Yesterday we finally received measurable snow, not much, but still enough to cover most things and make the world look more Christmasy. It also gave me the kick in the hiney I needed to start on the treats I make for the volunteers at work. A lot more thought goes into them than one thinks or the project deserves, maybe but I don’t think so. The volunteers come on a regular basis, are wonderful with the residents and their presence allows me to take care of other job responsibilities or tend to other residents. Most afternoons, the cook and I are the only employees present so other helpers are much appreciated.
Last year I made each one a Taffy Apple Cheesecake Pie, only because I came across the recipe somewhere and wanted to try it. It was delicious and something a little out of the ordinary but it had one major drawback; it had to be made fresh the day/night before I gave it to the volunteer. Keep in mind, they do not all show up on the same day so I need a treat for the ones that come in on the first week of the month, like my wonderful doggies and their owners from the SPCA and those that come at the end of the month. The pie was so good and such a big hit at our church potluck I decided that would be my present to each of them and it would be worth the time and energy. And it was. I don’t regret making all those pies but I did learn my lesson.
So this year I needed to make a treat that could be stored a few days or up to a week and something that made big batches. Several years ago I made gift baskets for all our friends and family. Literally, I bought nice non-holiday baskets and I loaded them up with treats. I tried to decorate them as festively as this non-decorating butch could. I had plenty of time since I was off from work for the last 3 weeks of the year. My company had a policy of “use or lose it” concerning your vacation time, hence the lengthy time off. Plus, sk went back home that year to attend her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. As an added bonus to me that year, I put my beloved cat to sleep due to kidney failure on Dec. 6th. Needless to say, I was looking for distraction. I found it in the kitchen.
I made many of the goodies I remembered from when I was a kid: Overnight Crunch Coffee Cake loaves, my Mom’s Peanut Brittle de luxe, decorated caramel apples, Nuts-n-Bolts (my Grandmother’s holiday snack mix recipe) and I tried very hard to include my Grandmother’s fudge but it was not meant to be. Believe me, I tried. I tried three times to make a pan of her chocolate goodness but I ruined it every single time. . .and I had her recipe right in front of me. I followed it to a “T” each time up until the recipe called for me to cook the fudge until it reached a firm (or hard, I kinda forget the details right now) ball. WTF? No where on my thermometer were those words printed. After the second ruined batch I was finally able to call my Mom and she explained to me what that step actually meant.
Apparently before thermometers, when making fudge you kept a bowl of water beside the stove. When the mixture came close to the desired temperature, the maker would spoon a little dollop of fudge in the water. Depending on the temperature, it would make a soft ball, firm ball or a hard ball. After the consultation with my Mom and calling upon my dead Grandmother’s spirit, I tried for a third time. . .and failed. Damn it, they just weren’t going to get the fudge in their baskets and I was okay with that but I threw in a big candy cane to make up for the loss.
I wanted to do something along that line this year. After some research I decided on Pretzel Turtles. These are new to me but they are so easy to make and include only three simple ingredients. I will also include
Puppy Chow and my Mom’s peanut brittle. Three easy recipes, few ingredients in each, none are difficult to make, big batches and I can make them ahead of time. All I needed was to make my shopping list and head out into the busy stores. I braved them alone. There was no need for me to involve sk in my quest, although she is the shopper amongst the two of us. But she would’ve only slowed me down.
Luckily we have a mini mall here in town that is close to the University so every kind of store is there. Just about, it’s missing a café; can you believe that? Anyway, I wasn’t going to let that distract me. I made my way to a store called Bulk Barn. I really, really like that place. Now I understand how sk and shoppers like her feel about their favorite store. This place is a bakers/cookers delight. It’s just a bulk food store but they have almost everything you could want: candy, kitchen staples, pastas, cereal, coffee, tea, spices and herbs, honey, peanut butter, snacks, fondant, vitamins, all-natural cleaning products and items for your pets. I worked up a sweat while in there. I made at least three rounds of the entire store. I stopped only because my basket was starting to get heavy and the manager and I had said hello to each other multiple times, too many for my comfort.
I finally made it out of there. Somewhere between the car and store I lost my shopping list. I must have been too deep in my shopping bliss to have noticed. It didn’t seem to matter because I found most everything at the Bulk Barn. Only a few items remained, including three doggie gifts for my four-legged volunteers. I went to the Dollar Store to buy tins and holiday boxes; no need to wrap anything! Pet store was up next. Came out with three pig ears. . .yummy! I mosied on over to the grocery store for the last three items and I was done. No one got injured. I didn’t have to fight the urge to slap a whiney kid up beside the head. The check-out clerks were nice and friendly. I didn’t come across anyone in their holiday bitch mood, especially my own. I felt like a reward, a little sandwich would taste pretty good since the only thing I had to eat up to that point was half of an English muffin. (For my loyal readers, yes, I’m still eating the same thing for breakfast that I was eating in a post from over a month ago.) Let’s just say, I ate fresh and I got the big sandwich so I could share with sk. Now I need to find a way to make all those goodies without eating too many along the way. Cheers!