Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Carmel Crunch....quick New Years Eve treat

This recipe came to me in high school. My friend Judy Best passed it along from her school cooking class. It has been a long time favorite fast treat. I have doubled it to fit the Costco size cereal bags. If you are using a smaller bag use the recipe at the bottom.

1/2 cup of butter (8 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons corn syrup

2 cups of packed light brown sugar, brake up or remove any hard lumps

7 cups of rice Chex cereal

Butter 2 cookie sheets for spreading candy on

Heat butter and syrup in a heavy skillet, large enough to hold all the cereal

Stir until smooth

Add sugar and stir until smooth

Heat slowly WITHOUT stirring. Mixture will foam and when it is twice the original volume begin timing 2 minutes.

While pan is still on the heat add the cereal all at once. Stir until each Chex is coated. Keep the heat on low, this takes a while and keeping warm helps.

Pour onto buttered sheets. Spread over entire pan. I try to separate the cereal into individual pieces while it is warm

Store in an air tight container. If your candy sugared that means you didn't follow the rules in the blog posting before this one!

Normal size recipe

4 tablespoons butter (1/4 cup)

1 1/2 tablespoon corn syrup

1 cup light brown sugar

4 cups rice Chex

One hand full and I can't stop, this candy is so crunchy and good!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

more candy making hints

Yes the holidays are nearly gone. But who said that was the only time for candy making? Let's go on looking at Sugar, that fun stuff. Sugar is sucrose which likes to dry out and crystallize. It can take different forms but it likes being a crystal. As candy makers what we like to do is trick it into smoother, creamier forms. Here are the tricks we play.

Sugar and water....lots of crystals

1) When melting sugar avoid against getting crystals on the side of the pan, on the stirring spoon and on you!

2) Use a 3 minute, lid on, BOIL to wash sugar crystals off the side of cooking pan

Be careful not to let things boil over during the 3 minutes and have your "pot minder" ready to turn on for when the lid comes off.

Boiling..... lots of steam to wash things down!

If that doesn't get the sides clean put a piece of paper towel around a fork and get it wet

Moisten and remove any crystals on the sides but only at the beginning of the cooking time, later there is too big a risk in knocking a crystal into the candy recipe.

3) Use a fresh spoon after the first stirring when the sugar is not melted. Feel free to get a fresh spoon often. It is such an easy way to keep undissolved sugar out of the recipe.

4) Remove thermometer as soon as temperature is reached. This keeps crystals some starting to form on the tool

5) Use a recipe that has a crystal inhibiting ingredient as Corn syrup, honey, molasses & maple syrup. These ingredients pull moisture from the air and keep the larger crystals from forming

Not as reliable but often used in older recipes:

lemon juice, cream of tarter and vinegar

When pouring finished candy from the pan


What you scrap may hold a crystal that will spoil the whole recipe. What does it do? Makes the syrup reform sugar crystals and not smooth candy. It has happened to all of us!

If everything goes well you will make a yummy candy like this divinity

This is the next issue you need to understand for good candy.

Beating and stirring

the cooked mixture lets you decide how the sugar will return to it's crystal form.

If we have used a crystal inhibitor and we have kept the undissolved crystal out of the candy mixtures then we can encourage the sugar crystal to form so small that the candy seems creamy and smooth.

Let the candy cool slightly and then you stir or beat or a mixture of both.

Your recipe will tell you but this is very important to the finished texture so don't skip this step it is the way you get control of the sugar.

Fondant is paddled and folded over and over. Fudge is beaten to a gloss, Divinity is beaten and stirred to a dull finish. Hard candy is just poured out and the sugar is allowed to form larger than normal crystals in the shape you choose. Isn't this fun?

Tips for beating and stirring sugar

1) The temperature you start at is very important. if is says lukewarm you must wait. Many a fudge has been ruined by starting too soon. Your recipe should state this or check my chart below.

2) Keep at it (beating, stirring, pulling or paddling) until the candy is finished

How will you know when the candy is finished? it's hard to tell if you haven't made the recipe before, hopefully you have had that candy somewhere else and can aim for that, sometimes the recipe describes how the candy should act, maybe my chart below will help.

4) Beat or stir steady, not fast. STEADY

5) Some candies need to be pulled as in taffy or mints, or paddled as in fondant. Once again Keep at it until finished and aim for STEADY.

This is fondant. I have already paddled it and then kneaded it until it is very smooth. It molds almost like a soft clay. See my finger print in one piece.

This is what is looks like when it's ready, I add lots of tasty flavors. This batch is getting orange. I've done pecans and chocolate and lemon, cherry etc.

When I've flavored the fondant the way I want I roll into small balls and hold them until I dip them in dipping chocolate! yum Now who wouldn't want a nice plate of candy for their birthday, a thank-you, a welcome home? It's fun and it's a good gift!

How it should be made basically

Fudge: start when lukewarm, beat until creamy and looses gloss

Penuche: cool to lukewarm, beat until thick and creamy

Cream candy: add butter, cool to lukewarm, beat until it looses gloss, pour into pans

Caramels: you stir often while cooking these, often there is a milk or cream added half way through the cooking be prepared for this. When correct temperature pour into lightly buttered pan.

Divinity and Nougat: Pour syrup over egg whites, beat immediately until mixture holds a peek when dropped from a spoon and looses it's gloss. Lots and lots of beating.

Fondant: cool to lukewarm paddle until white and creamy. Knead to remove lumps and smooth candy.

Toffee, Butterscotch, hard candies: work quickly, add flavoring, nuts etc and pour into prepared pan.

Marshmallows: Beat until fluffy and creamy, add flavoring and pour in prepared pan.

Taffy: cool until you can handle. Pull and pull, some people just twist and cut it just won't be creamy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Planning for a New Year

What are you planning for your new year? I like to think of what I'd like to mold the year into. Not thinking of resolutions, just a new start, new ideas. Maybe I'll add something back into my life I've missed. I used to be very controlled and planned and could add and remove parts of my life with ease. The last few years have left me spinning and I am just now starting to get grounded again. I can feel the inches of a plan coming back to me.
I lost my voice with the thyroid issue and it's time to bring the voice back. I have a plan. Something I want to do. So that's one thing to bring back. I'm missing some other things to that need to be brought back in 2009.
Oh maybe you'd like to just start something brand new. That sounds fun. I don't need more hobbies so starting something new has to offer me something solid. I need to start a business. I learned to make patterns for other people this year and I'm timid about turning it into a business but if you need a pair of pants that fit because you couldn't find any I can make you a pair of pants. Is that a business?
So what will you plan for this new year? A new hair style? A new friend, a hobby, a skill, a place you might go. Please don't do the same thing year after year. Let this beginning of 2009 be a kick off place.
I'm looking forward to your comments "Planning for a New Year". Everyone who comments gets their name (one for each new comment) in a bowl and I'll draw one out for something fun. I will let you know what in a day or two. Have some fun and you only have until Jan 1st to put in your comments.
Don't keep me snowed in this long I start to get a little dazed, this is the mind of a lonely snowed in person!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all of you!

This Day......
A savior
has been born to you......
Luke 2:11

This is a treasured card I received from a friend. It reminds me of all that is precious about today. I held each of my five babies and now have the pleasure of holding the grand babies. What peace Mary must have had for that brief moment. To touch that baby skin and smell that fresh baby hair. How it reminds me of the importance of joy in those tiny spaces of time. Tomorrow will be filled with many activities, great food and hopefully the company of dear family and friends. If I can just leave in the back of your minds this sweet picture of Jesus and his mother and what that birth meant. Mary was told what Jesus birth meant so she knew as she held him he was here for all people in all times. We are so blessed to be able to celebrate his birth today.

Merry Christmas women who work so hard at this time of year know that the most important thing you do is to smile and hold them!

Card designed by Kathy Lawrence

American Greetings

Sunday, December 21, 2008

snow ice cream

Took this one this morning from my front door, the snow made it all the way to the door, a bit too much wind!
The swing seats look to be holding enough for a batch of ice-cream

Wow did we get a lot of beautiful snow. So white it made me think of snow ice cream so here are a few of my recipes. However just pouring a bit of maple syrup over a cup of snow is a real treat!

Snow ice cream

1 cup of sifted powdered sugar

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/4 Teas vanilla extract

1 to 6 cups fresh, clean snow

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a large chilled bowl. Mix very well. Gradually stir in enough snow to give mixture a smooth fluffy consistency. Stir in desired amount of condiments, you know cookies, M&M's, sprinkles, nuts what ever you wish.

makes about 7 cups enough for the whole neighborhood


Lemon Snow custard

grown-ups love this one

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup of sugar

pinch of salt

2 cups of milk

1 teas of grated lemon rind

1 teas lemon extract

4 to 6 cups of fresh clean snow

Whipped cream topping if desired

combine the first 4 ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Stir with wire whisk until blended. Cook over med. low heat stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until this custard coats a spoon.

Remove from heat and add the two lemon ingredients


Chill thoroughly

Gradually stir enough snow into chilled custard to give a smooth think consistency. Garnish with whipped cream and serve.

6 to 7 cups.

ENJOY WINTER it is official now!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Things that just have to be done!

Nothing like a tall fence post to prop your camera on and take a photo

This is just up the street from my house, we took a nice afternoon

walk in the neighborhood

Click on photos to enlarge just be ready to feel the cold chill


Winter brings on chores that just have to be done. I'm sure you will agree that "Life" has chores that just have to be done, but winter chores need repeating over and over. Come see a little of what we do a couple times a day in cold weather. Quickly put your coat and gloves on and come join me!

I did water duty yesterday but today I brought bleach boy. He loves to pound the ice!

I think he's studying the job.

Bleach boy still has California sun in his soul and you rarely see him with gloves and

never with mittens!

This is not as thick as yesterday nothing can get a drink with all that ice!

Oh Gracie is so happy to have company. In the winter the goats get very wild from lack of contact, but today she was delighted to see us. She let me pull all the berry bushes out of her wool and I didn't have to put her in a drop hold.

How about a little warm hug time Gracie.

Now we are going to take a pasture walk and see where Gracie has been going. I want to see if any green is available for her to eat so I can deal with the hay issues. Her little hooves leave narrow paths. She has zig zaged all over the place. I can see some of it was curiosity over what a neighbor was doing or a stop under one of the big cedars to keep out of the snow. I also wanted to check on the wild birds. A few Chickadees were about, nothing else. Once or twice a robin has remained and not migrated and I'd taken extra effort to provide shelter, food and water. No robins today. Some medium size animal had walked South to North in the snow. Might have been a cat or skunk or something of that size.

The winter sky is so pretty at this time of day aren't you glad you came along?

We've checked everything out and are heading from the back pasture to the front pasture. This is where I hang from the trees in my hammock chair in the summer. Too cold for that now.

Penny waits for us. The dogs are not allowed in the pastures. Penny is a blue healer mix and would be a wonderful goat herder but she is deaf and I can't control her. When we had more goats and they'd find ways out of the pasture I'd use penny to put them back and she was wonderful if she's looking for my hand signals.

We are back to the house now. I'm standing in the middle yard where all the play toys and swings etc are. I'm going to walk right over to that glass door at the back of the house and go in and warm up!

See you next time we do a winter chore.

I didn't actually go to the house, I went and re-did all the water tins for the birds. I added some fresh seed deeded to me by youngest daughter.

Temperatures for making candy

I am snowed in. I don't mind other than the parties and family get together I'm missing. But I love to make candy and being snowed in is a good reason. I come by candy making through my Grandma Oblad. Her family left Sweden in the 1800's making and selling candy, my Grandma sold candy during the great depression in order to support her family. And I would be doing that now with our long unemployment but there are too many laws and health codes that keep a home candy maker from doing so for sale. The next best thing is to help teach you how to make candy.

This is a crash coarse because really practice is what makes a good candy maker.

Good tools are many

For candy making and I will put them in another blog with lots of photos. This time lets work with the thermometer and figure out why temperature makes such a difference to sugar and it's crystal factors

1) First boil a pot of water with your thermometer in the water. Let it boil for a few moments. Once your number on your thermometer settles down read it, write it down. If you are at sea level or close to it, the water should boil at 212 degrees F. You will subtract a degree for each 500 feet above sea level you are living at. If your water boiled at 208 on your thermometer like mine did I must subtract 4 degrees each time I make a recipe. If I don't I will be cooking everything 4 degrees higher. You'll see the problems with this in a moment. If my thermometer showed boiling water at 214 degrees then I am cooking everything 2 degrees less than my recipe needed. Make these adjustments.

2) No matter what kind of thermometer you will need to do this each cooking session if you want to get good results and I DO!

Sugar is a wonderful thing....oh I hear the sugar blues folks dropping like flies! I mean boiling Sugar is a wonderful thing. It changes the crystal structure and what I do with it is amazing, from hard, to crunchy, to creamy, to stretchy, Oh sugar does amazing things just with a little change in temperature.

Sugar chart

232 to 240 degrees F. SOFT BALL

Hot syrup makes a soft ball when you pick it up, but it does not hold hold it's shape.
This is the way to make fudge, penuche and fondant

242 to 248 degrees F. FIRM BALL

Hot syrup makes a firm ball that holds it's shape when you pick it up
This is the way to make Carmel's and Carmel corn.

250 to 268 degrees F. HARD BALL

Syrup makes a hard ball. It feel hard when you pick it up, but is till plastic.
This is the way to make divinity,nougat, sea foam and taffy.

270 to 290 degrees F. SOFT CRACK

Syrup forms hard, but not brittle threads rather then a ball
This is the way to make toffee, Brittle and butterscotch

300 to 310 degrees F. HARD CRACK

syrup forms brittle threads that break between your fingers This is the way to make brittles, lolly pops, hard candies and caramel or candy apples

With this chart you can make any candy and you can see how a few degrees takes you out of fondant and into taffy or worse. I cooked my first batch of fudge, right after I was married, right past hard crack. No kidding. Bleach Boy has a good story about that experience!

Even if you use a thermometer you should try cold water testing just to learn how sugar acts. It's fun and it means that those who don't have a thermometer can still make good candy by cold water testing.

Cold Water Test

Remove pan of cooking sugar from heat

drop a touch, off the edge of a spoon, of syrup into a glass of cold not ice water.
Let it stand for a minute and pick up the candy from the water. Feel it with your fingers. Where does it match in the chart above.
If you are using a thermometer you will want to do this test 2 degrees before the final temperature. A pot of sugar can quickly go up another 2 degrees even if you have removed it from the heat. So this is a good time to test. If it is done, don't worry about the next 2 degrees they do usually follow.

You might find the candy isn't matching the feel that matched the degrees. Return to the heat and check in another degree or so. Don't wait too long.

So this just gets you started. Tomorrow we will cover dealing with sugar and it's need to form crystals.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter kindness and fun things for kids to do

When the temperatures dip into the teens like they have this week I consider the wild animals and the domestic! I put containers of water and in less lean times lots of bird seed out for the little birds that remain. This year the rabbits are dipping into the water so it's going fast. I find using metal pie tins very helpful. The water when it freezes pops right out for refilling with warm water.
I just made the rounds of all the pie tins, one in the pasture, one in the middle yard, and one out front under the fruit trees. I ended up with all these fun rounds of ice. NOW THAT GIVES ME AN IDEA!
Kids love new ideas, new things to learn. Have your children put a pie tin out and let it freeze (sorry for those of you in warm climates) Next day they will have a circle of ice to play with. Try it in different shapes but it has to be a container that will let you release the ice and won't crack and brake. (our big water tubs for pasture pets are driving us crazy, we had to take a sledge hammer and brake the ice and scoop it out, burrrr..)
Now go and have some fun! It's 34 degrees F here now so it's too warm but tonight that will all change. Great way to teach them lots of fun principles of science! Expansion of elements, forms of elements etc.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Try some easy wrapping for packages

Click to enlarge
I found this in my files. I've used it to gift friends who quilt or sew, use a nice piece of fabric and put in a sewing book or sewing notions. It works with tissue paper too as well as wrapping paper. Use several layers to hide what is inside if using tissue paper.

yummy side dish

Oh it's potatoes again. We don't eat very many (I can't keep them healthy enough) but holiday season seems to welcome potato dishes. We are below freezing both day and night and turning the oven on to invite this yummy dish to cook is pure delight.
Sliced Baked Potatoes
4 servings=4 potatoes

take two table knives or two wooden spoons and lay wax paper over them

Place the first potato between the knives handles
This is a Yukon gold potato but use what ever you like!

Begin slicing 1/2 inch slices along the potato. The knife handles keeps from cutting all the way through. Potato will fan out but stay together. (wax paper moved to aid in photo) If you cut a slice at an angle you will cut it out of the whole. Just stick it back in for cooking it will stay put.

Drizzle with butter approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons per 4 potatoes

Pull layers open and drizzle right inside or the butter will just run off. It takes a minute but isn't hard to do.

Sprinkle with salt and herbs
Try fresh or dried 2 to 3 tbsp chopped
some ideas: parsley, chives, thyme, marjoram, paprika pepper, onion salt

Bake at 425 degrees F. for about 50 minutes

Remove from oven and add 4 tbsp of graded cheddar cheese and a nice shake of Parmesan cheese.

Bake another 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned, cheeses melted and potatoes soft when poked with a fork.

Now doesn't that make a tasty looking side dish? Yummy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Things about home for the kids

Got 2 1/2 almost 3 inches of snow last night. I know this will make those of you who went to school here HOME SICK. There's nothing like a snow day from school As you all may have figured when it snows here we get ice and church was canceled today. I had three meetings that didn't happen.

So I'm putting on some home grown photos for my kids. Hope you enjoy the feeling of being here. I'm saving cocoa and a book or two to read for all of you. Wish you could make it. We miss you a bunch! We can however web cam a little Christmas tree reading get together! Call to set it up!

Bleach Boy had great fun putting up lights

Those power lines get much too low to the ground each time it snows

Gracie is hiding away in the shelter, I don't blame her she looks yellow against the snow!

Come read a book with us?