Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grandma's Peanut Butter Fudge (Fo' Real, yo!)

So, today I had a major craving for peanut butter fudge... It could be because I'm homesick, or overworked, or missing my grandma... Or it could just be that I've had a craving for it ever since I sent Jessie the text with the "directions" in it... Either way, I needed a break from my school work today and decided to whip some up...

BTW, Jessie, for someone who doesn't like to do excess dishes, you sure made it complicated! Made properly, it is a one pot-one plate experience, with a few additional tools necessary for making the candy.

Directions will be given by picture, so pay attention :) No measurements were taken. This very much depends on proportions and current weather (humidity), etc...

Add sugar and cocoa powder to the pot and whisk to combine.

The sugar-cocoa mixture should look like this (I had to add more sugar to get to this stage)

Add just enough milk to moisten the sugar. I started with about a 1/4 c. and ended up using about a 1/3 c. (just eye-balling it)

Turn the heat to med-low and switch to a wooden spoon... As Jessie said - "Just keep stirring..."

Just starting to bubble a bit...

Getting nice and bubbly...

Really cooking now!
 It was at this stage that I tested the "done-ness" of the candy. I don't have a candy thermometer, so I tested it with cold water. (I didn't get a picture of this because it moves pretty fast). Pour some really cold water in a glass dish (mom used a small drinking glass, I use glass prep bowls). Drizzle some of the candy into the cold water. Stick your fingers in and manipulate the candy ball. It should form a nice ball, but still be pliable (soft-ball stage). If you cook it past this point, the fudge will be too tough to eat... Mine was in the perfect soft-ball stage, so I removed the pot from the heat. This is when you add the vanilla (it maximizes the vanilla flavor).

I also added a couple of heaping tablespoons of peanut butter to the pot and beat it with the wooden spoon to thoroughly incorporate the peanut butter (you can use smooth or chunky, your choice)... WARNING: It sets up REALLY fast so you better be prepared to dump it onto the greased plate as soon as it comes together... otherwise it will start cooling in the pot and it will take forever to get it out again...

Aaron took a picture while I was stirring... I know, not a very good one...

After it's been mixed... It should be the consistency of thick frosting...

Glob it onto a (greased) plate and press flat... Cut into squares while still warm to prevent breaking...
Let it cool and eat your fill!

My mom used to make this anytime one of us kids got sick. We'd take the (nasty) medicine she'd give us and then follow it up with a piece of peanut butter fudge... It made getting sick not so bad!

My grandmother is no longer alive, but anytime I visit my Auntie, she makes me peanut butter fudge. I'm usually not a great candy maker and the last few efforts of making peanut butter fudge were disastrous! My sugar constantly crystallized... it made for very gritty peanut butter fudge. But, it must be sufficiently humid out today because I had no problems with this batch... Yummy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grandma Charlotte's Fudge

Chocolate. Is there any word in the English Language (apart from beer, which incidentally goes fantastic with Chocolate) that cultivates such heartfelt love? I'm happily married to a wonderful guy I love, but I gotta tell you chocolate stirs a passionate feeling so deep it might just trump my nuptials. 

That being said, yesterday I was craving chocolate and was sorely lacking in supply. Of course my first contact was to Jen to help me out. She pulled through. Sort of... See her solution was to whip up some Grandma Charlotte (her's, not mine) Fudge. Now I'm not exactly a fudge making pro. Just to make it a big more interesting, she sends me the directions via a series of Text Messages! 

Here's what I got: 


Helpful right? 

So here's the translated ingredient list: 

1 1/4 cup sugar
2 3/4 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract (this was my addition because I LOVE it)
1/4 plus 1 tbsp milk 
1 cup peanut butter

The Cast
These ingredients probably need tweeked a little. The taste is amazing but it's a little crumbly to work with and Jeff likes gooey fudge. 
Here goes nothin'!

My favorite cook wear is All Clad. I love it. Can't explain it, just do. 

Sift the sugar and cocoa together into about a 6 inch pot. You can use smaller if you like but the more room it has to spread out (without being too thin) the better it will kind of carmelize. Add milk and stir well.  

Cold, Wet, and Sweet - There's got to be a joke there.
Add vanilla. 
I call this "Honeymoon Vanilla".
We bought it at a market somewhere in Mexico.
 Turn the heat on to a medium low. Let the mixture kind of warm up and start to get glossy. Keep on stirring. Think Nemo... 

Concoction Starting to Glaze
At this point, risk of burning is pretty low. So while it heats I recommend finding a dish and lining it with plastic wrap. I know, I know. Deviation from Grandma. But I hate dishes.  Grandma would still be proud. 

Wrap it Up.... 
 Here is about half way done. You can see some of the grainy-ness of the sugar on the spatula. Keep on stirring... 

At about 3/4 of the way through you'll be able to swipe the pan and the mix will hold consistency for a few seconds. 

 Tilt the pot. If it still looks grainy and lump, keep on stirring. I played with my heat a bit here. Up a little to get the sugar to melt more. Not too high though, it's easy to burn. Burning sugar tastes like dirt... Well, sort of. First it tastes like caramel, then like dirt really quickly. Someone should talk to sugar... 

Grainy like a 90's camera phone.  
When it really starts to come together (this is about 8 minutes in) you'll get a little separation of cocoa and milk fat from the carmely sugary sauce. Keep stirring. I stopped for a second to show this but ideally you keep it all combined. 

I see swirls. 
 You're shooting for around 200 - 225* F. Keeping it there on a medium heat melts the sugar crystals without burning anything. I found this awesome candy thermometer at an estate sale for $1. If you don't have one, no worries. 

Between 200 and 225 it gets this nice black glossy look. You can read your fortune, or maybe just keep stirring and make fudge. Your call. 

Shiny! Squirrel! 
I turned off the heat and removed the pot from the burner just to cool a touch. It was really just because I needed 2 hands to prep my KitchenAid Mixer and Mom didn't have quite enough radiation to produce that third arm. 

Glass bowl, whisk attachment. 
I would show here putting in the peanut butter but again, no third arm. So here are a series of shots of the mixer combining everything. Put in the peanut butter first, start the mixer, than pour in the sugar/cocoa mix. 

PB in the center, whipping out. 

Whip it, whip it good now. 

It fully incorporates and looks like Oreo Crumbs. At least mine did.

Me Want Cookie!

 Dump contents of mixer bowl into the lined dish. 

Fold over plastic wrap. 

I used a smaller bread pan to smash everything down tight and into the lined pan. You could use fingers if you want. This was quick and easy. 

Flipped the now-fudge out onto the marble counters, keep the plastic wrap on. 

Practice Safe Rolling. Prevent dirty counters. 
 Using a rolling pin, I smashed it out a little thinner. 

Purely Illustration. 

About as thick as a pen. 
 Get ready for my favorite part! I brewed up a cup of Brooklyn coffee and enjoy! 

Three of my favorite things! 

So here's to you Grandma Charlotte. And a big thank you to Jen for making my morning a little better! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Indian Food: Good or Bad?

I've been feeling a little adventurous lately regarding cuisine... mostly because I'm getting burned out on rice and chicken as my fall back meal. One cuisine that I have never tried is Indian food (blame it on isolated living and being raised on a meat-and-potatoes menu plan). I've read ingredients of the dishes and it seems like it should be tasty. However, pictures of said dishes usually look like it has passed through the digestive tract already... SO NOT appetizing... So much so that I have no desire to try it. I don't like relegating one type of cuisine to the "no" list without even trying it first, so here is my challenge: Convince me that Indian food CAN look and taste good... then, maybe I'd try it... (maybe)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cheapskate Chicken Dinner

Today in Mississippi it's been stormy. My joints are not a fan. I, however, am! The boy went to work today and I have been dragging myself around the house all day trying to accomplish things. That has not gone well. Dishes, yeah. Laundry, yup. Made the bed, cleaned the bathroom. Still, not one of my projects on the almighty white board has been crossed off. Why? I haven't a clue!

Now about noon every day he calls to check in. Today's Topic O' Discussion was dinner. A few weeks ago Kroger had some awesome free range chicken on sale. Folks around here seem to like the extra large family packs and didn't quite realize that the price per pound of the really good free range stuff was LESS than the over-processed over-packaged force fed birds. So for a pack of 6 chicken drumsticks I paid about $2. I took them out of the freezer yesterday night and wasn't quite sure what to do with them until about lunch. 

My brilliant idea was "shake n' bake". Of course by now you know I am not a fan of that prepackaged crap so I figured, Yeah, I can totally make my own. I started by rinsing the chicken and patting it dry with paper towels. Throw it in a bowl and add about a cup of milk and a good healthy amount of tabasco. I also added in a pinch of oregano from the garden and some Northwest Seasoning from Penzey's. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour but up to like 12 hours is fine. 

In the mean time... maybe have a beer and then prep this next step. 

Find a quart or gallon sized ziploc bag. Add in equal parts of flour (yes Jen, you can use GF easily for this!) and corn meal (not sure if that's GF, if not just double the flour), add in like a good tablespoon of Northwest Seasoning. If you don't have that, just kind of mix together some pepper, paprika, salt, black pepper, and cumin. You could also do a season salt of some kind. Basically whatever you wanna eat, ok?! Geez, you guys are picky! 

Shake that mixture up pretty well. Pick the chicken up from the milk and shake it a little over the bowl to get the heavy liquid off. Then put the piece in the bag and shake until it's covered. I like to do them individual for a nice even coating and no lumpy bits. 

Place the chicken in a glass baking dish, make sure the pieces aren't touching. Now add in about 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of lard. Yeah, I get that most folks these days aren't into "fat" but if you're gonna make this right, kick your conscious in the ass and go get some lard. TRUST ME! 

Now bake for 30 min at 350. After 30 min, jack the heat to 450, flip the chicken over and bake another 15-20 min until golden. And for the love of all that is food like, please use SKIN ON BONE IN chicken. You can be prissy and peel skin off later but for now, leave it on. Skin and Bones are where the flavor comes from. 

It will come out all sorts of yummy and taste sort of friend but has like WAY less unhealthy junk. Plus c'mon. The total cost for the whole dish for me was like $2.50. 

I also made some mashed taters. This is my one exception to the boxed food rule other than cereal. I love Idahoan potatoes. The box lists the ingredients as potato. That's it, just dehydrated potato. Yum! Boil some water, add in a hunk of butter and some garlic salt. Mix in the potatoes. For like $0.45 and 5 minutes you can have delicious potatoes. I love to add milk and sour creme sometimes too. Depends on how far you want to take this one. 

Some steamed green beans done in the microwave and it was cheap, simple, and surprisingly healthy. Did I mention it was damn good? Yup! 

I'd have taken a picture but we ate it too quick. Sorry!!!