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Archive for the ‘candy & sweets’ Category

1bowl.lrg

I’m on a bit of a retro kick lately.  First it was upside down cake, now it’s classic candy.  Every year at the holidays, my mother puts out a candy dish that contains a few different things but always, always the See’s Candies Nuts & Chews mix. It wouldn’t be the holidays without them. The dish used to be piled high with strictly traditional things like the Christmas ribbon candy, strange jelly filled hard raspberry things and a bowl of shell-on mixed nuts with a cracker.  (With a cracker?!?  Because that was going to happen.) But besides the See’s, nobody really liked that stuff very much so she adapted.  Lately it’s been a big bowl of gumdrops mixed with salty cashews and maybe a pile of mini peanut butter cups or Rolos.  For a while, there was a delicious peanut brittle made by a coworker.  When was the last time you had peanut brittle? It’s not something you see on a regular basis, or at least I don’t, and I realized too late this year that it hasn’t been in that candy dish in a while either.  I sort of missed it.

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1CaramelCornTreats.lrg

Inspiration can come from many places. There’s a deli near where I sometimes work and I’ll order something for lunch once in a while … matzo ball soup or a pastrami sandwich. It’s the kind of place where you order in one spot then walk way to the over side of the restaurant to pay and wait for your food. It’s the kind of place with the spinning display case full of enormous layer cakes and 5 pound slabs of cheesecake. It’s the kind of place where the counters are full of platters and baskets of sweet snacks … butter cookies with 57 variations of colored sprinkles and more traditional things like mandel bread and giant wedges of halvah. There’s also a basket of overly decorated rice krispie treats, cut into large squares and decorated with candies or chocolate squiggles.

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About ten years ago I was wandering the fairytale-like streets of Bruges, a picturesque town in Belgium, searching for a particular chocolate shop when suddenly the most magnificent scent stopped me in my tracks.  Sweet, yeasty with slight caramel notes; I was entranced.  I blindly followed the scent around a corner as if some cartoon-like finger under my nose was pulling me along.  On the side of a little shop down a cobblestone street was a small window with a tiny hand-painted sign: “Liege Wafels”.  Waffles?  Couldn’t be.  There must be a misunderstanding.  After weeks of fine Belgian beer, buckets of mussels, impossibly crispy frites and really really good chocolate, I didn’t want a waffle.  I wanted whatever smelled so good.  Oh how little I knew.  These were not the Eggos of my youth nor the IHOP Belgian Waffles loaded with bad strawberry puree and canned Reddi-Whip.  Oh no, not in the least.  Puffy, slightly sweet, caramelized and crunchy on the outside, these beauties were more like a crunchy dimpled cookie than anything else.  Hot off the griddle, I was hooked.  I hit that shop window twice a day for three days in a row.

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Sometimes I pop back into my former life for short term projects, that glamorous churn and burn business world where I spent so much time.  A place where a typical work day means sitting at a desk for long periods, a closet full of shiny new office supplies and real honest-to-god lunch breaks that don’t involve questionable meals eaten standing over the stove.  It’s a bit of an adjustment.  I actually do enjoy my forays back into that world and let’s be honest, the pay is good and this girl has a penchant for pricey plane tickets and exotic sojourns.  One of the biggest challenges, however, is to stay focused as I don’t live in that world full time anymore and have a tendency to let my mind wander off on new food-related ideas.  Today’s post is the result oF one of those afternoon musings and it’s a good one.

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It’s Easter Sunday and to celebrate, I made Crème Eggs.  You know the ones – milk chocolate with a super sweet creamy sugary filling inside, a bit of it tinted yellow to look like a yolk?  Yep, those!  They’re kind of polarizing, I’ve discovered.  Some people wait all year for their arrival; others cringe.  But to make them yourself?  Well that’s just crazy, right?  Perhaps.  I’ve gotten all kinds of comments on this one.  First, there’s the look that says “Why??” as in “Why would you bother?”  Then there’s the look of surprise, as in, “You MADE that?” and the delighted giggles that follow.  This happens to me a lot and as you can imagine, I much prefer to associate myself with the later group.  Afterall, if you’re going to go to the trouble to make molded chocolate Easter eggs, you want someone to appreciate them.

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rice krispie treats

A good friend is currently deployed in Afghanistan, helping to build and establish a healthcare system within the country.  It’s impressive and a little scary.  While I’m terribly worried about her at times, I’m proud all of the time.   I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be so far from home, away from friends and family in a somewhat hostile environment where you are a woman in a very patriarchal culture and to top it off, you don’t speak the language.  Geez.   (more…)

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