Candyfreak

Book: Candyfreak by Steve Almond

Book Info: Published by Algonquin Books Of Chapel Hill; 266 pages; hardcover; borrowed from the library

Genre: Non-fiction/food

Find out more at: Goodreads~Barnes And Noble~Amazon~Author Website

Goodreads.com Summary: A self-professed candyfreak, Steve Almond set out in search of a much-loved candy from his childhood and found himself on a tour of the small candy companies that are persevering in a marketplace where big corporations dominate.

From the Twin Bing to the Idaho Spud, the Valomilk to the Abba-Zaba, and discontinued bars such as the Caravelle, Marathon, and Choco-Lite, Almond uncovers a trove of singular candy bars made by unsung heroes working in old-fashioned factories to produce something they love. And in true candyfreak fashion, Almond lusciously describes the rich tastes that he has loved since childhood and continues to crave today. Steve Almond has written a comic but ultimately bittersweet story of how he grew up on candy-and how, for better and worse, the candy industry has grown up, too.

Candyfreak is the delicious story of one man’s lifelong obsession with candy and his quest to discover its origins in America.

Candyfreak is definitely interesting.  Almond traveled around the country to explore a lot of the small, regional candy companies.  Honestly, it nice to learn about the candy companies I’ve never heard of.  Basically, you have Nestle/Mars/Hershey’s and then there’s everyone else.  It’s really sad that the smaller companies can only afford to be in small, local places.  How many candy bars have I missed out on because they’re not at one of the major companies?

This book definitely made me want a candy bar, and I loved Almond’s descriptions of the various treats he came across.  You can tell he has a love for candy and I really liked seeing his journey through the world of candy.

While I enjoyed the book, it was more about his experience than the actual history.  You get bits and pieces, but there isn’t as much history as I expected.  He also jumped around a little, and he sometimes went off-topic, which was slightly irritating by the end of the book.

Overall, I did like it, and it was interesting, so it gets a 3 out of 5.  It felt like there was something missing from the book, though.

Guess Who Has A Menu Planned?

I finally planned a menu for NaNo!  I guess this goal of cooking new things every month actually came in handy in that I put some thought into what I wanted to cook next month.

I’ve decided I’ll my using my Crock-Pot next month!  It’ll be easy: just prep everything the night before, put everything in according to the recipe, and a few hours later, I’ll have food!  I have a few recipes for tofu bookmarked, and a few soup recipes that are also bookmarked.

I decided to abandon my idea of cooking everything this month, freezing it, and then thawing it out as needed in November.  I came across this blog a while ago where the blogger used her slow cooker everyday for a year, and figured that NaNo would be a really good time to actually use my slow cooker.  And the less time I have to worry about food and cooking, the more time I have to procrastinate!

I still have no idea about snacks, especially since I ate some of the snacks I got at the grocery store.  But it’ll be the typical snack stuff: pretzels, maybe some cookies or fruit snacks, popcorn and those fruit cereal bar things.  Some sort of snack-y dessert, like cookies or brownies.  Or other bars.  Cake balls!  Or cake pops.

As for drinks…water.  Hot chocolate and apple cider!  Any drink I can make in the slow-cooker.  And no NaNo is complete without my beloved COFFEE!  Well, caffeine in general…but it’s pretty hard to compete with coffee.

I definitely want to make pumpkin pie…completely from scratch!  It’ll be a good way to procrastinate on my writing.  It’ll be a good break from writing, like when I’m switching from one novel to the other.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I’ll be procastinating like it’s going out of style.  Back to food, though, I have nothing else to add!

Have a great day, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about my NaNo Survival Kit.

Food Update Plus Harry Potter!

I didn’t cook nearly as much as I had hoped, but at least I made a couple things.

Brown Butter Blondies

I made Brown Butter Blondies, which I found over at My Baking Addiction.  They were pretty good, although I’m not the biggest fan of butterscotch.  It was also my first time making blondies, and I’m definitely making them again.  I don’t know if I’ll use this particular again soon, although I probably will just to get rid of the butterscotch chips.

Rotini With Salsa Di Limone

I also made Rotini with Salsa di Limone, which I found over at the food network.  I didn’t have any tomatoes, so I opted not to use them, but it still came out yummy.  I guess you can’t really call it Salsa di Limone, since there’s no tomatoes in it, but the oil and the cheese and the lemon made it yummy!  After spending some time recently watching the food network, I’ve decided that I like Giada.  I checked out a couple of her books from the library, and I’ll probably review those in the next few weeks.

And of course, I have to talk about Harry Potter!  I finally got my tickets for it- I had a slight change in plans for it though.  I was going to go with friends, but I waited too long to get tickets at the theater we were going to, so they sold out.  😦  But I still want to go at midnight, since it’s the last Harry Potter movie ever, and if there’s a good time to see a midnight movie for the first time, it’s going to be for Harry Potter!  So I’m going with my mom instead.  I’ll try and get some pictures.  At the very least, I’ll bribe my mom with cookies or something to get her to take a picture of me, because I’ll be going in costume!  I’m super excited!  So excited, in fact, that I may see it twice, which is something I so rarely do.

Today Is Going To Be A Cooking Day

Yesterday, I decided that I needed to cook today.  I know I’m making brownies, and I have a few things I’m thinking about making.  Hopefully, they’ll turn out well.  The baking I did turned out really well, but as for the actual food…not so much.  I’ve been watching the food network over the last couple days, and it’s making me hungry!

I decided to check out a couple cookbooks from the library, which is something I thought I would never do.  Mainly because I don’t want to get anything on them…but at the same time, it’ll be a good way to test out cookbooks before I actually buy them.  And checking them out works just fine because I’m already starting to get bored with the cookbooks I already have.  Someday, I like to have a decent collection of cookbooks, and I’d like a few of them to focus on baking!  I definitely want the Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Baking: From My Home To Yours, and I definitely want to see what else is out there…and maybe I’ll find a few people that I love as much as I love Rachael Ray!

I think that’s it for now, so I’m off to bed!  I’ll share what happens with the whole cooking day sometime this week!

Adventures In Baking

I made cheesecake squares and peanut butter snickers cookies yesterday.

I’m definitely branching out with the whole baking thing, and am not making my way through every chocolate chip cookie recipe under the sun.  If I make something that’s not cookies, it’s usually brownies.  I can’t remember the last time I made cookies, so I figured I go looking through some of my favorite food blogs and see if there was anything interesting…and found peanut butter snickers cookies over at the brown eyed baker.  They were pretty yummy if I do say so myself.

I also made cheesecake squares- I wanted cheesecake, but not an actual cheesecake, so I made cheesecake squares.  I’m not a big fan of making the crust- it was fine until I had to press it into the pan.  It was thinner in some places than in others, and I’m quite sure that it’s because I just put the crust into the pan and didn’t pay attention to the fact it should be relatively equal in the whole pan.  Other than that, they seemed to come out okay.  And it took about 10 minutes of crushing the graham crackers by hand to realize using the rolling pin would be a lot easier.  The only thing I didn’t like about the cheesecake squares was that they were a lot more lemon-y than I expected.  If I make them again, then I’ll definitely adjust the lemon juice and the lemon zest.

I think I’m going to start doing more muffins and quickbreads…that is a project for next month.  Or maybe this month.  I’ll see how fast the cookies and cheesecake squares go.

Let’s Talk About…Food!

I think it’s been a while since I’ve devoted a post to food, so that’s what I’m going to talk about today!

The whole cooking and baking 2 new things each month is going well.  I made lemon bars the other day, and they turned out a lot better than I thought they would.  I made chocolate cupcakes with a buttercream frosting yesterday.  I decided to add some color to the frosting- half have purple frosting, the other half have blue frosting.  I didn’t mix the cupcakes as well as I could have, but they turned out okay. 

I also made a moroccan saute- it has zucchini, corn, chick peas (or garbanzo beans, whatever you want to call them) and couscous.  I haven’t had any, but it smells yummy! 

As for my progress through my cookbooks, I’ve been focusing on my vegetarian times one lately.  I’m not sure why, but right now, I don’t feel like cooking anything from rachael ray.  Plus, my vegetarian cookbook is full of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily eat; one of my reasons for cooking 2 new things each month is try to different things, and what better way to do this than a cookbook full of things I don’t normally eat?

There so many things I want to make, and there’s so little time to make everything!

I Hate Lemon Meringue Pie

It’s evil.  Very, very evil.  At least I tried making it, but sadly I failed.  The lemon wasn’t lemon-y enough because I forgot to add lemon juice.  And the meringue was not cooperating either, because it was not doing what it was supposed to.

So I gave up. 

That’s right, I gave up.  And I was so frustrated that I almost started crying.

And then I was like, why am I crying over a FREAKING PIE?  I mean, it’s a pie.  I’ve never made pie from scratch before, so of course there’s a chance it’s not going to turn out right the first time I make it. 

I think the whole crying thing is probably because I’ve had a weird week, and a pie not coming out right was the final straw in a way.  But I will try lemon meringue pie again one day, and I’ll get better at it eventually. 

I ended up buying a lemon meringue pie, because there was no way I was going to feed the pie I made to people. 

At least the cupcakes turned out okay.

Have a great day everyone!

Bread and Other Scary Things

Baking bread scares me.  It always seemed so hard and time-consuming.  However, I’ve decided that I need to overcome this fear, and try baking bread. 

I’ve already started looking at some recipes, and some look a lot easier than others, so I think I’ll start off with the easy-looking ones first, and work my way up.  By easy-looking recipes, I mean the ones where’s there no kneading required (or in some cases, minimal kneading).  Or the ones with minimal rising.  The two actually seem to go hand-in-hand.  Even the ones with a lot of rising and kneading don’t seem to bad, but I think it’ll be easier for me to work my way up.  I’ll be sure to post pictures of all my successes and failures.

Running.  It scares me and I definitely don’t want to look stupid while doing it.  Granted, it’ll be quite some time before I’m even ready to run, because I’m way out of shape.  And I really shouldn’t worry about looking stupid, but the other people at the gym!  They don’t look like they worry about looking stupid, even though I’m sure the thought is going through their minds.  Some of them anyway. 

I suppose I should pick a writing-related goal that scares me.  There isn’t anything in particular that scares me, although actually continuing to work on something is a little weird.  Okay, maybe actually finishing something is a little scary.  But I suppose actually finishing something is somewhat dependant on how much I like what I’m working on.  Of course, this is the 1st time I’ve wanted to finish anything.  It was going to happen eventually.  But whether I can actually get my butt in the chair (in my case, on my bed) and write is a completely different story.    

Besides, now is as good a time as any to do things that scare me.  How else are I going to get over my fears if I don’t face them?

Cookbooks

I only have a handful of cookbooks.  For the most part, they’ve been collecting dust out in the kitchen, especially since I tend to get most of my recipes off the internet now.

But I decided since I’m going to be cooking a lot (as long as I don’t injure myself anyway), I might as well get some use out of them. 

The very first cookbook I got was one put out by Vegetarian Times, which is a magazine for vegetarians.  I used it a few times, but it’s been collecting dust since 2005 or 2006, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing when I got it.  I didn’t really cook before I got it, other then throwing a few veggie burgers in the microwave.  And I didn’t really do much cooking after I got it either, but it did spark an interest in cooking. 

So fast foward a few years, and I stumbled across Rachael Ray.  I found a copy of her veggie meals cookbook, and decided it was time to make another attempt at cooking.  It started my obsession with Rachael Ray.  I love her!  Okay, so most of her recipes aren’t vegetarian, she has enough vegetarian recipes that I feel okay buying her cookbooks.  Plus, she has a bunch of recipes that I can make vegetarian by swapping out ingredients.  

And the last cookbook I have is a trader joe’s one.  I don’t know if it qualifies as a cookbook, because quite a bit of the book consists of “buy some product that takes 5 or 10 minutes to make, and serve it with some other product that takes 5 or 10 minutes to make.”  There were some good recipes in it, but the fact that a good 2 or 3 sections read as a meal plan, instead of an actual cookbook turned me off from it.     

The Rachael Ray ones are probably my favorites, and the ones that get the most use, although I am willing to give the Vegetarian Times one another shot, especially now that I have a tad more cooking experience.  I’m definitely going to have to do some menu planning now, but that’s okay, because it’ll help me figure out what I need and all.  I’m debating whether or not to post reviews of the cookbooks, but it’ll be a while before I get through enough of the recipes to actually do a review.  If I do decide to review them, they’ll be posted here.

I Have A Thing For Cookies

Cookies are always my default dessert. I don’t know what it is about cookies, but they’re generally awesome, easy to make, and as far as writing goes, they make an excellent snack. Plus, there’s a ton of different cookie recipes because everyone has their own take on cookies.  Chocolate chip tends to be my default, but once in a while I’ll make peanut butter cookies or sugar cookies. 

I definitely need to branch out more as far as cookies go, and make something different. 

Cake Mix Cookies

Cake Mix Cookies!  These were by far the easiest cookies I’ve ever made in my life.  Cake mix, eggs and oil.  And I couldn’t help but eat them all.  They are definitely a keeper. 

Taco Casserole

In other cooking news, I made taco casserole, pictured above.  It was quite delicious, if I do say so myself.  Also another keeper. 

And speaking of branching out, I did make a marble cake for my grandma’s birthday.  I pretty much never make cake (unless you count cupcakes), so this was definitely a challenge.  Especially since the recipe I used was very precise.  And I used a bundt pan, which was fine…until I had to get the cake out of it, as you can see below. 

Marble Cake

Part of it stuck to the pan, and so it came it lopsided.  Cutting cake isn’t really my strong point, in fact, I’m not the best at cutting cake.  So I tend to make stuff that I don’t have to cut, except for the rare batch of brownies.  But other than the cake being lopsided, it turned out okay, and my grandma liked it.  Of course, she likes most everything, so I don’t think it means very much, but she did like it, which is all that matters.

Hurricane Vase

So I also made this vase for my grandma’s birthday.  Granted, all I did was paint it, and that was Plan B, after I broke the candlestick holder that was supposed to be glued to the bottom of the vase.  And then I filled it with potpourri, as seen below. 

Hurricane Vase With Potpourri

It’s been a busy couple weeks, what with the reading and the cooking and the being craftsy.  I’ll admit, my painting skills also need some work, but my grandma liked it, so all is good.