Archive | February, 2008

English Toffee

10 Feb

 

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I have a confession. I am a horrible fudge and toffee-maker. I would like to blame this on bad candy thermometers or (some other culprit I can’t think of, but I think it is me. A few Christmases ago, during my mom and my annual Christmas baking, I put my name next to Peanut Butter Fudge. Namely, because I love it. When I was younger, we would go to Galveston Beach and shop on the Strand, our last stop would be The Peanut Butter Warehouse, which my mom enjoyed for its antiques and I enjoyed for its fudge. The rest of the family would meander around the store, and I would pace back and forth in front of the fudge counter. I would feast my eyes of toffees and fudges, truffles and cordials, brittle, cookies, and all things chocolate-covered knowing my dad would return to get me and let me pick out one (maayyyybe two) treats for the walk back to the car. Dad and I would walk in the back of our group of people, I would savour my choice of fudge and he would sneak me pieces of him. I always liked peanut butter fudge, especially with a layer of chocolate on the top. So, two Christmases ago, I took on my own Peanut Butter Fudge. I took it on once, twice, three times with two different recipes, and each time, ended up wither with a runny, mushy, Peanut Butter Sludge (still tasty when drizzled over icecream) or something hard and burned, where the sugar had beyond-crystalized. Yuck. I have this twitch engrained in my head that if something I tried to make doesn’t turn out, it must because I did something wrong, and if I try harder, there’s no reason I can’t get it right. So, try, try again. I did nothing that day but look at different recipes and pout over batch after batch of ruined fudge.

Since then, I have kind of stayed away from anything involving candy thermometers, for the most part. I tried in the fall to make a delicious-looking Pumpkin Fudge, but again got Pumpkin Sludge.

This Christmas, we were at my mom’s friend JoAnn’s house. JoAnn, couth and adept in the kitchen, refined and at-ease in such a way that you really think, just for a second, the exquisite Cornish hens baking in the oven of her spotless kitchen may have been easy. You know they weren’t, but she sure makes them look otherwise.

A sheet of English Toffee lay on her kitchen table, half broken into pieces, half still in sheet-form, waiting for its last step. I helped myself to a small piece of toffee, and it was heavenly. The kind you would buy in some gourmet store wrapped in simple chic packaging for a mere $10. And you would feel like you got a good deal because ohmygoshthistoffeeissososogood.

I sheepishly asked for the recipe, with flashbacks of my skill in ruining fudge and toffees to be met with “oh, this is so easy” (me thinking: “but you have no idea”). She pulled the recipe out of a notebook, old and stained with butter-splatters and decorated with grains of sugar that had gone astray from their own recipe.

Long story short, I made the toffee. It was successful. Wonderful. Delish. No candy thermometer required…


JoAnn’s English Toffee.

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1 lb (4 sticks) plus 1 ½ T. salted butter. Do not (please do not) use margarine. The increased water content in margarine will make your recipe fail.

2 c. Sugar

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips.

 

Melt butter with sugar in heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat., stirring constantly with a heatproof spoon. Stir until the mixture turns a dark caramel color (about 8-10 minutes). Pour onto cookie sheet. Cool. Melt chocolate chips with 1 ½ T. butter at 30 second intervals in microwave, stir between each interval. Do not overheat. Spread chocolate over cooled toffee.


on hope…

8 Feb

I was reading today, and found some words of the Bible that just resonated in my heart with such a fervor. How many times are we left hanging? Feeling confused. Knowing that we made our decisions based on fervent prayer and assiduous attention and that our decision was not our own, but was what God had planned for us. And then, it just doesn’t work out like we thought it would? Why? We thought we did everything we were supposed to, and then we hoped. Why didn’t things turn out as planned?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick..”

So it happens, God know our woes, sees our hurt and understands that sometimes our hope is deferred.

“…but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

And alas, the promise of that desire fulfilled. A hope, not just fulfilled but transferred tangibly into a tree of life.

But what about now, if a hope is deferred, what do I focus on now? Where is my hope?

David answers us later:

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” -Pslam 39:7

Vote for the Chocolate Mousse!

6 Feb

Look at the chocolate mousse below, doesn’t it look great?

You should try it, too! So elegant and satiable.

Now vote for it:

Chocolate Mousse

6 Feb

This Chocolate Mousse is rich in flavour and light in texture, it only has a few ingredients, and you probably have them all on hand! Ready, set, go!

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(put any dessert or appetizer in a martini glass and it looks 1,000 times more chic)

Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Whipped

serves 8. 

3/4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, diced

2 tablespoons espresso or very strong coffee or vanilla

1 cup cold heavy cream

3 large eggs, separated

2 tablespoons sugar

(Optional) extra whipped cream (if you want whipped cream, whip 1 cup heavy cream to soft peaks, then add 1/3 c sugar and whip to stiff peaks)
Whip 1 cup cream to soft peaks, then refrigerate.

Combine chocolate, butter, and espresso in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave 40 seconds on med. power, stir, repeat until the chocolate is just slightly warmer than room temperature.

While chocolate is cooling, whip the egg whites in a medium bowl until they are foamy and beginning to hold shape.

Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

Stir the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Gently stir in half of the whipped cream. Fold in half the whites just until incorporated, fold in the rest of the whites followed by the rest of the whipped cream.

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Large Brush Collection Week

5 Feb

Last week was Large Bulk Trash Pick-up week in Milwood. This was an exciting event as everyone put their treasured garage-crap out on the curb for all to see. HilStreet covered it in extensive detail, with due awards. Among Jon and my contributions were six, 80-pound bags of cement from our curb…that cement was not only heavy, but it had already gotten wet. We hope whoever picked it up before Waste Management could has a good use for the 80-pound cement rectangular blocks now in their possession!

This week is Large Brush Trash Pick-up Week. Its title lets us all know that this week is much less exciting than last, as the guidelines are much more strict. If you forgot to put out your old wheelbarrow or nasty, smelly fridge, now is not the time. Restrictions are as follows:

  • Branches over 3 inches in diameter and up to 15 feet long are collected during specially-scheduled large brush collections.
  • Large brush must be at the curb in front of your house by 6:30 a.m. on the first day of the scheduled collection week(s).
  • Large brush should be stacked, unbound, in one row along the curb with the cut ends facing the street. The row should be no more than 15 feet long and four feet high. Anything beyond this amount will not be collected unless you have made prior arrangements to pay additional fees.

Now for the awards:

1. Most long-awaited Large Brush for collection: You held on to your Christmas tree for this long? We all have a lesson to learn from you on keeping the needles on a tree. (note: Christmas tree is hard to see as dead tree blends into dead grass)

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2. Most Haphazard Large Brush for collection: This one is tricky…your fence fell conveniently to the curb for pickup. Does it qualify? It hits all of the measurement requirements, and was once a tree. I think you’re in!

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so there’s that.

(What’s Left of a) Breakfast Pizza

3 Feb

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Every Wednesday, Jon has a group of guys over in the morning, which means every Wednesday, I get to make breakfast. Neither of us are much of breakfast eaters, so the only time I get to make it is when we have some sort of company. I love breakfast, and I always remember so when I make it. When we were younger, we often had breakfast for dinner, in which our plates were laden with waffles, sausage and hashbrowns, and the whole lot of it drenched in suryp. My parents were never much of breakfast eaters, so I suppose breakfast for dinner was my mom’s outlet to make such foods. We ought to have breakfast for dinner more often, but we don’t…so here’s to Wednesday mornings.

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This is Breakfast Pizza; forgiving, and flexible, it is a great breakfast, brunch, or breakfast-for-dinner meal.

Breakfast Pizza

serves 12.

2 croissant packages

1 lb. sausage, turkey sausage, groung beef, or diced ham

1 t. salt

5 eggs

1/2 c milk

1 1/2 c frozen hashbrowns, defrosted

1 c shredded cheddar, colby jack, pepper jack, or mozarella cheese

one cup each of two of the following: chopped tomatoes, choppes bell pepper, chopped onion, chopped mushrooms, chopped asparagus, chopped squash or more meat.

Cook sausage, potatoes and vegetables in a skillet.

Grease a 9×13 pan and unroll croissants. Place croissants in pan and pinch edges together to form croissant “crust.” Allow crust to come up the sides of the pan 1 inch.

Drain skillet contents of grease and pour over crust.

In a bowl, whisk salt, eggs and milk until combined.

Pour egg mixture over meat and vegetables and top with cheese.

Bake at 375 for 15-25 minutes, until eggs are cookes and cheese is melted.
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on parties

3 Feb

This weekend, we went to a Murder Mystery Dinner at the Zimel’s. Amber-Rose planned the whole party for Adam’s birthday, but it was so much fun, we all felt like we were at a party just for us!

The scene was a Napa Valley Winery. All of the characters came to the winery for its usual anniversary party, and much to their dismay, found the body of the winery’s past owner under the floorboards of the entryway! The previous owner had gone missing and been decided dead five years before. Now, we all had to figure out whodunnit.

Jon’s character was Otto von Shnapps a german wine merchant who had lots of money and would buy the best wines he could find. I was Marilyn Merlot, who left the town for Hollywood, where she became an accomplished actress. Jon was hilariously funny and I had to act like I wasn’t nervous to “act.” Jon won best costume!

Papa Vito (birthday boy)

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Me, telling my defense as to why I was NOT the killer…(Otto helped me re-enact the scene I was describing)

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Shhhh…

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Bud Weizer

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A myriad of suspects

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Otto!

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Marilyn!

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The Killer…

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most photos taken by Matt Flener, KXAN. yes, we had a news reporter at our party 🙂