 oz. each) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not canned milk)

1 tbsp vanilla

COATINGS: Choose from finely chopped nuts, flaked coconut, candy sprinkles, colored sugar, unsweetened cocoa, finely crushed candy canes or crushed vanilla wafers.

In heavy saucepan, melt chips with sweetened condensed milk, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Chill two hours or until firm enough to hold shape. Roll into 1-inch balls; roll in choice of coating. Chill 1 hour or until firm. Store covered at room temperature. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze. Makes 5-6 dozen.

PEANUT BUTTER-CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

8 oz. milk chocolate, cut into pieces

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

3/4 tsp. vanilla

COATINGS: Cocoa powder and crushed unsalted roasted peanuts, as needed.

Heat cream to just below boiling. Place chocolate in bowl of mixer. Pour hot cream over chocolate. Beat until chocolate is melted. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Chill at least 2 hours or until firm enough to handle. Roll chocolate mixture in palms to make 1-inch balls. Roll half the truffles in cocoa and half in crushed peanuts just before serving. Makes 2 dozen.

CREAMY DREAMY TRUFFLES

1/2 pound baking chocolate (milk or semi-sweet)

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

Coatings: multicolored sugar crystals; chocolate sprinkles

In top of double boiler set over simmering water; stir the chocolate pieces until melted. Stir in butter until mixture is smooth. Remove double boiler insert from water. Add heavy cream and confectioner's sugar to chocolate and beat with whisk until mixture is again smooth. Chill several hours until mixture is firm, but not hard. Roll heaping teaspoons of mixture into balls.

(If mixture is too sticky, dust hands and/ or the chocolate balls with cocoa powder). Roll half the balls in colored sugar and other half in chocolate sprinkles. Put truffles in paper candy cups to serve on a doily-covered tray or place in a pretty tin or box for gift-giving. These keep one month in the refrigerator. Makes 2 dozen.

THE EASIEST CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

3 6-oz. bags milk chocolate chips

1 carton (8 oz.) frozen whipped topping, thawed

1/2 cup vanilla wafers

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave; cool. In mixing bowl, beat melted chocolate and whipped topping. Shape into 1/2-inch balls and roll in crushed vanilla wafers. Refrigerate or freeze. Makes 3 dozen.

So, dear readers, I will sign off with a wish for the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years. The kitchen is closing, but the joy of making memories with your family and friends around the table will linger on over great food prepared with loving hands, and that's always welcome any time of the year.

- Joanne Sandlin