Friday, September 21, 2007

2 Hours in Heaven

On Wednesday afternoon I got on the shuttle from the All Candy Expo to go to the Airport for my flight home from Chicago. I was in such a bad mood by the time I got to the airport because their was so much traffic and the freak show guy behind me dropped a box on my head. I got out at the American Airlines terminal my mood got worse because the terminal was so crowded and the security line was a nightmare. I went to the self check in computer and I entered my confirmation number and waited for my flight information to pop up.......finally it came up and it said you are eligible for a first class upgrade. Are you kidding me I thought. I have never flown on American Airlines how did this happen? How did American Airlines know flying first class was one of my life goals? So I took the upgrade and headed right to the first class security line which I passed through in no time. I found my gate and waited for them to call for the early boarding of first class passengers and wished there was someone I knew on this flight to see me as I sat in my huge first class seat....but no not a single person I knew.
My chair was huge and reclined so far back. I had a big fluffy blanket. They passed out water and coffee before we took off. After we were in the air the flight attendent came to my row and said "hello Nicky I am your flight attendent and I hope I can help make your flight pleasant. Tonight we have cheese tortellini or chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner which can I prepare for you?" I picked the tortellini, wrapped myself up in the fluffy blanket, reclined my seat, turned on the ipod and this is the life. My flight attendant brought me a diet coke and warmed nuts in a white ramekin. Dinner was next and it was really good. It was so much fun.
We landed in Denver and I knew the fun was over. On the flight to slc I sat in the back of the plane next to two really strange guys who kept offering me cheddar flavored ritz crackers.....Yuck. Welcome back to reality. We landed in Salt Lake and my luggage, including the bag I filled with treats from the candy show, did not want to leave our first class flight either and it did not make the denver to slc flight. It finally showed up around 7pm the next day.

I Want Candy.......

I spent the past four days at the All Candy Expo held every year in one of my favorite cities...the windy city Chicago. One of the reasons I love Chicago is Michigan Avenue. As you walk down the street the city is filled with that great energy that is in every big city but somehow it is a little bit different. It seems to me that Chicago is the perfect combination of San Francisco and New York. I love it. Michigan Avenue has huge planter boxes on every block and they are always filled with the most amazing assortment of plants and flowers. I am telling you they are not just flower beds but works of art. This year they also had great exhibit called Gardens of the Magnificent Mile. They asked students from the Art Institute of Chicago and the International Institute of Design and Technology to create a display using a dress form and place it in or near the flower beds. They were all amazing and this was one of my favorites.

We would usually eat up near the river and then walk down Michigan Avenue to our hotel every night. On the way to the hotel we would stop at the Apple store to check our email and play with all of the amazing toys.

I go to the candy show with my coworkers Lyle and Steve and actually they are both really fun to travel with. I love eating in Chicago. The day we arrived in Chicago we spent 8 hours setting up the booth. That is a total record long time in setting up the booth. I swear we were the last exhibitors in the whole hall setting up. It sort of freaked me out a little bit. We were so hungry by the time we finished with the booth we took a cab to the hotel and then ran across the street to the Cheesecake Factory. Thanks goodness it was so late we did not have to wait for a table. I had Avocado Egg Rolls and my brand new all time favorite......Chicken Costeleta. Oh my gosh after not eating anything since 7 am this could not have been any tastier I loved it. We also ate at the Weber Grill where I ate a hamburger at the only place I will eat hamburger. The last night we ate at Roy's Restaurant (Hawiian Fusion) with the Sweets Candy Co sales manager. I had black pepper crusted salmon and an amazing pineapple upside down cake.

Our hotel was the Seneca hotel right next to the John Hancock Building. This is a photo on the Hancock Building NOT our hotel.

The room I stayed in was very vintage. It reminded me of the Prohibition days. There were all sorts of little hidden closets that I was thinking Jimmy Hoffa might be buried in. My room had a kitchenette and I had to use an actual key, not a swipper card, to get into my room.

It seemed like the room may have been apartments a long time ago....I almost expected Roxy Heart from the movie Chicago walking down the hall in a flapper dress. It was fun.
I have never stayed in a room with this many locks on it.

The candy show is a lot of fun. There are all sorts of exhibitors there. Most are mass market type of companies Hershey, Ghirardelli, Mars, Jelly Belly etc.

Ghirardelli was debuting new candy bars so they made these cute cupcakes with frosting infused with the flavors of their bars......whatever I just loved the cupcakes and the little clear plates they served them on.

Dale Earnheart Jr was at the candy show debuting his new candy bar the Big Mo bar.......whatever. You can see a bit of his head in this photo.......

Joseph Schmidt was at the All Candy Expo creating these amazing pieces of chocolate art.

My new love of the candy show is Oreo Cakesters and Dill Pickle seasoned Pringles.....oh my gosh I am in LOVE.

The best thing about this show is the candy room. They give you a little bag and off you go into the candy room to fill this bag all the way to the top. When you walk into the room the smell of sugary sweet candy is overpowering and they are playing candy related music....the candy man, spoonful of sugar, big rock candy mountain etc. The candy room is great. I went to the candy room 2 times and could have gone few times more but by this time the extra bag I brought for bringing back treats was overflowing and I had to make myself stop. I must remember to bring a bigger bag next year.

This is the candy I brought home.

I gave Thatcher this lollipop...I love it.

Hogle Zoo

Jake,Kaycie Riley and I met my friend April and her son Thatcher at Hogle Zoo last saturday morning. The weather was perfect. We saw the famous white alligator ....the ghost of the bayou, a baby monkey, bears, elephants and all of the usual zoo animals.

Riley and Thatcher loved standing in front of the water spewing metal elephant.

Thatcher was so much fun to experience the zoo with. He was so excited by every animal especially the caminals (camels). He made it so much fun for the rest of us. Thatcher is such a well mannered and thoughtful kid. He always says thank you and please and usually does exactly what his mom asks him to do. April is a single mom and has does such an amazing job with Thatcher. I really admire her, it would be a hard thing to do but she does it so well.

I was so relieved that Jake came to the zoo with us. He really took charge of taking care of Riley. He pushed the stroller for most of the day and ran all over the zoo with Riley. I am so glad he was there.

How Many Sticks of Butter???

On September 9th Jake, Kaycie met me and 5 sticks of butter at my mom and dads house for a new baking adventure. We baked Classic Crumb Cake from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook page 56. This was an easy recipe to divide the jobs up between Jake and Kaycie. Jake worked on the 3.5 sticks of butter crumb topping. This was a perfect job for Jake becuase he loves anything he can mix with his hands.

Kaycie came dressed as the baking diva she is and was in charge of mixing the cake batter using 1.5 sticks of butter.....bringing the total up to 5 sticks of butter in this cake. How can it not turn out great with that much butter?

Kaycie and the completed cake.

Jake also whipped up some fresh cream to put on the top of this delicious cake......just what this crumb cake needs....more calories.

On the other side of town...................

Aunt Glenda was making batches and batches of her famous salsa with Morgan. Christy and Tiffany were also there offering their assistance.

Heather was having a slight melt down because of the bathroom wall she was painting red. I stopped in to check out the wall, which looked fantastic by the way, and chatted with Isabell for a little while..

And my mom was busy giving all of the dogs their fall makeovers.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Huge Baking Failure........

Last weekend I planned a stay at home, get caught up on random projects, list stuff on ebay and cross a recipe off the Martha Baking list kind of weekend. So I stopped at Hollywood Video and got the last season of the Sopranos (part one) and the movie Zodiac then went to the grocery store and purchased around $20 in nuts. I began baking the Caramel Nut Bars in the Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook page 119 around 11:00 pm. For this recipe the crust is baked and then the carmel nut topping is placed on top and then baked about 15 minutes longer.
All was going well....the crust is made and cooling on a rack and the nuts have been toasted and also cooling when I began making the caramel.

Lets just keep in mind this was my first candy making adventure....yes i know a strange little fact considering my place of employment. I went to my Williams Sonoma bag and pulled out my band new candy thermometer. I put all of the ingredients (sugar, cream of tarter and later all of the toasted nuts) in my All Clad soup pot and turned the heat all the way up and waited and waited for the mixture to get to 300 degrees and turn golden brown. I kept waiting and it was just hovering around 200 to 250 degrees. After what seemed like forever the mixture started turning light brown then golden brown then dark brown and it started to smell like it was burnt but the brand new thermometer still read 250 degrees. What do I do? Should I keep cooking and wait for the thermomter to get to 300 degrees or stop, because the carmel is deep brown and my house is filling with smoke. I decided to stop and add the cream and butter and hope for the best.

I poured the caramel on the crust and finished baking the bars. When I tried the bars the next morning they in fact did taste like burned caramel....yummm. I am not sure why the caramel was such a nightmare...was the thermometer not calibrated properly, do I need to adjust the flame on my stove, is the recipe flawed, or is this a sign I should NOT be in the candy business??? Who knows maybe I will give caramel another shot sometime in the future. The weekend was not a total faliure I got a whole bunch of random projects finished and I loved the Sopranos and can not wait for the final season to come out on DVD.