Posts by Cassie
Man, what a fantastic snowed in weekend we had! We had a pretty nasty winter storm come through here on Friday, and after dropping a ton of ice and sleet, the storm decided to finally bless us with some snow. Some of the forecasts were calling for almost a foot of snow here—we only ended up getting about 6″, but that’s plenty enough to turn this place into a winter wonderland!
And definitely plenty enough (combined with the sleet and ice) to make the curvy country roads here totally impassable. Our county has been under a no-travel state of emergency all weekend (it was finally lifted to just a “travel advisory” last night). Fine by me. We didn’t have anywhere to go. In fact, it was kinda nice not to even be able to go somewhere if we wanted to. Snowed in, indeed.
Growing up, snow days always meant making snow ice cream. But now that we’re fully ingrained in maple syrup culture (if you missed it, we make our own maple syrup), we learned about another awesome snow day treat—maple syrup taffy. It’s basically caramels made from real maple syrup that are insta-cooled by snow, making them ready to eat in just a few seconds. And it’s something that a lot of folks in the maple syrup regions are familiar with.
This was my first time making maple syrup taffy, and it was so fun! Caramels are absolutely one of my favorite homemade candies (see this recipe for yumminess), but I hate that they take so long. All the boiling and cooling means that it can be hours and hours before you actually get to eat a darn caramel! Thanks to the small batch of this candy, plus the insta-cooling action of the snow, you can go from no candy to candy in about five minutes. Win.
To make maple syrup snow taffy, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together 1/2 cup pure (the real stuff!) maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of butter and a pinch of sea salt. You can also go totally pure and just use maple syrup, but I love the caramel-y addition of the butter and salt.
Bring it a boil, stirring frequently. You’ll want a pot that’s at least twice the size of your syrup, it’ll do a lot of bubbling.
And then you pop in a thermometer, and once it hits 235° (soft ball stage), you can kill the heat, and go put on your snow boots. Since this is such a small amount of syrup, it’ll happen fast, it was less than five minutes from the time I turned on the burner to 235°.
You’ll want to find a clean bank of snow for pouring. I just used the snow that had accumulated on our deck, mostly because it’s right outside the kitchen, but also because it was entirely untouched by animals.
You could also scoop up a bunch of snow, put it in a pie plate, and do this part inside. But what’s the fun in that?
Next step is to slowly pour the syrup mixture onto the snow in ribbons. It might sink in a little bit, no worries.
But for the most part, it’ll just stay right on top. And looks are deceiving, because it still looks like glassy liquid syrup…
…but it isn’t! It’s been instantly transformed into ooey, gooey maple-flavored taffy. If you have a few popsicle sticks, you can scoop it up onto those.
The taffy will be cold, but it will melt in your mouth, and be pretty much the best snow day treat ever.
If there is any leftover, you can just pick it up with your hands, bring it inside and it’ll warm up and soften into a soft-set caramel. But trust me, it’s so good, it won’t make it that far.
I love treats like this because they are so fleeting (at least in this region). We see a decent number of snowfalls each year, but it’s only a few times a year we get enough to make snow ice cream of maple syrup taffy, and it usually melts within a few days. Sure, you could make some shaved ice in the blender and fake it, but the whole appeal of snow day treats is that they’re reserved for those few days a year where everything slows down and simple treats like this are all you need to make a day special.
I hope you had an amazing weekend!
What’s your favorite thing about a snow day?
Confession time: I totally love to look at people’s holiday wish lists. I love this time of year in the blog world, because everyone is publishing posts with gift guides and wish lists, and I think it’s such a fun look into what folks are coveting, what they love, and what they hope Santa will bring them in a few weeks. I think it’s a great way to get an intimate look at a side of someone that maybe you never expected. You can tell a lot about someone by what they hope is under the tree on December 25th!
The irony of my wish list love is that presents aren’t really a big thing in our family. My family switched to stockings-only years ago (we have 17 people and stockings are totally the best part about gift-receiving anyway), and Craig and I are usually pretty reserved with how much we spend on each other at the holidays. Christmas just isn’t really about gifts for us, but it’s still fun to think about all the stuff you could buy if funds were unlimited. Plus, it’s like reliving my childhood letters to Santa. Instead of flipping through the Sears Toy Catalog and marking every single thing, I get to virtually window shopping at my favorite online stores. Fun!
Disclaimer: Starred items (*) are affiliate links. Which means that I get a small percentage of the sale if you buy through my link. If that makes you feel icky, feel free to click the non-affiliate link at the end of each item. Thanks for your support!
(1) Cloth Napkins :: We’re cloth napkin users in our house, and almost all of our sets are looks pretty shabby from years of daily use of and abuse. Now, I’m a somewhat skilled seamstress, and it’d take me no time to whip us up a new set of day-to-day napkins, but I’ve yet to find the time (and, let’s be honest, sewing napkins isn’t the most exciting project in the world). In my ideal world, a big pack of these beautiful, screenprinted napkins would just show up on my lap one day.
(2) Le Creuset Dutch Oven* :: I actually have a small Le Creuset that I snagged (of all places) at a thrift store, and it’s awesome, but I’d love a big brother for it. And this Caribbean blue makes my heart happy. (non-affiliate link)
(3) Remote Control Flameless Candles :: On a whim, I bought a set of these at Costco a few months back for $30, and I love them. Unlike most flameless candles, the batteries in these last forever (we use them nightly and I’m still on the original batteries). Plus, the remote means that we can put them up in all kinds of high fun places and turn them on just for a few minutes if we want. I’d love another set to put elsewhere in the house. Unfortunately, Costco is sold out, and all the other places are selling for $100+! Sadface.
(4) Indiana Throw Pillow :: We saw one of these state pillows while on vacation one year in Michigan, and I knew I wanted to have the Indiana version at some point. I didn’t know at the time that they cost $160! For a throw pillow! So I’ve just been coveting it from a far for years and years.
(5) Bar Decanters :: We have a bar set up out in the middle of our living room. We love having it accessible, we hate having the mismatch of booze bottles on display for everyone to see. I’d love a set of beautiful decanters to make it less mis-matchy. Too bad these suckers from Williams Sonoma run between $450-$550 each. A little (okay, a lot) rich for my blood. I’m kinda hoping we’ll just stumble onto a matching set at the Goodwill for $10.
(6) New Couch :: Okay, last time I checked, a new couch wouldn’t fit under the Christmas tree, but we’re suspending reality for a bit here. Back when we went through our first tornado, one of the few items we lost was our couch (water damage, mostly). We had renter’s insurance, but we figured we could find a decent couch for less than our deductible. And we did. It’s fine, but it’s also not the best quality ever. In hindsight, we should have just paid the deductible and probably got a nicer couch that would last us a while, but hey, you live, you learn. I’d love to replace our current cheapie with something classic that’ll last us through the next chunk of our life.
(7) Longtail Henleys :: Advertising works, kids. Have you seen the commercial for Duluth Trading Company’s longtail tees? As a tall woman who can pretty much never find shirts that are long enough I was sold. I’d love a few of these solid-color henleys for winter. So cozy.
(8) Wrap Bracelets :: I don’t know if wrap bracelets are still trendy (are they?), but I love them. I’ve always loved big chunky bracelets, and wrap bracelets let you take that to the max. I don’t really have a lot of places to wear fun jewelry, but if I did, I’d totally rock these wrap bracelets.
(9) Mani/Pedi Gift Certificate :: I love, love, love getting my nails and toes done, but it’s something that I almost never pay for for myself (as in, I bought myself one pedicure in my entire life). I’d love to get a gift card for my very own day at the spa.
(10) Indiana Necklace :: This necklace has been on my wish list (and Pinterest) for at least the last four years. I love it.
(11) Smart Wool Boot Socks :: Smart Wool stuff is so friggin’ pricey, but for good reason—it’s wool that keeps your toes warm without being itchy or letting them overheat. It’s really time for me to overhaul my sock drawer, and I think these awesome boot socks would be a good start.
(12) Keen Brooklyn II Bag :: I have this bag. I love this bag. I use this bag every single day. But I have this bag in a bright orange, and while the bright orange is amazing for Spring and Summer, I wish I had this exact replica of my bag in gray for my slightly-more-muted cool weather wardrobe.
(13) Wallet :: I’ve been on the hunt for a new wallet for years (I’m still using a bright pink Coach wallet from college, which has seen better days). My current wallet is a biggie, but I really don’t need that much space because I never carry cash, my checkbook or very many cards. So right now, I’m kinda crushing on this cute little wallet/wristlet from Natural Life.
(14) iPad Mini :: I have absolutely no need for a tablet. At my old job, I had one, and it was really nice and convenient for taking notes and traveling and the such (oh, you know, watching movies on the treadmill), but a need? No way. But man, I’d be pretty stoked if one just showed up on my doorstep randomly.
(15) 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens* :: This is going to sound ridiculous, but I actually want another one of these lenses. We own one, and it’s amazing. It’s perfect for food (it’s what my entire cookbook was shot with), but my husband is a photographer and also uses it all the time for his job and side portrait gigs. Which means there is a lot of, “Do you have the lens?” “Where is the lens?” “Can I have the lens today?” going on. A second lens would be amazing. (non-affiliate link)
(17) CamelBak Stainless Groove :: I’m a bit of water snob, so my CamelBak Groove is my savior whenever I’m traveling or filling up somewhere new. The filter makes almost any water crisp, clean and taste-free. After years of use, the plastic is starting to look a bit sad, and I don’t love the idea of my water being in plastic anyway. So I’d love to snag the stainless steel version of my favorite filtering water bottle. (Disclaimer: I got my original plastic CamelBak Groove years ago for free for review on this blog).
(18) Chunky Knitting Needles + Yarn :: I’m not much of a knitter, but about once a year, I get the urge to knit something, and I love using big chunky needles and yarn because projects go so fast! I have so many 1/2 finished knitting projects that I started on small needles. Chunky knitting is the key to my success!
(19) Staedtler Fineliner 20 Pack* :: I have a 10-pack of these pens that I got as conference swag a few years ago, and they are the best pens/markers on the planet. Unfortunately, I’ve used all of mine almost down to nothing. I’d love a new, bigger, more colorful set! (non-affiliate link)
(20) Books :: I love getting books for Christmas because it seems like, once the hub-bub of Christmas morning is over, curling up by the fire in cozy jammies with a good new book is pretty much the best way to spend the rest of the holiday. Right now, Eleanor & Park and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown are on my wish list.
What’s on your Christmas list?
Anyone out there still working on Thanksgiving leftovers? We did a pretty good job of keeping the haul to a minimum this year, so we only had full leftovers for a few days, but we are still working on the last of the turkey. There were only four of us at our dinner, and I roasted a 14-pound bird, which meant we had a decent chunk of leftover meat. A few days ago, we officially hit our collective turkey sandwich limit, and I decided it was time for the remainder of our delicious turkey to head into the soup pot.
In year’s past, most of my post-Thanksgiving soups have been of the turkey veggie variety, but this year, I was inspired by a bread bowl full of soup I had at Panera a few weeks back. It was a creamy chicken and rice concoction that was absolutely perfect for the gray, dreary, cold day. If I’m being quite honest, I walked in there wanting a bowl of their potato soup in a bread bowl (CARBSGOOD), but they were out of the potato soup, and I mourned, and then picked the cream of chicken and was happily surprised by the yumminess. I liked it so much I decided that turkey leftovers were destined for a copycat.
My version is a little heartier than Panera’s. I’m a fan of stew-like soups, so this is chock full of thick-cut veggies, big ole chunks of turkey and a heavy hand of wild and brown rice. It’s definitely one of those meals-in-a-bowl kind of soup (and absolutely does not need a bread bowl, although a chunk of crusty bread for sopping is always a good thing).
Since slow-roasted turkey isn’t a normal thing kicking around most folks’ fridges all year ’round, you can easily sub in cooked chicken breast and chicken broth in this recipe and still have a rockin’ good soup. Poultry is poultry, amirite?
The best things out soup like this? They just keep getting better and better as the flavors meld in the fridge. It’s awesome the day you make it, and even better when you heat it up for lunch the next day.
And I am so glad to have this soup to heat up for the next few days. Not only did I give our sad turkey leftovers new life, but it’s also the perfect thing to have for the winter storm we’re supposed to be getting tomorrow. I know a lot of folks dread snow (and I used to when I was commuting to work), but man, now that I don’t have to go anywhere, I get so pumped when it’s time for snow. Especially the big storms like they’re predicting for here tomorrow—I heard some forecasts predicting as much as 9-12 inches! Which is a big one for us in this area of the world. That much snow would be amazing, but I’d be happy with just a few inches. We have lots of firewood and a big batch of soup in the fridge, so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Enjoy! And I hope you all get a snow day tomorrow.
Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
Makes: 8 Servings | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 40 minutes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 large carrots, sliced into coins
- 3 large stalks of celery, sliced
- 2 cups cubed roasted turkey (white and dark meat)
- 8 cups turkey broth
- 1 cup wild rice (or a wild rice blend, which is what I usually use because wild rice is so darn expensive on its own)
- 2/3 cup half and half cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt the butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the carrots and celery and cook until the veggies soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add in the turkey and turkey broth. Bring to a boil, add in the rice, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in the half and half, salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
How’s your battle with Thanksgiving leftovers going? Anyone have any stragglers still left in the fridge?
Hiya there, friends. Long time, no see. How’s it hanging?
I know I just kinda dropped off the face of the Earth there for a second, but it’s nothing to worry about (which I’m sure you weren’t, you have much more important things going on in your life than worrying about me), I’ve just been swamped with a lot of awesome projects (some secret, some not) and lots of work—which is a good problem to have. Overscheduled and overworked Cass is not a happy Cass. So when that has happened in the past, I’ve given myself permission to “drop” something. I’d love to be a SuperWoman and tackle every single thing on every single to-do list I’ve ever made, but that just ain’t realism. As much as I love blogging and cooking and chatting with you guys, sometimes, it just falls to the back burner. Alas, sometime shortly, I should regain my blogging energy and be back to slinging recipes your way.
In the meantime, I thought I might bribe you to forgive my absence with a free holiday printable. Yay!
One of my earliest Thanksgiving memories is bounding out of the car after a 2 1/2 drive to my grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving morning, and running inside the house to look at the fridge for the menu. It always had the exact same foods listed on it every year (we’re creatures of habit), but there was something about my Papaw’s handwriting on a piece of lined paper up on that fridge that really made it feel like a special event every year.
My grandparents have long since passed, and we’ve sorta disbanded family Thanksgiving (thus the plight of a blended and extended family), but even if it’s just Craig and I for Turkey Day, I always make sure to make up a menu and put it on the fridge. It just makes dinner so much more special.
I thought you guys might be interested in carrying on our menu tradition, so I made a customizable printable for you to download, type in your own menu and print out. Unlike most of my printables (that are PDFs) this is a Word doc, so you can open it up on your own computer and input your own Turkey Day menu. Feel free to use your own fonts and styles, but if you want to stick with the styles I created, you’ll need to have two fonts installed—Times New Roman (you should already have that one) and Sail (you can download it for free).
If you’re still struggling to pull together your holiday menu, I might be of help! I’ve pulled together all my Thanksgiving table-friendly recipes in one place just in case you’re looking for a bit of Turkey Day inspiration. Happy eating!
And if you didn’t see me pimping it out over on social media, a bunch of my friends at Anytime Fitness and I worked together to create a FREE healthy Thanksgiving e-cookbook. It’s chock full of healthier Thanksgiving options, cooking tips and beautiful photographs. Oh, and did I mention it’s totally, completely, 100% free? Go download your copy!
I hope you have an absolutely fantastic holiday week! Happy Thanksgiving!
What’s on your Thanksgiving menu for this year?
We’re heading out this afternoon on a 1,000 mile road trip up North to visit my husband’s family. I know a lot of folks moan and groan at the idea of road trips, but we actually enjoy them! Especially when we do it the way we’re doing this one—slow and easy. We could do the trip all in one day (I actually did it once, by myself when Craig and I were dating—not recommended), but we decided to take it slow and break the 16+ hours of driving up over two days. From personal experience, trust me, the last thing you want is to be dead tired while driving in the dark through the desolate forests of Northern Minnesota along the Lake Superior coast in November. Moose crossings and snowy roads and no cell service, oh my!
Anyway, part of what makes road trips so great for us is that we try to keep them as healthy as possible (that, and we get hours of uninterrupted time together to listen to podcasts and sing silly songs). It can be so tempting to just stop at the nearest fast food restaurant along the interstate or pick up a sticky bun from the gas station, but I’ve found a little bit of food planning can go along way to make sure you feel healthy and happy when you hit your destination. Part of the fun of road tripping is road trip snacks, so we try to still keep the eats fun, but without totally wrecking our systems. I thought I might share with you guys some of our favorite car snacks before we hop on I-65 North. See you soon, Canada!
Bags O’ Veggies
One of my biggest eating challenges during road trips is boredom eating. I just snack and snack and snack to pass time. For years I tried to just use sheer willpower to stop myself from mindless snacking, but a while back, I learned to just embrace my love of boredom eating and use it to my advantage. Now, whenever I feel boredom snacking coming on, I reach for giant bags of veggies! I pack carrot sticks, celery sticks and (my favorite) cauliflower florets in giant zip-top bags and give myself free rein to eat as much as I want. Not only does it give me something to do, but it also gets me lots of good nutrients in.
Same deal with fresh fruit. Slowly nomming on an apple for 30 or so miles is a great to way to pass some time (and fill your body with all kinds of great nutrients). When we’re traveling to Canada, we do keep both our fruit and veggies to only what we an eat on the U.S. side of the border. You can take fresh fruits and veggies across the border (depending on where it’s from and some other factors—including the mood of the border guard you get), but it’s been a bit of a hassle before for us at the border, so we usually just dump what we have left (which is usually not much) before we hit the border guards.
While Cheddar Bunnies might not be the healthiest of foods, they are definitely one of our traveling staples. Like I said above, part of the fun of road tripping is eating a little bit of junk, and Cheddar Bunnies are one of my favorite (cleaner) junk foods. Do they provide lots of nutrition? No. Are they really delicious and fun? Yes. We make sure to get the single-serving packets to keep portion control in check.
One of the issues with a lot of road trip foods—lack of protein. Chips, cookies, sodas—the gas station is packed full of carbs, so I try to make sure we have a good amount of protein-packed snack foods on hand. I don’t usually buy single-serve foods like Babybels for everyday stuff, but for road trips? Perfect-o. Plus, playing with the wax gives you at least a good 15 minutes worth of road trip entertainment.
When we’re road-tripping, we always pack a cooler in the back, and inside the cooler is almost always hard-boiled eggs. Just like with the Babybels, hard-boiled eggs are a super easy and portable source of protein. Just make sure you either (a) use older eggs so they’re easier to peel or (b) peel the eggs before you hit the road. Peeling a stubborn egg can be messy!
More specifically, Trader Joe’s Turkey Jerky. Jerky is a pretty common road-trip staple, but the options in most gas stations are chock full of chemicals and not-so-good-for-you things. We almost always pick up a few bags of turkey jerky from Trader Joe’s before we leave because it is an amazing source of protein, doesn’t have any nasty ingredients, and tastes incredible. It is a little pricey ($5 for a small bag), but we only really get it during road trips, so the splurge is worth it.
Another winner from Trader Joe’s, we usually pick up a couple different kinds of trail mix before we head out—one healthy (like the Go Raw Trek Mix, which is just nuts and raisins with no added sugar) and one not so healthy (like the one with the mini PB cups—YUM). I actually get sick of trail mix pretty quickly, so just a small handful or two does the trick for me. And trail mix has the added bonus of being a great snack food once you hit your destination. I almost always have a bag of trail mix in my purse. A few handfuls is a quick way to squash hunger (or at least hold you off ’til you can get some real food).
Okay, so Shot Bloks aren’t really real food, or really even a snack, but they work amazingly on a road trip if you feel yourself getting tired while driving. Sure, you can slam a giant cup of coffee, but Shot Bloks give you the benefits of the caffeine and sugar boost without making you need to stop at every rest area along the way or making you jittery. We always pick up a few packs of Shot Bloks before we head on a long road trip. We’ve found that just eating 2-3 of them does a ton to bring you back into the land of the living.