I am in denial that Christmas is around the corner. I can’t quite believe we survived our first big holiday dinner party, or our first bit of construction. It seemed an insurmountable challenge, but we got past it. The house looks great, and I believe our guests enjoyed the holiday – I know Carver and I did. Here are a few shots of the construction – a new shower for our master bath.
There are no Thanksgiving photos on my phone or camera… Not one. If you joined us, and took photos, please send me some so I can share! (Wait sorry, I have a photo of cranberry sauce and the group shots we took after dinner…)
I have decided, after much preparation and research (shocking, I know) that I am going to do a Happiness Project of my own. I want a BIG life, and I want to better myself. I don’t want to get held up on my insecurities or short-comings – I want to push beyond them and be spontaneous. I want to be lighter, more fun and relaxed. But I don’t want to give up the structure that I love and crave. Carver doesn’t understand this – why I need a ‘project’ or plan to do these things. I need accountability though. Basically I created a theme for each month, and each month has a few habits for me to work on that feed in to those themes. First up is December. The theme is ‘Back to Basics’ and my habits are: Honor routines & calendars, Follow the plan (for Weight Watchers and FlyLady), Write every day, Enjoy the fun of failure, Be prepared, Take photos, and Write thank you notes. I will be re-starting the FlyLady baby steps this evening by shining my sink. Tomorrow starts a new era at Weight Watchers, they are rolling out new material which lines up perfectly with my basics plan.
I made caramels the other day. I went after work to stock up – a candy thermometer and some heavy cream. I also grabbed a wedge of brie, some puff pastry and wooden popsicle sticks, but those are for another food project… These caramels look a little intense, with their 11 steps and all, but they aren’t. They simply require attention and patience, the perfect practice exercise for life and my Happiness Project actually. I would recommend packaging these treats up immediately so they don’t sit on the counter and taunt you, or better yet, just give them away. Let someone else enjoy them.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment so that excess paper hangs over the edges. Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with nonstick spray.
- Over medium heat, warm the cream, butter, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat.
- In a larger (at least 4-quart) saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and you form a thick grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is fully immersed in the sugar (at least an inch). Do not stir the sugar after this point.
- Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. At first, you will see small bubbles around the edge of the pan, which will eventually move inward. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. Around 320°F, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F. To get the harder caramels, I waited for the temp to reach about 280°F. (Note: If your instant-read thermometer isn’t quite submerged into the sugar, you may need to tilt the pan to get an accurate reading. Simply tilt the pan by the handle until the thermometer is submerged a few inches in the sugar syrup. If the syrup hasn’t reached 250°, wipe down the sides with a pastry brush again.)
- Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added.
- Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F (For the harder caramels I went to 250°F.
- Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel.
- Immediately pour the caramels into the mold. Do not scrape the pan (there are sometimes hard burnt bits on the bottom). Knock the pan against the counter a few times to help air bubbles work their way out. (Note: I’d recommend doing this when you have someone else in the house to help get the caramel into the mold, then you are less likely to burn a finger or dribble hot caramel all over your counter – speaking from experience here…)
- Set the caramels somewhere out of the way to set, for at least two hours or (ideally) overnight. Once the caramels have cooled to room temperature, you can cover the pan.
- When the caramels have set, lift them out of the pan by the parchment paper flaps and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a very sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray. With the harder texture, these end up being wedges so we just chopped them up roughly.
- Cut squares of wax paper a little longer than your caramels. Wrap each caramel in wax paper and twist the ends closed. (For the wedges, we placed a few good-sized pieces in the center of the wax paper and twisted at the top so they looked like little dumplings.) Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.