Happy Halloween! {Foodie Pen Pal Reveal}

I cannot believe it is the end of October already! This month flew by for me! I have catching up to do, and I will DEFINITELY do an October wrap-up post to cover what I missed; so sorry for not posting almost anything all month long.

So, this month, for the foodie pen pals, Monica, who lives in Florida, sent me a package full of local favorites. This includes the Plantain chips and garlic dipping sauce, yellow rice, popcorn, a chia drink, and Maria’s cookies and locally made honey. She also sent a pumpkin bread and some candy and lollipops over for the fall holiday season.

If you would like to join or know more about Foodie Pen Pals, visit Lindsay’s website; to find out what I sent, go to My Outside Voice.

Hope you all have a safe and fun Halloween!

January: the month of newbies…Daring Bakers Challenge #1

So, I wanted to join this group for a while after reading about their challenges on other food blogs. So I thought, what better time to start something new than in the new year. So here goes:

“The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.”

I have worked with gluten-free flours before, and with all of the rain, I just didn’t feel like trekking all the way down to the Mission to get what I needed, so I used wheat flour. It was a simple change to the challenge recipe, just replace the gluten-free flours with wheat flour.

The graham cracker dough was sticky, and I ended up adding a little extra flour while I kneaded and rolled it out. Since I don’t really like plain graham crackers (or s’mores) and I knew I would have extras, I didn’t really pay that much attention to the shapes of the crackers themselves, and just baked them for the crumbs. Oh, of course I tried one or three before smashing them to bits, and they are good on their own. But I will surely make a tart or pie crust of some sort with the leftover crumbs.

The Nanaimo Bars were pretty easy to make, and all of the layers make a tasty treat. I only have half of them left and I only made them on Monday.

I do have a lot of leftover ingredients that will have to be used some how, so look for recipes featuring these ingredients again (such as the graham cracker crumbs).

I hope this post gets the Daring Baker’s stamp of approval. Take the jump for the recipes.

they’re not the prettiest that I’ve seen, but they were tasty.

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Fabulous Food Festival

Yesterday, I went to the Fabulous Food Festival. It was a bunch of booths of free samples and demos and other giveaways, but mostly businesses trying to sell their products to the masses. I think this picture explains it pretty well (if not, check out the picture at the bottom of this post.):

I tried some olive oils, and some fudge, along with some interesting things, such as tea infused chocolate. I even networked (sorta) by talking to the people who were selling chocolate bars and other chocolaty items. I did get this one guy’s business card who said that I should call him when I do start up my own business and that he would give me samples of his chocolate to use. I also found this company that rents out commercial kitchen space to caterers and bakers, and other chefs that are trying to start a business, but don’t have the money for kitchen space yet. I think the most random item being sold at the food festival was sheets. I didn’t get what that company was doing there. There were some other non-food but food related items there, such as “pies” that weren’t really pies, but little ornaments that looked like pies, but had things inside them that made them smell like pie, but then they also had other scents that I wouldn’t want to associate with pie, such as lavender. Is it me, or do flowers just not belong in food? I mean sure, one could argue that fruits are flowers, too, but don’t get me started there. I also tasted fennel pollen for the first time. Sure, it was mixed with other spices that you would generally use with apples, such as nutmeg, and cloves, and I wasn’t really sure what exactly fennel pollen was, and it was pretty much masked by the other flavors, but I guess it was good. I also bought some honey sticks, which are meant to be eaten kinda like pixie sticks, you just bite off the end, and then suck down the flavored honey. I guess you could also squeeze it into some tea, I guess it is probably just the right amount.

I also bought chocolate covered caramel, which had sea salt on top, which, since I like sweet and salty together, was good, though this was a little too salty for my taste. Overall, an interesting experience at the festival.

Today, I was going to do some volunteering down at the Food Bank, but then had other plans, but then those plans got changed, so now I am left with just hanging out in my apartment with nothing to do. Perhaps I’ll end up baking something, and therefore blogging about it later, but we’ll see.

apples and honey

So, to celebrate the Jewish New Year, it is tradition to eat apples and honey together. Since I am not such a fan of fruit, but more of a fan of everything sweet, I decided to make apple and honey lollipops. They turned out pretty well, and even look good enough to give away to the various homes I will be entering to celebrate the holiday (or Holy Day, as some people might call it.) this weekend. Making candy is pretty easy to do. It just takes some time (doesn’t everything?!) to wait for the sugar to boil to become about 300 degrees. (professional candy makers call this the hard crack stage, but last night we called it “waiting for the crack”.) Since it is so easy, this will probably be my shortest post yet. (But perhaps my sweetest?!)
Lollipops (makes about 20-30 depending on how big you make them and how fast you are with the hot sugar)
1. Spray either a marble slab or counter space (if you are lucky enough to have one…) or a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with some non-stick spray.
2. Measure your ingredients. I did this in a liquid (glass) measuring cup, because if you pour the corn syrup on top of the sugar, it is easier to get out. It is really easy to remember: 1/2 cup of each: sugar, corn syrup, and water. For the apple flavored candy, I used apple juice concentrate, about 2 tablespoons. Do not add the flavor to the sugar mixture yet. You will do this after the sugar reaches the right temperature.
3. Pour the sugar, syrup, and water into a pot and let boil. If you have a candy thermometer (which I do, but did not remember it last night) you can use it to take the temperature of the boiling sugar mixture, and you want to wait till it reaches 293-300 degrees. (I looked at many sites and the temperature for hard crack stage varies from site to site. The Baking and Pastry book from the CIA says 293 degrees.) If you do not have a candy thermometer, you can test the sugar the old fashioned way, by putting some syrup into cold water. If you can form a ball and it is hard to crack, you are all set. Also, 300 degrees is right before sugar starts to caramelize (it starts at around 310 degrees) so, if you notice your sugar starting to turn yellowish/goldish then that is also a good way to know when the sugar is at the right temperature.
4.  Add flavoring (and coloring, but it has to be oil based to work). Mix quickly.
5. Pour the sugar onto the pan, and quickly insert a lollipop stick, and rotate the stick so that you can be sure that it is completely covered in candy. You have to work quickly because the sugar will get thick and start to set up.
6. After the lollipops have cooled some, you can transfer them to wax paper and let them finish cooling before wrapping them.
If you are like me, and want to create two-flavored lollies, you can just pour the second flavor on top of the first.
That’s it. Pretty easy, huh? If you have any questions, of course you can post them as comments, and I will try to help, but I also found this website helpful, too.
Pictures! I like the top one, the pop looks kinda like an apple, I think. :o)