This blog started mostly based on my habit of baking when I was feeling down, and more than a couple of people expressed concern that my baking might go down hill if things ever started going right in my life.
Tonight, I was afraid that might be true. This has been one of the happiest weeks I’ve had in a long time, and also for the first time in a long time I screwed up making caramel. I was dancing around the kitchen (I’ve done a lot of dancing tonight) and took my eyes away from the caramel for just a couple seconds, but it was enough to make a difference. I thought at first that it was ruined, and I was legitimately worried that I had lost my mojo. But, I rallied, the caramel wasn’t beyond saving, and my homemade cracker jack turned out alright after all. So did the ginger snaps I made immediately following the caramel incident to make sure I still had it. Turns out my happy feelings are at least just as good as my sad feelings!
Things have been looking up for me lately.
Most of that has to do with the fact that my little sister — out of the country for 11 months — is finally home!
I’ve spent most of the week anticipating her return, and it has definitely lived up to my expectations. All 4 of us – my brother, me, and my parents – went together to the airport late last night to meet her plane. Although we’ve spent the last year emailing, video chatting and keeping up with each other through our blogs (check out her great account of teaching English in South Korea here) there is just nothing like face to face conversation. I was almost seven when she was born, and I remember being annoyed that I got a baby sister instead of a brother (I wanted to be the only girl), but man am I happy that I got a sister. I don’t want to get too sappy here, but there’s just something about having a sister. She’s only been home for less than 24 hours, but it took us about 2 seconds to fall into our normal, comfortable sisterly routine. This morning, we were sitting on the couch in our pajamas, drinking coffee, talking about nothing, and I thought, “This. This right here is what I’ve been missing.”
Having my sister home is great, being here with my entire family is great, having almost a whole week off work is glorious, and it just feels so nice to be happy.
Here is me being happy while wearing my new South Korean clothes, drinking coffee, and doing a happy dance:
Also adding to my happiness is the fact that I went on a date last week and it actually went well!
You know what’s good to snack on while sitting around laughing with your family? Popcorn. And popcorn with caramel and peanuts is even better.
Homemade Cracker Jack
Adapted (sort of barely hardly at all) from Brown Eyed Baker
10 cups of popcorn (plain)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 Tbsp unsalted butter – melted
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup lightly salted peanuts
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Pop the popcorn. I always make mine on the stove top, but you can use an air popper or even microwave popcorn, but it shouldn’t have any butter or other flavoring on it. Place the popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let it simmer, stirring often, until it reaches 250 degrees F.
Turn off the heat and immediately whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. Pour it over the popcorn right away and use a rubber spatula to coat it evenly. Moving quickly (you don’t want the caramel to harden too fast) mix in the peanuts.
Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet (use two if you need to) and bake for an hour, stirring every twenty minutes.
Break into chunks if needed once it is done baking and serve immediately. It will also keep in an air tight container for a few days.