Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Love is Sweet. (And Sometimes Crunchy.)

I've seen a few cake toppers in my time, but I just had to share these candy ones that were recently in the photo studio on the way to their cake-top destiny — they're just so supercute:

Bride and Groom Cake Topper Front

Bride and Groom Cake Topper Back

That bouquet is particularly great, isn't it?

They're made to resemble the sister and new brother in law of my coworker Suzy Hotrod.

And as Ms. Hotrod points out, it's kind of hilarious that they're made to fit together perfectly, but it also looks like he's patting her bum from the back view. Completely unintentional I'm sure, but still funny.

The sculptor is Gotham Girl Roller Derby menace Miss Beatrix Slaughter, and of course the photography is by the über-talented Suzy Hotrod herself.

If you or someone you know are gettin' hitched sometime soon, you can drop Slaughter a note at her real-life gmail digs. Her handle is zklogan.

I know I've been a bad blogger (bad blogger! no cookie for you!), but I'll be back on the web soon with some smokin' recipe action.

Miss Ginsu

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Regarding the Abuse of Peeps

I don't know what my coworker Suzy Hotrod has against marshmallow Peeps.

For the past couple of years, we've done an Eastover potluck (Easter + Passover dishes), and this year, we made it a St. Eastover potluck, incorporating St. Pat's day in the mix.

Peeps Fondue

Last year, Suzy made a Peeps Fondue, dunking the poor things in a bath of thick, rich chocolate lava.

Peeps Smore

This year, it was Peeps S'mores, their little pink and yellow bodies crushed between slabs of graham cracker.

Now, it was more than a month ago when all this abuse went down, but I couldn't help but notice this week that the Peeps S'more is suddenly hot.

Over at Serious Eats, they profiled this very version of Peeps abuse, as sourced from a Peeps cookbook. Looks like the heating action happens in an oven.

As I recall, Suzy came up with hers independently, working out a system in the microwave. I believe she placed Peeps atop squares of chocolate and spaced those out across a on a piece of parchment. Then she microwaved them (apparently they inflate like you wouldn't believe), and she moved the hot piles of gooey sugar to the graham crackers for sandwiching.

Peeps Smore Closeup

I actually thought they'd be kind of gross, but they were surprisingly good. The crunchy sugar on the outside of the Peeps adds an extra texture aspect. Crisp, gooey, sweet and chewy. The only thing missing was that burnt-sugar flavor you get from campfire s'mores.

Mini Easter Basket

I'd feel terrible if I neglected to mention that the other impressive dish at this year's St. Eastover fest was Ryn's Mini Easter Baskets, cleverly constructed with cupcake liners, jelly beans and foil-wrapped eggs. I think you'll agree the mint is a nice touch for the platter.

Mini Easter Baskets Platter

What kind of Peeps abuse will next year hold? Peep skewers? Peeps on a stick? Peeps pâté? Only Suzy knows.

Late-Breaking Addendum: Aaron Cohen wants you to know that he's compiled a survey of marshmallow Peeps on the Internet, revealing that the abuse of peeps is far more widespread than we ever suspected. The time to take legislative action to protect Peeps is long past, I'm afraid.

Meanwhile, Happy Holidays & Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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Dangerously Spicy Chocolate-Chili Fudge 2.0

Rich, dark and spicy. Is there a homemade treat for Valentine's Day that's more thematically appropriate than my Dangerously Spicy Chocolate-Chili Fudge?

I'm doubting it... especially now that I've gone through and improved the recipe.

I whipped up the first version of this fudge two years ago, but I thought the texture was slightly less than perfect. It was just a bit too chewy.

In this new & improved version, I've added more butter (which makes it creamier) and I've replaced the nutmeg with vanilla, which improves the overall flavor in a magical way.

chocolate fudge heart

It's still super-fast and very easy to make, and you can use dark chocolate (I do) or milk chocolate, as you prefer.
Dangerously Spicy Chocolate-Chili Fudge 2.0 (Makes about 16 pieces)

One (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (or more, if you're bold)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 lb milk or dark chocolate (use chips, pastilles or pieces you've cut)

1. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch to 9-inch square baking pan, and line with a piece of parchment or wax paper.

2. In a metal or glass bowl, blend together the salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and vanilla with the sweetened condensed milk.

3. Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (double boiler), add the butter and chocolate, stirring the mixture occasionally as it melts.

4. When everything is blended and smooth, spread the mixture into the prepared pan and chill in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.

5. Run a warm knife around edges of pan to loosen the fudge block and flip it over onto a cutting board. Remove the parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1- to 2-inch squares. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Since I last posted on this topic, I've also discovered that some high-quality fudge tips exist at Allrecipes.com. Since I try to avoid using corn syrup, I went with the sweetened condensed milk, and yes, it's pretty fool-poof.

Miss Ginsu

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Day 24: Candy Cane Crunch & Shortbread Stars

This post marks Day 24 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Merry Christmas Eve!

If the weather outside is frightful, the first thing you're thinking of might not be ice cream. But die-hards (like me) think about ice cream year-round — the holidays are no exception.

I haven't done an ice cream recipe in a few months, but I wanted to make this one a little more snazzy and festive for Christmas Eve — thus, the addition of those stripey little canes. And yes, I'll admit it: I have a small candy cane obsession.

Candy Cane Bonanza

Candy Cane Crunch Ice Cream

Candy Cane Crunch Ice Cream (Makes 1+ quart)
2 free-range eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup candy canes (crush in a plastic bag with a jar or mallet)

1. Whisk the eggs for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Whisk in the sugar.
3. When blended, pour in the cream and milk. Blend well.
4. Pour the mix into your ice cream machine and prepare as directed.
5. When the ice cream is very thick and nearly ready, five to ten minutes before completion, blend in the crushed candy canes.
6. Continue freezing to desired texture.

If you've been reading closely, you'll recognize this dough as the vanilla version of the Peppermint Snowflakes from Day 19. Since the dough can be made ahead and refrigerated (or even frozen and thawed), these cookie cut-outs are pretty convenient to make on the fly.
Sugar Cookie Stars (Makes about 2 dozen — just enough for you and Santa)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white + 1 Tbsp water, beaten together
White or colored sugar for decorating
1 star-shaped cookie cutter

1. Heat oven to 350° F.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter together. Add the egg and the vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the salt and the flour.
4. Blend the flour into the butter mixture.
5. Flatten the dough into a disc or a square, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
6. Divide the dough, leave one portion in the refrigerator, and roll out the other portion between 1/4" and 1/8" thick on a floured surface.
7. Cut out stars with the cookie cutter and place them about 1" apart on ungreased baking sheets. Brush the cookies with the egg white/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
8. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

Now, you could cheat on all this if you find yourself pressed for time... just use a pre-made cookie dough for the stars, then mix crushed candy canes into a softened pint of regular old vanilla ice cream and refreeze it.

Ice Cream and Star Cookie

Serve a festive scoop of Candy Cane Crunch ice cream with a Sugar Cookie Star stuck in the side as a jaunty garnish. Then leave a few more stars on a plate alongside a glass of milk for Old Saint Nick.

Happy Holidays!
Miss Ginsu

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Day 19: Cookie o' the Week... Peppermint Snowflakes

This post marks Day 19 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

I recently ran across the coolest snowflake cookie cutter set; It included tiny pieces to help cut out the decorative bits on the arms of the snowflakes. Pretty slick, but I had no real need to buy it.

Then it occurred to me that such a thing would be just the ticket for a new take on that stained glass cookie that's made with a basic cut-out recipe and crushed candy that melts into the open spaces. Voila! Peppermint Snowflakes!

Stained-Glass Snowflake

I've made these chocolate, because I really like the combination of chocolate and peppermint, but you could certainly skip the cocoa powder, use 1/2 cup more flour and make vanilla snowflakes.

Crushed Candy Canes and Chocolate Snowflakes

You can use candy canes, as I did, but I think they'd look pretty cool with those clear blue peppermint candies as well.
Peppermint Snowflakes (Makes about 4 dozen)
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Candy canes or peppermints
1 snowflake cookie cutter set

1. Heat oven to 350° F.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter together. Add the egg and the vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and the cocoa powder.
4. Blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
5. Flatten the dough into a disc or a square, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
6. Divide the dough, leave one portion in the refrigerator, and roll out the other portion between 1/4" and 1/8" thick on a floured surface.
7. Cut out large snowflakes, creating triangle-shaped openings in each. Move the snowflakes to the baking sheets.
8. Place hard candy or candy canes in a plastic bag, and pulverize the candy into tiny pieces/dust with the base of a jar or a meat mallet.
9. Fill the openings in the cookies with candy shards/dust. Stuff as much as you can into each opening. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until the cookie sets up and the candy is melted and bubbly.
10. Cool cookies for 3 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool fully.

Though you may be inspired to set these up in the windowsill and admire the stained-glass effect, the candy will melt with moisture of condensation. And since they're really tasty, that's a darn shame. Thus, I must insist you admire them only briefly before munching with a tall, cold glass of milk.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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A Day for Goooools and Globins

I'd intended on making chocolate skulls with white chocolate and dark chocolate detailing. They were going to be So. Very. Cool.

Unfortunately, the white chocolate refused to come out of the plastic skull molds looking like little chocolate skulls. Instead, it looked like globby white chocolate messes.

I needed a Plan B. Stat.

White Chocolate Globins

Thanks to some handy pepitas, shredded coconut and chow mein noodles, Plan B was hatched... and out came these cute little globins. My roomie called 'em that.

I was thinking they should perhaps be called goooools, but they're just so globby and cute. She's right. Globins it is.

As you'll see in the photo below, these guys were perfectly happy to see and be seen at our lunchtime Halloween potluck at work this week.

We feasted on chocolate chip cookies, a delicious pumpkin bread, candied apples, coffee-braised beef ribs with spiced pumpkin, an addictive pumpkin dip with homemade tortilla chips and bottles of Orangina. You'll also see that Travis brought the burbling dry ice as his contribution in the back there.

Halloween Picnic

Clearly, as a fall-back plan, these little fellows were supremely easy to make. The white chocolate becomes both the molding material and the glaze on the outside, so I think you could make them with close to anything munch-able you happen to have around the house.

No pepitas? Use some other nut or seed. No chow mein noodles? Substitute something else for the arms. Maybe black liquorice ropes. Easy. I think they'd be great with just granola in them.

Globins (Makes about 14 globins)
12 oz (1 bag) white chocolate chips
2 Tbsp milk + 1 Tbsp milk
1 cup pepitas (or some other seed or chopped nut)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chow mein noodles + a few extras for arms
A small handful of dried currants or black sesame seeds (for eyes)

1. Over low heat in a saucepan, melt 3/4 of the bag of white chocolate with 2 Tbsp milk. Stir constantly.
2. Combine the nuts, coconut and chow mein noodles in a bowl.
3. Pour the melted white chocolate over the nut-noodle mixture. Blend well and place in the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes.
4. Line a baking sheet or cake pan with parchment paper.
5. When the mixture is cool, but still pliable, remove from the freezer and form 1 Tbsp portions into tall mounds.
6. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp milk with the remaining white chocolate chips. This will become your glaze.
7. Carefully roll one the globin mounds in the glaze to coat. (You may want to use latex gloves for this task.) Stand the globin up on the parchment.
8. Push two currents or sesame seeds into the top of the globin for eyes and push chow mein noodles into both of its sides for arms (see photo, above). Repeat this glazing and decorating step with all the little naked globin mounds.
9. Allow your globins to cool on the parchment paper for a few hours or overnight. They're alive! Aliiiiive!

As party guests, I must say... the globins were perfect gentlemen and they were very popular with all the other guests. They mingle well and they're just so charming, they end up drawing a lot of attention. I'd certainly invite these little chaps along to another party.

All of which goes to show that sometimes Plan B is even better than Plan A. So that's my lesson of the day. Be open to Plan B, or whatever Plan B turns out to be.

Wishing you a spooooooky Halloween!
Miss Ginsu

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The Big, Sweet Grossout

Here's a revelation that should come as a surprise to nobody who knows a 7- to 12-year-old: Kids like gross.

They're crazy for it. If it's candy gross, all the better.

And with that in mind, I know just the thing for the rambunctious young'in in your life... Behold! The Box of Boogers.

With Halloween coming up, it's none too soon to put in a bulk order for the whole neighborhood.

Box of Boogers

Suzy Hotrod recently dug up these little beauties as well as the Chef Ghoulicious Zit Poppers, which are so icky I really couldn't bear to photograph them.

But back to the Boogers... They smell like watermelon Nerds and chew like soft gummies. And although the box claims they look and feel like "real" boogers, I must say that I pity anyone who actually has boogers with the consistency of rubber cement, the size of quarters and the color of tropical fish.

Back in my day, there were plastic noses with candy snot, gummy worms and lollies with bugs in them, but it was Garbage Pail Kids that really ruled the candy store. (Interesting, considering there wasn't actually any candy in the GPK packs... could it be that by diverting allowance from candy to trading cards, GPKs saved a generation from tooth decay?)

But for anyone hosting Halloween parties this year (and those who really can't get enough gross) I recommend Candy Addict's Top-10 Gross Candies list. (The earwax one makes me cringe just thinking about it.)

Miss Ginsu

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Food Quote Friday: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Maple-Bacon Lolly

"The Pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
     fell in love
          with unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
              the licorice sticks
          and tootsie rolls
      and Oh Boy Gum"

Lawrence Ferlinghetti from "The Pennycandystore Beyond the El"

More sticky-sweet food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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Day 19: Orange you impressed?

This post marks Day 19 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Have I blogged about citrus yet this week? No? Horrors! Let that oversight be mended now.

For some reason I always think the things I love to eat must certainly be beyond my ability to make. Maybe that's some kind of weird culinary-related self-esteem issue.

When I actually do the research on a given recipe, I often find out that I could have been supplying myself with something tasty and homemade (not to mention cheaper...) all along. Great Gazpacho? I could whip it up in my sleep. Tasty breakfast granola? A snap! Coffee Concentrate? A cinch! Home-brewed cocktail bitters? Easy-peasy... who knew?

That's why I'm happy to report that while amazing chocolate, wine and beer-making powers may still be outside my realm of competency, I believe candied citrus fruits have finally fallen into my greedy hands.

chocolate-dipped candied orange
Candied Orange dipped in dark chocolate from The Sweet Life

Yes, folks... the lovely chocolate-dipped candied orange slice you see in the photo above can easily be whipped up at home. All you need is a little patience and a handful of ingredients you may already have at home.

The recipe herein is based off one for candied orange peel I found in Sweet Gratitude by Judith C. Sutton.

Ms. Sutton stops at the peel, but I've eaten enough orange slices (like the one above), to know that the whole slice is certainly possible. The secret? Cut 'em thin and treat 'em with all due care and delicacy while you cook 'em.

candied orange
My very own candied orange slice, ready for the dippin'
Chocolate-Dipped Candied Oranges

3 large navel oranges, scrubbed
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
16oz dark or milk chocolate
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
parchment or wax paper

1. Using a very sharp knife, cut the orange into thin slices (1/8-inch).

2. Put the orange slices into a large heavy saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a boil; drain. Return the slices to the saucepan, add cold water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the peels are tender when tested with a fork, about 15 minutes; drain and set aside.

3. Set a large wire rack, preferably a mesh one, over a baking sheet; set aside. Combine the corn syrup, sugar and water in the same saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals (which could cause the syrup to crystallize) and add the orange slices.

4. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and simmer gently, stirring once or twice with a clean spoon, until the peel is translucent and very tender and the syrup has reduced to a few spoonfuls, 40 to 60 minutes. (Do not allow the syrup to reduce to less than this, or the bottom of the pan will become too hot and will crystallize the sugar. Add in a little more water if the level gets too low.)

5. Using a slotted spoon or a fork, carefully move the slices to the wire rack to drain; be sure to keep them separate and dry at least 4 hours.

6. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, blending until smooth.

7. Dip the orange slices half-way into the chocolate mixture. Allow any excess chocolate to drip off, and let the dipped slices harden on parchment or wax paper.

Though this recipe isn't strictly a holiday-only offering, I'd bet that if you wrapped 'em in waxed paper and nestled 'em in a cute little tin, these would make a smashing holiday gift for your favorite citrus lover. And if you were so inclined, I bet lemons or grapefruit would work just as well.

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Day 14: Brittle charms

This post marks Day 14 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Back in the dark days of '01 after the dot-com bubble burst, Miss Ginsu was left out on the street (not that there was much space out there with all the other dazed and ruined coders, systems engineers and venture capitalists).

Luckily, your tiny, pig-tailed heroine was kicked to the curb just in time for the Christmas season (ho-ho-ho) and was able to find temp work as a See's Candy girl at the mall.

"Oops! These ones expired yesterday! Darn. Guess I'll have to work my way through another tasty box of Nuts & Chews..."

Yes, the ensemble was silly and standing around on concrete floors is murder on the feet, but the pay wasn't bad, and the job offered all the expired chocolates I could eat. And gosh, they're actually really good. Grandma See didn't use any preservatives, and neither do the current See's Candy elves. Thus, we white-garbed choco-chicks spent a lot of time checking expiration dates and rotating stock.

Did I gain some weight? Yeah, most likely. But I also gained an appreciation for fresh chocolates that aren't filled with weird waxes, colors and fillers. I also learned about the wonders of buttery-crisp peanut brittle.

I'd always considered nut brittle one of the candies of a bygone age. I assumed it was something my grandmother and dad appreciated. I'd probably never understand its charms. But boy howdy! See's peanut brittle changed my tune. That stuff is addictively tasty.

Pecan Brittle in the Pan

Since I live on the East Coast now, and See's is a decidedly West Coast thing, the only cheap, reliable way to make my tastebuds dance is DIY brittle. The recipe below is based on one I found in a sweet (ha!) little cookbook by Robbin Gourley called Sugar Pie & Jelly Roll.

I used pecans in this one, but you can use whichever nut speaks to you. (After all, talking nuts deserve to be boiled in hot sugar, right?)

It's not quite as awesome as See's (I'm still working on that...), but it's pretty darn great. My coworkers all said so, and because I know they can be cold, cruel beasts when presented with inferior sweets, that positive commentary stands for something.

Pecan Brittle in a tin

Almost as Awesome Nut Brittle (Makes a full cookie sheet)
Make sure you have an operational candy thermometer before you make this recipe. "Close enough" counts for a lot of things, but you really do want accuracy for activities like structural engineering, brain surgery and candy making.

1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
3 cups pecans, cashews, walnuts or peanuts
1/2 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Pour water, syrup, sugar and salt into a large saucepan* and bring to a boil.

2. Add nuts, stirring occasionally and scraping down the pan edges.

3. Cook to 296°F on a candy thermometer.

4. Remove from the heat and add baking soda, butter and vanilla all at once. Stir thoroughly.

5. Pour onto a greased greased baking pan. Use a heat-proof spatula or spoon to spread quickly to 1/4-inch thickness.

6. When cooled, break into small pieces.

I recommend a large saucepan for this recipe because the hot sugar-nut mix froths a good bit when you add the baking soda. Trust me... you don't want boiling sugar frothing up and burning a hole in your hand.

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Bizarro Cookbooks: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Cookbook

Wizard of Oz Cookbook

Published in 1981, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Cookbook features 121 bright pages of simple recipes meant "for the young, and for the young in heart," plus a handy cooking terms section and index.

Don't go envisioning Judy Garland now, friends. This book explores the far more complex Oz of literature.

Author Monica Bayley explains in a foreword that her recipes are suggested by a formula of regional associations, references in the story text, and dominant food color matchups with Oz locations such as the yellow brick road, the Emerald City and the lands of Quadlings, Winkies, Gillikins and Munchkins.

Of course, we all remember that Munchkinland is blue and Quadlingland is red, right? Yeah, me neither. But never fear... there's a handy map at to guide you through the struggle of blueberries vs. tomatoes.

As well as Kansas recipe standards such as Aunt Em's Chicken & Dumplings, Uncle Henry's Short Ribs and Toto's Almond Bark (get it?), we find the Wonderful Winkie Omlet, the Winged Monkey Banana Sauté and a recipe for an 8 full ounces of Liquid Courage. (I'll be keeping that one on hand for when I attempt my taxes...)

Although this book seemed terribly exotic when I found it at my local library as a tyke, all the recipes are very simple Midwestern American fare renamed and reorganized.

What makes this book special are the whimsical engraving-style illustrations by W.W. Denslow and the accompanying pull-quotes from L. Frank Baum's richly visioned stories.

"Before them was a great stretch of country having a floor as smooth and shining and white as the bottom of a big platter. Scattered around were many houses made entirely of china and painted in the brightest colors."

China Princess Pecan Brittle
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup water
1 cup broken pecan meats
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon soda

Put sugar, syrup, cream of tartar and water into deep, heavy saucepan and boil until candy thermometer registers 250°F (hard-ball stage). Add pecans and boil until thermometer registers 300°F (hard-crack stage). Add butter, remove from heat, add soda and stir vigorously. Pour onto buttered platter and spread thin. When cold, cut or break into pieces.

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Feeling the Power of the Peep

As much as I adore hot chocolate and wooly sweaters, I've started (with a bit of guilt, perhaps, for not "living in the moment") looking forward to soothing, warm days full of far-more-robust farmers' markets and lots of springy fresh little things such as garden peas, morels, asparagus, ramps and tiny lettuces.

Spring also brings a profusion of marshmallows. In particular, marshmallow chicks, which sell by the truckload for a very short period of time leading up to Easter.

As much as I'm certain their parent company (a candy company disturbingly called "Just Born") would like to see greater sales of marshmallow ghosts at Halloween and marshmallow trees for the holidays, Easter is truly that one shining moment in the sun for marshmallow novelty candy.

And gosh, there's just something so weird and lovely about the marshmallow Peep.

I don't even actually eat the little sugarbombs (I'm more of a dark chocolate girl, truth be told). I simply enjoy looking at them, individually or stacked in trios, sporting pastel hues and blank, soulless faces.

But don't think for a moment I'm the only one hypnotized by Peep love. People cherish marshmallow Peeps for experiments, interior design, target practice and strategy wargames, not to mention a legion of crazed fans wrapped in marshmallow idolatry.

Think making pastel marshmallow treats is child's play? Maybe you want to try your hand at a few marshmallow concoctions of your own?

You'd best consult the Howstuffworks "How do they make marshmallows?" guide. Good luck, and may the Peeps be with you.

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Red! Hot!

Valentine's day's signature candy... some would claim it's chocolate.

Since I consider dark chocolate to be a major food group, a single-holiday association is terribly restrictive. Other folks are all about the "conversation hearts," but I've always found them to be chatty, chalky, cloying. Their colors seem faded, their sentiments too common.

Thanks to TS for the "cinnamon imperials" image

For me, Valentine's Day will always be about the red hots. There's something simultaneously so vixenish and second-grader cute in those shiny candy shells.

Known in the confections field under the far-too-formal generic title "cinnamon imperials," a handful of these little guys act like fireworks in the mouth, leaving you with cinnamon-fresh breath, a bright red tongue and a quick sugar high. And isn't that a bit more representative of the kind of love Valentines Day usually promotes?

Thus today, I take time to pay homage to valentines, romantic love and a million tiny droplets of sweet cinnamon with the REDHOTS Virtual Tour.

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