Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker


Candy is tricky to make.

That’s the first thing I have to say because I’m sure this recipe was tested and I’m sure I’m the one who did something wrong. I have an idea that maybe it boiled too long.

Wait while I put some of my ideas about candy making mistakes into the google machine. Stand by.

I’m back already to say that so far, I’m a genius. I used the correct pan. I used a wooden spoon. It’s not like I’ve never seen candy made. I must have absorbed something somewhere. Maybe my idea about the mistake is right. Stand by.

Behold! It’s an hour later, but I think I found the problem(s):
1    1.  If you're using molds, prepare the molds with lollipop sticks, spray with oil, and place them on a cookie sheet or marble slab.
2    2.    Adding it (the flavoring) sooner causes most of the flavor to cook away.

I didn’t actually search for an hour. I got sidetracked by bright, shiny objects. Big surprise.

The recipe I used said nothing about greasing the molds. There was also a suggestion that you turn a cookie sheet upside down and put the molds on that. Or a marble slab, but I don’t have one. While I don’t think I added the flavoring too soon, maybe I did. If I did, it was seconds too soon.

These lollipops were made with Captain Morgan rum. They’re supposed to you know, taste like rum. They don’t. They mellowed into a very light, warm flavor with a slight taste of butterscotch.
In short, it tastes the way you think liquor should taste when you’re a kid, but then you drink your first gin martini or your first straight shot of whiskey and you realize it could strip varnish off an old table.  

So here’s the problem: the recipe casually mentions peeling the mold away from the lollipop or the lollipop away from the mold or something that sounds easy but in reality wasn’t easy at all. 

The lollipops did what hard candy does. It was hard. They didn’t peel. They didn’t budge. Finally, I tried to push on them from the bottom and they did what hard candy does. They cracked.

Realizing I was not going to have yummy lollipops because I’d already sampled some of the mixture, I decided to try popping them out of the molds. They popped all right. They popped into pieces. I stored them overnight and yearned for the flavors to get to know one another. Perhaps even marry into a delicious, rum-soaked passionate affair.

They did no such thing.

In my post candy-making despair, I’ve eaten three of them. I wrote the place from whence I gathered the recipe. They apologized, but had no tips to offer. So I decided not to try again. 

Also? In my frustration during the actual candy-making debacle, I threw away the mold.

Makes me think the expression “After they made you, they broke the mold” could be used in a good way, could be used in a bad way. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday snacking and shopping


For the past four weeks at least, I've been doing my best to leave holiday treats on the shelves at the store.

Usually I shop the perimeter of the grocery store, so it isn't difficult for me to skip most all the aisles except the canned vegetable aisle. I purposely go down the liquor aisle just to keep from shopping the others.

I go up through produce, skirt the bakery, round through the deli department and then down the vegetable aisle. If my store ever moves things around from that aisle, I'm in big trouble. It has Mexican products, vegetables and beans. If I need coffee, that peeks out from a shorter aisle, so I don't have to go down the aisle to fetch it. I get back to the meat department and head east to dairy. When I need to go back, I pass the paper/cat food aisles to hit the liquor aisle. I just walk down the liquor aisle.

OK, I might stop and smell a few roses in the liquor aisle. But it’s all too expensive and I hear it’s not the thing to drink alone. Being the only drinker for miles around, I can easily talk myself out of any impulse purchases in the liquor aisle.

This route gets me right back to the end of the line of cash registers, where I get in line and wait my turn. Naturally, it's not a perfect system and I can get sidetracked now and then, but mostly this is what I do and I keep myself from seeing and buying food I really don't want in the house.

You know what kills me every time? A trip down to Trader Joe's.

Oh, TJ! How you tempt me this time of year especially with your peppermint Joe-Joe's and your peppermint covered pretzels! I adore your special little yummy nuggets of fat and sugar so carefully arranged to bring out the delightful, tongue-pleasing flavors of even the most heinous chemicals, colorings and trademark secrets. I've managed to learn to live without your 3-layer hummus, too (thanks for the times when you don't have any in stock. I love you for that).

What's wrong with hummus? I hear you asking. Nothing except when your self-control flees and you eat the entire container in less than 24 hours. It's called Patient Needs Intervention.

I've yet to see a loaf of bread perform a back flip into my grocery cart or a box of brown sugar Pop-Tarts swan dive into my purse as I walk by, but these aisles are really off-limits as much as they can be. It takes habit and will power and self-talk. I talk to myself an awful lot in life, I've always admitted it. But the reason my lips are always moving at the grocery store is to remind myself constantly that I don't need anything down this or that aisle! 

While the treats at the supermarket are not leaping into my grocery cart unassisted, the advertisements are doing graceful jet├ęs into my email inbox at an alarming rate.

I delete them mercilessly. I disregard the advertisements in the Sunday newspapers by piling them unseen into the recycle pile.

I drive boldly past the stores with their evil blinky-blinky signs. I'm not a shopper most of the time anyway. I don't enjoy going through the stores, picking through the bins, sniffing out the deals. I do, however, do the math to find out price-per-ounce. I'm the one in the store who is standing in the aisle going back and forth between two items to find out if one is a better deal than two or if 60 fewer sheets of toilet paper are worth the extra $1.36 per package.

I like to keep my coat on so as not to feel at home behind my cart. If I am shopping with someone, I gladly allow them to push the cart. If they don’t want to, I whine until they agree to push the cart. I hate pushing the cart.

Also, pushing the cart in my warm winter coat means I'm also possibly the grumpy lady who almost ran over you in aisle 3 while you perused the throw pillow selection. An even better habit is not using a cart at all so I can’t buy more than what fits in my hands or arms.

I figure if I can keep shopping around my grocery store’s edges and I can stop myself from window shopping, lolly-gagging or looking at any advertisements, emails or coupons for another five or six weeks, I shouldn’t gain too much weight around my middle or lose too much weight around my pocketbook.

Do you have any tips for this time of year?