Friday, May 27, 2011

Hard Candy Caramels

Sometimes things don't turn out exactly the way you had hoped.  Like that pixie haircut I got in college.  Let it be known that I can't pull of a super short look.  I embraced hats while I waited for my hair to grow out.  Then there was the summer that I bought a whole bunch of Bermuda shorts.  Plaid ones and brightly colored ones.  Shorts with animals on them and plain khakis.  I should have scrutinized them in the mirror a little longer, because once I had them at home I realized they were the weirdest lenght ever.  I'm mroe of a capri length kind of girl.

Expectations can be tricky, especially when you think you've got something down.  Maybe you've had batch after batch of perfect macarons, only the have a day of sad, flat, foot-less cookies.  Or maybe you finally got a handle on yeast and you've been making some beautiful breads.  Then one day, your yeast is lazy and your bread comes out flat.  We all have those moments, nobody can be perfect all the time!

I thought I had hit my groove with making candy, I've posted some pretty exciting recipes over the past few months (I'm particularly proud of my sponge candy and 3 Musketeers bars).  Plain sugar candies have thusfar given me trouble.  The salt water taffy wasn't the best it could be, I blame not waiting long enough to pull the sugar.  These caramels just didn't set up the way I wanted, I'm pretty sure my thermometer is to blame.

I was longing to make chewy, soft caramel candies.  I wound up with something more akin to a Sugar Daddy.  I think that if I put these on a stick, then I would have a perfect replica (you should give that a go!)  While completely delicious and very much a caramel, they weren't what I was hoping for.  To achieve a soft and chewy caramel, you want to heat your sugar syrup to 248 degrees F.  A little too late, I realized my thermometer had a bubble in it.  This threw off my temperature reading by 4 degrees, thus giving me a candy somewhere between firm ball and soft crack stage. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indian Pizza

On our most recent trip to Europe, Boyfriend and I had some pretty amazing food. I would say it was some of the best food of my life. We started with authentic Indian food in London, a perfectly roasted chicken in Paris and amazing pizza in Italy. We ate schnitzel in the Alps, wieners at a castle and finished up our trip at a dimly lit restaurant, smiling over plates of curry. It was a crazy twelve days.

Yes, I said twelve days. We travelled through seven countries in seven days. We would have made it eight, but just couldn’t see how to get to Belgium and make our flight home. In honor of this crazy week and a half in Europe I decided to combine two great culinary palettes. Indian plus Italian equals delicious.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I’m a big fan of the two-in-one. As a kid I had a massive collection of skorts. You know, skirts with shorts sewn into them? Actually I have a ton of them still, but I wear them when I teach Bodystep classes… Skorts are awesome.

I know we’re all big fans of the printer/scanner/copier! I mean, what did we do before we had them? Walk to several different machines to do our printing, scanning and copying? Crazy talk. That’s like having multiple remote controls for all of your TV attachments, silly.

Now who has a cell phone that is just a phone? Even my not-so-fancy Palm Centro (it’s blue!) is a phone, computer and lets me play solitaire. Love the multi-tasker. Someday I’ll have a fancy phone that lets me start my car from another state, maybe I’ll have to get a fancy car first. One step at a time!

The bread that I made this weekend from the Bread Bakers Apprentice is just that, a multi-tasker. It’s also a time saver! It’s bread, cheese and meat, all in one! No need to make a sandwich, just slice a piece off and you’ve got it made!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Key Lime Mallowpuffs

Yesterday was one of those days.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  Day starts and it's so humid that you can't tame your hair to look like something other than a wild animal.  Your walk to work is punctuated with drops of rain and gusts of wind.  Finally arriving at work you realize that you have to start your day with the thing you hate the most, running a column (insert your least favorite task in place of "running a column").

I don't know if it was the rain or my crazy person hair or my dislike of running columns, but the day just wasn't happening for me.  I also blame the book that I've been reading.  I keep getting sucked in and wind up going to sleep at midnight each night.  A totally normal time, except when you wake up at six every morning.  So tired...

I drudged through my day, things getting better, then worse, until finally it was time to go home!  A mere fourteen hours after I had entered the building.  I blame that last hour on the NMR, it just wouldn't tune.  Appartently that was my fault because I forgot a step while changing the probe.  (Sounds sciencey and fun, right?)  I'll have to remember next time I do that, don't wear hair pins while changing the probe.  Why?  The NMR is a 500 mHz magnet, and it tries to eat hair pins, ie, pull them out of your hair.  It's a very strange sensation.

Even though my day was kind of a bummer, at least I had these cookies to help me through.  Originally I was asked to make Griffins Mallowpuffs.  If you are a native New Zealander (like the person who made the request) you'll know just what I'm talking about.  If you're from the northeast, then you know them as Mallomars.  Unfortunately, Nabisco only makes mallomars in the fall as they tend to melt in the summertime.  Instead of sticking with the traditional vanilla marshmallow on vanilla cookie (like a mallowpuff), I decided to continue my key lime trend and make a Key lime pie Mallowpuff!  Make these and your day will be a little brighter!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strawberry Gelato

I’m not a terribly lucky person. I’ve never won the Mega Millions (you might have already figured that out, knowing that I live in a 300 square foot apartment). No one has ever showed up at my door with a big check and a bunch of balloons (though, boyfriend did send me a GIANT birthday card one year). I’ve never won a March Madness pool (yes, this is a game of luck, not skill).

However, recently the tides have been turning on my luck. I might just be a lotto ticket away from moving into a larger apartment! I’ll have to buy some more furniture. Let me give you a few examples of my changing fortune…

What's in there???
While getting milkshakes at Brgr last weekend, I got the bigger milkshake. Boyfriends was ever so much smaller. Who’s the winner? Me! (Brgr makes delicious milkshakes. Delicious, expensive milkshakes!)

On a recent walk to dinner with boyfriend, we passed by a series of discarded scratch-off lottery tickets. Most of them we left on the ground, until we came to the crossword scratch-off. (I love the crossword scratch-off!) Boyfriend picked it up and we stopped, was this a winner? Whoever threw the ticket on the ground failed to realize that they had won! We took it to the gas station on the corner and cashed it in for ten dollars! Winner? The piggy bank!

Pink?  I like pink things!
A few weeks ago I commented on Mardi’s blog, because I love her blog, and was entered to win a giveaway. Low and behold, a few days later I was informed that I was the winner of a whole bunch of strawberries! Mmmm, spring fruit. I never win giveaways! A week or so later I got an e-mail from my apartment telling me that I received a package and that I should come get it before they eat it. I was so confused, eat it?

When I got home I was given an enormous box of California Giant strawberries, the whole box smelling like springtime. Eight containers of strawberries were hulled and frozen, just waiting to be turned into something delicious. Here is the first of many upcoming strawberry recipes. And it is so good…

Oooooo, dinner...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Parmesan Zucchini

I can’t believe that I’ve been living in Connecticut for almost a year now. This past year has flow by in the blink of an eye and I’ve really enjoyed being back East. Sure, there are things I miss about being in Colorado. All my crazy gym friends and teaching classes every week. My expansive mountain view apartment and its separate rooms. The crazy Colorado weather and its wide open skies.

I have come to learn that Connecticut has lots of great things too. I love being able to walk everywhere that I need to go, I haven’t driven in months. The changing seasons here in the East are all so pretty, my parents and I enjoyed going ‘leaf peeping’ this fall. I’ve met some pretty amazing people here too.

Those people I’m talking about are my Monday night girls. My Monday nights used to be full of work, dinner then sleep. Now they are filled with conversations, laughs, good food and chick TV. Being in the chemistry world it’s rare that you find a group of girls and I’ve found a great group.

Each Monday we start by heading to K’s house and making dinner. Last week it was feeling very spring-like and we grilled out. By ‘we’ I mean K cooked and L and I watched. This recipe today comes from last week’s dinner, our delicious and cheesey side dish. The main dish, while tasty, was a little more carbonized than I usually prefer... I’m never coming over and eating free food again K! (I’m just kidding, I’ll be over around 7!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cheesecake brownies

I wanted to thank you all for reminding me of the great things that come along with living in a university town. Examples. Most university towns are home to some of the greatest ethnic eats! It must have something to do with the wide variety of backgrounds of the people living and working at the university. While walking down State street you will pass Ethiopian, Laotian, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian, Afghanistani, Mexican and five ice cream shops. Just to name a few. And yes, ice cream is its own genre of food.

They also have the best options for grocery shopping. To go along with the traditional mega grocery store, you can find the wholesaler, the food co-ops (yes, plural), the employee owned warehouse store, the organic grocery and Trader Joes. Love it. There are also multiple Asian and Indian markets. My favorite places to go and buy random food products, often with non-English labels. Just remember your cash, the international markets rarely take credit.

There are also the great events that take place through the year. There is “Kites on Ice” in the winter, Arboretum tours in the spring and Hippie Christmas in the summer. Hippie Christmas you ask? Well, I’m sure that it happens in every university town, right around move-in time. In Madison, hippie Christmas is always the week of August 15th.

The vast majority of leases end at noon on August 14th and you move into your new apartment as soon as you can get keys on the 15th. The night of August 14th, it is very likely that you will find people either a. partying all night, or b. sleeping on their front lawns guarding their stuff. The streets are piled high with some of the funkiest couches you have ever seen and each year I wonder how there can be more 1970’s couches. Do old couches come to Madison to die? Not only do you find couches, but you also find beds, shelves and other furniture, cookware, clothes and the list goes on and on.

Those not afraid of picking through piles on the side of the road view this stuff as gold. The Madison hippies love August 15th. When I moved from one apartment to another in the summer of my first year I put a bunch of stuff at the curb on top of an already huge pile. When I came out twenty minutes later to deposit more hippie gold, my bookshelves were already gone. Way to pounce hippies, I hope your books enjoyed their new home.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Apple Ginger Chicken & Curried Rice

Living in a university town, you get used to the ebb and flow of population. You brace yourself for the influx of bright-eyed students in September. You get used to standing in line for your burrito at Chipotle. You drive your car cautiously to avoid running over the absentminded undergrads. And you wait for this time of year. You revel in this time of year.

Having lived in university towns for the past eight years I have gotten used to all of the intricacies of the situation. It was most prevalent when I lived in Madison. Being a graduate student is totally different from being an undergrad, especially those in the hard sciences. You live and breathe your degree. There are no spring breaks or summer vacations, it’s five years of working and you don’t want to wait in line to get your lunch.

Madison, Wisconsin has a population of two hundred thousand people. The University of Wisconsin has a student enrollment of forty thousand. The population of Madison jumps by 15-20% every September when the students move into their dorms and off-campus apartments. Now, I’m sure that when I was an undergrad I was really smart. I looked both ways before crossing the street. I didn’t ask crazy questions during o chem recitation. I didn’t wear Uggs and sweatpants to school (this is true, Uggs look like potatoes and sweatpants are for bedtime). And I’m sure that you all were/are wonderful undergrads as well.

When you are a grad student, beaten down by your classes and research, the energy and enthusiasm of an undergrad is wearing. You stand there, looking at your class, thinking “how many more classes until I’m finished?” Luckily I taught organic chemistry lab, so I’m pretty sure everyone sitting there was thinking the exact same thing.

Then, at last, that day rolls around. The last day of exams, followed by graduation and then… Move out day! And they’re gone! The graduate students can finally go outside and enjoy lunch once again. Free from the danger of falling in stride with a group of bubbly undergrads on their way to play Frisbee at noon on Tuesday. No more standing on the bus, waiting in line at Hawks or worrying about taking out a group of girls standing in the middle of the street. The terrace grill opens and those brats smell like freedom! Well, at least for those twenty minutes before you have to head back to the lab.

Oh, and if you live in Wisconsin and have to cross University Avenue… Please do not hit the crosswalk button. It won’t make the light change faster. It’s only for the blind people, hence the sign that says “Press button for audible walk.” Thanks!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Key Lime Pie on a Stick

Way back in the spring of 2004, Boyfriend and I went on our first cruise. At this point in our lives, I was in Grad school in Madison, WI and he was working in Miami, FL. You can imagine that I spent as much time as I could get away with visiting him during the winter months. As we’ve discussed before, winter is not the best time to visit Wisconsin. It’s a little cold and frigid and blustery. For the entire month of February 2004, the temperature didn’t rise above 15° F (we’re talking -10 degrees Celsius here!). The trip to Miami was a welcome break from the ridiculous temperatures.

After arriving in the Miami airport I began to shed my layers of warmth. First, the Northface jacket (basically a down comforter with sleeves) was bundled into a ball and tossed into the back seat. My sneakers and socks were shed in favor of flip flops, allowing my pale feet their first bit of sunshine in months. Finally, I was warm enough to change from my lab uniform of jeans and a t-shirt to a cute sundress. I began to embrace the warm weather and slather on the SPF 50.

Our five-day cruise was sailing out of the port of Fort Lauderdale the next morning, so we enjoyed a seaside dinner on South Beach. If it’s still open, you should head to Rendevous, they have an amazing flatbread pizza. Boyfriend and I took a stroll on the beach and I got lots of sand in my shoes. Let it be known, I love the beach, I hate sand.

The next morning we waved goodbye to our car and sailed away into the bright blue ocean. Our first port of call, Key West. Although we were making other ports while on our cruise, this was the one that I was most excited about. Why? I love Key limes. If you ask my mom, I would ask for Key Lime pie for my birthday. Love that tangy-sweet flavor. My mission while on Key West was to eat some pie. And oh boy, did I.

While walking our miles and miles around Key West, Boyfriend and I stumbled upon Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe. A haven for all things key lime and therefore my new favorite place in the world. I stocked up on key lime juice (oh the days before the 3 ounce rules), key lime taffy and cookies.

Something that caught my eye was sitting quietly in the freezer with a simple sign - Frozen Key Lime pie on a stick. Think of the combination of tart key lime pie and dark chocolate. The tangy, sweet and bitter flavors played off of each other so well that it was hard to keep myself from eating more than one slice. Years later I found myself wanting to reminisce on Key West. I leave you with an amazing recipe and a suggestion to head to Kermit’s and buy one of the original.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Musketeers Bars

Some things in life are easier than they look. Like navigating a foreign train station. Or fitting all of those clothes in your tiny suitcase. Maybe even riding a bicycle and looking at your watch at the same time (something that I am totally incapable of doing!). This it also true with candy making.

We all do it. We buy a chocolate bar or candy cup or marshmallow treat from the store and chow down. At no point in the time when we rip open the plastic wrapper to when we’re licking chocolate from our fingers do we think about the work that went into making our snack. We think nougat, yum. Peanuts, yum. Caramel, double yum. I think it’s time we break into those tricky candies on Candy Challenge 2011!

We’ve conquered marshmallows and taffy, sponge candy and mallow cups. Now it’s time to make our own Three Musketeers bars! Yes, we can! And let me tell you, they will be delicious.

If you have made marshmallows before then this will be a piece of cake for you. If you have a stand mixer it will be even easier (if you don’t, then prepare to get some serious arm muscles!). This recipe makes a huge amount of candy, be prepared to share or get really hyper from all the sugar. I’ve accompanied this recipe with some step-by-step pictures. Don’t be too nervous, just be ready to clean lots of sticky bowls once you’re done.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Strawberry-Kiwi Pop Tarts

I’ve said it before, I love Gilmore Girls. I record it daily on my DVR and watch it while I workout. I miss my weekly infusion of Lorelai and Rory. I like to pretend that I’m as witty and fast-paced as these two ladies, although I think a lot of the credit goes to Amy Sherman-Palladino. Thank you Gilmore Girls for giving me something to look forward to in the long years of my PhD. As a tribute, I give you Pop tarts and some of my favorite GG quotes.

That's me. I'm fast. I'm the perfect storm of caffeine and genetics.

This tastes pink. Really pink. It's really bad; it's like drinking My Little Pony.

Oh, I can't stop drinking the coffee. I stop drinking the coffee- I stop doing the standing, walking and the words-putting-into-sentence-doing.

Only prostitutes have two glasses of wine at lunch.
Well, then buy me a boa and drive me to Reno because I am open for business.

Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants!

I know it's not a nightmare 'cause I have shoes on & in my nightmares I never have on shoes.

Do you miss the Gilmores?  How about some of your favorite quotes?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Sunday night is Amazing Race night. In the ten years that it has been on the air, I have watched just about every season. In the early years I was obsessed. I watched religiously and planned my Wednesday nights around primetime. Boyfriend and I were still in college and he didn’t even have the title ‘boyfriend’ yet. We would watch the show while chatting on AIM and argue about who was the better team. After watching 17 seasons we’ve gotten pretty good about picking the winners. (I’ve actually picked the winning team for the past five seasons.)

Boyfriend and I have this grand idea that we would kick butt at the Amazing Race, as long as boyfriend doesn’t give directions. As I’ve discussed before, when presented with two options, boyfriend will inevitably choose the wrong direct 100% of the time. He does however have real world experience, or as he says “he knows the harsh realities of the world.” I apparently “have lived in a safety bubble.” (This is true) There are some things that would prevent us from doing well on the race. To give you a complete picture, let me walk you through our adventure of trying out for the Amazing Race.

Way back in 2006, boyfriend came to Madison for a visit. It just so happened that he came to town the same weekend there was an Amazing Race tryout. Tryouts were happening in Indiana at some beachside casino, three hours away from Madison, from 10-4. We figured if we left by nine am that we could be there by noon, perfect. Driving on the I-90, somewhere around Chicago, we hit massive traffic. Who knew that Chicago would be so busy on a beautiful Saturday afternoon?

Phew, made it through traffic, just thirty minutes behind schedule. But wait, is Indiana in the central time zone or the eastern time zone? Ummm, does it make a difference if it’s during daylight savings time? Oh boy, we might have one less hour! Speed boyfriend, speed!

When we finally made it to the casino we were confronted with a massive line of people. There were easily five hundred people waiting to have their turn in front of the camera. We got our number and stood in line, filling out our application as we waited. Hmmm, they need a photocopy of our passports? Uh oh, mine is in Wisconsin and boyfriends is in New York. Talk about being unprepared.

After thirty minutes of waiting in line and slowly inching forward, the head of the tryouts called numbers 450-500. Oh, we were number 498! The four hundred people in front of us had numbers in the thousands. Boyfriend and I considered our options. A. Wait in line for several more hours, abiding by proper line protocol. Or B. Do it Amazing Race style and cut everyone. We went with option B, what? We had the right number, they called us!

Needless to say we didn’t end up getting on the Amazing Race, I don’t know why, we’re pretty awesome. Boyfriend yells at people and I cry. We’d be good television.

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