The dumbing down of American candy.

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American commercial candy is bad, and in recent years it’s gotten a lot worse.   Maybe my standards are too high — I’ve had European chocolate, gourmet chocolate made by independent candymakers, and marzipan, which is popular in many parts of Europe but just never caught on with American tastebuds (American cakemakers, for example, seem to stick with horrible, overly sweet, rubbery fondant as a cake covering instead, when marzipan tastes a lot better and works just as well as a pliable covering).

So go ahead, feel free to call me a coastal elite or a food snob, but when it comes to candy, I really think American candy companies target the lowest common denominator and as a result, most of it is terrible, barely even edible.  This is comparable to so many other things in America, like our shallow infotainment reality-show “documentaries” (compare ours to BBC’s documentaries, which actually educate and still entertain), our big-special-effects-but-no-substance “blockbuster” movies that entertain but have no real meat or meaning, and are populated with comic book cardboard characters without real depth.

American candy years ago used to be better.  At least it was made with real sugar and other real ingredients, and the variety of types of candy bars was better.   The strictly-for-kids candy (Garbage Pail Kids, Nerds, Runts, gummy worms, and the like) that is usually kept on the bottom shelf of most convenience stores, has always been terrible, but that’s okay since it isn’t marketed to adults.  Kids love that shit.  I did too.  Hell, I still do when it comes to gummy bears and SweetTarts.   I even like some of that cheap bagged candy that hangs from hooks and is sold at 2 for $1.00 or whatever.  The lemon drops are great and I have a soft spot for circus peanuts, spice drops, and orange slices.   What I like about it is it never pretends to be anything other than what it is — cheap candy marketed to kids and sometimes old people who feel nostalgic for the penny candy of their youth (Starlight candies and butterscotch disks are good examples of the latter) — and it’s priced accordingly.

No, here I’m talking about mass marketed brand-name candy that’s usually covered in chocolate (most always milk chocolate), that gets displayed on the eye-level store shelves where you can’t miss it.  Seriously, 90% of that candy is inedible.  Here’s my list of gripes.

Stale Reeses Hell.

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Stale vs. Fresh Reeses.

Now I love me some Reeses Peanut Butter Cups — as long as they are fresh.   When fresh, they’re pure ambrosia.  I could eat a whole case of them.   But more often than not, when you tear open the wrapper of your Reeses, you find a dried up hockey puck that looks grainy and splotchy and has that greyish-white cast to it (I found out that stuff isn’t mold or anything bad, it just means the fat/cocoa butter has separated from the sugar and the sugar has risen to the top, but it still makes the cup taste terrible).  If you bite into it when it’s like that, the peanut butter is like sand and has absolutely no flavor.   I’ve wound up throwing the cup away when it’s like that because they taste so gross.

Reading the expiration dates doesn’t work because they are indecipherable and in some sort of code instead of actual dates we can understand.  So you take your chances.   Maybe they need to use a cellophane wrapper so you can see the actual cup through it before you waste your money on something you may or may not be able to eat.

Some people who have noticed this problem think Reeses changed its formula to save money, but I actually think it’s a storage issue, since occasionally you do get a fresh Reeses and they taste as delicious as the ones I had as a kid.   I think when the temperature gets too hot, they partially melt, leaching the cup of some of the peanut oil, which leaks out and leaves the peanut butter filling sandlike.

Here’s an open letter from a customer asking H.B. Reese what the hell happened to their cups that makes most of them taste like sand.

Butterfinger vs. Reeses Crispy Bar vs. Fifth Avenue/Clark Bar.

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Fifth Avenue (on the left) wins, hands down.  Apparently, most Americans prefer the neon-orange sickly-sweet Butterfinger (on the right).

Way back in the day, Clark bars were a thing.  So were Fifth Avenue bars, which were my absolute favorite for many years.   I always loved the Fifth Avenue for its thick rich (real) chocolate coating which enrobed a peanuty, vaguely molasses-flavored honeycomb-type of candy filling that made a satisfying snap when you bit into it.  It was vaguely salty and not too sweet.   Eating one was pure heaven.   Clark bars were good too, though not in the same ballpark as Fifth Avenue.  They lacked that molasses taste and the chocolate coating was thinner.

Now I can’t find them.  I’ve looked everywhere to find one, and all I can find is  Butterfinger bars, which are filled with a sickeningly sweet hard-candy filling that tastes like dried up peanut butter corn syrup with added neon orange color.  There is no molasses flavor whatsoever.   The chocolatey coating tastes waxy.  Reeses Crispy Crunchy bars are almost as bad, saved from their overwhelming sweetness by an overly-generous covering of ground peanuts.  The chocolate coating is okay.  I’m not a big fan.  Bring back Fifth Avenue!

The American obsession with gooey fillings.

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I’m not a big fan of caramel.   It tastes good in cakes (and caramel frosting is to die for), but it’s ubiquitous in American candy and is way too sweet.   To make matters worse, the “caramel” in commercial American candy bars just isn’t very good.  It taste fake and is way too chewy and nougaty.   Real caramel should be thinner and more viscous, like the caramel in higher end chocolates.   I’m not a fan of gooey, chewy fillings in general, whether it’s caramel, nougat, or (ugh) marshmallow.   I was never a big fan of Snickers, which are the most popular American candy, I think (maybe Reeses has beat them now).   I never understood their appeal.  They’re too gooey, too sweet, the chocolate coating is bland, and I’m not a big fan of the nuts either.

Cadbury Creme Eggs? Gross.

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Years ago, when they were introduced here in America, I thought I might like the Cadbury Creme Egg, because Cadbury is an English candy and being the Eurocandy snob that I am, I thought it might taste better than American chocolate, but alas, I was wrong.   Cadbury, in my opinion, is terrible — too sweet, too milky, and not chocolaty enough.  Not that Hershey’s is any better  (at least Cadbury avoids that sour-milk aftertaste).   They are both bad in different ways.  And the fondant filling in the egg is just plain gross.  It looks disgusting, just like raw egg, and it’s sweeter than eating a bowl of sugar cubes covered in maple syrup.  After eating half of one of those things, I threw it out and never ate another.

Marshmallow Peeps?  No, thanks.

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Overrated.  I have nothing more to say about these.   They’re probably considered “kids’ candy” but are usually sold with the holiday candy and other stuff marketed to the grownups, so I’m including them here.    I suppose they’d look cute as a decoration on cakes or something.

Mounds vs. Almond Joy.

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I never felt like a nut.

Mounds are actually good.  Not as good as Bounty bars, a British brand which was discontinued here back in the ’90s, but still good.  Their real dark chocolate coating is smooth and intense, and the coconut filling is sweet but not too sweet, moist but not too moist.

Spare me the Almond Joys though.  Two sad, runtlike almonds pressed on top of milk chocolate so bland it tastes like Nesquick.  Also, coconut filling does NOT go with milk chocolate.  Such a sweet filling needs the contrast of the less sugary dark chocolate.

 

The American obsession with Pretzel fillings.

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Why?

Pretzels don’t belong inside a chocolate bar.  I don’t like pretzels much to begin with — it’s basically stale bread.   I do not want pieces of stale bread in my candy bar or as a filling in my M&Ms (what the HELL were they thinking?)  But it seems like every new candy bar made has pretzels in it.  It’s the candy version of Pumpkin Spice!   Hell, there are probably Pumpkin Spice flavored Pretzel candies.  Please make both these awful trends stop.

Milk or dark chocolate? 

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Milk chocolate can be good if it’s made well (usually European though Dove Milk is good too), but for the most part, American milk chocolate is bland, too sweet, and often grainy.   Dark chocolate is generally much better, and is finally gaining some traction here due to its health benefits so it’s being used more often in commercial candy, but milk chocolate still dominates.

I do like the chocolate bars you can find in the high-end candy section of the grocery store (usually found in the baking isle) such as Ghirardelli and I do love the sea-salt/dark chocolate trend.    I’m still a sucker for plain M&Ms (without the weird fillings), York Peppermint Patties, Mounds, dark chocolate Kit Kat bars, and fresh Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  But on the whole, American commercial candy is just not very good, and seems as dumbed down and cheaply made as so many other things in America.

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Deviled eggs for Easter? Yes, please.

It’s that time of year again!

Originally posted on April 16, 2017

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I love deviled eggs, and there’s nothing more perfect for Easter.  They’re light but filling, and taste soooo good.

Here’s a classic recipe for deviled eggs.  Personally, I like using spicy brown mustard and regular mayo over the light type.  But that’s just me.  I think they taste better that way.  You can substitute these things if you like a richer taste or prefer your eggs a bit spicier.

Easy Classic Deviled Eggs

This recipe is based on the classic formulation for deviled eggs. Just a nice, quick recipe that is easy to make and tastes great.

This recipe is not spicy at all and as such is a good choice for family get-togethers where there are children and you’re catering to a wide variety of tastes.

 The filling of this recipe is on the firm side. Add a tad more mayo if you would like it a bit softer.

Ingredients:

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise:

To boil eggs (I always have to look this up):  Cover 6 eggs in a saucepan and bring water to a full boil.   Turn off heat.  Cover pan; let eggs sit for about 12 minutes — they will continue to cook in the hot water.   Drain off the water then rinse with cold water (this makes the eggs easier to peel).   Slice eggs length-wise.

¼ cup Light Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing (I use regular mayo)
½ teaspoon dry ground mustard  (I use the spicy brown jarred type or even a little stone ground!)
½ teaspoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Paprika for garnish

How to Prepare:

Pop out (remove) the egg yolks to a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard powder, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture and sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day before serving.  (I never wait that long — I let them chill a little in the fridge, and then eat!)

I like looking at photos of the inside of other people’s refrigerators.

 

 

Here’s a Fun Fact about me:

I’ve always loved to look at photos of the inside of other people’s refrigerators. I have an unhealthy curiosity about the contents of other people’s fridges.   But it has to be a picture, because in a picture I can sit in the privacy of my own home, silently admiring or judging the kinds of food I see there without people thinking I’m weird or want their food (because usually, I don’t).

My son just received his work bonus and tweeted the above photo of his newly full fridge (you can actually click on it to make it bigger).

This made me far happier than it should have,  because even if he was just some random person and not my son, that photo would have still made me happy.   I just really like looking at photos of the contents of people’s fridges.

As his somewhat overprotective mom, I’m also relieved to see his eating habits seem pretty healthy, based on what I can see there (maybe he hides all the junk food in a different fridge, or in the cabinets).   It looks pretty well organized to me.  He also apparently likes pickles (which I do not).

I guess you could say I’m a tad on the eccentric side, but without our little eccentricities, the world sure would be a boring place.

I’d post a picture of my own half-empty fridge, but the light in it is out.  When I get it replaced (and go food shopping), I promise I’ll post a picture. It’s also dirty so I have to clean it.

Maybe — and I say this in half-seriousness — I will start another blog all that just shows pictures of the insides of people’s refrigerators, and think up funny or snarky captions for them.  I think there might be demand out there for such a blog, if one doesn’t already exist.

Seen on Twitter.

Twitter, my favorite social media site (and where I spend WAY too much time these days) is a treasure trove of anti-Trump memes, tweets, cartoons, insults, links to articles, “fake news” (real news), and anything else a Trump hater like me could love.   Some are extremely funny, like this restaurant sign.   I think this is an actual sandwich made by this restaurant.  🙂

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Christmas lasagna.

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I’m not Italian, but some years ago I started a Christmas tradition — lasagna!

Why not lasagna?

It’s a perfect Christmas meal.   It’s filling, hot, and has red and green in it (well, mine does, because I put spinach and green onions in it).

We’re doing Christmas tonight instead of tomorrow because my daughter has to be at her boyfriend’s parents house tomorrow.    I just finished the lasagna and it’s now just waiting to be eaten.

Here’s the recipe, which I posted last year and will post again.

Lucky Otter’s Lasagna

Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef, drained.
1 32 oz. jar or can of tomato sauce
1 large can of tomato paste
1 box pot-ready lasagna (you can use the kind you have to boil too, but it’s more work and always falls apart for me)
green onions
16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 container Ricotta cheese.
2 eggs (they make the cheese mixture more fluffy)
chopped frozen spinach (1 small box or 1/2 16 oz. bag)
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic (optional–I can’t eat it)

Mix the sauce, tomato paste, a little olive oil and Italian seasoning in saucepan. In another pan, cook the ground beef until done. In another pan, steam the spinach and drain. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese in with the eggs and then add the steamed spinach and the eggs (wait until spinach cools some before doing this).

How to assemble.
Get the pan ready (use a lasagna-sized foil or glass pan) by pouring a little olive oil on the bottom and then a layer of sauce.
On top of that lay the lasagna sheets (if pot ready there is no need to boil them first), then spread half the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Sprinkle about a third of the shredded mozzarella on top of that.
Put half of the ground beef on top of that and spread out.
Pour another layer of sauce on top of that.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets on top.
Spread the other half of the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Put another third of the mozzarella cheese on top.
Sprinkle the other half of the ground beef.
Spread another layer of sauce.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets.
Pour the rest of the sauce on top.
Sprinkle the last third of the mozzarella cheese.
Put a layer of parmesan or romano cheese on top (this browns nicely).
Green onions (chopped) to garnish.

Bake at about 300 ° for about an hour. Serves about 10.

 

Ahhhhhhh….

This looks like the perfect antidote for this beastly hot day.

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Credit:  Food Porn (Twitter account)

Cauliflower.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower. No thank you. I can’t eat a vegetable that’s just wrong on every level. A vegetable should not be snow white and look like a cancerous tumor and smell like garbage. I don’t know why cauliflower is so popular. It doesn’t even taste like anything. It’s horrible. Give me Brussels sprouts instead.   Everyone else seems to hate them (I saw the referred to once as “little balls of Hell”) but not me.  Even as a kid, I’d gobble them up as if they were cookies.  Smothered in butter, they’re yum.   They’re also cute as f*ck.

I’m stuffed, grateful and relieved it’s over.

We had a really nice day. The temperatures were in the 70s today and there was on and off rain all day. I felt more like I should be saying “Happy Easter” than “Merry Christmas.” We had dinner at my daughter and husband-to-be’s house. Although I’m not Italian, for the past 6 years or so I’ve been making meat and spinach lasagna for Christmas dinner. It’s a wintery dish, and is red and green and everyone seems to like it. I assembled it at my place, then brought it over to bake in their oven.

I brought the gifts over and watched as everyone opened theirs. My daughter got me a new phone! The one I had was starting to act weird and has never gotten a good signal. I think she was just sick of hearing me complain about my crappy phone so she got me a better one. 🙂

Seriously though, it was a thoughful gift. I did find out some *slightly* disturbing news though: although the doctors are quite sure my daughter’s stomach problems are due to Crohn’s disease, they want to rule out anything more serious, so she has to go have both a colonoscopy and endoscopy this week. Yikes. I don’t envy her a bit, but it will be good to know with 100% certainly that it’s “just” Crohn’s disease.

The ex (her dad) stayed out of the way in the kitchen or out on the sun porch playing with the dog. No family drama this year at all!

All in all, it was a good day. I always dread Christmas but almost always wind up having a good time. That doesn’t keep me from being relieved when it’s over.

Here is the lasagna recipe. If you try this let me know how it turns out for you.

“Healthy” lasagna.

lasagna

Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef, drained.
1 32 oz. jar or can of tomato sauce
1 large can of tomato paste
1 box pot-ready lasagna (you can use the kind you have to boil too, but it’s more work and always falls apart for me)
green onions
16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 container Ricotta cheese.
chopped frozen spinach (1 small box or 1/2 16 oz. bag)
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic (optional–I can’t eat it)

Mix the sauce, tomato paste, a little olive oil and Italian seasoning in saucepan. In another pan, cook the ground beef until done. In another pan, steam the spinach and drain. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese in with the steamed spinach (wait until spinach cools some before doing this).

How to assemble.
Get the pan ready (use a lasagna-sized foil or glass pan) by pouring a little olive oil on the bottom and then a layer of sauce.
On top of that lay the lasagna sheets (if pot ready there is no need to boil them first), then spread half the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Sprinkle about a third of the shredded mozzarella on top of that.
Put half of the ground beef on top of that and spread out.
Pour another layer of sauce on top of that.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets on top.
Spread the other half of the ricotta-spinach mixture.
Put another third of the mozzarella cheese on top.
Sprinkle the other half of the ground beef.
Spread another layer of sauce.
Put another layer of lasagna sheets.
Pour the rest of the sauce on top.
Sprinkle the last third of the mozzarella cheese.
Put a layer of parmesan or romano cheese on top (this browns nicely).
Green onions (chopped) to garnish.

Bake at about 300 ° for about an hour. Serves about 10.

Crock Pot® chili!

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This is a very good chili recipe and so easy to make if you’re the proud owner of a Crock Pot® (I have no idea what I’d do without mine during the colder months). I made this today and it’s even better the second day–I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Ingredients:
1 lb. chopped hamburger meat
2 16 oz. cans or 1 32 oz. box of spaghetti sauce (I like Hunt’s)
2 16 oz. cans of chili or pinto beans
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 16 oz can diced skinned tomatoes
1/2 package of Sun-dried tomatoes–julienne cut (You can find these in the produce department)
1 large onion.
a few tablespoons olive oil.
2 cups water
1 package of Chili mix seasoning
Chili powder (optional)
Diced green onions (optional)
Red pepper

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Instructions:
In a large frying pan, cook the chopped meat until completely done. Drain the oil from the meat and place inside the Crock Pot® (or other slow cooker). Drain the beans and add to the meat, then stir. Dice the large onion into small pieces and add to the meat and bean mixture. Add in the spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, Sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, red pepper (I use about 2 tablespoons), chili seasoning, and chili powder (optional–recommended if you like your chili extra hot), then add the water and stir until mixed thoroughly. Cover the Crock Pot® and set on High. Chili will be ready to eat as soon as all the water is absorbed (about an hour) but I like to wait at least 2-3 hours before eating because the longer it cooks, the more flavorful it gets.

If you like, top the chili with grated sharp Cheddar or Mexican cheese, and garnish with the diced green onions.

After several hours of cooking, set the Crock Pot® on Low and leave the chili in the pot until the next day (if it lasts that long).

I could not resist.

At the store today I found this homemade salted caramel vanilla fudge and I just HAD to have it. It’s as delicious as it looks.
Sometimes you just HAVE to indulge.

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