Chewy Peanut Candies

Oct 26, 2012

Have you ever had a week when the thought of planning a meal days ahead of time, then going to the store, and then getting ingredients prepped and ready for the slow cooker seems way too overwhelming? 
I mean, the slow cooker does the cooking for you, and yet I still couldn't wrap my head around making it happen.

But candy? 
I had no problem getting this made. 
First of all, the recipe is so easy no real brain power was needed. 
Secondly, my husband was more than happy to go to the store for some peanuts when he heard that they would be turned into peanutty goodness that taste similar to a Payday.

When I came across this recipe several months ago I thought they would be a great addition for my Christmas treat boxes that I take to neighbors, teachers, etc. I make peanut clusters every year and didn't want to make both the clusters and these, so I needed to decide which treat was better. I decided to make the chewy candies and top them with chocolate for the taste comparison. Now seems like as good a time as any to test them out...
4 Tbsp butter
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups peanuts
Chocolate chips
*I used a 6qt crock pot which seemed to work really well for this recipe. When you add the nuts in at the end the candy expands quite a bit.
*Have 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper before you finish the candy in the crock pot. The candy goes directly onto prepared pans after the addition of the nuts, but you need to be ready.
Place butter in crock pot. Add sugar, corn syrup and vanilla on top of the butter Cover and cook on high for one hour. 
After this first hour of cooking stir everything around to combine. Stir in the baking soda. Cover and cook on high for another 30 minutes. Stir and then cover and cook for another 15 - 30 minutes until the mixture becomes a caramel color. 
The original post tells you to look for the color of peanut brittle or a Payday candy bar. (Mine reached the desired color after about 10 minutes.) When this color is reached stir in your nuts. The mixture will foam and swell while you add them. Using oven mitts pour mixture onto the two prepared cookie sheets and spread out using a spatula. 
Allow candy to cool for an hour then tear into pieces.
At this point I was impressed with the taste of the candy, but not so much with the presentation. Next time I might cut it instead of tearing it because it pulls and stretches and the edges look a little junky. I ended up rolling them up a bit to conceal the edges. 
To coat the candies I melted chocolate chips with a bit of shortening for easy dipping and allowed to harden. 
These turned out really well. They tasted like a Payday until I added the chocolate and then they took on a Snickers taste...both versions got tons of compliments. 
As for the Christmas treat boxes...These Chewy Peanut Candies really are all together different from the peanut I think I'll be making both.

That Mom

Oct 16, 2012

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would become That Mom.

And for the most part, I'm not. 

For instance, I am lucky to get a shower by noon on most days.  Especially if it is a run day.  Why on earth would I shower in the morning knowing I am just going to get all sweaty and have to do it again a few hours later.  I have no desire to look pretty at the bus stop.

Also, let's talk about what I wear on a daily basis.  Um, mostly workout clothes.  Partially because they are comfortable, partially because I have very few clothes that fit.  You would be proud of me dear readers ... I finally braved the mall and it's teenage clerks and bought myself a pair of jeans that fit.  I hate shopping and having a 16 year old kid try to sell me skinny jeans is anxiety provoking for me.  So, can I get by all winter with just one pair?!?

Hairstyle, mostly ponytails.  Yes, I am 36 years old and my hairstyle of choice most days is a ponytail.  It takes too much effort and time to dry my hair.  And most days, the only people I see are my 3 year old and the clerk at Target.  Don't think either of them care. 

So I am certainly not the perfect looking mom that is bright eyed at the bus stop with her starbucks, but where I do get "that mom" status is my baked goods.

I'm the one that brings home made baked goods everywhere she goes. PTA meetings, bus stops, ballet class recitals, soccer games.

And considering the amount of catasphrophes that I have had in the kitchen, it is fairly amazing;

My fire count is at 3, I think

I've cut myself severely more than a few times with knives, scissors, a mandolin, and a blender

Once, I picked up a pan that had just come out of a 350 degree oven with my bare hands

I've burnt the heck out of a whole lot of recipes

I once mixed up the measurements for salt and sugar ...

I could go on and on

Despite all the catastrophes, I just love to bake.  It's fun.  And stress relieving.  

Here's my secret ... the reason that I bring this stuff everywhere I go ... Really is all about me ... I love love love to bake and play in the kitchen, but if it sits around the house, well, I will eat it and eat it and eat it ....

Seriously, until I am physically ill.  I have a sweet tooth like no other and absolutely no self control.  And I really don't want to have to go back to the mall and buy another pair of jeans.

Those Granola Bars I make ... I may or may not have finished off the entire batch once in 4 days. 

Just add it to the list of self help programs I need. 

And since I started running, while I could induldge more in sweets, I actually don't.  Seems counterintuitive I know, but my logic is that if I just ran my ass off for 50 minutes, I really don't want to ruin it 20 minutes later by eating a whole pan of granola bars.  Make sense?

So I bake, you enjoy, there is nothing to hate about that, right?

I saw these on pinterest and knew I had to try them.  They are so cute!  What a great idea!

They are sugar cookies ... shaped to look like candy corn.

Fun, right?

I used these for bus stop treats.  Packaged them up in little cellophane bags with cute little ribbons.

These were really easy to put together, I thought that they might be hard. 

Basically it is a sugar cookie with colored dough. 

***Just a warning before you get started, you really want to refrigerate this dough overnight!!!*****

Here's the recipe:

2 Sticks Butter, softened
1 c. Sugar
1 Egg
2 T. Lemon Juice
1/8 t. Salt
3 c. Flour
1/2 t. Baking Soda
Red Food Coloring
Yellow Food Coloring
Sugar for Coating

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add egg, lemon juice, and salt. Continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and baking soda, beat until well mixed. Divide dough into thirds.

Press one-third of the plain dough evenly into the bottom of a loaf pan that you have lined with parchment paper. Place another one-third of the dough into a bowl and add yellow and red food dye to make orange.  Once it is mixed evenly, press orange dough evenly over white dough. In another bowl, add the final amount of dough and dye yellow. Press that evenly over the orange dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Once chilled, turn your loaf pan upside down on a cutting board and unwrap your dough. Cut loaf into 1/4-inch slices.  

Cut each slice into 6 wedges.  Roll each wedge in sugar then place on pan.

Bake 6 to 10 minutes, until just a tiny bit brown on the bottom.  You don't want to over bake these!

The kids loved them, they were delicious, and this made a ton (though the cookies themselves are small).

Happy Fall everybody!

Hopefully I'll be back later in the week with a scone recipe and a story of how NOT to use a mandolin!


Baked Apple Chips

Oct 15, 2012

There are tons of easy homemade snack recipes out there. The problem is that many of them take forever, aren't terribly nutritious, or the kids in your life won't eat them. Have you ever peeled a can of garbanzo beans and roasted them only to have your child turn up their nose and not try A Single One? Ever make a kid cry insisting she at least try a kale chip? Ever spent over an hour cutting out shapes from dough made of cheese in order for the final product to be chewed and spit out?

Just me...

Well, this snack is easy, very nutritious, and if your child won't eat them she may be an alien.

Just saying.

These baked apple chips are fantastic. My one year old ate a full apple today and my 4 year old chose them for "dessert."


Golden Delicious apples *

Preheat oven to 225 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice apples on mandolin. If you can get apples sliced super thin with a knife, go for it, but I know my limitations. I don't have an apple corer so I don't core my apples. If the inner core is hard I will cut it out of individual slices with a paring knife, but you'll find that it is unnecessary. Place apple slices on prepared baking sheets being careful not to overlap apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 1 hour. Turn apples over and bake for another hour. After second hour of baking turn the oven off and let apples cool in the oven. This is where they become crisp, so don't get discouraged before they have sat in the oven and cooled completely.

* I use Golden Delicious apples because they have enough sweetness but are a tad tart and have a great texture. Because the flavors really concentrate Granny Smiths become too sour for my taste. A sweeter apple would also be great.



Oct 10, 2012

This, my friends, is the face of a woman that has just run 13 miles and would really like the finish line to be just a little bit closer.  Another tenth just seems too far.

This is also the face of a woman that did not quit. 

Who ran 13.1 miles on a very cold day even when she wasn't quite sure herself if she could do it.

Sure, others had confidence. 

Others believed. 

Others texted and called and cheered and facebooked, "You've got this".

But there was always that little bit of doubt.

This is my favorite running quote. 

My little voice, is not so little.  She is very loud, she likes to be heard and she likes to win.  It has taken a lot of training to shut her up. 

And race day ... race day was the ultimate battle ... to see who was truly going to win.

There were some factors working against me.  The biggest was the cold.  The weather turned crazy cold in the past week and I don't have a lot of experience running outside in the cold.  And I certainly didn't have the clothes for it!  I had to go out and buy some supplies. 

Yes, I know, I broke a cardinal rule of racing.  Never, ever, wear something on race day that you have never run in before.  But, dear readers, I had no choice.  I knew if I didn't buy something to cover my legs, I was going to freeze.

So here is the lovely outfit that I came up with. 

Ok, I have had 3 different people ask me why the shorts over the tights ... Um, because I don't want people staring at my ass, that's why.  And no, I don't know why this picture is sideways, I gave up fighting it!

I seriously should get some kind of award for this.  It's so, um, colorful, right?!? 

A friend suggested that I might need granimals for running ... so, fashion has never been my thing, what can I say?

You could certainly spot me in a crowd.

Anyway, back to the story.  It was cold, I was running in an article of clothing I had never run in before, I had totally slacked on my hill training and there was a big one at mile 11.  Seriously, what sick person puts a giant hill at mile 11??  Check out this elevation ... flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, HILL, then just for fun, when your legs are jell-o, we will make you go down hill - YIKES!

Again, back to the story ... cold, new clothes, hill, and nerves.  That was what I had going against me. 

Things in my favor, Wade was running it too (I cannot tell you how much having someone there with you helps, even though we don't run together - that is a whole other post) months and months and months of training, lots of support, and the thought that if I had to walk the only person that would likely ever know would be me - but that I would have to live with that forever. 

We got there super early.  I was worried about parking.  Because that is just what I do, I worry about things I cannot control.  So, we hung out in the car till about an hour before race time.  Breakfast consisted of a greek yogurt in the car on the way down and a mini bagel with peanut butter right before we got out of the car. 

I knew a few other people that were running the race and we ran into one of them on the way to the starting area.  Chatted with her while we walked.  Nerves officially kicking in.  Hit the port-o-potty, found the bag drop and then scored a sweet spot underneath some portable heaters to hang out for a bit.  At this point it was still dark!  We decide at 7:00 (start time is 7:30) to hit the port-o-potty one more time and then make our way to the corrals.  It is finally getting light.  We find our spots and do more waiting.  Ugh, will it ever end?  I see two port-o-potties near the start line and decide, maybe I should go again.  Wade thinks I am nuts and of course there is a line, but I do it anyway.  We kiss for luck before I try to get in line as I am afraid I might not see him again, it has started to get crowded.  Make my way back to the start with 2 minutes to spare.  It's show time.

Was a slow start to get to the actually starting line, but I prefer it that way - was never concerned I was going to be trampled.  And seeing as how I hate crowds and they mostly freak me out, this was a blessing!

The first mile, goes by pretty quick.  With the exception of a small hill about a half mile in.  I was like WTF??  This thing is billed as the flattest, fasted half in the state or something, come on!  Ha.  But I kept going.

Ooh, here is another rant, people are already ditching stuff ... hats, gloves, shirts, etc ... at a half mile in?  Why did you even bother???  But I guess the answer is because we were all standing outside waiting for so long, I don't know, still seem like a waste!

Ooh, last rant for awhile, there was a port-o-potty stop at about 3/4 of a mile in ... and there was a line!  Seriously??  That seems like a total failure to plan.  Ridiculous! 

Have I digressed enough?!?

At about mile 2, I can see Wade ahead in the distance, honestly, not too far in front of me.  This means one of two things, either I am running too fast or he is running too slow.  When runkeeper chick comes on in my ear and tells me I my pace is 9:40 at this point, I know the answer is that I am running too fast.  And not necessarily too too fast, but my biggest fear was coming out too fast and burning out too early.  So, I adjust my pace a bit and Wade slips away. 

Mile 4, I finally ditch the gloves.  Yes, I deem mile 4 appropriate for ditching clothing ;)  Though, I will want those darn things back at 5.5 when the wind kicks up.  I am feeling great at this point.  Breathing is good and legs are good.  I didn't really care for the gravel at around the 5 mile mark, but it didn't last for long.

We are now headed into the New Town area ... I am not sure how to describe this to people that aren't familiar.  It is a planned community, that has sort of a little "town" housed within it.  There are some shops and a park and a church.  All the houses have to look a certain way.  It seems sorta cultish to me, but, to each their own.  This part of the race is basically a big loop through this neighborhood and you come out the same way you go in.  You spend about 3 miles in the neighborhood, so those coming out as you are going in are 3 miles ahead of you.  Yikes!  Those people that I saw are what I would call the 'serious' runners.  They were people that could have thoughts on winning - whether this is true or not, I have no idea, but they all looked pretty intense.  I hit mile 6 here and I was starting to feel it.  Not fatigued yet, really, just sorta, blah.  The way this looped around, you got to see some other runners and I actually saw Wade!  I was ridiculously excited about it.  I saw him first and was afraid he was going to miss me, so I actually sprinted up so that I could catch him on the corner.  I can not tell you how uplifting this was.  I have no idea why, but it kicked my butt into gear.  He was about a mile ahead of me at this point.   

Finally made it out of this neighborhood and hit mile 9 and really, still feeling pretty good overall.  This is where I started to see people fall off.  Lots of people off to the side stretching, stopping to walk, etc.  I just kept going.  My mantra this race ... "Pain is temporary, Quitting is forever".  Anytime I got down, or started to feel tired, I would just repeat that over and over.  Or start singing loudly.  What did I care, I don't know any of these people!

Mile 10 there was a lot of mantra repeating.  The other thing I kept thinking was, seriously, there is only XX miles to go - you can't stop now! 

Mile 11 was the dreaded hill.  I am not going to lie, it did slow me down.  But it didn't stop me.  I found someone up in the distance.  She had on a bright blue shirt with one of those camelback things on her back.  I just looked at her and put one foot in front of the other and kept going.  Left.  Right.  Left.  Right.  Left.  Right.  And I guess I learned why the hill was at mile 11 and not mile 5.  If that hill had been earlier in the race, I can almost bet that I would have slowed to a walk to recover from it.  But when you are that close to the finish - there was no stopping!!!

Somewhere along here, I finally ditched the top shirt.  Don't laugh - I know it was late in the race.  But I was finally to the point where I was HOT and it had to go, so what if there was only 2 miles left.

After the hill, I was pretty much on autopilot.  Less than 2 miles left and you just go.  You know you are going to make it if you can just hang on a little bit longer.  There was a pretty big downhill in here at about mile 12, which in my head I was always thinking would be great, but in actuality, it was kinda scary.  Legs were a bit on the Jello-y side and hitting the pavement too quickly was killer on the knees.  I was lucky I didn't roll down it.

You can see the finish line with about 3 tenths to go.  And that was when I started to tear up.  I had done it, I was going to make it and nothing was going to stop me.  If you need a boost to your self confidence, if you need to feel good about yourself, train for this and do it - it was a tremendous feeling, to be proud of yourself for this accomplishment.

So here I am, about 20 feet from the finish line.  Dying on the outside, but bursting with pride on the inside. 

I crossed that finish line with my hands in the air and a smile on my face.

I had done it!

I have said this before and I will say it again.  If I can do it, you can do it.  I couldn't run 1/4 of a mile when I started.  13.1 miles seemed completely and totally impossible ... shoot 3 miles seemed impossible.  Don't think about the time it will take to get there, the time will pass anyway -- lace up those shoes and get out there!  You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Acorn Treats

Oct 8, 2012

Do you remember what the first rule of cooking is? 
Think back to junior high Home Economics. 
Times up. 
The first rule is to read the ingredient list and recipe instructions from beginning to end before starting. 
My junior high self aced home ec....
my adult self realized today that I would fail big time. 
I came across this adorable acorn treat one morning and decided that they would be fun to make with The Princess. 
We looked at the picture and added the ingredients to the shopping list and away we went. 
Turns out that you can't read acorn books by their cover, because I made them all wrong. 
Whoops, but they turned out cute and were super easy. 
In the original recipe the pieces are held together with melted chocolate and I used corn syrup. 
Both ways work and both have their drawbacks. The chocolate method takes longer to set up so you would have to wait a bit longer before applying the mini chocolate chip, and the corn syrup method leaves the treats looking a little shiny. The original recipe also calls for chocolate to be piped on top to form the stem. Ummm, no thanks. The dollop looks just like a mini chocolate chip, so why not use a mini chocolate chip. 
Hershey's kisses-I used dark chocolate because they are my husbands favorite
Corn syrup-I poured a small amount onto a lid for easy dipping
Nutter Butter Bites
Mini Chocolate Chips
First, unwrap your Hershey's kisses.
If you have a little helper, make sure you don't turn your back. 
Little helpers have been known to steal chocolate. 
Dip the large end of the Kiss into corn syrup and press onto a Nutter Butter bite. 
Once they have started to set up dip the flat side of the mini chocolate chip into corn syrup and place on top of the Nutter Butter. 
Done. Easy. Cute.
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