Sunday, December 9, 2012

Unconditional Love: Thoughts While Taking a Study Break

As a study break today, I went through Netflix and stumbled upon a section of bridal shows. One called Bridalplasty, which I'd seen a couple episodes of before, was on there and I thought, 'why not watch a trashy show for this break?' Oh my gosh, y'all. This is worse than shows like Teen Mom and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The premise of this show is for 12 engaged women to compete for plastic surgeries leading up to their wedding. The winner gets a full-body makeover and a celebrity style wedding and honeymoon; said wedding is the first time that the fiance will see his new, plastic bride.

Watching this show is just so eye-opening to how great my parents are. I have grown up knowing that not only am I beautiful, but I am worth more than looks. Perhaps other people would disagree with me thinking I'm attractive, but at least I was given the ability to have that confidence in myself. These women apparently did not get that opportunity...

And then I was thinking, what if someone is pretty, but not so smart or talented elsewhere? Or what if they're really smart, but aren't necessarily attractive? So I realized, it's one of those issues where if you say one thing is good, it demeans all the other things. And really, neither of those things are important. It is great if you have a good brain and/or good looks, but I think the most important thing is to just love other people. If you love someone and make them feel worth it, then it doesn't matter what else they can do.

Loving unconditionally is definitely part of living zealously. Enthusiastically seek out people to love, and care about them for who they are right now, not what they can do for you or who they have been or will become. Love them simply because they exist and make sure that everyone you meet knows that they are worth it and that they don't need to go to the extremes that the women on this show are going to just to feel good about themselves. No one should have to have surgery in order to feel like they can face the world--if you love them anyway, if they are not conventionally attractive or not very book-smart, and you love them anyway, then they will be facing the world confidently, and with a confidant by their side.

If you need a person to do that for you, tell me, and I will legitimately give you the encouragement that you need every day. And if no one asks for it, then random people are going to be getting those encouraging words anyway, and I challenge you to do the same. Especially in this holiday season of giving, I would urge you to give out at least three uplifting comments everyday until the new year (and maybe continue doing so after that :] ). Not just physical compliments on clothes and such either, but also encouragement in people's studies during finals or doing a random act of kindness by helping someone pay for Christmas dinner. There are so many easy ways to lift people up and let them know that you care about them and they matter, so go and zealously seek out those opportunities!

What amazing realizations from watching this crazy show. Thanks Netflix!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Recipe: Peanut Brittle

For as long as I can remember (and even before that, actually), Christmas for me has not smelled of cinnamon and evergreen as it has with other people, but of sweet, buttery, nutty peanut brittle. Ever since I was small, I've stood in the kitchen with my mom watching, stirring sometimes, and always smelling as she made this sweet treat. Today, I'm sharing with you this perfect recipe so you can start smelling it, too! :]

I will start by telling you that your house/apartment/whatever cannot be humid while making this. It makes it verrrry sticky and that is not what you want at all.

Nothing can be like my mom's, but, from the Texas Peanut Producers Board in Gorman, Texas, the Never Fail Peanut Brittle recipe (you can order the peanuts for this recipe from them and get a little recipe card like this with the box):

Can you tell it's been used a few times?

  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of light corn syrup (the picture above specifies Karo, but my mom always says it's too thick (viscous), and momma's always right.
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 cups of raw Spanish peanuts
  • 3 teaspoons of butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda

I love my sugar tin from Ikea!
I did not get Spanish peanuts :/ I could have sworn I saw some at Walmart the day before I went shopping for this, but the next day, even though I retraced my steps at least three times, I could not find them anywhere. I went to the baking aisle and found similar looking raw peanuts. I use margarine instead of real butter, and I just grabbed an off-brand of light corn syrup--it's called Griffin's, I believe--but it was also pretty thick like the Karo is.

I measured out the peanuts. The recipe calls for 3 cups (wayyyy too much), my mom uses 2, and I filled my measuring cup up to just below 2, and it was still a little too much peanut for me. If you like it to have a lot of nuts, put more in; if you like less, put in less-you really can't go wrong here.

Measure out the sugar and put it directly in your large pot. Mine is a 5 quart (I'm pretty sure) and it was plenty big. I think 4 quarts probably could have worked.

I measured the corn syrup and then the water in the same cup. I thought it looked fun. Go ahead and measure this now, but don't put it in the pot yet.

Baking soda beneath salt and butter on top. All in one little bowl. If you do it separately, the last step is going to be much more difficult.

Now that we have all the ingredients measured, pour the water and corn syrup in with the sugar and heat on high until a sugar thread spins. If you don't know what it looks like when sugar spins or how to look for it. . .I tried to find a video for you, but it only brings up spun sugar, which is different. There is "Aunt Merle's Peanut Brittle" which may help, but you can't see the spinning very well.

Anyway, the best way for me to describe it is that in the above picture, the sugar isn't completely dissolved, so the mixture is more opaque;

When your boiling mixture gets transparent, hold up the spoon with some of the mixture on it and watch the drips. You will see a thread spin from the spoon. My mom describes it as "a wisp from a spider web floating behind the spoon." If you don't see it, try again after about 20-30 seconds (stirring in between attempts). If you still don't see it, just look for the mixture to be fairly runny and completely transparent (aside from the bubbles which obscure that a little bit).

Add the peanuts. This is what it looks like raw.

And this is what it looks like when "golden brown." This is the point at which you should be smelling roasted peanuts. If you don't know what that smells like, I would suggest paying close attention to how it smells throughout cooking, and when it smells different, it's probably roasted. Because of how my mom makes it (sets a timer for 16 minutes, adds the nuts around 11.5 minutes left, it's ready to pour around 2 minutes left), I thought it would take much longer and almost burned mine (silly electric stove causing problems for me), so really go by the smell and don't question it if you think it's ready.

Remove from heat and toss in the butter, salt, and soda (but not the bowl, which has happened to my mom before!). Stir stir stir until the butter melts and it's well mixed, and immediately pour into a baking sheet (one with high sides). Spread it a little bit. . .

And enjoy one of my favorite parts, the spoon! My sister, Raychel, and I would take turns getting the spoon when my mom was making multiple batches in a day. The little strings of sugar are the best part! Yummy sugar strings happen when the brittle starts to cool and sticks to one thing (generally the pot) and you pull it away. Yum!

Here is the brittle when it's still really hot. It's slightly lighter in color than when it sets.

And hours later when it was completely set (it shouldn't take more than 20-30 minutes to completely cool and harden, but I had to go to a class right after pouring it).

I used my hands to break it up. So crunchy and sticky!

All broken up.

My awesome new Christmas shirt and me with the spoon, now kind of a lollipop because it hardened as well.

Bag up the big pieces and store in the freezer until you can share with friends (or eat it for breakfast :P ).

Leave the smaller pieces in the pan for snacking on--every time you go in the kitchen.

To clean the spoon, pot, and cookie sheet, simply soak in hot water and the sugar will melt and dissolve for easy cleaning.

Enjoy my momma's recipe!