Sep 28

The Cup of Truth: A Life Lesson From Caramel Corn

by Hannah Holt »


caramel corn

Caramel corn is one of our favorite fall snacks. It’s crunchy and oh so delicious! It’s easy to make, too, as long as you have a Cup of Truth nearby.

What’s a Cup of Truth?

It’s simple. I keep a cup of ice water on the counter next to my caramel pot. When I think the caramel is finished I take a small spoonful of syrup and drop it into the ice water (aka: Cup of Truth). The water cools the molten caramel quickly, so I can test to see if it’s reached the perfect hardness.

Removing the caramel from the heat too soon turns it into a sticky mess. This type of caramel corn will dislodge dental fillings!

Removing the caramel too late will burn it. YUCK.

There’s a small window of caramel perfection. Hence the need for a Cup of Truth.

cup of truth

My kids all hang out around the Cup-o-Truth because they like sneaking cool bits of caramel before the full batch is ready. While they linger for sweet snitches, I talk to them about feelings and stuff. I say, feelings can be like a pot of boiling caramel.

Sometimes someone does something so mean it makes you bubble with rage. You might even want to spill your thoughts right then and there.

But friendships can been ruined unnecessarily that way…and dental fillings, too.

How do you know if feelings are truth or just heat-of-the-moment steam?

Put them in the Cup of Truth.

  • take a breath
  • take a walk
  • sleep on it
  • put it on ice

Once feelings have cooled, it’s easier to see what (if anything) needs to be discussed. Then you can speak with confidence, knowing the words will be the right words. (And not a sticky mess.)

Okay, now who’s hungry?

Carmel Popcorn

1 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

5 quarts popped popcorn

  1. Melt butter in a thick bottomed pot on low heat.

  2. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and salt to the pot. Then increase the heat to medium and stir until boiling.

  3. Boil for about four minutes without stirring. The caramel will resemble the color of a brown paper bag when finished. Check for hard crack readiness by spooning small amounts into a cup of ice water. The caramel should be crunchy (not squishy).

  4. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and soda. Mix well.

  5. Use a spoon to drizzle the popcorn with the hot caramel. Stir the popcorn with a spoon every few minutes until completely cool. This will keep it from clumping together.

  6. Enjoy!

Oct 28

Apple Recipe Round Up

by Hannah Holt »

one comment

I keep buying huge crates of apples. I can’t help it. They are super cheap this time of year and absolutely delicious! How can I resist?

Well, I’ve processed over one hundred pounds of apples over the last few weeks. I’d like to share some of my favorite recipes!

1. Apples chips

Apple Chips

What you need:

-apples (we used Jonagold, but I bet any baking apple would do)
-a cookie sheet
-cooking spray or parchment paper
-a sharp cutting knife

Directions: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. De-stem and core the apples. Slices them about the width of a quarter. (You can cut them thicker but it’ll take more time to dry that way.) Lay them in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Place them in the preheated oven for 4-6 hours, or until dry and crisp.

Tip: don’t have 4-6 hours to hang around the house while they dry? Cook them for 2-3 hours during an evening and then turn the heat off and let them rest in the oven over night. If they aren’t quite dry in the morning, cook them for another hour of so.

2. Slow-Cooker Applesauce

Crock Pot Apple Sauce

What you need:

-apples (we used Jonagold, but a mix of baking apples would be delicious)
-a slow cooker
-a sharp cutting knife

Directions: Peal the apples, core them, and slice them into pieces. (Some people prefer to leave the skin on…that’s fine, but I recommend at least removing the cores and stems. Because unless you have a Victorio Strainer you will have a lot of “texture” in your apples sauce. Crunch, crunch). Cook the apples on low for 8-10 hours. You might want to stir them occasionally the last few hours to keep them from sticking, but that’s pretty much it. The apples will be so soft that you can stir them into a mush pretty easily. Add cinnamon for more YUM!

I’ve used up most of my apples on the healthier fare above, but no apple post would be complete without diving into dessert!

Here’s a round up of some of our favorite apples desserts…

These cinnamon apple rings look divine.

You can’t go wrong with apple crumb cake.

If the words easy apple cream cheese pastry sound good, try this recipe.

Of course, apple pie has to make the list! Here’s a great crust recipe. And here’s for the pie filling.

As the German’s say, “Mahl zeit!”

Jun 08

Cupcake Trains (and Atom Packing)

by Hannah Holt »


***First off, I have two giveaways on my Facebook Page this week. I’ll be doing the drawings later today, so be sure to enter soon.***

Now, here’s how to make a train out of cupcakes:

Train cupcakes

I mixed a little extra powdered sugar into my butter cream frosting to stiffen it up. But even so, some of the frosting dripped between the cupcakes. I could have packed the cupcakes more tightly, but then I wouldn’t have had the train shape I wanted, which got me thinking…

What can cupcakes teach us about organic chemistry?

Well, quite a lot, but I was thinking about atom packing. In the above, I packed my cakes together more or less like this:

loose packing

You can see the gaps between the cupcakes are fairly large, but I get nice straight lines and a rectangular shape. I could have packed them much closer together like this:

tight packing

Here you see the gaps are smaller. I probably wouldn’t get any frosting drips between these cakes, but it has the wrong shape. This might be perfect for something like a flower or clown face.

So what does this have to do with chemistry? Well, let’s consider two items with the same chemical make up: diamond and graphite.

diamond and graphite

How can two items, both made completely of carbon, have such different properties? The secret is in the packing.

Graphite has a lot more gaps (or frosting drips) in it’s structure. Its layers are bonded together loosely, so it will flake and rub off.

Diamond, on the other hand, is made entirely of strong bonds. So while graphite is good for sketching, diamond would be better suited for etching. Different “packings” will result in materials with different uses, just like my cupcake arrangements.

This isn’t a perfect analogy because I’m comparing a two-dimensional model (cupcake packing) to a three-dimensional one (crystalline structure). But the principle is the same, and I thought this might be a fun example for young children. Older kids could do something cooler, like hot-gluing ping-pong balls together:

{Image from the Purdue University Chemistry department website.}

Science is everywhere. :)



May 27

Army Man Snack

by Hannah Holt »


I was grocery shopping the other day…

grocery shopping

…and it dawned on me, Do you know what Colby-Jack cheese looks like? It looks like army fatigues.

I don’t normally buy sliced cheese (because how hard is it to slice cheese, really?), but I was in a lazy mood. So I bought a package of pre-sliced Cobly-Jack cheese.

And then I was feeling so rested from not slicing all that cheese that I cut it up into an army dude (just add grapes).

Army Man snack

Perhaps, I should have been working on a freelance project, or vacuuming, or making dinner. But sometimes it’s just more fun to cut cheese into people.

For those of you in the States, Happy Memorial Day!


May 08

DIY Microwave Popcorn

by Hannah Holt »


You don’t need a popcorn machine or expensive prepackaged bags to make popcorn at home. All you need are popcorn kernels (I buy them in bulk for super cheap) and a paper lunch bag.

diy microwave popcorn

It’s soooo easy. Just take a handful of kernels (about 1/4 a cup) and pour them into the bag. Fold the top of the bag three or four times and cook them in the microwave until the pops are one second apart. The “popping time” will vary depending on your microwave’s power. For my microwave 1 min and 30 seconds is the perfect time. DO NOT USE THE POPCORN BUTTON.

Other options:

Lightly Buttered Popcorn: Before placing the bag in the microwave, drop a pat of butter into the bag with the kernels. Most of the butter will end up on the bag, but the popcorn will have a buttery aura. Yum!

butter butter bag

Caramel Corn: Melt 2 Tbs of butter and mix in 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Chill the mixture in the fridge until it’s solid (about 30 minutes). Place this with the kernels in the bag and pop for slightly less than the above method. For my microwave this is about 1 minute and 15 seconds. Some kernels will be left unpopped, but if you do it for the full length of time the caramel will burn. If it burns, it will taste very, very bad. When in doubt, under cook it.

Why DIY popcorn?

Making your own microwave popcorn is cheap and easy. Also most prepackaged microwave popcorns contain TBHQ (or a similar preservative). In small doses TBHQ has no observable side effects, but in larger doses it is linked to stomach tumors and all sorts of other nasty stuff.

Will eating a bag of store bought popcorn give you stomach cancer? Probably not. But these added ingredients have no nutritional value and making your own microwave popcorn isn’t any more difficult than throwing a store bought bag in the microwave. So why not skip the mystery ingredients all together?

Happy snacking!