Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rose's Toffee

"What's in a name? 
That which we call a rose 
By any other name 
would smell as sweet."

And this candy is just as sweet regardless of what you call it:  English Toffee, Almond Roca or Anne's Pound Candy.  My sister in law used to make something similar at all our Holiday get-togethers.   I've been craving it and decided to try it on my own this week.  It was not as hard as I thought it would be.  If I could make these yummy treats, I know that you could too.

The ingredients are pretty basic.
14 T butter
1 cup sugar
2 T cold water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or almonds)
1 t vanilla
Dash of salt
4 Hershey's Bars
A candy thermometer is helpful but not necessary.

First, I buttered my Pampered Chef cookie sheet and scattered the chopped walnuts evenly around.

In a heavy pot, I added the butter to melt on medium high heat.  
I love the smell of melting butter.

As it melted, but before it turned brown, I added 1 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cold water.  I'm not exactly sure why you need to add water, but it made a nice sizzling sound and looked impressive.

It was a lovely bubbly creation here that but had to be stirred constantly with a wooden spoon.  I would think that a nice red plastic spoon would melt.  Not that it has ever happened to me... but it probably would. 

Just keep stirring. Just keep stirring. Just keep stirring, 
stirring, stirring

The lovely creamy bubble turned quickly (10min +/-) into a dark brown concoction but it was still kinda grainy.

I began to worry- I might be burning it. 

At this point, I realized that the candy thermometer that I hardly ever use was cracked.  I decided not to use it incase it added tiny pieces of glass to the candy.

 I started to panic a bit... 
but remembered that there is a cold water test.  

I opened my handy dandy iphone and googled it.

From Taste of Home's website, I found that the "Hard-Crack Stage is (300°-310°). Drop a small amount of the hot candy mixture into the cold water. When cooled and removed from the water, the candy will separate into hard brittle threads."

                   >>>>Have I told you that I love my iphone?  Well, I really do!<<<<
See how the picture below shows the syrup to be less grainy and smoother?  It was almost ready.

I didn't have time to take pictures of me testing the candy, because of the panic mentioned above... but the very first try at testing showed that my candy was in fact brittle little threads.  I began to pour it onto the walnuts.
It looked yummy and beautiful.
It didn't take up the whole tray like I thought it would. Next time, I could double the recipe  to use the entire tray or just be happy with what I have....

The secret to being content... is to be happy with what I have.

Next, I opened 4 packages of Hershey's Milk Chocolate and crumbled up into pieces. 

I was surprised at how fast it melted.

I was able to smooth it with a soft spatula.

I thought that I could sprinkle some of the left over chopped walnuts  on top too. So, I did.  Once it was close to room temperature, I put it in the fridge to finish hardening.  Then it was easy to break up into small pieces.  

I really liked the finished process.  I think that it would be great to use almonds or even chopped peppermint candy canes.

Recipe for Rose's Toffee
14 T butter
1 cup sugar
2 T cold water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or almonds)
1 t vanilla
Dash of salt
4 Hershey's Bars

Butter a cookie sheet. Sprinkle chopped walnuts evenly on cookie sheet.  Add butter to a heavy pot and melt on medium high heat.  Once melted but not brown, add sugar and water and bring to a bubbling boil while stirring constantly. Boil and stir until contents reach 300-310 degrees on a candy thermometer or use the cold water test for a hard crack stage.  Remove from heat add vanilla and salt.  Pour onto nuts in the cookie sheet spreading as necessary.  Top with Hershey's chocolate bars and spread as it melts.  Cool completely and then break into pieces.  Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grammy's Russian Spiced Tea

I loved, loved, loved Christmas at my Grammy's house.  Grandpa and Grammy lived on several acres in SW Missouri. It was a time filled with family, love and wonderful food.

We would drive our VW from the mountains, across the prairie to the Ozarks. We would often arrive after dark, walking like zombies into the chilly"utility room.

It was a great place to land.  Next to her super sized freezer, Grammy had all her lovely canned tomatoes and green beans lining the wall in all their colorful glory.  There was also a little table that would have round tins of her Christmas candy: divinity, fudge and sometimes ribbon candy.  I'm ashamed to say that sometimes I would check out the tins before even saying hello.

Grammy was a great cook!  I don't think that I can make good fudge nor divinity at this altitude, but I can make another of her Christmas traditions:  Russian Spiced Tea.  Below is the original recipe from Tang.

I was not able to find unsweetened instant tea at the grocery store, so I varied my recipe.

2 cups Tang
2 cups sweetened instant lemon tea.
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves.
Mix together in a big bowl.  Use 4 teaspoons for every cup of hot water.  Store in air tight container.

It is just like stepping back into that sweet time of Christmas in the Ozarks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


     Way back when I was 18, I lived in Costa Rica. It was one of the happiest times of my life.  Costa Rica was still not really on the tourist radar.  In fact, a trip to the library for information resulted in three paragraphs in an encyclopedia.  Now, there are usually at least 10 complete travel books on any library or book store shelf.
     I lived with a wonderful family who was loving, intelligent, generous and fun.  Beto, the father was a medical doctor who practiced philosophy on the side.  On Saturday mornings, he and his wife, Astrid, would sit at the dining room table with a big pot of delicious coffee, tortillas, fresh natilla (A yummy tart cream) and a pack of cigarettes.  Their youngest daughter, Marcia, would be drawing.  The baby, Xunia, was happily sitting at the table covered in the white cream.  I would sit and listen to the two of them discuss all sorts of life's questions.  It was wonderful!  Truly, comfort food for the tummy, heart and the brain.
     My best friend was Astrid's sister, Ilse.  She was a gift from God and lived just up the street with her parents.  Ilse's physical size was the only thing small about her.  She loved to have big fun.  She would stop by the house and pull me out the door with plans to go to the beach, the disco or to a dance in Sarchi.  Life was never boring with Ilse.
     One time, there was an epidemic of African Pink Eye going around.  This Conjunctivitis was not fun and of course, I got it.  The problem was that I was supposed to go on a double date with Ilse.  She was determined to have me cured in time to play.  I remember laying on my bed with the sun steaming in the window.  Ilse came over and told me that the curanderas believed that a few drops of honey in each eye would take care of the problem.  She had a little tiny dish of honey and a toothpick in her hand.  She instructed me to let just a few drops of honey fall into each eye and she would be back that evening to pick me up.  Like a fool, I followed her instructions.  I can only tell you that I don't remember child birth hurting as much as that honey and I did not go to the party with her that night.
   Because of Ilse, I got to live Costa Rica like a local.  I learned how to pick coffee beans at her father's cafetal so that we would have enough money to get into the discoteca.  I got to walk the beach at midnight in Puntarenas.  I even took a very long bus trip that was similar to "Romancing the Stone."  I believe that my Spanish got better each day because of Ilse.  She never slowed her speech for me, nor did she "dummy down" her vocabulary.  I had to follow along or get left behind.
    I was also supposed to be going to school.  I really didn't spend a lot of time there.  Algorithms in Spanish are just as boring as in any other language.  I would skip class and nobody ever seemed to mind.
        One thing I do remember about school was the lady who sat on the street corner selling snacks.  She would show up about the same time every day with a little table covered with treats.  My favorites were the fruit filled empanadas and the buñuelos.  For some reason, I remember them also being called something like orejas or elephant ears.  What I do remember was a crisply fried disk of dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  You could also get them covered with a lovely brown sugar syrup.  It was sticky, sweet and great with a cup of dark Costa Rican coffee.
     At work this week, we were having a get together with all the employees.  Everybody was supposed to bring something that would go with Tacos.  I immediately thought of empanadas and buñuelos.  So, on Friday, I mixed up some empanadas filled with cherry jelly.  They were just ok.  My pie dough was a bit too fluffy and it made the empanadas a little to airy.  I left them in a bowl to drizzle frosting on later.  Harry, my husband, thought they tasted fine and ate them all.  So, I decided on buñuelos.
     I had tried to make buñuelos before, but they were not very crispy nor light.  I found a recipe that I adapted a bit and they turned out much better this time.  I kept them far away from Harry and had plenty to take to the party.  We even had a few left overs for breakfast with coffee the next morning.

1/4 c sugar
1 t cooking oil
4 eggs
2 1/4 t baking powder
2 c flour (or more as needed)
1 t salt
1 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugar and 1 t cooking oil and whisk until thick.  In a separate bowl, stir together the 1 1/4 c flour, baking powder and salt.  Slowly add the dry mix to the wet.  It will be very sticky.  Put the remaining 1/4 c flour onto the counter (better yet, a wooden bread board).  Turn dough out and knead until smooth.  You may need more flour.  Shape into 16 balls and rolls each one into a thin circle about 5" in diameter. I found the thinner the better.  Let stand for about 10 minutes.  Heat oil in a deep dutch oven to 350 degrees.  Fry circles until golden brown, turning once.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.  These are so good with Costa Rican coffee, but the kind of coffee processed there.  It really really is so much better!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quilts, Rain and Pancakes- Oh My!

     This week I broke out my quilting supplies.  I have a 1930's Singer Featherweight sewing machine that I just love!  I would not trade it in for anything fancier!  It is perfect just the way it is!  It goes forwards and backwards- that's all. But it always works!  What other appliances do we have around the house that are 80 years old and still work as well today as when it was new?  This little black beauty will probably be working strong for my grandchildren too.

     I have a dear friend in Red Feather who has inspired me to start yet another sewing project.  So, Monday I started cutting out fabric for a Wizard of Oz quilt for Sarah's 7th birthday in July.  My friend and I are designing it as we go.  Yesterday I got all the center blocks finished.  There are 24 that have 6 inch pictures or quotes from the movie.  It has been a challenge and I have no idea how it will turn out.  I hope that I still like it when it is finished.  I will post pictures.

    Today we awoke to rain.  Here in Colorado it could have very easily been snow in April. I remember as a girl, I had been given a really cute umbrella.  It was like an upside down tulip.  When opened it would cover me completely, but I could still see out of it's clear vinyl.  The only problem was it hardly ever rained in Colorado.  We either had wonderful blue skies, or we had snow and hail.  I have very few memories of rainy days.  I remember walking around the neighborhood with my little umbrella on a beautiful sunshiny day hoping for rain. Today, I wish had that umbrella for my little ones.  They are walking around the cul-de-sac in their winter coats holding crab apple blossoms in the rain.

   Last night, I promised my girls we'd make pancakes.  I have a recipe that is easy to do and has great results.  No need for Bisquick or Aunt Jamima mix, but just as quick. That means, I don't have to plan ahead.

Yummy Pancakes

1 1/2 cup milk
1 T lemon juice (optional)
1 egg beaten
3 T melted butter
1 t vanilla

1 1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1T sugar

1. In a small bowl mix together wet ingredients.  If using the lemon, let this mixture sit for a minute. In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center.  Pour in liquids, mix until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly oiled (can use the melted butter mentioned above) skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Pour or scoop 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake.  Brown on both sides and serve hot. You can easily add a few blueberries to make this even yummier.