Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Where I Lived..on Broadway

I am linking up with #Where I Lived Wednesday over at Ann's

I grew up on Broadway. Not the very "famous bright lights of Broadway" but a far less traveled Broadway located in a small Midwestern Iowa town.  History books note that my street was the place to live in the 20's and 30's. My  Broadway is about a mile long. The homes on the lower end of the street are huge mansions, many with turrets and  stained glass windows. The street eventually winds up a hill where four generations of my family would live.
The story all really begins in Germany. My great grandmother, Julia, and her brothers were orphaned as youngsters and left with an Uncle who was neglectful and cruel to his new charges. One brother joined the military when he became of age and the other, Johan,  immigrated to Iowa. He felt the Mississippi River in Iowa and the farming community best reminded him of his homeland in Freckenfeld, Germany.  When my grandmother turned sixteen, Johan returned to Germany to bring  Julia back to Iowa.  He bought a house for them on Broadway and subsequently gave it to her when he married and moved to a farm. Julia married raised four children, including my grandfather in that house.   My grandfather and Grandmother  would eventually inherit the home and raise my father in this house.     
My father loved Broadway and I can't imagine him ever moving from Iowa.  It is no surprise that when he married my mother they would buy a home two houses up the hill from my grandparents.
This was a huge win for my siblings and I. We had a vast woods behind our house where we roamed for hours, made camps and hunted for wild asparagus and berries. But the very best part was being able to run down to my grandparents house.
I called my grandmother Dr. Nonna, probably because she spent so much time doctoring me up from 
poison ivy and other minor scrapes I got from playing in the woods.  She made me my favorite bean soup.  No matter what she was doing, she would put it aside to play with me.  Dr. Nonna made all of us feel cherished and loved. 
We had an array of odd neighbors on Broadway.  An older couple across the street  screamed at us if we as much as stepped on their grass. Sometimes just using their sidewalk made them completely lose their marbles.  Since they obviously hated us, or children in general, we would avoid their house at Halloween.  That and the fact that their treat was always one unshelled walnut.  Ironically, if we didn't show up she would call our mother and ask why.  And our mother would make us walk over to collect our nut. And say a genuine thank you for it.
I grew up and moved away, so excited to get out of the Midwest and a tiny town to boot.  (Though to my own surprise I would yearn to eventually return.). My father passed away and my mother sold our childhood home.  My brother moved into the house that Johan bought for his sister Julia almost a hundred years ago and resides there to this day.
The generational history of living on Broadway makes driving down through my old neighborhood today an emotional experience.  I loved living so close to my grandparents and that is why I loved living on Broadway.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Experimenting with Caramels

I wanted to make some caramels, which are pretty easy to make as long as you have a good candy thermometer and the time and patience to stand over them.   A few tips I've learned is that you have to stir your ingredients constantly until the sugar is desolved and the liquid boils.  Then back off and let it boil without stirring at all until it reaches your desired temp.
 I made caramel from scratch the first time at a cooking school in Chicago when we made croquembouche.  We were taught to gently swirl the mixture over the flame from the gas stove.  So I have used that technique ever since and I feel it is an awesome way to get the heat evenly distributed rather than having the pan just sit directly on the flame. Plus I like to keep my hands moving and not just stand and stare at a pot.   I feel like it takes forever and ever (which in reality is like fifteen minutes) to get to the soft ball stage and then at a blink of an eye the temp soars upward quickly.  In a matter of a minute or two and just a couple of degrees north of the temp your aiming for, you have a different product on your hands.  Still edible, but not the caramel consistency you wanted.
I wanted to do something different with my caramels and my main focus was to try and make them using honey instead of icky corn syrup.  Honey has a different crystallization process  so I knew I would have to make some alterations to the ingredients I used and maybe cook it past the soft ball stage a few degrees.  Plus I wanted to add a hint of orange which was tricky because I am at my daughters home and she doesn't have a grater.  I improvised,  mangled an orange and made a mess but got a good tablespoon of grated orange rind to add to my syrup.
I put some tiny flakes of sea salt on half the pan because I love sea salted caramels but was unsure how the salt would be with honey and orange.
The result is my Honey Orange Caramels and I am really pleased with them.  I  taste both the honey in them as well as a hint of delicious orange.  I know they consist of a ton of sugar but I am thrilled I got to use honey.  Now they are healthy caramels.  Laugh. Laugh.
  I had so much fun making them and am already planning my new baking project.
Krystal Lynn

Monday, January 20, 2014

Back to the Blog

After a brief hiatus I am trying to write again.  I never stopped reading books and blogs because reading is by far my favorite activity.  But I wrote very little and gave myself some time to experiment with some other fun activities.
Over the past year I baked up a storm and tried a ton of new recipes, traveled cross country by car, traveled halfway across the world with a 8 pound backpack, got stranded on a tropical island in the South Pacific in a monsoon, hiked in the desert, visited the Grand Canyon for the first time, started a workout program with weights (that I now love),  attended a Ball and danced the night away AND our family gained a beautiful little boy (who is our fifth grandchild) named Oliver.
My daughter in law had to be hospitalized with complications as her water broke at 30 weeks. They staved off labor for a few weeks and Oliver was born teeny tiny but super healthy for a premie. We feel very grateful and blessed to have momma healthy and lil Oliver thriving.
My husband and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary too a few weeks ago. I am really so blessed to have him in my corner...we have had much joy through the years and yes, a few challenges and sad occasions too, but we do it all together.  
Until next time....Krystal Lynn