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Puttin' on The Mitts: Third-place and honorable mention winners announced

Crock-Pot Candy1 / 3
Party Cookies2 / 3
Christmas Pistachio Bark3 / 3

We melted. We shaped. We rolled. They ate. And voted!

We received a bunch of great no-bake goodie recipes for The Mitts' Goodest Goodies Contest. With so many delicious-sounding treats, we had a hard time narrowing it down to three—so we ended up making five different goodies recipes!

Our co-workers got the best end of that decision, enjoying our creations at the Brainerd Dispatch/Echo Journal Christmas party recently at the Brainerd American Legion. They served as our voting panel as well.

We're pleased to announce our third-place winner, Debbie Chute, of Aitkin, as well as our two honorable mentions, Elizabeth Knutson, of Crosslake, and Christine Roberts, of Crosby.

The champion and second-place winning recipes will run Dec. 21.

We hope you'll give these impressive and delicious goodies a chance to join your own holiday spread.

Third place: Party Cookies

We received this recipe from Debbie Chute of Aitkin. Although at least one of The Mitts was a little leery of the dates, Debbie convinced us they were worth a try with the story she included along with her recipe.

"This recipe comes from my mother-in-law," Debbie wrote. "It is always on our Christmas goodie trays. Our children still request Date Balls when we celebrate Christmas."

Anything that keeps the kids coming back was good enough for us to try! Many of our co-workers commented they would have never guessed dates were in the recipe. When used this way, they acted as a sweet binder, with their specific flavor overtaken by the other elements of the no-bake dessert.

PARTY COOKIES (OR UNBAKED DATE BALLS)

Makes about 30 cookies

• 3/4 cup granulated sugar

• 1 cup dates, chopped

• 1 egg

• 3 tablespoons butter

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 cups puffed rice cereal

• 1 cup chopped nuts

• Shredded coconut for rolling

Mix together sugar, dates, egg and butter in a medium pot.

Bring slowly to a boil over medium to low heat.

Boil gently two minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat.

Add vanilla extract, puffed rice and nuts, mixing well.

Allow to cool slightly and form into small balls.

Roll in coconut.

Keep in a cool place.

Honorable mention: Crock-Pot Candy

Boy, did these have people hovering around the kitchen in the office. The smell of warm chocolate wafted through the whole building, and several hands were swatted away while the chocolate-nut clusters were cooling.

We received this entry from Elizabeth Knutson of Crosslake. Elizabeth wrote: "I have had this recipe for about 12 years. This was given to me by a good friend. I make this for all the bake sales at my church, plus my family. They are a popular item.

"We call them 'peanut clusters.' However, the original name was 'Crock-Pot candy.'"

CROCK-POT CANDY

Makes about six dozen

• 16 ounces unsalted dry roasted peanuts

• 16 ounces salted dry roasted peanuts

• 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

• 1 4-ounce bar German chocolate

• 2 24-ounce packages white almond bark, cut up

Add all ingredients in order into the slow cooker.

Cover and turn on low for three hours, without stirring.

Turn off and let sit for 15 minutes.

Stir and drop by tablespoons on wax paper.

Allow to cool before storing.

Honorable mention: Wendy's Christmas Pistachio Bark

Arguably the most Christmas-looking of the bunch, this bark recipe was eye-catching and tasty.

The dried cranberries added a refreshing, tangy note to the mix of an array of desserts favoring nuts and chocolate.

The recipe was sent to The Mitts by Christine Roberts of Crosby. Christine wrote: "Attached is my friend Wendy's yummy pistachio bark. She couldn't remember where she got the recipe, but we've been making it for many years."

WENDY'S CHRISTMAS PISTACHIO BARK

• 2 12-ounce packages white chocolate morsels

• 6 2-ounce vanilla or almond candy coating squares

• 2 cups dried cranberries

• 2 cups shelled green pistachios, chopped

Microwave white chocolate morsels and candy coating in a large microwave-safe glass bowl on high for three minutes.

Stir at one-minute intervals.

When melted, stir in 1 1/4 cup of dried cranberries and 1 cup of pistachios.

Grease a 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan and line it with waxed paper.

Pour mixture into the pan.

Top the bark by pressing the remaining dried cranberries and pistachios into the mixture (more cranberries and pistachios may be used if desired).

Chill until firm, but cut into pieces before it gets too firm.

Store in an airtight container up to one week.

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