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Anise Candy

My grandma taught me how to make candy when I was 12 years old.  I have made this recipe every year since.  It is very easy and very tasty.  If I sent my mother her Christmas box without a bag of this candy in it I would be in serious trouble.

Here we go!  First rule is no small children underfoot while making this.  Melted sugar burns terribly and you don’t want to trip over a child and hurt them.  Put on a Christmas movie for them and tell them you are cooking spinach – they won’t want to be anywhere near you.

Second rule – have a candy/fry thermometer you trust.  They are cheap things you can get at Wal-Mart or Target if you are a fancy person and prefer red over blue in your cashier’s clothing.  How do you know if you trust your thermometer?  Stick it on the side of a pan of water – not touching the bottom of the pan – and see what the temperature reads when the water boils.  Should be 212 .  If it is only 5 degrees off or so, just adjust accordingly when making candy.  If it is off 20 degrees you have a problem!

Third rule – don’t make this when it is humid.  It will be sticky and we don’t want that.

Now for the ingredients:

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of white syrup/corn syrup

1/2 cup of water

2 teaspoons of Anise flavoring

red food coloring – the cheapy stuff works just fine here

Put your sugar, syrup, and water in a heavy bottom pan.  Clip your thermometer onto the side of the pan with the tip submerged in the goo but not touching the bottom of the pan.  Cook this at medium heat until it reaches 300 degrees.  Notice I did not say to stir it.  Don’t.  It messes with the crystalline structure of the sugar and makes problems.  In theory.  In actuality I have stirred it and not stirred it and gotten the exact same results.

When the sugar mixture reaches 300* turn off the heat and add your flavoring and coloring.  It will snap and pop a little when you do this – don’t have your face over the pan.  Stir it up and then pour it onto a sprayed cookie sheet with a rim or like I do – onto a silicone baking mat on a rimmed cookie sheet.

Now we will separate the professionals from the amateurs.  Scoring.  Stand by the candy and start making lines in the molten lava with a butter knife making a checkerboard pattern on it. Each square should be about the size of a postage stamp.  In the middle of the candy where it is really hot the lines will disappear.  You just have to wait for it to cool some more.  Continue this forever and ever and ever  until it is all cool enough that the lines don’t disappear any more and then let it cool completely before breaking into pieces.

Or if you are lazy like me just let it cool without scoring it and then break it into weird-shaped pieces instead of pretty squares.  It tastes the same either way.

If you don’t like Anise flavor try root beer or cherry or peppermint or basil or cinnamon.  But not basil – that was a joke.

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Thought Train

1.    I thought today would be a great day to catch up on all kinds of things.  Millions of things that take less than 5 minutes each but add up to a lot.  The kids are being great and wanting to be helpers – who am I to deny them?  Sure, you can put that book away.  Okay, go ahead and put those socks in the hamper.  I am so nice to them….ha!

So I sat down to finish two receiving blankets for a friend.  They were already cut and all I had to do was zip around the four sides of each with my serger and then I could put the serger away where it belongs instead of on the piano where I claim it is a decorating statement but no one belives me.  Serger had other ideas!  A thread popped out and I figured out where it went, put it there, and kept sewing. Thread popped out, same one.  I looked more closely, put it back slightly different, sewed some more.  Thread popped out, I got out the tweezers and turned on the light, put it back and kept sewing.  This went on for about 8 more rounds.  On the ninth try I put the thread back the exact same way I did it the first time and it worked.  Can you explain this to me?

 

2.      I made my kids pose for this picture outside in the freezing cold yesterday.  They are plotting revenge.  I expect ice water as a key element in their strategy.

3.      I blew up my van on Saturday.  Well, just the motor.  I think it is because I read the latest Stephanie Plum novel this week.  I see some similarities in our abilities to keep vehicles running smoothly.  If you have not read her books and you are not my mother, go out and get all 18 books by Janet Evanovich immediately.  If you are my mother, wait a little while……cuz I said so that’s why.

4.     I love our little library.  Miss Linda reads to the kids and does crafts with them and lets them use paint (brave woman) and the library director was waiting at the door with the newest Stephanie Plum when I came in at my usual Tuesday time.  She feeds my addiction. 

5.     Small towns are wonderful.  Especially when you live out in the country and are not part of the local gossip but you still get the great service.  A couple of weeks ago when it was still warm the sheriff’s deputy came storming into the house with his gun drawn. 

         “hi Tim, what’s up?” I ask. 

         “oh, hi, saw the garage door open and thought you were being robbed, sorry” he says.

         “no problem, thanks for checking, say hi to your dad for me” I say

         “will do, bye!”

6.     It is fun to stop at Grandma’s house when she is in the mood to get rid of stuff.   I am making a pork loin in my new roasting dish today.  Yum.

7.    My toes are cold.

8.    My friend is having a baby very soon and I will get to borrow him every day when she goes to work.  I am tired of waiting.  Think I can convince her to do jumping jacks?

9.    If I bake her cookies and put castor oil in them to bring on labor will she taste it?

 

Funny Gift Ideas

I thoroughly enjoy Christmas and everything to do with it.  I love giving people gifts that they will enjoy for years to come.  I love to make things for people because they know I put a lot of thought into it and into them.

I MOST enjoy giving people gifts that make them laugh out loud.  For instance, a couple years ago I gave my brother a huge box that was wrapped beautifully – inside was a smaller box wrapped beautifully, etc.  Until the last box which was completely wrapped in duct tape and impossible to open contained a gift card.  Ha Ha…..well, I laughed.

Last year I gave him a mirror with mustaches on it because he can’t have any facial hair where he works and this way he could look in the mirror and think he was cool. 

Look at the website I found today – they have no idea who I am – they are not giving me anything – I was just cyber shopping and found all of this stuff that made me laugh really, really hard.

 

 

 

Can you see what these are?  Flavor Savers – mustache shaped chip clips.  As Rachel Zoe would say “I die”

 

 

 Buttered Popcorn scented air fresheners.  Too funny – there are lots of different ones of these.  I love them all.

 

Pre-chewed bubble gum magnets.  Know anyone who needs these in their locker?

 

 

This is Pooter the skunk.  He is also a whoopee cushion.  I know I will regret it forever but I am getting one for my son.

Want to see the website?  Check it out! The name fits perfectly.  They have a whole section of stocking stuffers.

www.perpetualkid.com

Super Simple Cider

While I was in college I worked at a greenhouse.  It was magical – I would have worked there for free.  Thankfully they not only paid me they also fed me.  In the front of the store where all the gifty – cutesy things were they kept a popcorn machine going all the time.  Free popcorn for all customers!  Also free food for broke college students.  I ate a LOT of popcorn.

Right after Thanksgiving every year they would pump up the Christmas music and put a large coffee pot on the counter.  You know the ones – big silver thing found in church basements around the universe.  Or at least Iowa.  Every morning they would stock the coffee pot with hot apple cider.  I was rarely the first one in the store in the mornings so I never made the cider.  I drank gallons of the stuff and couldn’t figure out how they made it.  One Saturday I came in extra early to discover the secret.  I will share it with you if you promise not to tell anyone……

Candy Red Hots and Apple Juice

That is the entire recipe.  To make an industrial-size pot just mix several bottles of apple juice with one box of Red Hots.

To make this at home drop eight to ten Red Hots in the bottom of your favorite mug, splash in some apple juice and zap in the microwave.  Stir and slurp to your heart’s content.

Does that make grammatical sense?  ‘to your heart’s content’  Should it be UNTIL your heart’s content?  I don’t know – I’m not good at answers, only questions.

I have made this in a large batch in my coffee pot – it made a sticky mess and made coffee taste weird for a while.  It would be better to just heat it in a tea-pot or regular pan on the stove.

Pork and Beans – but not like that

My husband loves lasagna.  Would eat it every day.  Eats it cold out of the fridge for breakfast.  I will not post about that because his ideal version of lasagna includes Velveeta and you don’t want that.  His second favorite food is my lazy  supper.

Pork Chop and Green Bean Casserole

This is tricky – read carefully

Make your favorite green bean casserole just like you normally would but hide pork chops underneath it in the pan. 

Get that?  Put a layer of pork chops in a casserole dish and spread green beans and cream of mushroom soup over the top.  Bake.  How long?  I don’t know – I like to bake it a long time at 250 and it seems to be ready whenever I take it out.  Don’t forget the french fried onions on top.

There you go – this would probably work in the crock pot too.

Black Friday – where do you stand?

I had never heard of Black Friday until I was an assistant manager at Wal-Mart.  Everyone was talking about Black Friday and I had to stop someone and ask what it was.  After looking at me like I had grown a second head they explained it was the biggest shopping day of the year.  The Olympics of shopping.  I was struck mute.  I had been shopping all these years and not once even witnessed this event!

Black Friday rolled around and I was scheduled to work the evening shift – report for duty at 10 am.  I showed up at 4:30am.  I was not going to miss out again.  I was standing in one of the main aisles when BossMan walked by and said ‘you better move  kid’  “oh, I’m ok”  He turned around and came face to face with me and said ‘if you stand there you will be trampled and I don’t have time for the ER today.  See that wall of jeans?  Climb halfway up it if you need to see this”  BossMan walked to the front door to unlock it. (This was many years ago when Wal-Mart still closed for Thanksgiving)  I was told later that he would never allow anyone else to unlock the doors on Black Friday because of the danger. He had been injured badly on many occasions.  The doors opened, hundreds of people ran in like a tidal wave.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The excitement!  The danger!  The competition!  I was hooked immediately!  I have never missed another Black Friday!

What are your plans this Friday?  Are you going?  Are you making it a day out with friends?  Are you hiding in your house with the blinds drawn and the phone turned off like my mom?

If you are planning on shopping, here is a great site to check out.     www.theblackfriday.com  All the ads in one place. 

A couple of my must-haves this year:

Walgreens has Colgate toothpaste on sale for $3 with $3 register rewards with each purchase plus I have a $1 off coupon.  I will make money on toothpaste.  Score!  Also Scunci hair ties are 2 for $3 with $3 register rewards for two – meaning free!

Wal-mart has the Shark Steam mop for $38 – do I need one?  Is it that much better than a mop?  Let me know….

Menard’s has an alarm clock for 4.99 that flies a thing off of the top when the alarm goes off and the alarm won’t stop until you find the flying piece and put it back on the top which forces you out of bed making you less likely to go back to sleep and more likely to write terrible run-on sentences.  My brother will be receiving one of those.  He he he

Anything you can’t live without this season?

Being pecked to death by a duck

Ever hear the saying that parenting is like being pecked to death by a duck? 

My son is right now standing next to me bashing his nose against my elbow saying “peck, peck, peck”……..I don’t know what to think about that.