Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wonderful Caramels

These have been a tradition in the Kreider fam since I was little. Mom would make a batch, turn on Christmas music, and we'd all sit around the table wrapping caramels, and eating more than a few! Here's our recipe, with an addition from yours truly to make them Gingerbread caramels. Translation: they taste like Christmas. I know a lot of you have expressed fear about making candy. It  isn't that bad. Trust me. This is coming from the girl who can't bake a cake from scratch to save my life. You just have to babysit the caramels while cooking or else disaster will strike. Experience reminds me that it's best if there are no little kids running around your feet. It's molten hot boiling sugar, and really you shouldn't leave it alone. Please read all the way through before you start! This makes a gigantic batch of 12 dozen  or more depending on how small you cut them, but believe me, you'll be glad you made so many.

Large stock pot
Candy Thermometer (costs like 3 bucks at Walmart! Just get one already...) and no you can't use another kind of thermometer, it doesn't work right, I've already tried that, and it got over cooked.
Cookie sheet

2 Sticks Salt Free butter
1 1/2 Cups Dark Karo Syrup
4 Cups Heavy Cream
4 Cups Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla

**it's very helpful to get them measured out and in a small bowl before you start.
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Get out your big stock pot. Mix Sugar and butter with HALF of the cream. Bring to a boil.
Add the rest of the cream, and the Karo syrup. Bring to a boil again.
Put your Candy thermometer on the side of your pot, and get ready to babysit.
Cook to the Firmball stage which is 248 degrees. ** Stir often. This takes about an hour-ish?
Take off the heat, and stir in the vanilla and spices.
Pour into a greased cookie sheet, and let it set until it cools.
Cut, wrap, share and eat!!! We cut wax paper squares and roll the caramels in the center , then twist the ends. It also works well to use plastic wrap.

**I usually hover between medium and high for the first while, but stay right by the stove cause once it really gets  going it can boil over easily in the beginning. I mean it. Like, it will quadruple in size and go everywhere! If it looks like it's going to blow...take it off the heat for a min, an stir it. Then when you get it to a good steady boil, stick around between med and low, adjusting as needed to keep it going. I feel like the last 25 degrees takes forever, so I stay close and crank up the heat as needed, then let it boil at 248 for 3 min or so.
If you like your caramels on the firmer chewier side, let it cook a few min longer.

So I know it sounds a little complicated, but seriously, how long does it take to make dozens of cookies etc and arrange them in precious little Christmas boxes? Good things come in small packages. Just give out a dozen or so caramels, they are worth their weight in gold.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese (and SQUASH!!)

Is it wrong to get such a thrill out of sneaking my kids veggies? This is my fav sneaky lunch for the kids.

1 box Macaroni and Cheese (I like the Annies brand, cause it has no chemicals etc which would probably defeat the purpose of adding veggies...)
1 T. butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4-1/2 cup pureed butternut squash***

Make the mac like it says on the box...while the noodles are draining, melt the butter in the pot, add the milk and cheese and squash, salt to taste, extra cheese if you want till every thing is smooth, and dump in the noodles. TA DA! It's still orange, extra creamy, and slightly sweeter than regular Mac but that's usually ok with kids. Mwa ha ha ha.

***Note on the puree thingy...After reading and trying a few recipes from "Deceptively Delicious" and realizing that the concept was great, but the recipes needed a LOT of tweaking...I've gotten in the habit of buying squash, sweet potatos and other veggies once a month or so and baking them on one day, then pureeing and freezing in 1/2 cup segments. It sounds like a lot of work but really it's not, and a couple hours yeilds a month's of "supplements" for food. By a couple hours, I mean a few min of work cause all you do is put stuff in the oven and ignore it, then when it cools you puree it and freeze it.

Apple Pie

This is our fav Apple Pie recipe. I've posted about it before...but it's becoming a tradition for Thanksgiving!