Visiting the in-laws and accommodating diverse dietary needs

We drove last week to visit sunny Cranbrook, BC and stay with my in-laws for the Easter long weekend. Unlike our hometown, which was covered in a foot of slushy snow when we left, the ground there was already thawed and I could see bight green lilac buds out of the kitchen window.

My mother-in-law is trying to avoid many foods to control some health issues. Any shared food should be vegan (Mrs. Minty’s needs), gluten-free, and without nightshades (tomato, pepper, eggplant), chocolate, or citrus (for MIL). Some things will have to be separated, as my in-laws need meat at least once a day while we still need protein, so for one dinner we had Shish Kebabs, allowing each person to pick only the foods that keep them happy and healthy.

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Veggie shish kebabs

I pressed some firm tofu and marinated it in a dijon mustard, herb, and wine vinegar mix. Everyone could choose from mushrooms, sweet potato cubes, pineapple, onion, or zucchini.

For dessert, we some homemade sweets.

My MIL has the sweet philosophy of “my kitchen is your kitchen,” so while she was at work and her husband and Mrs. Minty were running errands I made fudge. This is sometimes called Maple Fudge, but has no maple. It is made from (coconut) cream and brown sugar, plus a few other things. The hard part is waiting an hour and a half for the cooked sugar to cool before beating it. In the meantime, your whole house will smell heavenly!!

The fudge isn’t healthy, but I think it’s fine to eat anything in moderation. It isn’t exactly inexpensive, either… a batch will cost about $5 for supplies, including the walnuts. However, it’s WAY cheaper than stuff you buy at a candy store, and darn impressive!

Brown Sugar Fudge (“Caramel Cream Fudge” from the original Joy of Cooking):

Note: you WILL need a candy (not meat) thermometer, which is big and glass and can be found in most grocery stores. You SHOULD use a stand mixer for step #8, unless you want Popeye arms.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 corn syrup (the easiest way to measure is to put your pot on a scale and measure 80g of corn syrup into it)
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 2 Tbsp margarine
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (vanilla extract is OK, too)
  • 1/4-1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Combine both sugars, syrup, salt, and milk in a large heavy saucepan.

2. Heat on med-hi, stirring, until it comes to a boil.

3. Cover and cook 2-3 minutes.

4. Remove lid, clip on a candy thermometer and turn heat to medium (or med-lo if you have cheap, thin pots).

5. Cook WITHOUT stirring until the thermometer reads AT LEAST 234 Farenhiet . Try to catch it at no more than 240F, as if it gets hotter the resulting fuge will be more brittle and grainy.

This cooking step can seem to take forever. Just wait. Don’t stir it or you might start sugar crystallization, resulting in poor quality fuge. This is the point where you will be happy you used a big pot so that the boiling sugar doesn’t splatter all over you and the stove.

6. Meanwhile, put the margarine in the bottom of the bowl for your stand mixer.

7. Once the fugdey syrup is the right temperature, pour it into your mixing bowl on top of the butter. STILL DON’T STIR!!! Allow it to cool until it is no more than lukewarm (at least 1 hour, maybe 2).

8. Add the vanilla and stir. I use the paddle attachment of the Kitchen-Aid and lock in the bowl, and mix on high speed. If you try to use one of those hand-held mixers, you will probably burn out its motor. I have successfully stirred fudge by hand with a wooden spoon. It was not fun.

9. Keep on stirring until you suspect that your fudge is a failure. Keep on stirring. Suddenly it will no longer be shiny, but instead be a nice opaque tan colour.

No longer shiny.

No longer shiny.

10. Joy of Cooking recommends stirring in 1 cup of walnuts at this point. One of my relatives dislikes walnuts, so I did not. Put your fuge into a pan that has been liberally greased and lined with parchment paper. It’s OK if the fudge doesn’t meet the edges of the pan.

11. I added walnuts on top of half of the fudge and pressed them in.

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Waiting for it to firm up!

12. Allow to set for an hour and cut into small squares. People say it can last a week tightly sealed, but no fudge has ever lasted that long in our home.

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