Posts tagged: candy

Help! I am Drowning in Candy!!!

By , November 3, 2009 6:20 pm

A few more Halloween candy ideas:

  • Send it to troops overseas for them to pass out to local children.  For more info, go to the Operation Gratitude website, but basically just send your candy (plus an optional but very welcome $11 to cover the cost of shipping overseas) before December 8th to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, California 91406
ATTN: Charlie Othold

You can also send it anytime to Operation Shoebox at this address:

Operation Shoebox
8360 E Highway 25
Belleview, FL 34420

(Keep in mind that soft or chocolate candy might not travel so well, especially to a hot climate.)

  • Find a local dentist who is participating in a Halloween Candy Buyback program.  Participating dentists give your kids $1/pound of candy and then they send it to troops overseas!  Go to the Halloween Candy Buyback website to do a zipcode search for participating dentists in your area. Consider encouraging your children to donate their dollars to a charity that interests them.
  • Some food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters accept candy.  Be sure to call first to find out if yours wants it.
  • Buy inexpensive cellophane party favor bags and make pretty little candy packages.  Tie the top with a scrap of ribbon or yarn and donate them to your local charitable thrift store for them to sell.  Great stocking stuffers for someone!
  • Of course you can always do a Candy Bank too, and then use one of these ideas as the final destination for your traded candy!

Homemade – Not So Perfect Taffy (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , June 8, 2009 12:03 pm

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was homemade.

My children had been asking me recently about saltwater taffy, wanting to know what it was.  I decided we should try to make some homemade taffy and have a taffy pull!

Well, as the title of my post suggests, this was not a tremendous success, but I am not giving up!  I think I know what went wrong and am planning on trying again one of these days, so stay tuned for the post: “Taffy Part 2 – Perfect Taffy!”

I found a basic taffy recipe here, at this wonderful website:  Science of Cooking.  The recipe is under the category, Science of Candy.

The ingredients are sugar, cornstarch, butter, salt, light corn syrup, water, and optionally: flavoring (we used vanilla extract) and food coloring.  The recipe also gives the option of adding glycerin which will make it softer and creamier, but we left that out.

First we mixed together the sugar and cornstarch.

Next we stirred in the corn syrup, water, salt, and butter.

The whole mixture goes on medium heat.  Constant stirring is required until the sugar dissolves, then continue stirring until the mixture boils.  This step takes a while and the children grew a bit impatient, but from previous candy making experience, I know it is important to leave it on medium heat and not “cheat” by raising the temperature of the stove to hurry things along.

Once it boils, add a candy thermometer and stop stirring.

Why must you stop stirring? Here’s part of the science of this process:

“At this point, you have dissolved the crystal structure of the sugar. Stirring or other agitation is one of the many factors that can encourage the fructose and glucose molecules in your syrup to rejoin and form sucrose—crystals of table sugar.”

While the mixture boils, it is important to wash down the sides of the pan with warm water and a pastry brush.  This prevents any crystallization on the side of the pan from falling back into the mixture and becoming a seed crystal which could also cause unwanted recrystallization of the sugar mixture.

OUR ERROR NUMBER 1: On the first attempt we forgot to wash down the sides of the pan which probably contributed to our rock hard result!

The recipe says to allow the mixture to heat to a temperature of 270 degrees Farenheit (the “soft-crack” stage). At this point you will notice that the bubbles are smaller, thicker and closer together. Here is what it looks like:

At this point quickly stir in your flavor and color should you choose to add any, then dump the very hot liquid onto a greased cookie sheet, or marble slab.  I just buttered our granite countertop and that worked nicely.  Warn the children that it is VERY HOT.

Have the children butter their hands (they loved this step), and when it is cool enough to handle, begin the pulling process.  Have the children stretch it between them (warning – DO NOT DO THIS ABOVE A DOG.  Our dog jumped up and bit some off!).

Once it is stretched, then they should fold it in half (like folding a sheet), turn it and stretch again.

Here is where it all began to go wrong for us on our second taffy attempt.  Normally the taffy should become harder and harder to pull, but keep on going until it is “light in color and has a satiny gloss” (about 10 to 20 minutes according to the recipe).  Ours got stiff and nearly rock hard in less than 5 minutes.

RESULT NUMBER 1 – An interesting geological specimen:

RESULT NUMBER 2 – A little softer, but still capable of killing an intruder with a single blow:

Oh well. At least it tasted good (like butterscotch!).

Here is where I’ll stop my narrative since we got no farther.  The recipe continues on to explain how to cut it into pieces and wrap it (we would have needed a power saw).

OUR ERROR NUMBER 2: On the first try, we heated to 270 degrees, but it took me a minute or two to get the food coloring and flavor in there, so it might have gone a bit above (the temperature rises very quickly when it gets that hot).  Result:  Rock hard lump, like a giant hard candy rock!

On the second try, I only heated to 260 degrees and worked much more quickly with the color and flavor.  Result:  Pliable at first (we thought it was going to work), but as the kids pulled, it got harder and harder until it was unworkable and was only slightly softer than the first try – still a hard lump.

My realization:  We live at an elevation of about 8,000 feet above sea level.  I had not taken this into consideration when determining the temperature at which to stop the cooking!  In order to avoid over-cooking, we probably need to heat to only about 240 degrees.

WHAT WE LEARNED: Altitude affects cooking time because water boils at a lower temperature here than it does at sea level (due to lower air pressure up high).  Pasta always takes about 3 minutes longer to cook here than the maximum time given on the box. The candy was boiling earlier (at a lower temperature) so it boiled much longer than it should have by the time it reached 270 degrees.  The molecular change was farther advanced at that temperature than it would have been at sea level, making for harder candy (more like “hard-crack”).  Any other high altitude cooks out there might be interested in this link that I discovered about adjusting candy temperatures for altitude: Candy Making Tips (scroll down to the very last paragraph for the high-altitude conversion).

As I said before, I want to try this again and I think we’ll have better luck.  I’ll be sure to post a photo of our “perfect taffy!”


Did you do a homemade Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then please put a link to your post in the Mr. Linky below.  You had also better leave one in a comment too, since Mr. Linky has been acting up lately.  If you did not do a homemade project, then please do not link, but read more here about how to join in.  We’d love to have you!

Next week’s Unplugged Project theme will be:




The Candy Bank

By , December 5, 2007 1:19 pm



This is our “Candy Bank,” it is our extension of the Halloween “Candy Fairy” concept. Every time the kids go to a birthday party and come home with a bunch of candy and junky toys, they can choose to put them in “The Candy Bank.” When the jar is full, I give them $10.00 to donate to a charity of their choice.

My original plan had been to buy them each a small gift when the jar was full, but before I was able to suggest the gift idea, my daughter said she wanted to use the Candy Bank as a way to collect money for charity. My son was enthusiastic about the charity idea too, so that is what we are doing with our Candy Bank!

They were so excited, that after putting in their candy, they asked if toys could go in too.

“Of course!!!” I said, hardly believing my good fortune!

They rushed off to collect bits and pieces and, in under ten minutes, they had the jar completely filled. At $10.00 per jar this could get expensive, but for a good cause, I don’t mind. I didn’t realize that it would be filled so quickly, but I am so grateful for their enthusiasm.

We had a very interesting dinnertime conversation that night about some different charities and what they do. My daughter apparently still remembers seeing the Smile Train website over a year ago, because she asked me about the charity that fixes children’s mouths.

The two junior philanthropists have decided to donate the first batch of Candy Bank money to Heifer International, since my daughter is trying to earn money for her class to buy animals and seedlings from Heifer International to donate to a village in Africa. After the class places the Heifer order, then the kids want to donate to Smile Train.

Honestly, I am blown away by this whole concept that we have stumbled upon, and especially by the children’s excitement.

What a win-win:

+ The kids develop a sense of altruism and learn to enjoy helping others.

+ They also learn about saving up for something, a notion that we can extend to actual money later on.

+ Of course you won’t be surprised to hear how thrilled I am to eliminate candy and a bit of clutter from the house!

+ We have a few little toys to donate to a local charity thrift store.

+ I am also hoping to teach cooperation. Since we have only one jar and one sum of money, the two children must fill the jar together, and then together, come up with a plan for the money.

On a side note, a few days after the Candy Bank discussion, my daughter asked me if for Christmas she could get a book about different charities that exist and what each of them does. I definitely want to encourage this spirit of generosity as much as I can, so I immediately went onto Amazon and found this one which I have ordered (2016 update – still available but only used, worth it though!):

If we like it, I’ll write a review after Christmas.

What the Candy Fairy Brought

By , November 3, 2007 12:42 pm

OK, so it wasn’t the Candy Fairy exactly, it was Mom. I didn’t think that at ages 5 and 7 they would suddenly start to believe in a Candy Fairy, so I simply said:

“How would you like to trade in your Halloween candy for a toy?”

My daughter said: “Can I trade it all in for a fish?”

My son said: “Can I trade it all in for a transformer?”

I said: “Sure.”

So we did. It was that easy! Honestly, I was anticipating more resistance to the idea. I guess I was lucky.

The fish was OK with me as long as my daughter agreed to take care of it herself. The transformer was not my idea of the perfect toy, but ever since my son played with one at a friend’s house, he has desperately wanted one. I scoured Amazon for the least violent transformer that I could find and finally settled on a Star Wars space ship that he seems to love.

They actually didn’t get much candy this year, so I may be the loser in this particular deal. At least they traded willing though. And they also agreed to the idea of a Candy Bank where all party candy will be put to be traded in for something when enough has been accumulated. Hooray!

The Great Candy Dilemma

By , October 1, 2007 8:10 pm

Fall is here which means that Halloween is coming. My heart sinks when I think of all the candy my kids will receive, and of course want to eat.

Until now, I have always taken the wimpy way out. My Method One is to allow them to eat one or two pieces a day. Eventually they lose interest in it, at which point I whisk it away and hide it at the back of a high kitchen cupboard. If no one mentions the candy for a few weeks, then into the trash it goes.

My Method Two is to throw away one or two pieces of candy a day so as to make it disappear more rapidly. The most effective approach used to be a combination of Methods One and Two.

But as the kids get older, they seem to remember the existence of the candy for a longer period of time each year, which makes Method One increasingly more difficult to carry out successfully. They also now have a complete mental inventory of every piece of candy in their bag, so Method Two no longer works at all. This year it is clearly time for me to reconsider the Great Candy Dilemma.

MC Milker, the Not Quite Crunchy Parent, wrote a great post the other day about The Candy Fairy. The solution she proposes and has actually used successfully is, in my mind, PURE GENIUS. If there can be a Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, why couldn’t there be a Candy Fairy? Children leave their Halloween candy on the doorstep at night and in the morning the candy is gone, but a small gift is there in its place. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that when my children were younger?

The Candy Fairy can come at Easter too. And why not after birthday parties where candy has been a bit too generously doled out?

According to MC Milker, it is advisable to start talking up The Candy Fairy well in advance of the holiday. For example, starting now for a Halloween Candy Fairy visit insures that the brain washing is fully in place by October 31st. Plus, there are complicated logistics and negotiations that must be handled. When does The Candy Fairy come exactly? How much candy does she expect to receive? I am obviously a novice when it comes to all this. For more expert advice, you should really read MC’s post.

The only problem I can foresee in my own situation is how to explain the sudden arrival on the scene of The Candy Fairy to my 5 and 7 year-old who are regular customers of Santa and The Tooth Fairy, but who have never ever heard of The Candy Fairy. I just don’t think they would buy into the fantasy.

After mulling it all over, I have come up with my own “Mom” variation of The Candy Fairy:

This Halloween I will offer a choice. They can keep their candy, or they can cash it in for a surprise from me. I expect that they will opt for the latter. To make it fun we’ll leave the candy outside the front door which is where they will find their surprise the next morning. I think that this idea has great potential. I’ll report back after Halloween.

Now that I think of it, if this works, perhaps we could start a kind of “candy savings account” where all birthday party candy, Valentine’s candy etc. can be accumulated until there is enough for The Candy Fairy to take in exchange for a gift.

Wouldn’t this encourage saving and spending in addition to making the dentist happy?

Thank you for sharing this exciting idea MC! You may well have changed my life…perhaps I am being a tad dramatic…but I think you have resolved my Great Candy Dilemma for another few years at least!

Thanks to and photographer dieraecherin for the candy photo.

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