What is your favorite candy?

This was recently a lengthy topic of discussion during one of our trips to the city.  Many candies were discussed!  We discussed mainstream branded candy vs. gourmet candy vs. different types of candy.  We talked about the candy of our childhood and wondered why those stupid candy dots are still made.  I miss the divinity that my grandma used to make.  Anybody remember maryjanes?

DC1 likes twix and skittles.  DC2 comes decisively on the side of gummy bears (or gummy bunnies).

#2 likes Heath Bars and Kit Kats. Did you know that in Japan they have different flavors of Kit Kats, like Green Tea?  It’s ok.  Oh, and peanut mnms!

#1 agrees on Kit Kats but always finds heath bars to be disappointing.  I think chocolate covered almond toffee is my favorite with Trader Joe’s edging out See’s… though homemade almond toffee is pretty amazing. Definitely peanut mnms, though I like almond mnms better.

#2 thinks the peanut ones go down better than the almond ones.  But she doesn’t buy much candy.  “I mean if I’m getting something on purpose, it’ll be dark chocolate, often with nuts. Because I like dark chocolate and nuts. But that’s not often candy. Most candy is not high-quality enough and I don’t feel like spending money on good stuff.”

#1 only buys high quality dark chocolate bars, but that’s mainly because they don’t make me feel like crap.  If I could eat all the candy in the world without it causing negative consequences, I would buy a lot more candy at TJ’s!  I’m not sure that I actually like green and black better than kitkats, but one square of green and black will do for me what takes an entire kitkat, and if I eat too many kitkat I sugar crash later.

#2 usually prefers salty crunchy things to candy.  She should try chocolate covered potato chips and chocolate covered pretzels because they are so good!  The worst thing about Jimmy Fallon’s new job is that they changed his ice cream flavor.

Also we are agreed on Frango mints being awesome.  Those are also my sister’s favorite.

What is your favorite candy and tell us about your candy memories (especially the sweet ones)!

Foods to make at a party

For all you 20-somethings who still have lives… or for folks with older kids… here are some food-making party ideas.  As in, during the party you cook as a group.  These are a little more complicated than putting out cold-cuts for people to turn into sandwiches.  Most of these are pretty inexpensive party ideas too so um, how about a money Monday post?

Pizza — As RAs we did this during finals week and we’ve had small parties/large playdates for our child starting pretty young (maybe 4 or 5?).  We make the pizza dough (you could buy it instead), put out spaghetti sauce, shredded cheeses, and toppings.  Folks assemble their own personal-size pizzas.  We bake them.  Relatively easy and even adults seem to enjoy it.

Cookies — you can make the cookies in advance and just frost (similar with cupcakes), or for older kids, you can have them help with cutting/shaping dough.

Sushi — we haven’t done this en masse but know people who have.  We only have one sushi making kit, so DC1 has done it with a friend over, but not with more than one person.  Seaweed, sushi rice, and fillings and you’re good to go.  I bet you could make things other than rolls without more sushi kits.

Vietnamese fresh rolls — DC1 has done this with friends over before too.  Similar to sushi, only you need a big bowl of warm water to soften up the wraps.

Wontons — We went to one of these in graduate school.  The hosts had wonton wrappers, fillings, and egg-wash ready.  Guests stuffed, folded, and sealed.  The hosts cooked the filled wontons (in this case in a soup, but in high school I vaguely remember we deep fried them one time since I had a fryer and we didn’t have ovens or stoves).

Taffy pull/popcorn balls — I used to have taffy pulls at my birthday parties growing up.  They are sticky and messy and fun, but kids do grow out of it I think.  (#2 had this event THIS YEAR at a new year’s party and it was all adults doing it.)  My mom would make the candy, then we’d let it cool enough to touch.  Kids would wash and butter their hands and then pull the candy until it was stretchy and cool.  Popcorn balls are similar, but with butter handed kids shaping sticky popcorn/candy into balls.

This is not cooking, but maybe is frugal: #2 just came up with the idea of a booze-trade party.  “I have this two-thirds full bottle of gin I’ll never use.”  “Cool, I’ll take it!  A friend gave me this tequila and I don’t drink tequila, who wants it?”  “I’ll trade half my six-pack for half of yours and we can both try them both!”  “This bottle of vodka was in our freezer and my roommate moved out, it’s up for grabs.”  “I need 3/4 of a cup of Grand Marnier for a dessert but I don’t want to buy the whole bottle, who can hook me up?”  Doesn’t that sound great?  Maybe?  Or it could be just an exchange of weird foods that you bought for one recipe but you’ll never use the rest.  Black rice?  Fenugreek?  Turmeric?  (You should use turmeric though, it’s cool.)  It cleans out your kitchen guilt-free!

Have you ever been to a cooking party?  Cooking what?

A mother’s day rant

1.  If you’re a full-time daycare, don’t have “Muffins with Mom”.

2.  If you decide to have “Muffins with Mom” anyway, don’t put a sign-up sheet in the lobby where everyone can see which moms obviously don’t love their children enough to leave work to spent 30 min eating store-bought muffins with them at daycare.

3.  Also, the next day don’t ask the moms who weren’t there why they weren’t there and then tell them that they were the only mom who wasn’t there and little DC was so upset.  (Especially if the reason according to DC that ze was upset was because ze had to have grapes instead of muffins like all the other kids because ze’s allergic to wheat.  Or maybe especially if that’s not the reason.)

I wonder how many moms are going to show up in Dad’s place for Donuts with Dad, which I assume they’re also having.  Of course, little DC2 won’t have dad there either because he’s traveling for work that week.

I’m actually only slightly irritated, and mainly at the patriarchy.  And to be honest, I would have checked the no box even if I hadn’t had a P&T meeting scheduled a month and a half in advance at exactly that time.  I am willing to sacrifice DC a little bit so that other mothers can also feel free to check the “no” box if they need to or want to.  (And at the time I checked “No” there were two other “No”s, one with a written “I’m out of town” excuse.)  I suppose that makes me a terrible mother, but I don’t want hir to feel like this is a big deal, and based on conversations with hir the evening of the event, ze was indeed upset by the lack of muffin and not at all by the lack of mommy.  (And yes, a “better” set of parents would have brought gluten-free muffins, but DC2 has gf cookies provided specifically for these kinds of events, and I didn’t really realize that it was Thursday until I got to daycare and saw the ladies setting up for the party, because the end of the semester is busy.)

I have the solace that deep down I believe that these little upsets truly are character building and learning to weather having to eat grapes when the other kids have muffins so as to avoid getting a rash is just one of those things that makes a person stronger.  Obviously we shouldn’t try to create character building incidents because that’s sadistic, but it’s not such a big deal when they happen.  Especially when grapes are actually better than grocery store muffins.

or with music

Who made your lunch as a kid? (And who makes your kids’ lunches if applicable?)

When I was in second grade, my father made my lunch for me.  Because he was a European immigrant, I generally had a roll (my favorite were onion rolls), a hunk of cheese or sliced carrots and a piece of fruit, often an orange that he would score for me for easy peeling.  All in an old plastic bread-bag.  People made fun of me for not having a peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwich.  They made fun of the scores on the orange.  They especially made fun of the plastic bag.  In third and fourth grade, my father had bouts of employment that took him away from the family for months at a time and I ended up mostly eating hot lunches at school.

In fifth grade, the teasing about every aspect of my life got worse and nobody ate hot lunch (possibly because they were more expensive).  It was time for me to start making my own lunch because my mother simply did not have time on top of everything else.  So each week she’d get me whatever I wanted at the grocery store that I could throw together (within reason– we couldn’t afford lunchables).  A standard lunch for me would be one of those neon orange soft cheese and cracker packets (store-brand handi-snacks), a bag of doritos, a juice box, and maybe a piece of fruit all in a nice brown lunch bag that we’d buy by the pack.

Possibly in seventh grade I started making more wholesome lunches because my father was back and no way were we wasting money on junk food with him around.  I also started making my sister’s lunch at the same time I made mine– sandwiches with two slices of bread and standard things in the middle, a piece of fruit, and maybe a homemade cookie (as I had learned to bake).  When I left for high school, I’m not sure if she started making her own or just got hot lunch.

Today we make our toddler’s lunch (alternating dinner from the night before in a metal thermos with random healthy stuff in a bento-box) and DC1 makes hir own lunch (usually a nut-butter/cookie-butter and jelly sandwich) and a bag of gummies.  We hope that DC2’s wheat allergy is gone before ze starts demanding nut butter and jelly sandwiches like DC2 did in preschool.

#2 says, I remember my mom making lunches for me when I was little, because I remember the little notes she’d write on the napkin.  Stuff like “Have a great day, [my nickname [ed guess: Pookie-pie] [nope] ]! XOXO Mom”.

When it came time for me to make my own lunches, I do remember using stuff like Lunchables (which had just come out and were nowhere near as fancy and varied as they are now).  I also made sandwiches– I have a certain opinion about making PBJ so that the jelly doesn’t soak the bread (put peanut butter on it first [#1 notes:  this is correct]) and the correct peanut butter (crunchy [also correct]).  Also, I ate a lot of cold cuts in sandwiches that I mostly made myself.  Lots of granola bars.  We were not allowed to have doritos or any bagged chips/crisps in our house, and no cookies either.  I remember having an insulated lunch bag.  I have no idea what my sister had for lunch, she’s so much younger than me.

This was all in, say, 4th or 5th grade through 9th grade.  In 4th-6th grade there were also some times where I went home for lunch, mostly with my one friend to her house, and ate whatever stuff they had there.  By 6th grade we were trusted to walk to her house, unlock it, eat, and get back to school on time by ourselves, but we didn’t do it every day, because it was a little bit far to walk in the time we had.  I think the Lunchables in the school lunchroom were 7th and 8th grade.  I never got a hot lunch at school, except for very occasional treats that were pizza days.  [#1 notes:  whoa, I completely forgot that in 4th grade I lived close enough to the school to walk home for lunch, which I would do on a pretty regular basis.  That probably isn’t allowed anymore unless a parent actually shows up at school to do the escorting.]

Tell us about your school lunches, Grumpeteers.  It brings back surprisingly detailed memories, just like Anne Lamott predicted in her book Bird by Bird.

Ask the grumpies: Party food

Debbie M. asks

What’s your favorite food to bring to parties? To see at parties?

 

We’ve already discussed potlucks specifically, so we’ll assume you’re not talking about pot-lucks, but about parties for which you are not expected to bring anything.

Wine is a good choice for these.  I am partial to bringing a bottle of Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, as it is a light tasty wine that is unpretentious but also classy.  It’s not out of place anywhere, at least not anywhere that wine is served.  (I know this because several people whose opinion on wine we value far higher than our own have served this or purchased it at restaurants.)  Sometimes though, we’ll bring a six-pack of whatever DH’s favorite hard cider of the moment is.  #2 agrees and says she likes to bring wine or a beer that she likes so she knows there will be at least one beer she likes.

If we’re not sure that alcohol will be welcome, we usually whip up a dessert because you can never have too many of those.  Sometimes a pie, sometimes cookies, sometimes a quick bread or cupcakes.  Whatever we feel like will fit.

My favorite foods to see at parties:  little sausages in modified bbq sauce in a warmer (because we would never make these at home and I love them) and cucumber sandwiches (because I love them but never seem to be able to make them right… though I suspect the people who make them right are dying off :( ).  I also like cocktail shrimp.  And sometimes people make really good cake, but it’s hard to tell if cake is going to be good without trying it… I suppose that’s a reason to have children, so you can make them try the cake.

#2 can get behind some tasty dips– she likes things that are salty and flavorful.  Most people’s sweets are too sweet.

#1 kind of likes raw veggie trays with dips.  #2 agrees, citing cucumbers and carrots specifically.

Ask the grumpies: favorite recipes

Debbie M asks

What’s your favorite recipe and why?

 

Oh gee, one doesn’t have a favorite recipe, I don’t think.  And the things I make over and over again I don’t use recipes for.  So me saying spaghetti with meat sauce … well, that doesn’t really come with a recipe.  (Slice an onion, saute it.  Add garlic.  Add ground beef.  Stir.  Throw in a jar of spaghetti sauce if there’s any in the pantry.  If not, throw in whatever canned tomato product you have and some amount of basil/oregano/garlic salt/italian seasoning/etc.  Add tomato paste if it needs thickening.  Cook until the right consistency.  Serve over spaghetti.)  Why spaghetti?  Because it’s delicious and easy to make on a weeknight and has all the necessary food groups– meat, tomato sauce, onions, and pasta.

Now, DH has a favorite recipe– his grandmother’s rolls.  These come with a long history, but basically his grandma made them for every family function and nobody else makes them the same way.  DH’s aunt finally videotaped and measured every step to get a recipe for the family so the rolls would still be around even after DH’s grandma left.  The resulting recipe is close but still not quite the same.  DH made many batches of rolls trying to figure out what small changes needed to be made to get it just right.  And he finally succeeded.

DH’s grandma’s rolls:

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded cooled milk (no longer need to scald)
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 package yeast
5 1/2 cups flour or enough so it won’t be sticky.

Beat yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar, and oil. Add milk. Stir in flour. Knead. Place in greased container. Let rise 1-2 hours. Knead again. Make into buns. If sticky, roll in flour. Dunk buns individually in oil and place in greased pan. Let rise one hour. Bake 30 min at 350 F. When done, rub with oleo.

DH’s notes: Second knead is light. Skimp on oil for dunking. Makes 12 buns.

Of course, now we make our own hybrid with whole-wheat flour (which doesn’t rise as high if you substitute more than one cup) and butter instead of “oleo”. And he often makes 16 small buns instead of 12 ginormous ones.

Why is this is favorite recipe?  Because it tastes like love, but doesn’t quite have the sugar load of her cinnamon rolls or her strawberry jam (which are also great, but very sweet).  And they’re longer lasting than her noodles which really have to be eaten fresh.

#2 also doesn’t have a favorite recipe, but when pressed admits to anything over pasta.  Why?  Because it is delicious.

Grumpy Nation, share your favorite recipes and reasonings!

Ask the grumpies: Potluck dishes

Debbie M. asks:

What’s good for potlucks?

Spinach balls! Pasta salad.  Casserole?  Cookies.  Cake.  Rolls.

This is a hard one for #2– lately I’ve been bringing things like “soda” and “cups” to pot-lucks.  It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that I don’t have the time or that’s what I’m assigned.  I think the last pot-luck I was assigned to bring Pocky.

One pot-lock I brought a chicken pate thing that nobody ate at all.  It was delicious later with my RAs, but sad at the time.  (#1 has tried this recipe and ATE IT ALL UP!)

My Swedish rose cookies are always a hit (butter cookies with a thumb-print of raspberry or strawberry jam in the middle).

If asked to bring a salad, I will often make champagne salad , which was my mother’s potluck standard.  It’s kind of like a healthy ice cream, for some definitions of healthy.  I make it with whipped cream instead of cool-whip.

#1 is too tired to cook most of the time, but I generally try to bring something I’d like to eat; something easy; something that’s ok at room temperature; or something I had lying around anyway.  Ain’t nothing wrong with bringing a store platter of hummus, pita, cheese, grapes, etc.  I can barely get up the motivation to cook my OWN food sometimes!

Golly gee wiz, I just don’t know.

Grumpy Nation:  The potluck season is upon us.  What is good for potlucks?

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