Be a smart cookie, make gingerbread fudge

We have some friends who always throw a great Christ­mas party, complete with a White Elephant gift exchange, lots of yummy snacks and tons of socializing.<p>This year, they’re going to be out of town when the party is normally scheduled, so rather than trying to encroach later into the busy holiday season, they decided to have it early—to round out the month of July.<p>So we recently found ourselves in the same Christmas-light decorated home with the same wonderful people opening gifts in red and green wrapping paper while wearing shorts and flip flops.<p>I almost wore my Christmas sweater, but I decided that was committing way too much to the joke, and I would regret it pretty quickly, since we were going to be spending time outdoors.<p>I did, though, immediately look through holiday recipes I’ve been meaning to try and was excited to whip up a batch of gingerbread fudge much sooner than December.<p>I’m of the opinion that cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves should be used all year, but they seem to be mostly reserved for the winter months. I was glad to buck the trend and enjoy the flavors in the middle of the Kansas summer.<p>This recipe comes from the blog “Spend with Pennies.” You can find the original at http://www.spendwithpennies.com/gingerbread-fudge/. I dumped a lot of extra spices into my version. Why not? It’s pretend Christmas, after all.<p>* * *<p>Gingerbread Fudge<p>Ingredients<p>3 cups white chocolate chips<p>14 ounces sweetened condensed milk<p>1/4 cup molasses<p>1 tablespoon butter<p>2 teaspoons vanilla<p>2 teaspoons ground ginger<p>2 teaspoons cinnamon<p>1 teaspoon nutmeg<p>1 teaspoon all spice<p>1 teaspoon cloves<p>Directions<p>Prepare an eight-by-eight-inch pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying with cooking spray.<p>Combine the chocolate chips, condensed milk, molasses and butter in a pan over medium heat, stirring often until everything is melted and well combined.<p>Stir in the vanilla and spices.<p>Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let it cool on the countertop until the fudge is completely set up. (I let mine cool until I was comfortable popping it into the fridge to speed this process up.)<p>When the fudge is set, remove it from the pan and cut into one-inch pieces.<p>Store in an airtight container. The fudge will be fine at room temperature, but if it’s a bit warm in the house, you might want to keep it in the fridge so it stays firm.<p>* * *<p>We had a great time with friends, and Joey now has a funny Santa hat to don once December comes around, thanks to the gift exchange.<p>And the fudge was absolutely delicious. It almost made me wish for Christmas to come sooner, but I think I’ll enjoy the sun and warmth for a few more months. I can pull out the cinnamon any time.<p><p>Lindsey Young is managing editor of The Clarion, the Kansas Publishing Ventures newspaper in Andale. She can be reached at lindseyclarion@gmail.com.