Candied Orange Slices… and Orange-Ginger “Honey”!

I’m really not one for using other people’s recipes at all – I prefer to make my own!

That said, I was surfing Facebook a while back, and saw a recipe that my favourite magazine – Canadian Living – posted: Candied Orange and Ginger Bark! Doesn’t it look amazing?

I had to make it, obviously.

I do candied orange slices differently, though.. so decided that I should share my recipe/ method with you. You know, mostly as an excuse to share gorgeous pictures of these gorgeous orange slices. Make more than you think – you’ll start snacking on them, and they’ll disappear in no time. Best candy ever!

When it comes to making candied/crystallized items, I like to avoid wasting anything. The “byproducts” made in the process are delicious in their own right. You may remember from an old post that when I make Candied Ginger, I actually end up with 3 separate items: the candied ginger, ginger syrup, and ginger sugar.

When making my candied orange slices for the Canadian Living recipe, I decided to shake things up a bit and make my crystalized ginger in the same syrup I cooked the tangerines in.. and ended up with not only my Candied Tangerines, but a lightly orange flavoured crystalized ginger, a ginger-tangerine “honey”, and tangerine-ginger sugar.

The “honey” – a very, very thick, caramelized simple syrup – is fantastic in tea, as an example.

Here’s how I did it.

Candied Tangerine Slices

2-3 tangerines
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Additional sugar

Slice tangerines very thinly – aiming for just slightly thinner than 1/4″. Remove and discard all seeds.

In a large pot, bring water and sugar to a boil. Add tangerine slices, gently stirring to separate and coat with sugar water.

Once syrup comes back to a boil, turn temperature down enough to keep it just at a good simmer – NOT a full boil – and simmer for about 45 minutes. I like to gently stir every 10-15 minutes or so, to ensure all of the slices are getting full exposure to the syrup.

As you wait for the simmering tangerines, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread a good amount of sugar over the parchment paper – a cup or two, enough to get a nice layer of sugar. Set up a drying/cooling rack over the sugar pan.

Once the 45 minutes are up, remove pan from heat. Use a fork to gently remove orange slices from the syrup, allowing excess syrup to drip off into the pan. Arrange drained slices on the rack, allow to drip and cool for 30 minutes or so. Once time is up, flip them and allow to sit for another 30 minutes or so.

Gently dredge orange slices in sugar from the pan, making sure both sides are evenly coated. Arrange on the rack once again, allow to dry overnight.

Store in an airtight container, use within a week or so.

Orange Syrup Crystallized Ginger

1 lb or so of Ginger
1 cup sugar

Additional sugar

Use a vegetable peeler to peel all of the skin (rind?) off of the ginger, carefully slice it all into uniformly thin pieces. (I like to aim for between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick).

Place into pot of tangerine syrup. Bring syrup back up to a boil, turn temperature down enough to keep it just at a good simmer – NOT a full boil – and simmer for about 45 minutes. I like to gently stir every 10-15 minutes or so, to ensure all of the slices are getting full exposure to the syrup.

As you wait for the ginger to cook, top up the sugar in the parchment lined baking sheet. You’ll want a good solid layer.

Once the 45 minutes are up, add 1 cup of sugar to the pot, and stir well. Simmer for 10 more minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove ginger from the syrup, allowing excess liquid to drop back into the pan. As you strain liquid off, put ginger into the sugar lined baking pan, tossing to coat.

Allow ginger to cool and dry for a few hours. (Instructions continue under Orange-Ginger Sugar, below!)

Orange-Ginger Sugar

Transfer the ginger pieces to an airtight container, gently knocking them against each other (I’ll roll them in my hands) to dislodge any loose, excess sugar. Cover tightly, store at room temperature.

You’ll be left with a fair amount of excess sugar, mostly clumpy. Run all of that through a food processor until it’s as fine as you’d like it – this will depend on your desired uses for it. Transfer to an airtight container, store at room temperature.

Use it to add a bit of extra flavor to your baking, to coffee or tea, or to rim your cocktail glasses!

Orange-Ginger “Honey”

Once you’ve transferred the ginger to the sugar pan, you will be left with a golden coloured, very thick syrup. You can add a little hot water to thin it out, if you like. Transfer to a clean mason jar, store in the fridge. (It may thicken / harden – it will liquify when warmed up!).

Use in tea, or as a replacement for honey in most recipes.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dijon Vinaigrette

The Minneapolis Farmers Market opened this past weekend, and we’d been looking forward to it for a very long time.

This was definitely the winter that wouldn’t end, stubbornly “gifting” us with another 3″ of snow just a week ago, before jumping up to highs in the mid 70s days later. WTF, mother nature?

Anyway, it was great to wander the aisles that we hadn’t seen since last summer, and get some fresh air. While there wasn’t much in the way of fresh produce yet, we did end up buying – among other things – a tray of fresh Brussels sprouts. I was happy – it’s been a while.

Growing up, I LOVED Brussels sprouts. Fresh or frozen, usually mushy and included in stew.. whatever. Loved em! As I grew a bit older, it kinda shocked me to learn that Brussels sprouts had kind of a bad reputation, and was a commonly DISliked food.

As it turns out, my husband is in a weird middleground. He doesn’t love them, doesn’t hate them… but is OK with them in small doses. He says they are “too much… something”.

Yeah, I don’t know.

So, I decided to try to make a Brussels Sprouts Believer out of him. Forget the stew, I’d do my second favourite presentation – roasted. I knew it would be hard to turn up his nose at bacon roasted Brussels sprouts, even if left plain… but these are also tossed in a tweaked version of my go-to favourite vinaigrette.

SO good… he loved em! I hope you will, too!

Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dijon Vinaigrette

1 lb thick cut bacon, chopped
1 1/2- 2 lbs fresh Brussels sprouts
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt
Pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cook bacon to desired doneness – I like to stop just short of crispy, for this recipe.

As bacon is cooking, remove any yellowed or otherwise ugly outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the very end (brown) of each stem end, before cutting each sprout in half. Place on a baking sheet.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon from pan, setting aside. Measure 1/4 cup of bacon drippings into a bowl or measuring glass, set aside for now.

Pour remaining bacon drippings over the Brussels sprouts, tossing to coat well. Sprinkle sprouts with brown sugar, season with salt and pepper, gentle toss to coat. Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring the sprouts every 8-10 minutes or so.

Whisk cider vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt into the the (slightly cooled!) reserved 1/4 cup of bacon drippings until mixture becomes thick, well combined, and smooth.

Once sprouts are as roasted as you would like them, remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with vinaigrette and bacon, season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Homemade Wine Slush Mix!

If you’ve ever been to a large trade show, home show, or – in our case this weekend, a Food and Wine show… chances are, you’ve seen a booth hawking wine slushie mixes. “Frappe Vino”, “Wine Slush”, “Party Slush Mix”, “Vino Slush”… there are a bunch of companies offering it. The samples are so good, it’s easy to drop the $12 or so for the 12 oz baggie of powdered mix. Trust me, we’ve done so… twice. That second time, I took a look at the ingredients and almost had a heart attack. I couldn’t believe what I’d just paid so MUCH for!

I was reminded of that this weekend, as the D’Marie company was once again set up with their wonderful wine slush. While we all loved the slush, I decided that I would set about to “reverse engineer” it. Cue jokes about “Dis Marie” bastardizing “Dat Marie’s” recipe…

Anyway… between the ingredient listing, listed weight, nutritional info, and the unused second bag sitting in our liquor cabinet… I didn’t figure it would be hard to do.

It wasn’t. 🙂

The ingredients are simple, and the technique is one of those “so simple, it shouldn’t be considered an actual recipe” deals. You, too, can make homemade wine slush mix at home! While matcha powder isn’t cheap, this recipe doesn’t take much at all – your wine slush mix should cost less than $1.50/batch!

Oh, and remember the citric acid you bought for my Quick mozzarella recipe? Well if you haven’t bought some, what are you waiting for? Cheese and wine slushes aren’t the only cool things you can do with it – more citric acid recipes are coming!

Oh, and that Czar of cakes competition? I won! Click here for photos of my cake entry. (more…)

Our “Tornado Smashed” Gingerbread House!

———————————-

My tornado memoir – “Twisted” was released on 05/22/12! click here for more details, or to purchase!
———————————-

Back on May 22, when a tornado smashed our house, I had no idea how long the road ahead of us would be. I had no idea that, coming up on Christmas, I would be without a kitchen, would still be fighting the city, and that I’d only be beginning to process the trauma of the whole thing.

In fact, up until a few days ago, I was pretty sure I’d dealt with the trauma. I was convinced I’d managed to just put it aside entirely, and get to work. I thought that we were so “over” the tornado, that we could have a bit of fun with it.

I have no idea why we thought it would be a good idea / funny to make a gingerbread house representation of our house on May 23. No clue. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and hey – I’d never made a gingerbread house before. If it turned out looking horrible, I had the ultimate excuse: It being “tornado smashed”, it’s SUPPOSED to look awful/be falling apart.

So, I did a bit of research. I obsessed over fellow Food Bloggers of Canada member Barry Parsons’ Rock Recipes Blog – where he has detailed instructions for making gingerbread houses. He does just phenomenal work, you should check it out!

tornado gingerbread house

Anyway, armed with Barry’s gingerbread house recipe and TONS of source material photos from back in May, I set to work. (more…)

An Aspie view of Thanksgiving Hell

One of the earliest memories I have is one that disturbs me to this day.

I was at the crosswalk at school – I think this was kindergarten – and looked across the road to see some kid just getting pummeled by a couple other kids. It turned out that the reason for the beating was that the victim had a small bag of candy, and the bullies wanted it.

I can’t even describe the despair I felt when I found out what had happened. Candy was such a stupid, little thing… I was mortified that these kids were willing to treat another person like THAT, for… nothing. They say we’re not supposed to feel empathy, but… man, even to this day, that image upsets me to a point where I can’t even spit out the words for it.

I’ve said before… I grew up not only being treated like an alien, but sometimes seriously wondering if I got dropped off on the wrong planet. That morning? Had I actually been an alien, that would have been the point I radioed back home and told “my people” that there was no hope for this planet. Seriously.

Anyway, I bring this up because Black Friday reminds me of that morning. People pepper spraying each other, shoving, trampling, a couple people getting shot… over what? Saving some money on a TV? Just seems like a widespread, adult version of those kids with the candy. Ridiculous. I’ll never understand people.

Anyway, let’s talk about last night. By “talk”, I mean “I have to rant”

I’ll be frank here – when you’re an Aspie, family gatherings SUCK. Too much noise, hysteria, people are in your space, nothing’s where it is supposed to be, and it’s just not FUN. There’s an increased pressure to be “normal”, while you’re feeling like crawling under the bed and hiding until the chaos disappears.

My adult aspie friends, some of whom have spawned little junior aspies – they get this. Watching twitter last night, I saw a lot of mentions of hiding in a room, hanging out in the basement… even one guy who took his aspie kid out to his truck and watched Netflix on his phone. That? That is awesome.

Unfortunately, twitter was also full of neurotypical “advocate” parents of aspies who were less than cool about it. One woman went so far as to call her aspie son “passive aggressive” for hiding in his room.

What. The. Hell?!

People, you can’t be all pro-acceptance for 98% of the year, then turn on your poor kid and TORTURE THEM. You want to be an advocate? Let your kid hide in his room if he wants. Would it be “passive aggressive” if YOUR parents tried to guilt trip you into stabbing yourself in the face repeatedly, and you declined? No? Then stop doing it to your kid. Oh, and if you force your aspie / autie kid to do something they’re not comfortable with, it’ll be at LEAST 2x as bad the next time. Chill!

By the way, tweeting your disappointment in your kid last night? (This is directed at SEVERAL people) You realize you’re on a public account, right? My mother would have said a lot of the same things that some of you did last night, but at least when I was a kid, there wasn’t Twitter. There wasn’t written evidence of my mother broadcasting her disappointment in me being WHO I AM to the entire fucking planet, that I could easily happen upon someday.

I am beyond disgusted with a good handful of people right now.

Parents of Aspie/Autie kids: This time of year really sucks for us. There is a ton of noise, lights, noise, people stressed out, noise, pressure, and more noise. What is fun for you, sometimes is tantamount to outright torture for your kid. CHILL OUT already.

If your kid wants to hide in his/her room, or the basement, or WHATEVER during family gatherings, let him/her. Contrary to what you may believe, they’re not “missing out” on anything. If left to their own devices, they’re not going to wake up the next morning and regret not spending more time playing with their insane neurotypical cousins, or whatever. Left to their own devices, they’ll wake up that next morning short of the trauma that their NT parents could have put them through, for their own selfish purposes.

I can’t emphasize this enough: Forcing your aspie/autie kid to participate in holiday festivities that they’re not comfortable with – you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for yourself. Subjecting them to holiday gatherings they don’t want to be a part of isn’t going to give them some warm, gushy, Hallmark-type holiday memories. All it will do is show them that you are more concerned with what other people think, than the well-being of your kid.

Trust me. I’m in my early 30s, and none of the holiday-induced forced socialization of my childhood has magically morphed into anything other than just wishing my parents had accepted me for who I am. I’m guessing that most of my adult-aspie friends who holed up away from the racket yesterday feel the same!

Ok, so that probably all came off really negative. Let me try to balance it with a bit of positive.

If you are aspie, or parent of an aspie… you should follow @aspieside on twitter. She’s a neurotypical parent of an aspie boy, and she’s pretty awesome – even if it’s a bit weird for me to read her posts.

For one, her son reminds me of me. He has some of the same “quirks” I had as a kid – which feels a bit bizarre to read about now, given how much of a “freak” I was at the time. It’s weird – but cool – to read about someone I’ve never met, that – OMG – sounds like me.

Secondly… if there was a textbook perfect way to parent an aspie kid, she’d probably be the author of it. My own mother’s way of handling me was pretty much the opposite of “perfect”, so it gets a bit weird to read her too. I’m so happy for her kid, that SOMEONE is being raised right. I’m happy that there is this stunning example of a NT able to relate to her aspie kid – it’s such a rarity. She speaks his language so well, I sort of question her neurotypicality!

Reading her posts are also sort of bittersweet, because it does dredge up some crappy feelings about my own childhood. I wish my mom had been even HALF as good with me, as she is with her kid. Yup, I’m a bit envious!

So… if you’re one of the neurotypical parents that act like those I mention in the first half of this entry… try to learn from her before it’s too late. My mother was one of you. She never accepted me for who I am, never made any effort to understand me, and she has resented me for my whole life. While I spent 30 years wishing and hoping for her to eventually come around, I’ve recently realized that it’s a lost cause. We will never have a relationship.

The sad thing is, had she tried at ALL when I was a kid, she may not have resented me so much. Things could have been very different today, with just a little effort a couple decades ago. Had she been tweeting her disappointment in me to the world, it wouldn’t have taken me a full 30 years to resent her right back.

Maybe I’ll stop ranting now…

Confetti Bars! (Butterscotch, Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Bars)

Short and sweet post today…

.. so I’ve been dealing with a sick husband the past couple of days. While shopping for “sick” groceries (stuff we don’t have on hand, that are good to have around for illness – OJ, chicken soup, yogurt, etc), somehow I started thinking about confetti bars.

Yeah, I have no idea either. My brain sometimes makes completely bizarre leaps like that.

Anyway, confetti bars. Haven’t had em in a long time, and have noticed that they definitely aren’t the ubiquitous party / holiday treat here, that they are back home. You can’t go to a Canadian potluck, Christmas dinner, or wedding social without coming across these things! I’m not taking any credit for the recipe itself, as it’s one that you just learn as a kid, and absolutely everyone knows. You know, aside from most of the Minnesota locals that I know!

Are they a Canadian thing? I don’t know. Whatever they are, they take like 2 minutes to make, and are super addictive. Definitely a case of “The whole being greater than the sum of its parts”!

1/2 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 package butterscotch chips
~ 1 small package rainbow colored mini marshmallows

In a glass bowl, heat butter, peanut butter, and butterscotch chips. I like to microwave it for a minute or so, until the chips are about half melted. Stir until everything is melted, combined, and smooth.

Add in mini marshmallows, stir until all are evenly coated. Use between 1/2 and 1 small bag of them, depending on your tastes. I usually use about 2/3 of a bag, but used a whole bag for this batch (as pictured). Sometimes you want more of the “fudge” part, sometimes you want more marshmallows. These bars are NOT a hard science 🙂

When marshmallows are coated, spread mixture into a lightly greased pan. (I used 8″ x 8″ for 2″ thick bars, 9″ x 13″ is a popular size to use for thinner bars.) Chill until set. Slice up and serve!