Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honeycomb/Crunchies Revisted

I wrote about crunchies (honeycomb, hokey pokey, whatever you call it) last week.  For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to perfect the recipe. I've made it and it was very close to the ideal,  I've made it and it has melted on my kitchen counter, I've made it and it was burnt (which my friend Julie referred to as "toasted" and thought it was just dandy, but I knew wasn't quite right)  I've had the bubbles be so big it caused the crunchies to shatter when I got near them  to cover with chocolate, but I am here to tell you, I've cracked the code. 

And it is delicious. 

Homemade crunchies
Completed crunchies

Naked crunchies

More gratuitous crunchie shots

Ingredients for crunchies
What's in them

Val's crunchie recipe

Fairly large saucepan
foil or parchment paper
candy thermometer

Software: See above
3/4 cup of Sugar
3 tbs Golden Syrup
1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
Chocolate chips  (milk chocolate is classic, semi-sweet is good, but makes a VERY rich sweet)

First, lay the foil/ parchment paper on a heatproof surface. Mix the syrup and the sugar with a fork in the saucepan. Turn the burner on to medium high heat, and cook the sugar until reaches 300 degrees. Do NOT STIR. Swirl the pot around if you feel like you need to mix it, but do not stir.  Unless you are really good at determining what 300 degrees is, (if you frequently make candy) Use a candy thermometer to check when the sugar mix is ready. When reaches temp, turn off the heat, put in the baking soda, and stir like crazy until soda is incorporated. Working as fast as you can (the sugar will be doubling or tripling in size, pour out onto your parchment paper or foil.  Now walk away from it for 20 minutes.   You can take this time to melt your chocolate, either in a double boiler, or in the microwave. 
once the honeycomb is cool,  break apart, and dip in chocolate to cover.  Return to foil, and stick into the fridge to set the chocolate for at least 10 minutes. 


*are you noticing my pictures are more awesome than usual? yes? they are.  I took all of these using my Dad's awesome Canon Rebel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


TEN THINGS THAT ARE MAKING ME HAPPY RIGHT NOW (caps lock makes it happier)

1. The McRib is coming back to McDonalds. Don't judge me. I love that barbeque sauce covered meat flavored hockey puck.  Can't wait to get one!
2. Glee Tuesday: Rocky Horror Edition!
3. Roasting a chicken this weekend, and making chicken stew with dumplings for dinner tonight. Comfort food, like woah.
4. Making my own homemade crunchies. I know I've posted about them before, and I've made them a bunch of times, but the novelty does not wear off. they are awesome. and tasty. and covered in ghiradelli milk chocolate.  I'm making some tonight for Glee tuesday, and then I'm bringing my show on the road to make them at home for my family there.
5. Deaching my friend Bianca to crochet tomorrow! I love teaching people to crochet. plus, I'll be able to get in the groove, and start working on some projects soon. (like the blanket I've been putting off working on for... six months.
6. Going home to the Jerz this weekend!
7. Iron Crow's new show is opening soon! Go get your tickets for Apartment 213! (p.s. it's going to be scary. Consider yourself warned)
8. Planning Christmas gift baskets full of deliciousness.
9. Less than a month until Harry Potter.
10. Hyperbole and a Half.

What is making you happy right now?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reasons I love the fall

As some people in my life will tell you, I love trees. I love them painted on things, I love them when the change colors, I love them when they are snow covered.  So I carved one into a pumpkin. This is not the first time I have carved a tree into a pumpkin, but I think it is the most successful one.  It's for a pumpkin decorating contest at work. 

I also decorated the back side with an owl. No particular reason. I just like owls..  And they are halloween-y. Although mine is a little cartoony and not scary.

And then there are wonderful things to bake, such as these:
They are a riff on a recipe from 101 cookbooks,  Butternut Squash Feta Muffins.  I swapped in some rosemary, and added some extra spinach, they are healthy, and delicious.  They smell amazing when they are baking, and they taste like fall.  Just perfect for the nip in the air (or, since it got down to 30 last night, a little more than a nip)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flashback to September! Wine Dinner

So back when I was doing my 28 in the 28th, I had 'have a multiple course dinner paired with wines'.  And back on the season premiere night of Glee, I made this dinner.  I found my camera cord (woo!)  So here is what we drank, and what I made.

Sparkling Chardonnay! I love sparkling white wines, and this one was really good. It was a good combo with the first course:

First course: Parmesan crisps two ways: cracked black pepper and smoked paprika  with melon wrapped prosciutto and balsamic vinegar reduction. 

With the second course, we had Portuguese Vinho De Mesa Branco, which was light, and nicely dry, and went excellently with the risotto. 

The risotto was one of one of the best I've made so far (... if I do say so myself, heh)  it was roasted butternut squash risotto with chicken apple sausage and rosemary, and had plenty of cheesy creamy goodness. This time of year, I'm obsessed with butternut squash. I like it even better than pumpkin in savory dishes, it's just slightly sweet, and when it is roasted, the salty, carmelized squash is heavenly. 

With dessert, we had this Cabernet Sauvignion which I will admit, I don't remember much about. I had had... quite a bit of wine by this point. It was red, and it was good!

And for dessert, it was a sugary bomb of delicousness. Baked apples, with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. YUM. 

All in all, I think that it was a pretty successful dinner. Thanks to Julie for picking out the wines so awesomely, and for Paul, for coming over and eating it all. Glee Tuesdays for the win! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making My Own Honeycomb

One of my favorite candies is the Crunchie. You can only get it in the UK and Europe (and some specialty stores here) so I usually only get them when I am traveling, or when Irish relatives come to visit here.  But recently, I've seen recipes for Honeycomb, which is what the inside of a Crunchie is. One was in Oprah Magazine, and then I watched an episode of Nigella where she made it.  It was obviously fate.  The recipes, they were calling to me. They were saying "Val... you must make our sugary goodness!" 

So made sugary goodness I did. 

It is only three ingredients. Sugar, Golden syrup, and baking soda.  You cook the sugar and syrup in the pot, and then once it gets to the right point, you cut the heat, and whisk in the baking soda like crazy. It gets huge, and you pour it out onto a parchement lined baking sheet. 

And it looks like this! 

Then you wait the longest fifteen minutes of your life, until it cools, so you can break it apart. 

And then you eat! 

I dipped some of them in dark chocolate, and some of them in milk, and left some of them plain. 

Now I don't have to wait for the Irish to come! 

Monday, October 11, 2010


1) Shortbread cookies, with the tops dipped in chocolate
also they are in acorn shapes, and i dipped the top part in chocolate so it looks like the little acorn hat, and it's very Martha and cute and I am kind of proud of how cute they look.  And they taste pretty good, but not as good as the ones at Panera.
2) Coffee.
I realize that coffee makes me happy on a lot of these lists, but it isn't ever any less true. Coffee. Is. Awesome.
3) Planning all of the things I am going to cook this week:
Right now on the list: Navy bean soup,  Honeycomb,  and penne alla vodka for Glee Tuesday
4) Although it is hot today, Fall weather is coming.
I already have my sweaters out for this week. GET COLDER.
5)  I like my new hair color (added bonus: no more terrible roots!)
6) I am thinking up ideas for the baking contest at work (this does not count for my 29/29th list) 
There are two categories: best theme (Halloween) and best tasting. Last year I did the white cupcakes, filled with raspberry jam, and they looked like mummies on the outside for the best theme category, and for best tasting, I did my banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting center, and chocolate ganache on top. (for best tasting)  I also piped on things that are scary: "the dentist"  "the IRS"  "spiders" .
7) Today is National Coming Out Day!  Happy day!
8) Am making positive, forward moving choices.
I think for a long time I've been stuck in a rut, and I am now beginning to get out of it.  Sometimes the first thing to do is the hardest, and once you do it, it makes everything more manageable.  So woo!
9) Glee Tuesday tomorrow!
10) Am going to re-arrange my bedroom tonight. I am feeling the need for change.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Birthday at the Beach

Portrait of the birthday girl on her 29th birthday

So my original plan for my birthday this year, was to be hanging out with my cousins Kelly and Eric, and their awesome kid Evan, but they couldn't come down to Baltimore, and have re-scheduled their trip for November (which is going to be awesome)  So I was somewhat at a loose end, trying to figure out something to do for my birthday, when my mom suggested that I come down to Chincoteague, because she, my Auntie Ange, and cousin Pauline had rented a house for the weekend.  Far be it for me to turn down a weekend at the beach, (one of the best beaches ever)  So I packed my things and drove down to the beach on Saturday morning, making the best time I've ever made- I was there in less than three hours!


So I got to the house, which was right on main street. put down my stuff, and just relaxed- I think it happens somewhere around Salisbury, on my way down to Chinc, I begin to  get happy  and then once I'm over the bridge, and onto the Island, it's just... peaceful.   We hung out for a while at the house, and then packed up and when to the beach- which was a little windy, but nice.  I re-read the end of Mockingjay, because I read it really fast the first time, and drank tea on the beach (which is a very my mom thing to do)  and read, and dozed  a little, and then, because I am somewhat crazy, went into the ocean with my Auntie Ange.  the water wasn't that cold, actually, but it was really rough, so we were just in for a couple of minutes.  I was about 2 seconds from getting OWNED by a wave as I was getting out of the water, but managed to stay upright and get out of the water relatively unscathed.  Auntie Ange was not so lucky- she took a little tumble and ended up with sand... all over. heh
We went back to the house and changed, and went for a walk downtown, where I managed to procure two blue Ball Jars, which are amazing!  I love ball jars, and any kind of canning jars, really- I love the way the look- they are all my drinking and juice glasses, they are my favorite system for storing leftovers, and keeping excess dry goods in.  I really like the way that candy looks in a ball jar,  or a bunch of nails and screws, or buttons.  So. Anyway. the blue ones are pretty rare, and I snagged two of them for three bucks.  If i can remember, I'll take a picture of them with my phone to put on here.  We hit the bookstore, where I got one of my favorite Babysitter's club books (I sadly, and stupidly, donated all of my BSC collection to the library when I was about 18)  and have slowly been re-collecting my favorites.  (oddly, most of my favorites are Claudia centric. I think I liked her arty style. And her junk food hidden in her room)

 We got back from our walk, hungry, and had guacamole that I made (see bottom of post for recipe)-  Guacamole is one of those things that just speaks "chincoteague"  to me-  I've made it tons of times, Year after year in Chincoteague- whenever I make it and it's not there, it just doesn't seem quite right. So we had the guac, with my aunt's nachos, and the enchiladas that my mom made.  It was quite an excellent birthday dinner,  and was topped off with some Irish Candy that Pauline brought.
Then on Sunday, we woke up and it was raining, and gross, so we bumbled around the house, and watched a lot of Say Yes to the Dress, which I may or may not have developed a bit of an addiction to. (don't judge. it's good) 
We hit a couple of stores, and then went to one of my favorite places on the Island: Woody's Beach BBQ

Auntie ange  at woody's

I love this place because it's great bbq, and it's fun.  Even though it was cold and rainy out, It was still delicious.

Mom and Pauline ordering
I got the pulled pork sandwich with the onion ring on it, and coleslaw and a side of fries. mmmmm. I wish I could be eating that right now.
And then I had banana pudding with Nilla wafers in it, and all was right with the world.

I had a really good time at the beach- It has been one of my best birthdays- relaxed, and fun.  I think it is really a great thing that as I get older, I really have realized that I have a great family- that I enjoy as people, and friends, besides the fact that fate has thrown us together. My mom and Auntie Ange and Pauline are hilarious, and awesome.

Guac Recipe (shamelessly stolen from the ingredients inside a Trader joe's Guac Kit)
Two avocados (make sure they are ripe)
two plum tomatoes seeded and diced
one small onion diced fine
two cloves of garlic diced fine
one jalapeno (seeded and diced fine- if you like things spicier, leave the seeds and ribs in- I prefer my guac to have just a little bite)
1/2 a lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions: in a medium sized bowl, put diced onion, Garlic, and jalapeno and mix with a fork.  ad avocado and mash in with fork, but leaving some chunks- you don't want the avocado to be totally smooth.  mix in the tomatoes, lime juice, and stir.
Eat with chips.
(this recipe can be very easily doubled or tripled. I would suggest if you have any more than four people eating it, you make a double batch. otherwise people get a little sad at you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

29/29th # 21

21) Set one weekly excersise goal every week and then meet it. (even if it's small: i.e. 3 days of wii fit a week, two long walks around the ten hills neighborhood,  walking up the giant hill in front of my house)

So I'm reviving the Val Gets Fit blog, where I will blog about various fitness things.  If you feel so inclined, go ahead and read it, but be advised: it will be me talking about excersise, and possibly eating healthier. Read at your own risk of boredom.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

29 in the 29th

Okay.  So I have been thinking a lot, and I think next year, I'm going to transition into a Mighty Life List, as opposed to yearly lists, in an effort to think a little bit longer term about where I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  But I couldn't resist coming up with one last yearly list, because this is the big one. The last year before I'm thirty. The last year of my mid to late twenties. Oh, all right, my late twenties. I have purposely made this list a lot more accessible, I want to complete EVERYTHING on it this year.

1) Go see a taping of Wait Wait Don't tell me. 

2) Take advantage of a Southwest sale and go somewhere with Julie that we've both never been.

3) Redesign my website. Buy a domain name and move the blog there.

4) Enter a cooking contest. (a real one. not one at work. With real judges and everything) 

5) Buy a video camera and make and edit more videos (even if it's just a flipcam)

6) Update my blog at least once a week

7) Plan fun things to do to show Jackie Baltimore, now that she is living here.

8) Go to a resturant for resturant week.

9) Go tubing down the river (I don't know which river. Any river. Preferably with Paul, who suggested this list item)

10) Take more pictures, post more pictures

11) Taste 20 types of beer.

12) Continue my tradition of Top Chef Wednesdays and Glee Tuesdays.

13) Donate money to causes I believe in.

14) Go to NYC for a weekend

15) Go somewhere where there is not much ambient light, and look at the stars.

16) Learn how to identify more constellations than just Orion.

17) Master bread baking (this guy is also going to be baking bread this year, and I want to bake some with him!)

18) Help somone else complete a List item on their list that isn't on my list.

19)  Go on a picnic.

20)  Figure out what I'm doing with my life professionally.

21) Set one weekly excersise goal every week and then meet it. (even if it's small: i.e. 3 days of wii fit a week, two long walks around the ten hills neighborhood,  walking up the giant hill in front of my house)

22) Move to a new apartment when my lease is up, with the following requirements: decent size kitchen. hardwood floors, fun area of Baltimore. (optional but would be nice: washer/dryer combo)

23) Go to one of the City Year Events in DCn (or philly, or NYC, or RI- Just do one event with them)

24) Decorate a cake with fondant.

25)  Learn how to can things.  Seriously. Making this happen. For real this time.

26)  Go to see a drive in movie.

27) Do one social activity that is outside my comfort zone per month

28) Go down to Florida to visit G; make it home to visit my Grandad more often.

29) Go to some kind of food festival. Whether it is barbeuce, or Garlic, or a Pickle festival.