Saturday, December 10, 2011

White Chocolate Candy Cane Bars

A dangerously addictive natural treat for the holidays. I use candy bar molds for this recipe; however, you can just as easily spread the chocolate into a pan and break it into pieces when it is done.

  • 1/4 cup crushed homemade candy canes
  •  8 or 10 oz Ghirardelli white chocolate (2 bars or 1 bag of chips)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp peppermint oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp natural vegetable shortening
Break up chocolate bars and melt in a double boiler over medium and then low heat. Make sure mixture is not exposed to steam since this will make the chocolate clump.  Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the shortening and then remove from heat. Stir in peppermint oil and crushed candy canes pieces. Pour chocolate into the molds. Tap the molds to assure the chocolate settles and then place in the freezer.  After 5 to 10 minutes, the chocolates should be ready and will pop out of the molds easily.  All measurements are approximates so mix in as much of the crushed candy cane as you like. Chocolates will become soft at room temperature so it is best to store them in the refrigerator.

Return to Homemade Chocolates Page

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade Sweet Catchup

Homemade catchup without the high fructose corn syrup is definitely worth the extra work. Althought making homemade catchup from tomatoes can be a bit time consuming, the process is quite easy. Since most of the recipes I found involved extremely large volumes of tomatoes for making and canning catchup, I decided on my own ration and ingredients. 

  • Approximately 3 quarts of fresh tomatoes (peeled, seeded and squeezed will make 1 quart)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 small onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 yellow, orange or red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 small clove of garlic (chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 cup vinegar 
To remove tomato peels:
Bring tomatoes to a boil for one minute and then plunge in an ice cold water bath. Tomato peels will fall off.

Quartering and Seeding tomatoes: Cut tomatoes in quarters and remove seeds with your fingers. Squeeze tomatoes and place them in a strainer so more water will drip off. Reserve all that is strained and removed from the tomatoes and then strain in a cheese cloth for fresh tomato juice.

  1. Add squeezed tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, & celery salt to a pot and simmer over medium to medium high heat until tomatoes are soft.
  2. Run mixture through a sieve or food mill to remove remaining seeds and peels.
  3. Place the resulting liquid in a pot, add the vinegar and return the liquid to a simmer.  Continue to cook until the liquid thickens into the consistency of catchup.
Note: this recipe will make about 1 cup of catchup and can be refrigerated up to 3 or 5 days.

Return to Homemade Condiments Page

For larger batches and photos of the process, refer to the following recipes:

Mom's ripe tomato Catsup
Homemade Catchup Recipe

    Homemade Mayonnaise

    Making homemade mayo is just as fun and rewarding as making homemade butter. After reading several recipes for homemade mayonnaise, I decided on the following ingredient ratio, which worked great.

    • 1 cup light in flavor olive oil
    •  2 egg yolks
    •  1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar or juice of 1 lemon
    •  1/4 tsp salt or to taste
    •  dash of pepper
    1. Whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice/vinegar, salt and pepper until smooth.
    2.  Add a couple of drops of oil and whisk well. 
    3. Continue adding oil in small amounts; each time making sure that the mixture is smooth. Adding oil gradually and mixing well in between adding oil will assure that the mixture begins to emulsify. Once the mixture appears to thicken, begin adding more oil in between stirring. Once all the oil is mixed in, the mixture should be emulsified and should have the texture of mayonnaise.
    4. Mayo can be stored safely in the refrigerator up to 3 or 5 days.
    1. If the mixture is thickening but not fully emulsified, try whisking in another egg yolk and then gradually adding another half cup of oil. 
    2. If the mixture is still very runny toward the end of the process, the mixture most likely did not begin to emulsify and it is best to start over.
    3. A food processor or emulsifying blender may be used in the place of a whisk.
    Return to Homemade Condiments Page 

      Monday, December 5, 2011

      Quick Homemade Tomato Juice

      If you've just made tomato sauce, catchup or any other recipe that results in an abundance of tomato juice, you might be wondering what to do with the excess tomato juice you've strained and saved.  Here is a fresh tomato juice recipe you can make in under a minute.

      1 glass of fresh tomato juice (strained)
      1/2 Tbsp sugar
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp pepper

      Stir sugar, salt and pepper into your glass of fresh tomato juice and enjoy.  Stir on occasion to assure the spices don't settle on the bottom of the glass.

      Sunday, December 4, 2011

      Making Homemade Condiments

      Homemade Mayo
      One of the last things we may consider when making unprocessed foods is the possibility of making condiments.  However, if you think about it, its silly to put all sorts of work into making unprocessed foods and to then turn around and flavor our healthy food with processed condiments.  Of course learning how to make each condiment may take some time.  So I started out by seeking natural condiments in our local coop and whole foods to hold us over until I learn how to make each recipe.  Here are some good recipe ideas for making your own condiments.

      Homemade Catchup

      Basic Condiments

        • Ranch Dip: There are a lot of good recipes out there, but here is a ranch dip recipe that is pretty easy to make.
        • Salsa: There are many different recipes out there, but here's a link to one of my favorites.

        Homemade Margarine

        If you are looking for a low cholesterol butter substitute, the best thing is to make your own margarine since this will not include trans fats as most store bought margarine does.

        2 Tbsp Real Butter
        2 Tbsp Light in flavor olive oil

        To make margarine, melt the real butter and stir in an equal amount of light in flavor olive oil.  Let this mixture cool and it will solidify into margarine.  Since vegetable oil is not great for diets, its best to use light in flavor olive oil instead.

        Another option, which is much easier, is to substitute 1/2 of the butter called for in a recipe with light in flavor olive oil.  This way the butter taste will remain in the recipe but it will have less cholesterol. It is the same effect as using margarine but easier.
        Zero fat diets are actually counterproductive.  If you are looking for a low cholesterol butter substitute, the best thing is to make your own margarine since this will not include trans fats.  To make margarine, melt 1 part real butter and stir in 1 part vegetable oil.  Let this mixture cool and it will solidify into margarine.  Since vegetable oil is not great for diets, you can use light in flavor olive oil instead.  Another option, which is much easier, is to substitute 1/2 of the butter called for in a recipe with light in flavor olive oil.  This way the butter taste will remain in the recipe but it will have less cholesterol.

        Return to Homemade Condiments Page

        How to Make Homemade Fruit Syrup

        Making Fruit Syrup at home can be quite easy.  A lot of people like to make big batches and then can them.  However, I like making one to two jars at a time, which requires no canning and takes a little under an hour to make.  I can have some syrup going in no time and let it cook while I am doing dishes.  Here's a quick syrup recipe that will work with most types of fruit.

        1 cup water
        1 cup sugar
        10 - 16 oz frozen or fresh fruit

        Stir water and sugar together in a small pan until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower heat to medium and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in fruit and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the mixture has the consistancy of syrup. I test this by letting the liquid drip off a spoon into the pot. If it pours quickly, it is not thick enough, but if it drips slowly, it is ready.

        Pour syrup into a clean jar, put a lid on it and place it in the refrigerator.  Since you are making only one jar, there is no need to waste an unused canning lid. Use one which has already had the seal broken.

        If you end up with more than one jar, be sure to clean and sterilize the jar and lid you will use to can the additional syrup. Pour the syrup into the jar while it is still boiling. Leave at least half an inch of room at the top of the jar. Thoroughly, wipe and dry the top of the jar before placing the canning lid on top. While holding down the canning lid, screw on the lid ring snugly but not tightly. Wrap the jar with dish towels to keep in the heat. Let sit over night and then check the seal on the lid by pushing down in the middle. If it pops, the seal did not form and it is best to refrigerate.

        Alternately, some people feel safer using a boiling water bath for canning.  If you have one or two jars, simply place the jars in a regular pot that is high enough that the jars can be submerged at least one inch in water.  Boil water with the jars in it for about 35 minutes.  This time will be increased for high altitudes.

        Homemade Mango Syrup Recipe

        Make Your Own Eggnog

        Making homemade eggnog is quite easy and definitely healthier and more economical than buying it in the store.  There are plenty of recipes out there, but the eggnog recipe I used appeared to be one of the easiest.  Even though, I left out the alcohol and didn't beat the egg whites separately, the eggnog turned out great.

        Quick Eggnog: (based on recipe link above)
        Pumpkin Spice Eggnog
        4 eggs
        1/3 cup sugar
        1/5 quart whole milk
        1 cup heavy cream
        1 tsp nutmeg
        *1/2 tsp vanilla or pumpkin pie flavor extract (optional)

        Separate Eggs. Beat Egg yolks until the color changes. Gradually mix in the sugar. Mix in milk, heavy cream and nutmeg. Add egg whites and beat on medium for 1-2 minutes. If you are making vanilla or pumpkin pie eggnog, beat or stir in flavor extract. Drink immediately or refrigerate to chill.

        Raw Egg Concerns
        If you are concerned about the possible dangers of consuming raw eggs, the best thing to do is to use the freshest eggs you can find. Sometimes the free range and organic eggs will not be the best choice since these eggs tend to sit on the shelf longer.  Also, if you prefer pasteurized eggnog, there are instructions for making cooked eggnog in this recipe.

        Eggnog Recipes
        Aside from sprinkling in some nutmeg and drinking it plain, here are some ideas for what to make with eggnog.
        1. Eggnog latte or cappuccino: Turn your espresso drinks into a holiday treat by steaming eggnog in the place of milk and adding a sprinkle of nutmeg.
        2. Eggnog ice cream: Try using Eggnog in the place of milk and heavy cream, or better yet, google "eggnog ice cream recipe."
        3. Vanilla Eggnog: When making your homemade eggnog, mix in a tsp of vanilla. The same can be done with other popular eggnog flavors.
        4. Eggnog as an alcoholic drink: Stir in bourbon, brandy or Irish whiskey.
        Taking Advantage of Low Milk Prices

          Monday, November 28, 2011

          Gelatin Candy

          Working with Gelatin has not been entirely easy, but once you get the hang of it, the results are definitely worth it.  Here are some things to remember when making gummy bears, gum drops or gummies:

          1. Pay attention to the water and gelatin ratio.  If you make a recipe and the gummy bears are too soft, try making the same recipe with more gelatin.  Likewise if the gummies are too hard, reduce the gelatin.  I haven not found a lot of great recipes out there for gummies, so the best thing to do is to experiment until you find the texture you are looking for. 
          2. Make sure you stir the gelatin right after adding it to water.  If the recipe calls for the gelatin to soften, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over cold water.  If the gelatin sits in the water in clumps it will harden into a clump and no amount of heat will loosen the resulting glob.
          3. Some recipes recommend using cold or wet molds; however, all gummies are easier to remove from the molds when kept in the freezer.
          4. Homemade gummy candy generally does not call for preservatives.  So be sure to eat them shortly after making them or else keep them refrigerated in an airtight container.
          Natural Sugar Gummies Recipe
          Natural Gummy Bear Recipe

          Natural Sugar Gummies

          Since there appears to be a lack of variety in online gummy recipes, I decided to do some experimenting in order to come up with something new.  What I was really shooting for was a softer gummy bear but not one that was too soft.  Luckily, my experiment worked, so here is the recipe.

          • 1/2 cup sugar
          • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
          • 1/4 cup water 
          • 1/4 tsp natural food color
          • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp natural flavor extract
          Combine the sugar, water and gelatin in a small saucepan and stir. Continue stirring over low heat until the mixture melts. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Continue stirring and simmer for approximately 2 minutes. Lower heat of the mixture starts to burn.  Remove from heat and add the food color and flavor extract.

          If using chocolate molds, allow the mixture to cool for a minute and then begin filling the molds. Place the first mold in the freezer while filling the second mold. The Gummies will be easier to remove when the molds have been in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

          Spread a couple tablespoons of sugar on a plate so the gummies will be ready to roll. Use your fingers to peel the gummies one by one out of the molds. The gummies will be sticky so be sure to place them directly in the sugar and roll them immediately.

          Gummies come loose from the molds easier if you dip your fingers first in sugar.  If the gummies start to get soft, place the mold back in the freezer for a few minutes. 

          Store gummies in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Gummies will spoil if left out.

          Return to Gelatin Candy Page

          Wednesday, November 23, 2011

          Homemade Mint Chocolates

          This is possibly the easiest type of natural chocolates that you can make.

          It is best to have chocolate molds, a double boiler and foil wrappers for this recipe.

          • 8 oz dipping chocolate (chopped)
          • 1/4 tsp peppermint flavoring oil
          Place the chocolate pieces in a double boiler and turn the heat to medium. Stir until the mixture is completely melted. Be sure to monitor the heat so that the water does not boil since steam tends to make chocolate clump. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the peppermint oil. Spoon chocolate into the molds. Tap the molds to assure there are no trapped pockets of air. Place each mold in the freezer for five minutes or more. Remove molds and pop candies out onto a plate. Wrap individual chocolates in foil wrappers and store at room temperature or cooler.

          Mint Chocolate Variations

          Using a Regular Pan: If you are using a regular pan, stir the chocolate constantly so that the chocolate does not burn.

          Using Bakers Chocolate: If you are using bakers chocolate, stir in a teaspoon of natural shortening before adding the flavoring oil. This will soften the chocolate, so the finished product should be stored at a cooler temperature than when using dipping chocolate.

          Making Chocolates without Molds: If you do not have chocolate molds, you can make the mint chocolates by by pouring the melted chocolate into a pan lined with wax paper or dropping spoonfuls of chocolate onto wax paper. If you pour the chocolate in a single sheet, simple break the chocolate apart into pieces once it has cooled.

          Flavoring OIl for Candy

          Basically, I give up on infusing oils for candy flavoring.  I'm thinking that oils for chocolates are most likely extracted rather than infused with another oil.  I can say this through trial and error since my peppermint infused oil just did not taste right when mixed with chocolate.  I'll have to look into methods for making essential oils since this is probably how peppermint oil for candy is made.  In this case, I would also probably need a peppermint plant in order to have enough peppermint for extracting the oil.  For now, I will stick with the store bought natural varieties of peppermint oil.
          Mint Flavoring Oil Recipe

          Peppermint Flavoring Oil

          Tuesday, November 22, 2011

          Holiday Chocolate Crisp Suckers

          The holidays are definitely the time for chocolate and what's better than crispy chocolate on a stick.  Here's an easy recipe for making chocolates that will make you think you're eating a Nestle crisp candy bar.

          • 8-12 oz Dipping chocolate (chopped) Note: baking chocolate can also be used.
          • 1/2 - 1 cup of natural or organic rice crisp cereal (partially crushed)
          • sucker sticks
          • sucker molds
          If you are making suckers, wash and dry your chocolate or hard candy molds. Place sucker sticks in the molds. If you are using a double boiler, you can start melting the chocolate while you prepare the molds. However, if you are melting the chocolate directly in a pan, be sure to monitor and stir the chocolate constantly in order to avoid burning.

          Melt chocolate on low heat. If using a double boiler, be sure to avoid boiling the water since steam will make the chocolate clump. Once the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the crushed rice crisp cereal. Add enough cereal so that the mixture is still liquid and not clumpy.

          Spoon the chocolate mixture into the molds and tap the molds so that air bubbles do not remain. Freeze each mold tray for five minutes or until the chocolate is frozen. Remove and pop chocolate suckers out of the molds.

          Decorating: Wrap the suckers in foil wrappers. If you do not have wrappers with Christmas decorations, use red, green, gold or silver single colored wrappers and then put a cute Christmas sticker on the front of the sucker.

          Return to Homemade Chocolates Page

          Wednesday, November 16, 2011

          Natural Gummy Bear Recipe

          • 8 packets of unflavored gelatin
          • 1/2 cup sugar
          • 1/2 cup water
          • 1 - 1 1/2 tsp natural flavor extract
          • 1/2 to 1 tsp natural food color
          Place gelatin, sugar and water in a pot and stir. Continue stirring over low heat until the mixture is completely melted. Stir in the flavor extract and natural food coloring. Fill un-greased molds with the mixture. Place the full molds in the freezer for approximately five minutes. Peel the gummy bears out of the molds with your fingers. Keep refrigerated to avoid spoilage.

          Note: This makes a firm gummy.  For a softer gummy, try my Natural Sugar Gummies Recipe.

          Gummy bears - First Attempt

          This is a wonderful gummy recipe!  So far, I've tried two or three different gummy recipes and have had not so great results.  My first attempt was at making gum drops.  The recipe I used made gum drops that were way too soft and that didn't have a shelf life to speak of.  The second recipe was for juice gummies.  These also were way to wet and did not last.  So this gummy bear recipe is great since it calls for enough gelatin to make solid gummy bears like they are supposed to be.  I will have to find a way to alter the recipe in order to make firm gum drops that will last. 

          Gummy Bear Recipe - (Original Recipe)
          Natural Gummy Bear Recipe - (Altered to replace processed ingredients)

          Peppermint Flavor Oil - Batch #2

          This is my second attempt to make a flavoring oil and it was definitely much better than my last try. The main difference between this batch and my first attempt was that I used walnut oil instead of canola.  I believe it made a big difference in the smell and taste of the infused oil once it was done.  The other difference is that in the first batch I used bruised fresh mint and in this recipe, I used fresh peppermint that had mostly dried while in the refrigerator.  The smell of this oil is nice but I don't know how strong it will be until I try it in a batch of chocolate.  I feel much better about using this batch in chocolate though than I do about the first batch since it really didn't smell wonderful.  I will include the notes for the peppermint flavored chocolate once I use this oil in a recipe.

          Notes: Ok, I just tried this in chocolate and I wasn't really impressed.  I could taste the peppermint but the taste of the carrier oil was just gross in chocolate.  I guess I need to find another recipe for oil extraction when it comes to using it in chocolates.  I'll look for other uses for this oil but I won't be using it in chocolates.

          Peppermint Flavoring Oil Recipe

          Return to Infused Oil Page

          Friday, November 4, 2011

          Lebanese Coke Can Chicken

          This recipe incorporates a Lebanese rub with an American way of grilling chicken.

          Lebanese Rub
          • 1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
          • 1/2 Tbsp Salt
          • 1 tsp pepper
          • 1 tsp all spice or cardamon
          Heat the grill to 375 F - 400 F. Rinse the chicken well and remove kidneys. Fill a soda can half way full with water and place it upright on a large plate. Stand the chicken up on the soda can so that the legs point forward and rest on the plate. Mix the spices for the rub in a small bowl and then apply the rub all over the chicken.

          Once the grill has reached the right temperature, remove the chicken from the plate and stand the chicken and the coke can in the middle of the grill. Close the lid on the grill and cook for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Remove chicken with tongs and then carefully remove the coke can. Carve and serve.

          A Great Salsa Recipe

          Link to Simple Texas Salsa Recipe:

          I tried this recipe and loved it.  It is milder than most store bought mild salsa, so try it and increase peppers if you like it hot.  Also, I made this with my own stewed tomatoes rather than canned.  If you want to stew your own, here's a good recipe for stewed tomatoes.  Be sure to let the stewed tomatoes cool down before putting them in the blender with the other salsa ingredients or else you'll have a mess. Another note which is not mentioned in the recipe, is that you should not touch the chilies when cutting them.  To avoid burning hands, hold the chilies using plastic bags or rubber gloves.

          Lastly, I like to make things like this and can them.  However, when I canned this salsa, it took away the zing and it was almost like it had no spices at all.  I definitely prefer this salsa fresh. 

          Wednesday, November 2, 2011

          Hard Candy - Sixth Batch

          Ouch! Try not to let a drop of molten hot candy drip on your hands.  This is the first time I've been burnt, and hopefully the last.  After the drop fell on my finger, it continued to burn until I detached the drop.  Now my finger is throbbing with pain.  Luckily, this incident did not slow me down and I was able to finish pouring all the candy before it cooled.

          So with this batch, I used "Select" brand natural food coloring and Olive Nation Pure Watermelon Extract.  I doubled both the coloring and the flavor extract since natural colors and flavors seem to turn out a little weaker than their chemical counterparts.  No problem though since it improvise and double the amount asked for.  In addition to using natural food color and flavor, I used sugar cane syrup which I made about an hour and a half before I started the candy.  I usually only wait an hour and there was a small amount of crystals forming on the top of the syrup, but I don't think it will be enough to ruin the suckers.  Finally, I used walnut oil to grease the sucker molds since this seemed to work out great in the last batch.  Since these suckers are mainly for family and friends, it will be easy to make sure people don't have food allergies.  However, I may switch to coconut oil for future batches just to be safe.

          So the suckers are still in the molds, but I tasted a drip that dropped on the mold and the flavor is nice and strong.  It is definitely a watermelon taste which I am happy with since this is the second time I used the Olive Nation extracts in hard candy.  The first time, I used a chocolate extract that I purchased from Olive Nation which was not Olive Nation brand.  This extract did not work out too well.  However, I was not sure if it was the fault of the extract since that batch was slightly caramelized which usually hijacks the flavor.  I also did not double the amount of the extract as I did with this batch.  So the good news is that I can safely use Olive Nation extracts without any problems and they this batch is a good indication that they should all taste great.

          Watermelon Suckers

          This is what they look like popped out of the molds. Again, minimal breakage which is great.

          Return to Hard Candy Page

          Saturday, October 29, 2011

          Espresso Mocha Ice Cream

          If you are a chocoholic that cannot do without your daily dose of espresso, this recipe is a must.

          • 2 cups heavy cream
          • 1 cup whole milk 
          • 3/4 cup sugar
          • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
          • 1/2 cup Espresso Mocha Syrup
          •  dash of salt

          Make espresso mocha syrup ahead of time and refrigerate. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for 3 hours and up to 3 days. When cold, stir and pour mixture into the ice cream maker. Run machine about 20-25 min until the mixture thickens. When the ice cream is finished, put it in a container and then in the freezer for at least 3 hours.

          Making Hard Candy

          Although learning to make my own hard candy has not been entirely easy, I can say that it has definitely been worth it.  Of course you can always buy natural candy on-line, but making it on your own is much more rewarding and of course more economical.  So if you are considering starting up your own personal candy factory, here are some hard candy making tips and links to notes I've taken along the way.

          Hard Candy Making Tips
          • Once your candy reaches the right temperature, it will be important to remove it from the heat right away, add flavor and color and start pouring into the molds.  The candy will cool quickly and will no longer be pourable.  So, always be sure to prepare everything before starting the candy.  Have your molds oiled and set out in place, have a pan with ice water set to the side for testing the candy stage, have your candy thermometer attached to the pan, and have your food color and flavor out and ready.  
          • Pot size is very important. switch pot before cooking if too big or small.
          • Medium high temp is best.  Anything higher and the candy will cook too fast and anything lower will result in you waiting forever for the candy to get to the right temperature.
          • Cover sugar cane syrup as well as candy when it reaches a boil.  Keep covered for two minutes.  This method works better than brushing down the pan with water.  However, I like to brush down the pan after removing the lid just to make sure none of the crystals remain on the inside of the pan.
          • Do not stir once the sugar is melted.  This will cause the candy to crystallize.  
          • Do not put the same spoon in the mixture twice since this may also cause crystallization. 
          • Watch the mixture closely while cooking.  If the temperature is rising too quickly, lower the heat a little.  If it is not moving at all, raise the temperature a little.  The temperature should climb steadily and noticeably.  You don't want to take your eye off it too long since, the sugar will start to hit the caramel stage if you let it go up past the hard crack stage.
          • Some flavor extracts don't work well with hard candy.  Try using more than what is asked for in the recipe.
          • Likewise, some natural colors don't work well with hard candy.  Try mixing longer or just find another brand.  "Select" brand seems to work nicely with hard candy.
          • Grease molds with cooking oil very well before pouring molten sugar into them.  Shortening is not advised.  Canola, vegetable or walnut oils work well.  
          • For best results make sure the mixture reaches the minimum advised temperature before removing even if it seems to have reached the right stage.  If you take it off too early, the suckers will be soft and will droop out of their form in a matter of days.
          • Once candy has cooled in the molds, place them in the freezer.  Unless you live in a very cold place, the candy will be difficult to pop out and you will have more breakage if they are too warm.
          Links to notes on each of my batches: 
          Hard candy batches number 1- 4 7/12/2011
          Hard candy batch number 5 29 Oct 2011
          Hard Candy (suckers) sixth batch - 1 Nov 2011

          Hard Candy - Fifth Batch

          I used the sucker molds for the second time but this time I used walnut oil instead of shortening for oiling the molds.  I am hoping that the type of oil I use is the deciding factor for making the candy turn out right.  My broken glass candy turned out great when I used vegetable oil to grease the pan. As for the other ingredients, I used sugar cane syrup, store bought natural orange flavoring, and Select brand Orange food coloring which was made from annatto seed.  Hopefully this time the suckers will pop out without breaking and will not crystallize.  If they end up becoming brittle, I will have to blame it on the food coloring.  However I'll use vegetable oil next time to be safe if it does go brittle.

          So far everything looks fine though.  The candy is clear (not caramelized) and the color is bright.  The taste is good as well.

          This time I used a small ladle and this made it much easier to pour into the small molds without making a mess.  I also had enough time to pour the candy in all the molds and then do some touch-up before the candy started to harden.

          I will post the results once I remove the suckers from the molds, and of course, in a couple of weeks I'll look to see if the candy is still in good shape or if it becomes crumbly.

          Return to Hard Candy Making Page

          Friday, October 28, 2011

          Guide to Buying Healthy Economical Cheese

          Since most cheese comes without additives, I wasn't that concerned about the cheese I purchased until I moved to an area with high groceries prices.  It was then that I started to look closer into the cheese issue.  Luckily, I discovered I could save considerably on monthly grocery expenses as well as avoid unwanted preservatives found in certain types of cheese.

          So, when buying cheese, the first thing you'll find is that all cheese is not created equal.  Look at your labels and you will find that some cheese is filled with artificial ingredients and additives.  These are usually the wrapped pre-sliced varieties, the individually wrapped cheese snacks and the shredded cheese.  Fortunately, it is very easy to avoid these types of processed cheeses.  Instead of buying the processed cheese, try getting your cheese from the deli or grabbing a brick of your favorite type of cheese and cut it on your own once you are at home. 

          Buying Cheese in Bulk
          Though slicing your own cheese may seem like a time consuming hassle, it really isn't.  As long as you know what you are doing, you can buy large bricks of cheese at your wholesale store of choice; Sams Club or Cosco, and then keep it in your refrigerator for months.  There are only a few things you need to know before getting started.
          1. Avoid touching the cheese.  Touching the cheese with your fingers will begin the process of molding.  
          2. Keep your brick in air tight packaging.  Prolonged exposure to air will promote the growth of mold.
          If you follow these two guidelines, you will be able to slice, shred or chop your own cheese and a large brick of cheese will last for quite a long time.

          How to Cut and Slice Bricks of Cheese
          So once, you've purchased a large brick of cheese, you'll need to take measures to be sure the cheese will last once cut open.  So, in order to prevent molding, the best thing to do is to place the brick of cheese on a cutting board and make a clean cut right through the plastic.  If you are cutting cheese in order to make slices for sandwiches, only cut a chunk big enough for what you think you'll use in the next two weeks.  Once you've cut the chunk off the brick of cheese, immediately wrap the exposed end of the brick with cling wrap.  Pull the plastic tightly over the exposed portion of cheese so that no air touches it, and then wrap another piece or so of cling wrap around the sides of the brick to assure the first piece of plastic stays tightly fastened to the cheese.  Place the brick of cheese back in the refrigerator.  This will assure your brick of cheese will last a long time.

          Next you will take the chunk of cheese that you cut from the brick and cut it with a sturdy cheese slicer.  If you've never used a cheese slicer before, play with the angle with which you slice the cheese in order to get thin or thick slices.  If you want to shred the chunk of cheese, do so immediately and store unused portions in a plastic bag.  For longer storage, try to remove as much air as possible from the bag without crushing the shredded cheese.  Shredded cheese can also be stored in the freezer for quite some time.  However, it will last longer if left on the brick and refrigerated, so try to shred only what you will need in the next couple of weeks and refrigerate it.

          So whatever you need to use cheese for, I'm confident you will find that buying cheese in bricks and doing your own processing will be much more economical as well as help you to avoid unwanted food additives.

          Freezing Herbs

          I haven't tried freezing fresh herbs yet, but it seems like a great idea since some frozen herbs may work best for recipes that call for fresh spices.  Plus, some fresh herbs are not available year round so having some frozen leaves or herb cubes can be beneficial in this case.

          Here's a great resource for freezing spices:

          Wednesday, October 26, 2011

          Espresso Mocha Sauce

          This is a great sauce to use as an ice-cream topping, for making ice-cream, or for stirring into milk.

          • 2 shots Espresso (further instructions below)
          • 1 cup Sugar
          • Dash of Salt
          • 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
          • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
          Espresso instructions: If you do not have an espresso maker, this recipe can be made using a cup of coffee in its place.  To prepare the espresso needed for this recipe, add enough grounds for two shots of espresso.  Turn espresso machine on and allow machine to run past the two shot mark until the liquid is equal to 1 cup.  Note: This may be gross if drinking it plain, but it works wonders for this recipe.

          In a medium saucepan, combine esspresso, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissovle the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Simmer 3 minutes.

          Add the butter, stirring until melted. Simmer 3 minutes longer. Use at once or let cool and refrigerate, covered. Store refrigerated and covered for up to a week.

          Espresso Mocha Ice Cream Recipe

          Making Cheese Sauce

          It is certainly easy to buy a jar of Alfredo sauce, heat it up and pour it on your pasta; however, making your own Alfredo sauce is just as easy and of course much healthier.  This recipe includes approximate measurements to allow for adjusting serving size and for varying ingredients to taste.

           Easy Alfredo Sauce
          • 1 - 1 1/2 cups milk
          • 1-2 Tbsp corn starch
          • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp garlic salt
          • pinch - 1/4 tsp pepper
          • 2-3 Tbsp butter
          • 1/3 - 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded) 
          In a medium sized bowl, whisk corn starch, garlic salt and pepper into the milk. Add butter and stir consistantly over medium to medium high heat. If sauce does not thicken after a few minutes, stir less frequently but enough to assure the sauce does not burn to the bottom of the pan. Once the sauce starts to thicken, stir in Parmesan cheese until it is melted into the sauce. Pour sauce over pasta on individual plates or stir pasta into the sauce before serving.

          Some Notes on Cheese
          *This recipe can be used to make many types of cheese sauce such as cheddar sauce or four cheese sauce. White cheeses can usually be added while the burner is still on.
          * If adding yellow cheese such as cheddar, remove sauce from heat and then add the shredded cheese. This will keep the cheese from curdling.
          * Also, it is best buy chucks of aged hard cheese and grate it on your own.  Cheese that comes grated has additives to keep it from sticking and of course is much more expensive.
          * To store unused grated cheese, place it in a plastic bag and roll it so the air is removed. Hard grated cheese will store well for quite some time.
          * This makes the recipe even easier since you can shred the cheese ahead of time and grab the bags of cheese whenever you're making cheese sauce.