four main (elf) food groups

a hand of four candy suckers food groupschristmas kettle cornd and k jumping for kettle cornhand in the plastic kettle corn bagk places gumdrops on the roofthe 2012 gingerbread houseIt was never so easy to follow a diet. The day began with my sister’s eggnog pancakes covered in maple syrup. After breakfast, my niece and I unwrapped candy and candy canes to decorate a gingerbread house. And when we went to find Santa at an outdoor mall (unseasonably warm for December in Indiana this weekend), we found another jolly man making fresh kettle corn on the sidewalk (kettle corn will sub for candy corn here)! I have to tell you that I have never enjoyed kettle corn so much in life, then I realized that this was the first time I had ever had kettle corn when it wasn’t hot outside. With just the right amount of sweet and savory, popped to warm perfection, it reminded me of the hot chestnuts I ate on the street in Florence one chilly early January afternoon. The day of sticking to the four main elf food groups was also a day I will never forget — thank you Manges Family! Don’t worry, I am eating my fair share of broccoli today.

honeycomb birthday brittle

You know those cozy hexagonal structures of wax made by bees to store their precious goods, including honey? How perfect that this honey brittle recipe also takes on the appearance of its former storage home: the honeycomb! Martha Stewart’s recipe for Honeycomb Brittle has been close to the top of my “I want to make this recipe” mountain since I spied it a few years ago.

All that time I had no idea that I was just four ingredients away from a little kitchen science and my new favorite brittle recipe.  The mixture explodes in the pot when baking soda is added at the last minute, which accounts for is delightful airiness. It’s also easy to break apart once it hardens; if you’d like a little more control over the shapes of the shards, just score the brittle with a knife beforehand.

Next time I will add walnuts or almonds to the honey candy, as it is a perfect mix for encasing extra goodies.  In part of this batch I set up candles in the brittle and broke them apart to make edible candle holders for plopping atop a honey lemon cake later this week (I will be 32!).  The honeycomb brittle was also a fun and sweet crunchy accompaniment to a mug of creamy Greek yogurt the other morning. There’s nothing wrong with pre-celebrating, is there?

Since it stores and travels well, I am taking bags of the light and golden candy to contribute to our family munchies this holiday. Warm (and sweet) Thanksgiving wishes to All.

P.S. Dreaming All Day included me in 50 Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas today – check out her yummy round-up!

butterscotch brooms

After making autumn witch hats, I decided that matching brooms were in order. For the bottom part of the broom, melt together 12 oz. butterscotch chips with 3 tablespoons of nut or sunflower butter until uniform and glossy. Coat 5-6 oz. of chow mein noodles with the golden butterscotch mixture and drop as pyramid piles onto parchment paper. For the broomstick, place a pretzel stick in the middle of the pile and give them about 20 minutes to harden. These brooms are easy to make, easy to serve, and perhaps even easier to eat.

I took my non-edible broom outside this morning to sweep away the last of the fallen leaves on the back porch. The winds are calling for butternut squash soup on the stovetop and cinnamon baked goods in the oven this week. My heart is with those in the path of the hurricane: be safe and keep cozy, my friends.

cozy porter candy apples

It’s getting to be sweater weather around here, and though I don’t knit, I do keep this colorful variegated yarn on hand called “schoolyard.” The colors in this yarn remind me of a basic box of Crayolas, and I like to use it for tying up brown paper packages and cellophane bags of goodies. The other day I brought it into the kitchen and used it to cozy up some naked lolli sticks for this year’s festive candied apples.

Last year I bookmarked this Brooklyn Brew Shop recipe on The Mash and thought it was prime time to try it for myself and cozy up some bare apples!  I followed the outlined recipe with the exceptions of subbing light brown sugar I had in the cupboard for the dark brown sugar and the always cozy double chocolate stout (stout = “porter on steroids” as once described by a beer shop guy) for the maple chocolate porter listed. I had difficulty actually biting into the candied apple, so I ended up slicing the apples and serving them that way. The look of the toffee is sinister and the flavor is slightly sweet with hints roasted coffee. I think I will make another batch of toffee and form a few porter candy spiderweb toppers for the weekend (cinnamon/molasses gelato sundaes, anyone?).

To make your own sweatery sticks, glue the beginning of the yarn at one end of the stick with a dot of liquid glue and overlap to cover the glued piece. Continue wrapping the stick with yarn to desired length and secure the end with another dot of liquid glue.

(not) back-to-school piñata

Happy September (deemed “apple month” by my sister)! Many students and teachers are returning back to school after the Labor Day holiday if they haven’t already: bless ’em all. And though I didn’t make this folksy apple piñata for back-to-school, I like the idea of having something stress relieving to smash (that explodes with candy) after saying goodbye to summer vacation and hello to classroom assignments. Rather, a few special milestones in my family have passed: my parents both retired from public school teaching this summer, and they also celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last week. It called for a celebration (involving peaches and apples…), and we are looking forward to a festive cookout with our family this weekend! The piñata was made by covering a punching balloon using a basic papier-mâché method of dipping newspaper strips in a paste mix made of warm water, rice flour, and liquid glue. Once everything dried, the vessel was filled with little sweets, sealed up, and spray painted red.

molasses chocolate cordial kisses

You know the peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses in the middle? The slightly salty peanut butter cookie is soft and chewy, and then hello! a sweet solid chocolate enters the center creating a perfect flavor marriage. I love those treats. Here’s my late summer wedding inspired version made with homey molasses cookies and dark chocolate cordials.

I originally posted my Great Aunt Velma’s molasses cookie recipe* when I made molasses cookies with black cherry gelato earlier this year. For this test run, I rolled the spicy dough in pink sugar (~32 cookies when you make the dough balls tablespoon size) and placed dark chocolate cherry cordials and blackberry brandy cordials in the middles as soon as they were done baking (~8 minutes in the oven). The cherry cordials have a definite ooze effect, so it may be appropriate to take a generous bite to save the spiked juices from flowing down your shirt as you crack the chocolate shell. But who said a messy surprise is such a bad thing?

*The first go ’round I failed to follow one of Aunt Velma’s footnotes: place a drop of water on the center of the dough balls before baking. They taste the same, but they seem to crackle evenly with the water droplet.

grapehead popcorn ball vs. lemonhead popcorn ball

While my sister and her family were in town this weekend, we held a Grapehead Popcorn Ball vs. Lemonhead Popcorn Ball contest. Even though one lost, they were both sour. Lemon won by a slightly sweet head, though my sister maintains that grape is her favorite.

Make the sweet and tart popcorn balls yourself: Over medium heat, melt together 3 T butter, 1 C mini marshmallows, one small box lemonheads (be patient, the lemonheads will dissolve). Mix in 4 C popped corn until well coated. With oiled or buttery hands, form into balls. Makes six small orbs.

My niece held up her lemonhead popcorn ball in the air, took a bite, and said, “look, I am eating the moon!”