Monday, November 28, 2011

Candy + Carols = Cops

Song Pairing:
Caroling Medley by The Osmonds
This medley is the absolute most fun song to sing along to during the holidays.  I love switching between the different parts - soprano, second soprano, alto, tenor.  I find it so fun to sing that I have been known to get a little carried away in my "performance" that I lose all perspective of where I am or what I'm doing.  Take, for instance, the year I was driving my daughters and I to Salt Lake City for our annual Day-After-Thanksgiving overnight shopping trip.  We had just pulled off the interstate and were working our way into the downtown traffic.  This song came on and I was just a-hollering it out, singing with gusto when I noticed some sparkly lights in my rearview mirror.  It's Christmas time so I'm thinking everything is sparkly, right?  Well, yes.  Even police cars.  Now, I was either giving such a wonderful performance that they decided an impromptu parade was in order and I was being escorted by local authorities on the parade route OR I'd done something wrong.  I decided it was wise to find out so I pulled over.  I turned down the stereo so I could hear what the gentleman had to say.  I'm thinking he had already heard the festivities though.  Well, it wasn't a parade - surprise, surprise!  I pleaded my case and explained that I wasn't paying attention to my speed because I had been so caught up in the holiday spirit with song!  I'm not remembering him giving me a ticket, just a friendly warning to try to keep my caroling enthusiasm under control while operating a moving vehicle.  I promised - and I have.  Of course, every single year since then I get the "remember when Mom got pulled over" reminder from my girls.  Aaahhh - holiday memories! 

Traditions are born out of all sorts of situations.  Sometimes they are deliberate but the best ones just sort of happen.  Like this one -

One year I decided to take my oldest daughter, who was 11 at the time, on an overnight shopping trip the day after Thanksgiving.  Our relationship wasn't going in the direction I had hoped it would and thought this might help us out.  We could see the lights and shop and talk.  I learned a great deal about myself on that first trip - things that I knew had to change immediately if I was going to be the mother I had always wanted to be.  I was just having a hard time figuring it out.  I was pleased when, on the way home, she asked if we could do it again the next year.  We did.  And every year since then.  That was 1993.  My younger daughters grew to look forward to the year they turned 11 and then could join us on the trip.

The agenda of the trip changes each year, depending on what's going on in everyone's lives.  Sometimes we are looking for a dress for a Christmas dance at school or sometimes it's just putting our heads together to come up with some ideas for those hard-to-buy-for folks on our lists.  As we have gotten older, our trips now include a beautiful daughter-in-law as well.  We now have trips where we are looking for maternity clothes or clothes for arriving babies.  One memorable year we received texts from one of the guys back at "home base" informing us that my daughter's boyfriend who had come to Thanksgiving dinner was, at that moment, in my husband's office asking for her hand in marriage.  You can imagine the amount of jumping around the hotel room and squeals of delight that produced!  Joy!

The thing about this tradition is that it sort of smashed right into another tradition that we already had in place.  Ever since I was married, the day after Thanksgiving was the candy making day at my mother-in-law's.  All my sisters in law and I, and eventually granddaughters, would gather to help.  She made a massive amount of confections each year and everyone looked forward to receiving their box.  My mother-in-law had already spent hours making up the fondants.  We would show up and start chopping the chocolate brick into small pieces, take turns manning the caramel station, and chop and/or arrange nuts for the turtles.  We would play Christmas music and spend most of the day stirring, chopping, and dipping.  It was great fun!

When my shopping trip "experiment" became such a success I couldn't turn my back on it.  However, my girls loved the candy making as well.  It was a real struggle.  We finally came up with a compromise.  We would get up early and be packed and ready to go when we left for Grandma's house.  We would spend the morning making candy and then excuse ourselves after lunch to head out on the shopping adventure - which was really a cover for the best opportunity I had all year to really bond with my girls.

I regret now that I didn't pay much attention to  the whole candy making process.  Those were the years that I hated to cook.  I was there for the female company and being able to take home my glorious box of goodies at the end of the day.  Now, though, I really want to know how to do all the things my mother-in-law did behind the scenes before we all showed up.  I also want to learn to make caramel although I'm not a caramel lover - but my husband is!

In the meantime, I want to share this recipe that I stumbled onto for fudge from Giada De Laurentiis.  It is super simple and has possibilities for all sorts of modifications.  I understand that it isn't considered a "true fudge" but seeing as how I'm allergic to something in "true fudge," I'll take this shortcut any day!  It's so creamy and it's a great start to one of my new cooking resolutions for the new year - learn to make some candy, girl!!

I'll just give the recipe to you straight from Giada:

Cinnamon Chocolate Fudge
Printable Recipe Card
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. vanilla extract
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
Kosher or flake salt, optional, for sprinkling over the top

Spray a small 8" square pan.  Line it with a piece of parchment paper cut to 14x7, letting the extra to hang over the sides.  These will be the "handles" you'll use to lift the fudge out of the pan after it cools.  Set aside.

Create a double boiler by placing a stainless steel or tempered glass bowl inside of a pan filled with an inch of water.  The bowl should not touch the surface of the water.  Bring the water to a simmer

In the bowl, combine the condensed milk, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Stir in the chocolate and butter.  Gently stir the mixture over the simmering water until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has become smooth.  This takes about 6 - 8 minutes. 

Use a spatula and scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and smooth and tap the top.  At this time, garnish with the salt if you like.  Place in the refrigerator for a couple hours to cool and become firm.

When it's firm, lift out of the pan by the parchment paper "handles" and place on a cutting board.  You may need to run a warm knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the fudge.  Use a long knife that can reach across the entire length for nice, clean cuts.  I cut mine into 64 little squares, making 8 cuts across one way and then again the other.

You can do many different things to fancy these cuties up.  These ones are intended for some good friends so I melted some white chocolate chips in a disposable pastry bag, snipped of a bit of the tip, and piped on their initials.  You can be fancy or plain!

You could also think of the game enthusiasts on your list!  They make darling dice!

Personally, I like the squiggles the best.  Squiggle diagonally, or straight down the middle.  Add some swirls here and there, too.  

Other ideas:  

Sprinkle some tinted decorating sugar while the piping is still wet and shake off the excess. 
 Add chopped nuts to the fudge and then put a dab of the melted chocolate to place a nut on top as well.
Add shelled pistachios to the fudge and use cardamom in place of the cinnamon.
Add dried fruit, such as apricots or pineapple.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer!


  1. LOVED this post! Just what I needed to get into the Holiday Spirit today. Too bad I swore off sweets this week. :( But, as they say, tomorrow is another week... or something like that.

  2. This IS the BEST fudge recipe by far! If I make fudge this is the recipe I use also, but I haven't tried the cinnamon add-in.
    This is so easy, and always turns out, never fail.

  3. Great Blog site Janice: You have done well and have a beautiful family. Grandma's best cookies were the German Anise Pillow Cookies.
    Aunt Linda

  4. Hey, Aunt Linda! Just saw I had a comment from you! Thanks for your kind words! I would love that recipe for the German Anise Pillow Cookies, if you have it! Hope you're doing well! Take care!