Mochas, Flowers, and Chocolate..a Perfect Gift!

Here’s a quick idea for a fun friend gift… I dropped this off at a friend’s house to celebrate the end of school (she’s a teacher). It would be a great hostess gift if you’re headed to a 4th of July celebration, too.061716_0006_MochasFlowe1.jpg

A bonus to this plan is that the mochas come in a four-pack, yet you only need two…someone has to drink those two extras so you can use the bottles.  I washed the empty bottles, after removing the labels by filling the bottles with hot water to loosen the adhesive. Then they peeled right off and I used Goo Gone to remove the residue. After the bottles dried, I embellished with washi tape and filled one with M&M’s. 061716_0006_MochasFlowe2.jpg

I had some daisies and Queen Anne’s lace growing out front, so I just snipped them and added them, with a little cool water and flower preserver, to the remaining bottle.061716_0006_MochasFlowe3.jpg 061716_0006_MochasFlowe4.jpg 061716_0006_MochasFlowe5.jpg

Ta-da…gift finished!

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Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle

One of my favorite holiday traditions is making candy: fudge, peanut brittle, peanut butter buckeyes, pralines, you name it. I’m not sure why I don’t make candy the rest of the year; it just seems like something I do in cold weather!

I saw some spiced pumpkin brittle in the Williams Sonoma fall catalog, and thought it sounded amazing. But I’m too cheap, er…thrifty, to order it, so decided I could make it myself. And you know what? The hubs and I like it better than traditional peanut brittle.

This recipe makes a tender but crunchy, flavor-packed brittle, and the spices leave just a hint of heat lingering on your tastebuds. I’m a total wimp about spice, so don’t think this will leave you gasping for relief. It’s a very subtle spice that remains.

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I procrastinated making this, since it’s always so rainy here in the fall. I’ve had homemade candy simply not work on humid days before, so was a bit concerned. But all for nought, as it turns out. I gave up waiting on the sun last weekend, and this turned out perfectly!

I found the original recipe on, ironically, the  Wisconsin Milk Marketing website. They suggested serving the brittle with a sharp Wisconsin cheddar, so the hubs and I tried it…the Milk Marketing people know what they’re talking about…a great combination of sweet and tangy, spicy and creamy.  Their recipe called for spiced pumpkin seeds, and I didn’t find those, so I added my own spice and used regular roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, which I found at the grocery store.

Spicy Pumpkin Seed Brittle

(adapted from Wisconsin Milk Marketing)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ancho chili powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) hulled salted roasted pumpkin seeds “pepitas”
    Optional: 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and/or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Cooking Directions:

Stir together baking soda and melted butter; set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray one side of the parchment with cooking spray or butter it.

Combine sugar, water and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan; stir it just to combine and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Without stirring, simmer syrup 10 to 12 minutes, until it reaches 240°F. With a wooden spoon, add pumpkin seeds and spices, as well as cayenne pepper, if desired.

Stirring very occasionally, cooke over medium heat until mixture turns amber brown and reaches 290°F. Remove from heat; stir in butter-baking soda mixture with wooden spoon. Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and quickly use the wooden spoon to spread it into a thin, even layer. Cool completely; crack brittle. Store the brittle between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Click here for the printable recipe

Some really important tips for success: DO NOT STIR the first syrup you make, and only stir after you add pumpkin seeds VERY SPARINGLY, just so the bottom doesn’t burn.  All that stirring makes the candy grainy. Or so my neighbor in New York told me. And she made some of the best homemade candy I’ve ever had! And, by all means, USE A WOODEN SPOON!

And have fun eating the fruits of your labor, of course! The brittle is so pretty, too, it makes a perfect hostess gift for the holidays when packaged in a cute tin, basket, or bag!

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