Espresso Brittle in about 10 Minutes

I have always said that if you don’t have a good Ethnic Market near where you live, Move.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I would shop Asian Markets heavily.  Chinese, Japanese, Thai.  That also went for the markets that specialized in Latin Groceries.

Go to the source.

As a result, I have a taste for “weird” candies.  One in particular is a small hard candy that is made in Japan that tastes like coffee.  Not too strong, not too sweet.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly easy to find this in South Florida.  I’ve found a good Asian Market that sells my Japanese Candy, as well as Durian, Porcelain, Kitchen Ware, and of course, my Oolong Tea.  I may have to go to North Miami Beach on NE 163rd street for it, but it’s worth the trip.

What does that have to do with my Espresso Brittle?

This candy tastes exactly like it.

I was making a pot of it, someone “repossessed” it and took it to his office where he reported that “The whole damn office is buzzing on this stuff”.  I have to laugh because the entire batch has about the caffeine of 1/4 cup of coffee.  If you eat an entire batch, it’s less than 1000 calories.  You’ll be sick of it before you put on weight or get buzzed on anything but the sugar.

The trick is that you use either decaf or half caff for the candy.  If you want high test, go for it there really isn’t a lot of coffee in it.  For the recipe you only use 1 tablespoon of the stuff.  One Scoop of grounds – your choice!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup (238mL) Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (5 grams by weight) Finely Ground Coffee Grounds (your choice)
  • 2 Tablespoons (1/2 ounce or 14g) of ROOM TEMPERATURE butter
  • 2 Ounces (59mL) water

Prepare Ingredients: 

  • Butter is room temperature and cut down into small pieces.
  • Coffee grounds are fine to espresso grind.
  • Grease a large cookie sheet or line with aluminium foil that has been oiled or greased.

 

Process:

  1. Place 1 cup of sugar into 2 quart/liter or larger sauce pan
  2. Add to sauce pan 2 ounces (59mL) of water and stir until sugar is evenly dissolved.
  3. Turn on heat to medium high.
  4. Continue to stir or slosh the mixture while it comes to a boil.
  5. Cook the mixture until it turns an appropriate tan color.
  6. Add the butter and the coffee grounds quickly and stir the mixture until it is even.
  7. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and pour onto the cookie sheet evenly.
  8. Allow to cool and break apart before serving.

 

Resulting candy, I have found, to be quite thin and shatters into pieces for easy eating but the pieces will be sharp.

Enjoy!

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Upgrading Kraft Dinner To Mac and Port Wine Cheese

If you want a TL/DR just skip to the bottom of the article.

This was where my Hurricane Prep, Bulk Shopping, and Training Diet OCD collided.

What came out of it was a truly intriguing recipe.

First, The Hurricane Prep.

Every year we’d get food that is room temp stable.   Add water, and if you are lucky, you have something edible.  Ok, we’re not talking the Cordon Bleu here, but stuff you can eat in a No Electricity And Power Down situation.

We have a grill, we have a burner, and they run off a Propane Bottle.

Therefore I can boil water and grill if I need to.  Fried Sausage and Eggs on the Lanai served with a fine dusting of storm damage!

While our own prep got more elaborate over the years to when Irma hit and we had no electricity for two weeks, I was able to count on Electricity from the generator.  At least enough electricity to power the fridge.  Run it for an hour, power off for three.   We tested that out a year ago.

Second, Who said you have to follow the recipe on the box?

A lot of mixes are excellent on their own.  There’s a specific Sourdough Bread mix that I can’t find anymore that was simply perfect.  Add water, knead, put in pan and bake.  Krusteaz Sourdough Bread Mix.

There are others that are a bit … lacking.

Kraft Mac and Cheese Dinner is one of them.  It’s also known by other names as Kraft Dinner or KD.  It isn’t bad, but it does taste a bit too salty and the Day Glow Orange powder that you add to the meal is kind of flavorless – other than salt.

So I improvised.

My own diet is 600 calories per meal plus 200 calories each meal for dessert.  I am an active and somewhat fit man, and my weight is stable.  The numbers on the box imply, if I am reading it right, that a box packaged as is is 750 Calories.

Add 100 calories for a tablespoon of butter and 30 for 2 ounces of milk, it nets to 880 as prepared.

So I took the KD, added one tablespoon of butter only.  Right there, I am cutting calories off the box.  They say As Prepared, the recipe is 1200 Calories.

Now add back.

I would have to have something else and split the KD in two to make it work with my “training diet”.

I thought that I could increase the calories to 1200 and therefore have two meals.  How to do that?

I had some small sausages and some cheese to a total of 300 calories.

Basically that did tend to grow, and I went “On the high side” when I made it last but I made it incredible.

Third:  The Port Wine Mac and Cheese.

Those wine and cheese parties are usually a red wine paired with the cheese.  If you want Port or Red Wine, you need a sharp cheese.

The Sausage was deleted.

I started adding back.

The last time I made this, I made it with an ounce of Feta, another of Parmesan, and an ounce of Jarlsberg.

The Feta and Parm are sharp.  The Jarlsberg is slightly sharp, and it gives back chewy texture I needed.

Then I added in an ounce of Port Wine.  Specifically some 10 year old aged Tawny Port that was really quite excellent on its own.

If you are counting with me, that’s 1300 calories.  Yeah I slipped by 100 calories.  I’ll keep that in mind for later.

Remember kids: 100 Calories a Day means A Pound Heavier in a Year!

The result?  Oh my that extra 50 calories per serving was worth it!  The meal tasted like a less salty version of the Port Wine spread you get at a better market.

So we will do it again and it was just as good second day.

Now, Presented as a Recipe:

Ingredients at room temp to allow for proper melting in saucepan:

 

1 Box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner – or your favorite equivalent.

1 Tablespoon (1/2 ounce or 14g) – Unsalted Butter, room temp.

2 Tablespoons (1 ounce or 30mL) – Port Wine or other Red Wine, room temp.

2 Ounces (56mL) – Milk, room temp.

3 Ounces – Sharp Cheese, Grated or Cubed, room temp.  

Your Choice of Cheeses – I used:

1 ounce Feta Crumbles

1 ounce grated fresh Parmesan

1 ounce Jarlsberg grated or diced finely

Process:

  • Boil your noodles from the package for about 7 minutes or until tender.
  • Drain noodles and return them to the saucepan.
  • Add Butter and allow to begin to melt in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add Cheese Powder Package and stir to mix.
  • Add the three cheeses to the sauce pan and stir to mix.
  • When the Cheeses and the butter have melted, add milk to the pan.
  • Finally, add the Port Wine to the mix and stir until smooth.

Mushrooms and The Morning After Gordon

It was a noisy night.

It had been raining the day before, and well into the night.  The Radar here showed random clouds that had gathered themselves into something remotely resembling bands, Lines of Thunderstorms to non-Floridians.

This was the normal way a storm develops here.  Pop Up Thunderstorms generate over the warm water East of me, move their way over land, drop their water, then peter out.  Or they end up working their way across the state in one of a dozen directions.

These storms, though, had kept grabbing the heat of the water that was just off the coast and turned themselves into a storm of interest.  That grew into a Tropical Depression by morning.

That also had me wake up at 4AM.  If I am up that early, I’m up.  I would not go back to sleep.

Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) was unhappy.  He hates T Storms on a good day and this was well into the second good day.  I could hear him shivering in the dark.

Turning on the phone, launching a Radar program, I was able to see tell-tale banding and thought that this was going to turn into something that bears watching.

Yep.  By now this would be Tropical Storm Gordon, and did hit somewhere near the Mississippi and Alabama border on their Gulf Coasts as a strong Tropical Storm.

Here it was a minor nuisance.  Lots of rain.  The next day I found out it was 2.65 inches of rain.

All the South Floridians grumbling about their Labor Day holiday being a wash out, and so on.

I sat up in bed and looked down the line of pots by my pool and under the Mango Tree I saw something that looked like it had landed in the yard, but could not tell.  Since it was raining so heavily, I’ll wait for Sunrise before inspecting.

We went for our dog walk and a couple hours later I revisited the what was it in the yard.

It turned out to be four very large, six inch in diameter, palm sized white mushrooms.

I have lived here for more than 12 years now and I have never seen a Mushroom in the yard, let alone something this massive.  I guess it was always too hot, but with the cooler air due to the storms, and all that rain, it decided to send these fruiting bodies out and spread spores.

Quickly.

Weird.  It looked like a scene from Lost In Space where the Jupiter 2 had landed on the planet of the big grasses, and one of the other had ditched on its side.

If it were, there would be fire, people running around screaming, a monster that was a cat with things stuck on it or perhaps a giant 40 foot tall chimp looking thing that went “Bloop Bloop” coming off an attack space ship that was in reality a kitchen utensil.

My money is on a whisk.  If you hand a child a whisk and tell them to play, they’re going to make it fly.  Trust me.

But there the mushrooms were.

Since they didn’t bother anyone, I let them alone, and went inside.  It was raining again, and would all through the night and into the next morning at 4AM.

Luckily we slept through that.  In fact, we slept so well that I was lucky enough to see the Sunrise.  The sun coming up over the Bahamas lighting the clouds below, turned them purple and mauve, later changing to some fiery reds and oranges.

It was so stunning a sunrise that along with my mushroom pictures and sunrise picture, many other people on social media showed off their own pictures there.

I mean, come on, how often does a space ship land in your back yard under your mango tree?

A Walk Through The Garden

My routine is stable.  You might even describe it as calcified.

Up early, even if “early” can be as late as sunrise.

That late is rather rare.

At any rate, haul my bulk out of bed, get the dog up, get him out to water the garden, and the walk.

When I get back, there’s Dawdle Time.  Depending on how much time there is I can get a lot done in Dawdle Time.   I’ve said I get more done before sunrise than many people do some days.

But Sunrise varies, and I have to be outside at 7:30 AM every day, unless it is raining.

All of these plants do require care.  Sometimes they require care by others, and I can find homes for the extras, other times, I end up watching for where the water is being irrigated and putting out new plants.

South Florida has a wet and hot tropical climate.  It never freezes here, the USDA freeze line for Coastal Eastern South Florida is 8 miles North of me.  Clint Moore Road in Boca Raton.  Ok, sure that’s a bit silly to be that specific, we know there is little difference whether something is actually “freezing” or thawed at 1/2 degree warmer, but hey, it’s a talking point.  Even if the line could be well north of that on any given year.

But the other thing about this climate is that we get 50 inches of rain per year.  Give or take, Depending on whether a tropical storm deposits itself overhead.  But on average it’s 50 inches or about 125 cm.

Since that is 40 inches or 100 cm in the wet season, and the rest in the other six months of the dry season (December to May),  it’s been described as a part time desert.  It requires irrigation.  Twice a week for certain hours sprinklers may be used, or every day if you have drip feed irrigation.

If you don’t, your flowers die.  This is a very artificial look here that we have.  Those Hibiscus hedges and Palm trees are not native.  The soil is Beach Sand, and now the ground water is suffering from Salt Intrusion because too many people from other places don’t want to freeze in the winter and have settled here.

Like me, guilty.

But for now, the Global Warming that isn’t supposed to exist, hasn’t really hit my specific area too hard.  I’m at High Ground – 15 feet above sea level the charts tell me.  Miami Beach on the other hand has regular floods due to tides.

 

Outside of the ash piles called “Mount Trashmore”, the next natural hill is 200 miles North of me.  Florida is flatter than Kansas.

I putter in the garden and am followed around as I decide what to prune, and what to propagate. Milkweed from cuttings have gravitated to being hidden in the hedges because when they are found, they get eaten to sticks.

Coleus is literally everywhere because they readily go to seed.  Cut the tops off and the seeds are tiny, get flung into pots.

Snapping a bit of Coleus off and tossing it into the garden means the stuff grows where it’s tossed.

There is a story told to me about a groundskeeper in San Jose, Costa Rica.  A wise man who said, “Señor, estamos en las tropicas.  Arrojar una semilla en el suelo y crecerá.”

Sir, we are in the tropics.  Throw a seed on the ground it will grow.

But puttering isn’t always interesting those who don’t have a putter.  You get followed around lost in your thoughts and the noises of the feral Parrots that are having their Call To Flock in that first hour after Sunrise.  The Pigeons call to you “Meh! Meh!” like grey feathered Simpsons characters.

And the Dog.  Rack.  Bored with what you’re doing, and having finished fertilizing the fence posts, tells me it is time to go inside.  Move onto the next task and into the house.  Besides, there’s breakfast to make, and you have already decided which trees to fell five times over.

Time to go in.

Propagating Croton

When I got this house, we had Litrope in front.  It’s a thick grass that looks rather nice as a ground cover but it had intermingled with the Macho Ferns and a whole host of weeds that were in those spaces.

Yes, it really was called Macho Fern.

No, I don’t know why.

Problem was that it looked like hell warmed over with all that mixing going on so I took it all out with a weedeater over a period of weeks.

I put in some landscape cloth to hold the weeds back and mulched over it but it looked sterile.

We wanted some plants we could grow that did not grow too quickly, gave color, and needed only a little care.

Liking the look of it, we settled on Croton.  They are always colorful with a riot of red, yellow, and orange leaves.  Very slow growing in our beach sand soil here.  And no spines like my bougainvillea.

I swear I give a pint of blood every time I work with bougainvillea.

But most everything else on the property is from cuttings that I took here or there.  Since I live where you vacation, I knew that Screw Palms were easy to propagate, so I put two stands of it in the island in front of the house.  My Podocarpus was propagated into a new hedge to block the trash cans, there’s some variegated Hibiscus that grows just about anywhere from cuttings – just snip and stick into the ground.

And I waited.  The Screw Palms established themselves immediately but that Croton is doing what it does, grow slowly.

The Croton got leggy so I did what they do at any real landscaper would do – I took cuttings of that.  They almost all started to grow – slowly.

So if you are planning on doing this on your own, expect between 80% and 90% success rate on Croton.

Here are the steps I took to propagate:

1) Find a length of branch that is about 8 to 12 inches long (20 to 30cm).  Make sure that there are leaves at the end and no obvious pest infestations.  Trim most of the leaves up the branch.

2) Rooting Hormone.  Yes, this is required for Croton.  Dip the end of the branch to about a half of a thumb length into the powder.  Be generous with it.

3) The planting.  I have had success with simply sticking cuttings into the soil, however my front garden is well watered.  If you use a pot with good potting soil, make sure that it is well drained.

4) The Watering.  Every single day.  Without fail.   For a Month.  Two months is better.

5) The Waiting.  A month should do it, but again, two is better.  This will allow roots to become established and for you to find some green leaves begin to show.  During this time, most if not all of the original leaves will drop off.   The cuttings will look like they are dead after they drop off those leaves but give them time.  The ones in my “nursery pot” only have two wee little leaves at the top on some of those sticks, and the ones in the front garden are younger on the left, the more established on the right of that first picture.

6) Lather, Rinse, Repeat.  That first picture up top is a couple iterations of this process.   I started when the rains started back in April.  Since we have distinct wet/dry seasons, I’ll be able to get one more “crop” in before the rains stop in December.   The ones on the left of the first picture will be joined by the ones in the nursery pot, and I will start more very shortly from that tall leggy beast on either side of the lower growing ones.

None of these plants are really that old, I started this back in spring.  They do take their time getting established but they will grow.

Oh and an aside, if you find any scale insect or any other pests, a good removal spray is a teaspoon of dish soap and a tablespoon of vinegar to about 20 ounces or 600mL of water in a spray bottle.  I had one of those Crotons that was infested with scale that died before I tried the spray.  That was what got me started with all of this

Sure the plants are not all that expensive, but I like a good challenge, and plants that I created is always a good way to make sure that I’ll continue an interest.

Walking The Dog and Eating Venus

I’ve always tried to live a little “off peak”.

Restaurants are a perfect example.  When I lived in Philadelphia, and worked in Center City, I knew that if I hit a restaurant at 12 Noon Exactly, I’d be there with dozens of other office workers all jockeying for that table and that choice burger and fries.

Rarely a burger, I prefer ethnic foods at any rate.

It even effects when I walk the dog.  Rack, The McNab SuperDog (TM) has a habit of greeting his friends, vigorously.

I don’t mean a simple tail wag, but a full on, jumping shoulder high off the ground, wagging,

whining mess.  Then he sits down, dusting the pavement, and waiting to be told that he can visit.

I can tell who he considers his friends because if he passes you with a mellow attitude, he’s either just seen you or he’s cool on you.

So since I am up before the chickens, we walk before dawn.

I see some amazing sunrises as a result.  The quiet of the morning before you have had your shower, and I’m out walking in large lazy circles around my town is a nice cool time.  Me, Rack, a few joggers, and the parrots in the trees waking up.

The evenings can be just as perfect.  Being smack dab in the middle of the 120 mile long by 15 mile wide suburban sprawl that is South Florida, there are not many things in the skies to watch.

The sun goes down, fading from gold to blue, blue to black, and the few stars come out.

The first thing I do when leaving the house is to look up at the skies.  It’s a method of weather prediction, and a good way to make sure you don’t smell like Wet Dog.  If it is summer, it is hot.  Winter is cool.  It never freezes, and if it was comfortable yesterday, it will be comfortable today in this Tropics Adjacent area.

It’s July.  It is hot.  It will remain so until October.  We hit 99F/39C last week which is the hottest it has ever been that I have seen since moving here.

I once was sitting on the Art Museum Wall in Philadelphia listening to the news station there and heard them report that temperature.  I stood up, and got on my inline skates for another 9 miles shrugging that it’s more comfortable to move at a slow pace than sit down on a hot granite wall

in boxer shorts.

In comparison, England complains when it hits 76F, 24C.  I cool my house DOWN to that and if I skip breakfast, I’m cold by lunch and complaining about it.

So looking at the skies, that night it was perfectly clear.  No clouds at all.  There’s usually one errant cloud somewhere looking like cotton candy but not that night.  Heading out East towards the beach, I looked over my left shoulder and saw what I thought was an airplane heading into Fort Lauderdale Airport.  The landing paths are East West here, and they tend to float just to the North of downtown.

But, it didn’t move.

Mind you, I can spot Mars just about any given night, but this was white.  It stared at me like it was about to be eaten by a crescent moon.

We walked around town with a shrug, and I borrowed a nearby mailbox.  Sitting a camera on it, I grabbed a picture wondering what it was.  That Star being eaten by the Moon turned out to be Venus, setting over South Florida.

So when you take your dog out for a walk around town, look over your shoulder.  You never know if that airplane turns out to be a hungry satellite eating a planet.

 

Happy Fourth Of July, Now, Please Go Protect Your Pets

I am beginning to see the truth in the way New Jersey handled this back in the day.

They banned anything that went “bang”.

Luckily we have some “doggy downers” from the vet in the house.  I have learned to dose him about a half hour before sunset which takes the edge off.

Rack, my McNab SuperDog (TM) is like just about every other dog I can think of.  He hates Thunderstorms and Fireworks.  It turns him into a shivering mess.

This is the day where more dogs go missing than any other.  He will be hiding in the corner, trying to merge with the couch.  It’s where I sit at night until the sun comes in the front window, then again where I reappear when the sun goes behind the taller buildings to my west.

I expect that since the rednecks down the block are staying here instead of going to someplace else where they can get bit by mosquitoes and go Fish in’ and Hun tin’, they will be shooting off an obscene amount of fireworks tonight.  If not them, someone else will pick up the slack.

Rack is in for it.

Mind you, I like fireworks and the way they look.  Ooh and Ahh and all that.  I used to go to a park in Cherry Hill NJ near the house and watch a number of professional fireworks from a chair or in the comfort of my car.  A good friend Laurie cued me into that you can park in a lot in Cooper River Park and see more fireworks than you could possibly consider firing off in a lifetime from there.  Plus the reflection on the river itself was rather nice.

Bring a camera, preferrably a time lapse one.

So since sundown here is 8:16 PM, We will have gotten our walk in, and I’ll give him his happy pills about a half hour before that.  Hopefully we will get back before they turn this street into a war zone.

Then again, it is wet season and we have an 80% chance of rain.  I’m praying for rain.

On the other hand, I do have a time lapse camera and a porch, and I know how to use them.

Watch over your dogs.  This is not a night to leave them out.  Cats too should be brought inside, well every day since an Outdoor Cat is merely a stray.  People can be evil to strays.