November 28, 2012

Reusing A Chocolate Advent Calendar - Yes, they can be refilled!

By the time we become adults we sometimes forget how magical some of the smallest parts of Christmas are.  Having children of your own brings back some of the awe and the peacefulness of the Season but even as a Mom of three, I know I have to work hard to get past the hustle and bustle and politically correct arguments surrounding me and just... 'be'.  One of the traditions I started when my children were tiny was to let them open an Advent Calendar. A cardboard rectangle housing 24 little chocolate candies, in which you carefully open one door a day until Christmas.  A fun and easy way for little ones to see how many more days until Christmas and to enjoy the chocolate surprise inside.

We relocated often with my husbands job, and I found these calendars were some times harder to find than other times.  (This was in the world 'before' internet as my little ones were born in the 90's.)  Usually I would start to keep my eyes open for them in grocery stores, but other years I stumbled upon them in dollar stores, or even at the cash register of a department store.  They were not always easy to find, but because of that, I became an expert at saving the  'reusing' the one from the year before.  Even if you purchase a new one, it would do you well to open and remove the plastic mold from it as you can use that mold to make chocolates and candies and little gummy candies without having to purchase expensive candy molds.

Although my 'babies' are all older now, my 16 year old still loves to open the little doors each morning before school and when her brother and sister are home for the holidays, they argue over who's 'turn' it is as if they were still 6 years old.  Yes, a tradition is a tradition for a reason...  all the little pieces of a holiday that come together to make it special and build memories that last a lifetime.

Last year we had just moved to our new city and state when I spied a chocolate advent calendar at Michaels craft store.  I packed the empty package into our Christmas decorations box and last weekend when we put up the tree, I refilled the advent calendar.  It's ready to go on December 1st with my daughters favorite "cookies and cream" candies.

It takes about 10 minutes from start to finish and then about an hour for the candies to set at room temperature (or speed it up to mere minutes in the freezer or refrigerator if you need to).  You can also flavor the chocolates with whatever flavoring extract or oil you wish, or my personal choice - to use sugar free chocolate to make your own sugar free chocolates!  (If you or your children can't have sugar for health reasons you can remove and throw away the chocolate and refill with the sugar free version you can have).

Re-Using Advent Calendars

1 chocolate candy Advent Calendar from a previous year
1 cup chocolate chips or candy disks (sugar free, regular, white chocolate, mint, butterscotch, etc.)
1 t shortening or butter
extract or oils if you wish to flavor (or 1-2 t peanut butter, 1 crushed oreo, etc.)
ziploc baggy

Turn the package over and carefully slice open the top to remove the plastic candy mold from inside. Carefully wash the mold with hot soapy water and let dry completely.  Make sure there are no drops of water inside your molds.   Melt 1 cup of  candy chips of your choice with 1 teaspoon butter or shortening.  I used white chocolate chips and crushed an Oreo fine to make cookies and cream.  Use whatever flavor mixture you wish.  Melt either in a pan over simmering hot water until smooth or microwave.  Do not over cook or your chocolate with seize and harden.  Place in a ziploc baggy, trim one corner to make a small opening and squeeze the melted filling into each little candy crevice.  Pick up the tray and drop it or tap it firmly against the counter top about 5-6 times to settle the melted candy, flatten them evenly and remove air bubbles.  Let set to harden.  Place back in the cardboard package. 

slice open the package
remove the candy mold

wash and dry completely

decide your favorite filling or just use chocolate chips

fill each little mold with melted candy

let harden before replacing in the cardboard package to reuse

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