Monday, March 31, 2008

Marshmallow Monday

Maybe it's the plethora of multi-colored peeps lining the grocery store shelves, but the beginning of spring always makes me crave marshmallows. Not those tough bland round things you find in plastic bags, though. I want big fluffy melt-in-your-mouth and full of flavor marshmallows - the kind I can only get from making them myself.

So on the vernal equinox, I presented all my friends with little packages of puffy white squares. Most people don't even know that it's possible to make your own marshmallows. My friends looked at me with suspicion and wrinkled noses when I explained what they were. They gingerly held them in their hands and sniffed before daring to take a small nibble. Then the magic happened. A smile spread across their faces, and their eyes rolled back in their heads. They shoved the whole thing in their mouths, smiled at me with powdered sugar-covered teeth and longingly asked, "Do you have any more?"

So I made more. And more. And still they demanded more.

Suddenly I became tired of only making plain vanilla marshmallows. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I'm a girl who likes to explore. I realized if I was going to be on a marshmallow-making spree, I needed to shake it up. Go a little wild. Let my marshmallow freak flag fly.

So I've decided to undertake a marshmallow experiment. I will be creating a different flavor every week or so and will post the results until I run out of ideas...or get bored...or move on to experimenting with something - or someone - else.

On this Marshmallow Monday, none of you will be the least bit surprised as I present to you:

Limoncello Marshmallows

The ingredients: gelatin, sugar, powdered sugar, corn syrup, corn starch and the last of the meyer limoncello that helped get me through a dark cold winter in the country. The powdered sugar and cornstarch are used to coat the marshmallows. I prefer potato starch as it's lighter in texture and taste, but sometimes it's hard to find. Use it if you can find it.

I almost forgot the salt. Salt is very important. It rounds out the flavor, and you should never leave it out. Trust me.

You'll also need a stand mixer like a Kitchenaid. Don't even try to make marshmallows with a hand mixer. You need to whip them for at least fifteen minutes, and a hand mixer just can't take it. Yep, marshmallows like to be whipped - long and hard. Just like the baker. Mmmmm hmmmmm. Oh yeah. Wait, what was I talking about? Mixers. Right. You need a stand mixer. Here's mine. The lovely yellowish greenish mixer on the right is one my mom got before my 1st birthday which was a very long time ago. It still kicks ass in the kitchen. Kitchenaids rock. You also need a candy thermometer. I like the kind that you can attach to the side of the pan. If you don't have a thermometer, you can always do it the old fashioned way, but a thermometer is much easier.

First you put 3/4 cup of liquid in the bowl of the mixer, sprinkle four packets of gelatin over the top and let it sit for a few minutes. This is called "blooming" the gelatin which means it turns it into a gooey mass. For vanilla marshmallows I would use water, but for these I substituted limoncello for the water. After several minutes I realized the gelatin was not blooming. Having not paid much attention in pastry school to the actual chemistry of things, I didn't know exactly what but figured that something must be wrong with using all limoncello. See how this is liquid and there are granules all around the side of the bowl? This is not what you want.

So I dumped the mess and started again, this time using 1/2 cup of limoncello and 1/4 cup water. I also figured that the lemon flavor wouldn't be as strong, so I added two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. See how this looks sort-of firm and gooey? That's what you want to see. When it looks like this, stick the bowl on the mixer with the whip attachment all ready to go.

Then in a saucepan you put 1 and 1/4 cups of corn syrup, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 tsp. of salt and 3 cups of sugar. Only I didn't have 3 cups of sugar. I only had about 2 and 1/4. Groaning because the closest store is 40 minutes away I decided to improvise. I had a box of sugar cubes in the pantry and grabbed those. Each sugar cube is 4 grams. A cup Another moment where paying attention in either math or pastry school would have been to my benefit, but alas, my philosophy of "life is an art not a science" always won in the end. So I grabbed a couple of handfuls of sugar cubes, threw them in, said a little prayer to the candy making gods, turned on the burner to medium high and stuck the candy thermometer to the side of the pan. I'm sure that you will have 3 full cups of sugar in your cupboard and will use that.

You need to stir this mixture at first so the sugar doesn't burn and smell up your house and ruin your saucepan and cause you to swear you'll never make another marshmallow as long as you live. Within minutes the sugar will be dissolved, and the mixture will be boiling. It needs to reach a soft ball stage which is 235 - 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This is supposed to be a picture of the syrup boiling and the thermometer at 240 degrees, but the steam kept fogging up the camera. You get the idea.

When the syrup reaches this stage, take it off the heat. Make sure the splash guard is on your mixer and turn it on the highest setting. Then slowly pour the hot syrup down the inside of the bowl so that it gradually mixes into the gelatin. Make sure the splash guard is on. Did I say that already? Boiling hot sugar syrup splashing into your eye is not a pleasant experience. Trust me.

Let this whip for fifteen minutes. This will give you plenty of time to clean up the sticky mess on the stove and counter and do the dishes. Or you can be like me and use the time to sit on the couch and have a lovely glass of what's left of the limoncello. There's always time later for dishes but limoncello waits for no one. You also need to prepare a pan by rubbing it with oil and dusting it with a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch in equal parts that you've mixed in a bowl. Cover this bowl and save it. You'll need it later.

After fifteen minutes the sugar mixture will be white, fluffy and will stand in a peak when you remove the whip. Or when you stick in a finger. Not that I would do that or anything.

Now just use a spatula to help pour the pre-marshmallow goop into your prepared pan and smooth the top. I didn't get a picture of that step because I lost focus when the spatula made its last swipe across the top of the goop. There it was in my hand begging to be licked. A person with self-control would toss the naughty thing in the soapy dishwater so the temptation would be gone. I'll give you one guess as to which option I chose.

You now have to let them sit in the pan for at least four hours, but it's better if you wait for eight. After your grueling wait that will feel like forever, spread a layer of powdered sugar and cornstarch on your work surface as if you were going to roll out pie dough, then turn the pan upside down and flip the marshmallow mass out. You should have a firm but squishy rectangle before you.

Use an oiled knife to cut off strips, and then cut each strip into squares. Don't worry if they're a little uneven. You don't want them to look like they were made in a factory after all.

After you cut off each square, dip it into the bowl of powdered sugar and cornstarch so that all four sides are covered. They're too sticky to handle if you don't. Stack them on a pretty plate and amaze your friends and family. You'll be surprised at how quickly they disappear.

WARNING: These limoncello marshmallows turned out delicious, but don't leave them sitting out for just anyone to grab. Each one has quite a nice amount of still-potent alcohol in it. I made the mistake of leaving these on the table before running a few errands in town. When I returned to a much smaller marshmallow pile, Squirrel was holding his stomach, moaning and mumbling about two-headed cows in the pasture. Enjoy!

P.S. Especially for Ekovox and Ladyfriend: Use all water instead of limoncello and two tablespoons of vanilla instead of lemon juice, and you've got the makings for the best peanut butter cup s'mores you've ever tasted. xoxox

P.P.S. This week's experiment will be either dulce de leche or passion fruit marshmallows. If you've got an idea for a good one please leave it in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Case You Haven't Noticed...

there's a wee bit of Spring Fever happening at Chocolate Covered Xanax. Or maybe it's just me. Regardless, the best way to celebrate the beginning of spring was the Wet Spots funny, sexy, smart, bawdy, completely fantastic show last night at the Arcata Playhouse.

You might remember my love of their catchy little song "Do You Take It."

They now have a new video, so if you missed last night's show, you can enjoy this song right here. This one's still not for you delicate folks. Seriously.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Today's Mortifying Moment

It's been a gorgeous sunny spring day here in Bear River Valley. Squirrel headed to work early this morning leaving me to enjoy some solitude and some half-assed plans to be productive. Weeding, spading and hoeing were all on my mental to-do list as were sweeping cobwebs off windows and folding laundry. Then I planned to hike up to the god-forsaken water tank to make sure all was well with the supply. But the sun streaming through the bedroom window and some spring fever friskiness distracted me, and I decided to put my productivity on hold for a bit to try out one of my new purchases from Portland.

A half-hour...oh, alright, maybe an hour....or two...later I was energized, calm and focused and proceeded to get to work clearing giant thistles out of the flower beds. The heat on my back felt good as I dug and pulled and swore I'd never let the weeds get that out of hand again.

We are very isolated here. Our closest neighbor is at least a half-mile away. A busy day on the road in front of our little old house is two cattle trucks and a car. For a girl who likes to run around naked singing ABBA songs at the top of her lungs, this remoteness works wonderfully.

So it's always a surprise when someone stops by. This afternoon I noticed a car I'd never seen before drive by. Then again going the opposite way. It stopped just past the house and a tall handsome man I didn't recognize got out. He was looking for someone named Jim. I didn't know Jim, but I ran in and grabbed the cordless phone for him to use. Unfortunately I had left it off its base for too long and the battery was dead, so I invited him in to use the old-fashioned phone tethered to the wall in the kitchen.

I pointed to the door and waited in the living room while he used the phone. I heard him repeating some directions the person on the other end was giving him, and he said he'd be there in a few minutes. There was a pause, and then the stranger laughed - a high-pitched nervous chuckle that didn't sound like it should have come from his body. He hung up the phone and exited the kitchen quickly. His face was flushed, and he barely looked at me as he mumbled "Thanks" and hurried out the door. I figured he must have been really late to make such a hasty exit. Feeling a little tired, I walked into the kitchen to make some coffee and saw just what he must have seen as he turned to hang up the phone:

I wonder what he would have done if I had offered him some coffee?

Monday, March 17, 2008

So when you're near me

darlin' can you hear me S.O.S?
The love you gave me nothing else can save me, S.O.S.
When you're gone, how can I even try to go on?
When you're gone, though I try, how can I carry on?

Just be thankful I haven't figured out how to add sound files to the blog. Yet.

It's a sad day for ABBA lovers around the world. We're making Swedish pancakes and drinking vodka and mourning the loss of one of our own. Ola Brunkert, drummer and one of only two musicians who played on every ABBA album, passed away today in his garden. And while his death was a tad bit Spinal Tap-esque, it's a great tragedy nonetheless.

Ola, girls who used to practice their best roller skating moves in bell bottoms to ABBA in their parents' driveway thank you for the music.

I can't decide which piece of news is more traumatic: Ola's death or the fact that ABBA is John McCain's favorite band. Mamma Mia.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I would like to be able to say that I'm in control at all times as a parent. That events, situations and big lectures are all planned and well thought out in advance. I would like to think of myself as the Mrs. Huxtable or Mrs. Cleaver of our little family. I WOULD like to say that but...

Several nights ago my 10 year old lost a tooth. He had long lost the cute little box I had gotten for him to place his treasure in so we had to wing it by using an old wallet. He stuck the bloody yellow nub of a tooth in and gently tucked it under his pillow. "Mom, are you sure the tooth fairy is real?" For the first time I was beginning to see cracks in the foundation of his belief system. In a panic I quickly blurted out, "Yeah, of course. How else does the money get here?" I could tell that that was not going to satisfy him and that he had been thinking about this for a while. "Well, those kids at school say that it's your parents."

Damn "those" kids! I was very familiar with "those" kids. "Those" kids were the ones who told me that Santa was your parents at the tender age of 1st grade. "Those" kids were the ones who convinced me to go ahead and stick my tongue to the frozen swing in the dead of the Wyoming winter. "Those" kids were the ones who always made fun of my habit of biting my lower lip when I was stressed or thinking about a problem. "Those" kids sucked and needed to be whipped.

"Well honey, those kids don't know what they're talking about. Now go to sleep."

Burt had the task of waking up early in the morning and gingerly exchanging the money for the tooth. Every thing went as planned and Spencer seemed satisfied once again. Belief system in tact. Score one for the parents.

Two days later the arrival of a wiggly molar made it's appearance. The same ritual was performed, however, Burt had to leave early for a morning meeting. This left me for the steady handed exchange. No problem. I had been doing this for years. I had the timing down and besides, the boy can sleep through anything.

As I approached the bed I assessed a problem right away. His head was completely tangled in the comforter. I'll have to use my left hand to gently snake my way through the sheets and dive under the pillow. I'm a righty so the left hand thing was awkward to say the least. Then, the left hand couldn't find the wallet. Had he taken it out to try to trick the tooth fairy? Had it fallen out on it's own? What the ...? BINGO. Found it. I gave a gentle tug but realized that it was directly under his neck. I tugged a little harder. No movement. One more pull and I'll have it.

Just then, with one last grab, Spencer sprang to life. With my cat-like mom reflexes I hid on the side of the bed praying that I wouldn't be seen. Heart in my throat I heard "I KNEW IT!!!!"

" What?!?" is all I could think to say. "Let me see your hands." He replied. We both knew that the game was over. "Those kids were right." he said. ALRIGHT, that did it! Now he went too far. "Sometimes the tooth fairy needs a little help. I mean, she can't be EVERYWHERE in one night can she?"

With his eyes appearing a little older and wiser I knew it would be just a matter of time before Santa, the Easter Bunny and my beloved leprechauns would also die the quick death of childhood truths.

Maybe it was time. I felt pretty lucky that he believed for as long as he did.

But if you happen to see "those" kids. Let them know that me and a bunch of other moms are lookin' for them. Ya know, just to chat.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Statcounter is still our friend....

Yes, it is. Besides outing obnoxious trolls who try to hide their identity by not using punctuation, statcounter still allows us to see the words and phrases people have searched for that led them to Chocolate Covered Xanax. I haven't listed any in quite awhile, so I thought I'd post this week's fabulous search terms. I've also categorized them for your reading convenience.

Xanax is Really Popular search terms:
  • Xanax and a six pack of beer
  • Go to Mexico for xanax
  • Can I take xanax anally Oh, the visuals from this one.
  • I love xanax
  • Does xanax make you horny
Special Friends search terms: (Don't ask us why looking for you leads them to us. We'll never tell....)
  • Man getting wax job this one led right to the post about looking for you, Heraldo
  • Fred Mangels blog
  • Greg said anonymous shut up Greg! What happened to be nice?
  • Bob Flame
  • Eureka Ekkovox blog
  • Humboldt blog Carson Park Ranger
  • Mresquan
Amateur Porn Opportunities search terms:
  • Spanking bench blog story
  • Chocolate covered sex
  • Girls covered in food
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  • Braided leather flogger
  • Huge nipples
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  • Chocolate asshole
  • Naughty Safeway boys
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All these wonderful freaky internet researchers...and still no party invitations.