Friday, October 5, 2012

Corn Free Dairy Free Vegan Caramel

There is something about fall that makes certain foods more appealing. You know what I'm talking about... all things apple and/or caramel.  But you throw in a food allergy like dairy or corn and literally half of the most tempting fall deserts are eliminated.  Caramel is by definition butter, sugar and milk.  When planning my daughter's early fall birthday party this year I was determined to figure this one out: a dairy free and corn (syrup) free caramel for caramel chocolate covered apples.

I started with this basic recipe.  The proportions seemed right and I would only need to attempt one major substitution.  When you are playing with specialty ingredients, it can get expensive so you want to do most of the guessing before you actually start.

Please read through instructions a couple times before attempting.  I promise after you make it once, it will all make perfect sense the next time!

  • 2 cups organic sugar
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup agave 
  • 1 cup earth balance or your normal butter substitute
Equipment required:
  • large pot, at least 6 quart
  • candy thermometer

Place all ingredients in you pot and clip your candy thermometer onto the side.  Warm over low to medium heat.  I hovered around a three or four.  Stir, stir, stir.  The liquid will boil at 212*F and stay at that temperature until the water has evaporated.  Eventually the mixture will begin to rise in temperature again and being to thicken.  Around 230* you will begin to see a significant change, this is about 30 minutes since you started.  The mixture will bubbly continuously.  Keep stirring.  When the mixture reaches 245* the resulting caramel will harden when cooled.  You can test this by spooning some onto a plate and placing it in the freezer for just a minute.  When you take it out it should be very hard, not runny at all.  At this point, you can either pour the hot caramel into a buttered baking pan (8 X 8) and let cool, or you can allow it to cool and thicken slightly in the pot 
and dip clean, dry organic apples into to caramel.

You can see in this picture how my caramel pooled around the base of the apple.  That is just because I am impatient and began dipping my apples in the very hot caramel.  The second tray came out much better!  

After allowing the caramel apples to harden (about 20 minutes) I dipped them again, only halfway this time, in chocolate (corn free and vegan enjoy life chips) mixed with a couple tablespoons of almond milk to thin it.  I then quickly dipped the apples in either chopped almonds (for the adults) or sprinkles (for the kids)!

so festive!

The apples were a huge hit.  It wasn't until later that I realized I served sugar (organic apples) covered in sugar (corn free dairy free caramel) dipped in more sugar (chocolate)!  Wow, maybe next time I'll just make the brownies... but even they are better with caramel! 

(If you want to keep the caramel in a liquid state to use as a sauce for brownies or ice cream or even in a hot fall beverage, heat only to 230*F and keep it in a glass jar with a tight lid and refrigerate.  Yum!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"I have a kitty..."

This little fuzzy girl showed up one afternoon on our doorstep... 

The random arrival of a kitten is by no means uncommon in the country but she is the first to wander 700 feet from the road up to this blue house. 

 And this little girl could not be happier!

My little one is now the only child at home while the others spend their days making new friends at school.  It can be lonely for her with only a mommy to play with.  Thank you little kitty for being our new friend (and giving mommy a break)!

Kitty has been around for a couple weeks now and sometimes she will exclaim with huge wide eyes at the most random times... "Mommy, I have a kitty..." Oh goodness, how she makes me smile!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Birthday Party for My Littlest Girl

Look who is three...

I know! I can hardly believe it.  For the first time in (what?) twelve years our family is out of diapers and sleeping through the night.  She insists on being called a kid, not a toddler or baby, follows me like a shadow and begins each and every sentence with "mommy?"  I love her so much!  What a fantastic reason for a celebration. Of course it is no secret that  I adore a well planned party.  My fingers crave unique homemade decorations and I tend to get a little worked up the days before, but it is always for the best cause, my family.  Plus I love a challenge.  

This year she voiced her first real birthday party request...OWLS.

Owls?  Really?  Well, okay...

When I picture owls I imagine woodlands. I think I crossed the line between normal party decorations and actually crazy this time when I pinned and taped tree limbs to my walls.  Sticks and branches  became trees and thirty balloons became owls.

A little bit whimsical...

A little bit magical...

 Well, at least it was only thirty balloons.  Last year it was 100...

I did some quick searching for "balloon owls" and came up with this for inspiration.  I wanted a truer owl.  Using a scalloped and circle punch I layered big wide eyes.  Simple half ovals became wings and triangles became beaks and ears.  (I assembled the shapes first then taped them onto the inflated balloons.)

aren't they so adorable...

A couple strings of my favorite bunting and a fun owl tree and our place was set. 

Oh and the entire menu was planned around this deli meat and cheese tray idea.  (Soups, chili, sandwiches, veggies and caramel and chocolate apples for dessert)  Achieved? Eh.. close enough.

So all in all this party cost me two pack of balloons, four sheets of scrapbook paper and adhesives.  Is it silly that I'm completely motivated to put together blog-worthy parties for a couple bucks?  Nah... Now I have yet another "theme" to add to my accomplished list.

And a couple more pics of my owl loving baby...


Come back on Friday for my recipe for chocolate caramel apples, made with vegan caramel and no corn syrup.  I am as surprised as you are that this one worked!  See you again soon, promise!

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