Monday, December 16, 2013

making divinity candy

I wrote this last year after Christmas, but never got it posted. THANK GOODNESS I wrote it all out, because these details are valuable. Caution..... it's long, with L O T S of details. Bare with me.

Divinity is my favorite candy to eat around the holidays. Everything has to be JUST right for it to turn out. Factors: type of bowl, temperature of the eggs, humidity outside, no rain, stiffness of egg whites, temperature of the caramelized sugar, a long thread, not a lot of people in the kitchen, speed of dropping the pieces, and so on.

Before Christmas, I asked my Grandmama Huff to wait to make divinity so she could teach me how. When I walked in to the kitchen, ready to experience the magic of making divinity, everything was laid out. Dishes, spoons, the pot, stand up mixer, chocolate chips, sugar, cookie sheets with wax paper, room temperature eggs, and Karo. When I asked Grandmama, "Okay, what do you want me to do?" she replied, "I want you to just watch." Thank goodness my only job was to stay out of the way.

Throughout the first batch, Grandmama told me all the tricks along the way and I took notes. L O T S of notes. When we get close to the end, there is a very narrow window of when to drop the pieces. If the dough is still shiny, the pieces will not hold it's form. If you wait to long, the dough becomes too sticky and hard, which makes it impossible to drop into pieces. Our first batch was too shiny, so most of the pieces spread out and didn't hold form. Starting over with a second batch was a must; we were going to get it right.

Here are all my notes of  e x a c t l y  what to do:

3 cups sugar
1 cup white Karo
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. To start: Beat room-temp egg whites in stand up mixer (preferably a Sun Beam because it is easier to add the caramelized sugar while it's still turning) until VERY firm. At the same time, heat Karo, sugar and water on the stove, in a cast iron pot, do not stir.

2. Watching the thread: As the sugar begins to caramelize, dip a clean metal spoon and let the sugar drip back into the pot while holding the spoon high above the pot (above the height of your head). As the temperature of the sugar goes up, a thread of sugar will form dangling from the spoon high above the pot. Keep checking the thread. You are looking for a thread to dangle down to the pot, it will break off and "dance" above the pot. This means it's at the exact right temperature. (Keep the stove on at med. heat)
Side note: Most divinity recipes call to use a candy thermometer with the sugar on the stovetop. Adding another tool, which has it's own particular ways, takes away from focusing on the mixing/pouring process.

Watching the thread drop into the pot

3. Mixing: With very firm eggs whites in the mixer, turn down to slow speed. Spoon some of the hot sugar into the eggs whites (about 5-7 spoonfuls). Put the sugar back on the stove. Make sure the sugar is mixed into the egg whites. Check for a thread again, then add more. Repeat many, many times until all the sugar is added into the egg whites. Make sure to get a long thread each time.
Caution: The mixing bowl is very hot, only touch the rim, not the base.
Pouring a little at a time
4. Continue mixing: Continue mixing at high speed. Watch closely. Add vanilla and salt. Keep dough off the sides of bowl. Notice the dough is shiny, watch for shiny to start turning dull/flat. To test, take a spoon, wrap the dough around it and set it on a plate (see picture). See if the wrap holds it's form... this is how you'll know if it's getting close.
Holding it's form around the spoon
Watching to see if the dough will hold its form on a spoon
Adding vanilla

5. Dropping: Remove bowl from mixer. Continue to stir and get dough off the sides. When the dough is not shiny, move QUICKLY. Using two small spoons, drop pieces onto wax paper. Take dough off sides first, as it will begin to harden quickly.

6. Variations:
(a) Adding pecans or chocolate chips. Adding one pecan to the center (or crushed pecans can be added similar to choc. chips). If the dough is not 100% holding form, add chocolate chips and stir 1-2 times through dough. This will make a choc. ribbon, but should not be mixed thoroughly. If the dough is hardening fast, do not add choc. chips, this will make the dough too hard and will be crumbly if dropped.
(b) Dropping techniques. Dropping can be done in one big piece and then after it completely dries, cut it into individual pieces. This is how my Grandmother Joyce used to make it. This would be a great variation if the dough was drying too fast and it needed to be dropped before it was too hard.
Note: Taking requests for variations is dangerous, variations are more successful if the decision is made depending on the dough.

7. Drying: Allow the pieces of candy to dry entirely before putting them in a tin. You will know if they were dropped at the right time if they are not sticky on your fingers.

Divinity making is not easy. Learning to get a thread over the pot of caramelized sugar is a specialized skill.

My grandmother learned how to get a thread from her mother (my great-grandmother). In the family, my grandmother's grandmother is the one who taught her to make all the candy, and how to make divinity. I'm really excited to have learned how to get a thread and make divinity the same way my Great Great Grandmother did! Amazing!

Friday, December 13, 2013


Learning to cook with quinoa is so easy and a grain that has 6g of protein per serving (1/4 cup dry) is worth learning to use successfully. (Compared to 5g of protein in rice per serving of 1 cup).
Quinoa can be found in the rice isle.... in a box.
Quinoa mac n cheese.... the first thing I cooked with it. Yes, it was good (isn't all mac n cheese good?). No, it was not that good for you. It still had a lot of cheese and fatty dairy.
Baked quinoa mac n cheese
Quinoa salads are really the way to go. It does well with some vegetables added and a summery dressing. I tried this one and loved it.  Pinterest has a lot of quinoa recipes. The next one want to make has cherry tomatoes, black beans and a spicy dressing.

Lemon Basil Quinoa salad:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 15 oz cans of chickpeas
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Salad Dressing:
1/4 cup of lemon juice
3 tbs Olive Oil
1 tbs white vinegar
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper

Combine quinoa, water, the Italian seasoning and basil in a small pot or saucepan. Boil water, then let it simmer until all water is absorbed by the quinoa (stir occasionally), about 10-12 minutes. Combine dressing ingredients. Add cooked quinoa and chickpeas. Chill in fridge before serving.

Monday, December 9, 2013

bowling in christmas sweaters

I wish I'd taken pictures of us bowling Friday night! We planned a bowling night with some friends and Ryan made it an ugly Christmas sweater extravaganza! Ryan scored 177 in the first game! My high score of the night was 117... which beat Ryan by 1 point that game!
Don't mind Bryan's high score of 170 that beat us both. Look at how many strikes he got! 
Brooksie, Kramer, Bryan, Amy, me and Ryan
Saturday and Sunday, Ryan spent most of his time at a workshop at Liberty University learning Graston's technique ( I spent most of my days at home sewing/crafting/football watching and getting ready for the holiday!

Talking about football. Auburn had another big win Saturday in the SEC championship game. Knowing it could rock the boat with the BCS rankings, we watched the first half of the Michigan State/ Ohio State game. And it sure did! Before Ryan left for his workshop early Sunday morning, he left me a note so I wouldn't miss the big news.

The stage has been set for Jan. 6 at 8:30. Florida State vs AUBURN.

W A R   E A G L E. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

birthday celebrations

Yesterday, my co-workers brought me a piece of cheesecake with candles and sang happy birthday. During practice, the swim team sang to me as well!

Upon getting home, Ryan had built me a spice rack with new spice containers, and set up cute new frames. He got me some sweets and I got to make a wish with "26" birthday candles. I think I might just settle in at 26 and not continue to add years.

Birthdays always make me feel special, even if they're low-key. I got a lot of emails, texts and facebook greetings wishing me a happy birthday, which I appreciate so very much!! Thank you all for thinking of me on Dec. 3!

Monday, December 2, 2013

jumping back in

I love reading blogs about events in others' lives. I guess I fell off the blog bandwagon when my day to day seems so ordinary. Nonetheless, I'm jumping back in.

We had a great Thanksgiving week. To start it off, I got to spend time with my friend Amy, and finally got to catch up on life. We live 20 minutes away and it's been too long since we've gotten to hang out. We got to go shopping and met up after dinner for a fun night of bowling!

Ryan and I spent Monday together starting on our Christmas shopping and playing racquetball. To continue the tally... I won. Ryan taught me how to play racquetball when we were in grad school. During the first few months we dated, we played racquetball several times a week. Racquetball is always an intensely competitive and enjoyable activity we get to do together.

Tuesday, we headed to Luray for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful time sitting around the fire, reading, playing pool, cooking with lots of butter, shooting the bow and arrow, and starting a new cross-stitch project. The time was really relaxing.

On Saturday we pulled down the Christmas boxes from the attic, got some lights hung outside and a few decorations up inside. We watched the Auburn game.. WHICH WAS AMAZING. Here is a video of the final play (as if you haven't seen it yet).

Our favorite line during the lengthy replays (at 2:25)... "cause there's no athletes on the field for Alabama, they've got all fat guys."
We called my grandmother and watched a video of my uncles/cousins going crazyyyy. It was  a w e s o m e.

W A R   E A G L E.