Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the candy diet

I was resigned to either staying the same over the holidaze or even gaining a few pounds. I've kind of been watching my calories, but also nibbling frequently on fudge, sesame snaps, and pine nut brittle.

So it's been amusing/the flip side of frustrating to watch the scale in the mornings and watch the pounds peel off. About 4 of them in the past 10 days. The only time I've lost weight faster is when I've been seriously ill.

It must be the candy. :)

Seriously, though, maybe it is the candy. A serving of hard candy probably has fewer calories than cookies or bread, with a satisfyingly sweet taste that doesn't leave me craving more. Unlike, say, french fries, which keep poking me until I eat another one.

In all honesty, it might simply be that I've been running at top speed most of these ten days. Perhaps I've been burning more calories than usual and perhaps I've simply been too busy to eat.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pine Nut Brittle

This is my invented recipe of the year.

This Pine Nut Brittle was a big hit at our Quaker Meeting Christmas Eve gathering.

Preliminary (heretical) thoughts about candy-making:

Ditch the thermometer. Any candy syrup goes through predictable stages: thread, soft ball (fudge), firm ball (caramel), hard ball (nougat), soft crack (taffy), hard crack (hard candies), and burnt. These stages are best evaluated by dripping a small amount of the syrup in ice water, gathering the syrup into a ball, and then testing/tasting the ball.

Start the testing process a little before you think the syrup is ready and continue at frequent intervals until the candy is just right. When it's just right, turn the heat off immediately (candy syrup seems to go through actual phase changes, and the next one can be lightning quick) and do the follow-up processing right then.

For this reason, it's good to have everything set for candy-making before you start. Get your ice water ready, have a set of clean spoons for testing, have the pan the candy will set up in prepared, and have any last minute ingredients measured and ready to pour in.

Once you get the hang of the syrup stages, candy-making is really really easy.

Pine Nut Brittle

1/4 cup honey
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

sprinkle of sea salt
1 1/3 cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons basil

Roast pine nuts and chop fine, until they're about the size of sesame seeds. When cool, toss with the basil and sea salt.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray lightly with vegetable oil.

Fill a 2-cup pitcher with ice and add water to fill. Get out a small bowl and set next to the pitcher.

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar and then bring to a boil. Cook 15-20 minutes until mixture is at hard crack stage. To test for doneness, pour ice water into the small bowl and drop in a small bit of the syrup. When done, syrup will crackle on hitting the water, and the candy will be crisp and crunchy, no longer chewy at all but not yet burnt.

Mix in pine nut mixture and spread immediately in jelly roll pan, smoothing to edges of pan.

Allow to cool slightly (very slightly) and score into small pieces (less than an inch on a side) with a greased knife or pizza cutter. Allow to cool completely and break pieces apart with your hands. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Garry and I were shopping in downtown Santa Cruz today. I was feeling Christmassy, so I put on a green mini-dress, red tights, and some long black socks with cherries on them. Also a red-and-blue scarf, green jingle bell earrings, and a red coat with a hood.

So we shopped for a while and then split up to do some private shopping. As I was coming back to meet Garry, a scruffy bearded guy stopped me to tell me I'd won the Best-Dressed Award, and he really digs leg warmers.

Only in Santa Cruz can a woman win a best-dressed award from a homeless guy.