Sincerely, Stasia

Living and learning on a teacher's salary.

I’m back – And I made you guys candy! May 9, 2012

Filed under: Recipes — sincerelystasia @ 3:35 pm
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I know, where have I been? The past few months kinda got away from me. I’ve admittedly had way too much going on between work, grad school, and life in general being more than crazy. While it would have been a lot more fun to hide from my research papers and personal life by blogging, it wouldn’t exactly have been the most productive plan.

But, I’m back! Considering summer is my busiest time of year, I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting, but I’ll be around.

Shortly before I left you for my productive hiatus, I had attempted a recipe involving candy that turned into a complete and utter fiery disaster. You can read about my expert use of a fire extinguisher here. I decided to redeem myself and made my white chocolate macadamia nut toffee for Easter. To say this went better than the candied popcorn is thankfully a huge understatement. Below I included my step-by-step instructions, with pictures, so that you don’t end up with the inferno that was my oven on St. Patrick’s Day. However if you do, indeed, almost burn your kitchen down, I’d love to hear about it. And see pictures.

Straight to the point: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Toffee is amazing. It looks impressive and tastes like you slaved over it, but it’s really quite simple. Disclaimer: I don’t do food photography. These are “barely have time while I’m rushing around but managed to grab my iPhone” pictures. Maybe someday. You can also scroll down for the “super straight to the point” version, which is just the recipe.

First arrange a cake pan (I find that a standard 9-inch round pan works well for this recipe) with aluminum foil so it is covered on the bottom and at least halfway up the sides. I use two pieces, but be sure they are well placed so none of the mixture will seep through the seam. Butter the aluminum foil and sprinkle in a handful of white chocolate chips and roughly chopped hazelnuts. The amount and ratio really depend on your taste – It’s hard to overdo it.

In a sturdy pot, mix together a stick and a half of unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons of light corn syrup, and  3/4 cup of granulated sugar over low heat. It’s okay for it to be a sloppy mess like this…

because after stirring constantly (and when I say constantly throughout this recipe, I mean constantly. This mixture burns ultra fast if it sits for even a few seconds too long) for about a minute you’ll have a beautiful sauce that looks like this:

Turn the heat up to medium and continue to stir constantly, even as the “sauce” bubbles, because it goes from the smooth mixture above to the bubbly, frothy, gooey [technical term] mixture below within seconds. This is where there the danger of burning the toffee gets pretty high.

Now you need to keep a very, very close eye on the color of the mixture and be very aware of anything that smells even remotely like burning. If you smell just a hint of burning, get the toffee off the stove immediately. I’ve found that the perfect color for the toffee is what you see below – I originally had expected a darker color, but this lovely caramel color is how I can tell that I’m ready to rock and roll. If you wait for it to get any darker, it will burn.Trust me, the toffee will get darker on its own as it settles. It usually takes me anywhere between 12-15 minutes to get here.

Immediately pour the toffee into the prepared pie pan. Using approximately the same ratio as you did earlier, sprinkle more of the white chocolate chip/macadamia nut mixture on top so it looks like this:

From this point, it’s smooth sailing. I usually give the toffee an hour or two to set up before breaking it and sometimes make a second batch while the first is settling. When you’re ready, lift the toffee out by the aluminum foil. Flip it upside down and gently remove the foil – Some bits might get stuck and you may have some where the seam was, but you can chisel it away fairly easily. Then simply use your hands to break the pieces apart however you like. The pieces won’t be symmetrical or uniform, which is fine – they shouldn’t be. They just have to be delicious.

Super straight to the point:

  • Macadamia nuts (roughly chopped)
  • White chocolate chips
  • Stick and a half unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Line a baking pan (such as a 9-inch round cake pan) with aluminum foil, ensuring foil goes at least halfway up the sides. Butter the foil.
  2. Sprinkle a mixture of white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts around the bottom of the pan. It does not need to cover the entire pan.
  3. In a pot over low heat, mix the butter, corn syrup, and sugar. Stir constantly.
  4. When melted and smooth, increase heat to medium and continue to stir constantly until the mixture is a LIGHT caramel color. (If at any point you smell anything that even remotely hints at burning, remove the mixture from the stove immediately.)
  5. Directly from the stove, pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle more white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts over the top of the mixture.
  6. Let sit for one to two hours to settle and cool. Peel aluminum foil from toffee and use your hands to break into pieces.

I’ll admit it took me several tries to get this right, which is why I posted so many pictures. Hopefully they’ll be helpful in keeping you confident that you’re on the right track! If you have trouble, try again. Corn syrup and sugar are very fickle and will turn on you in an instant. When you get it right, though, it’s definitely worth it.

Sincerely, Stasia


Putting the Smile Back on a Nerd’s Face February 28, 2012

Straight to the point: Between yesterday’s post being kind of a downer and me being home sick from work, I’m admittedly a bit of a bad mood dude today. So, instead of laying in bed and catching up on my grad school work, I’m going to share a few things that generally just make me happy. I’m not going to share all of my happy triggers – I’ll save the rest for other days I need these reminders.

Cupcakes. I’ve mentioned that I love to bake. Usually by the time I’m done, I want nothing to do with eating what I’ve made. This is not because it won’t be delicious (come on, meow) or because I’m watching my girlish figure (more on this another day), but because I’ve been so immersed in tasting and smelling all of the sugary sweet goodness that I can’t even think about taking in any more. So, I like to share. And cupcakes? I don’t think I’ve ever given someone a homemade cupcake and not seen them grin like a 6-year-old. One of my all time favorite cupcakes to make is the pink lemonade cupcake with pink lemonade icing (pictured being all fancy). You can find this Paula Deen recipe here but fair warning: they are ridiculous and rot-your-teeth sweet, but it’s worth it. When I bake, it’s super rarely from a box, so shhh… Don’t tell.

Music. Obvious right? I love all kinds of music and I prefer for it to play, oh, pretty much at all times. When I’m cooking? Cleaning? Blow drying my hair? Commuting? Lesson planning? Relaxing? Working? Yup. And the mix is always random. In fact, I was famous (by my own definition) for my “Random Mix” CDs (volumes 1-6) in college. My list of favorites is constantly changing, but these will always be heavy in the rotation: System of a Down. Unwritten Law. Jethro Tull. Mumford & Sons. Led Zeppelin. Beastie Boys. Dave Matthews Band. Boxcar Racer. Okay, I could go on forever, but I’ll stop before I embarrass myself by mentioning the other bands on my iPod, like Was (Not Was) and Night Ranger. Yikes.

My Drunk Kitchen. If ever I’m a serious bad mood dude, all it takes is a little Hannah Hart from My Drunk Kitchen. I find it incredibly difficult to watch any of her episodes without cracking up. My all-time favorite is still Episode 8: Ice Cream? Someday… Who knew watching a grown, drunk woman slip all over her kitchen floor could be so mood-lifting? I highly recommend it.

Being a nerd. Newsflash, people: I am a huge nerd. Wanna be my best friend? Come on over with a couple bottles of wine and ask to spend the weekend watching the Star Wars saga from beginning to end. Things that are traditionally considered nerdy, like classical music (bonus points for live performances) and nonfiction WWII novels, make me very happy. I thought Camus’s L’Etranger was better than its translated sister, The Stranger. I know way more about professional wrestling than I should probably admit. I secretly miss my pre-Lasik thick-rimmed Buddy Holly glasses. I not-so-secretly love that I get to teach grammar. I will admit, though, that despite four attempts so far I’ve yet to make it all the way through Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But hey, no one’s perfect.

Finally, this guy. Really, no explanation needed.

And for the record, yes. In the armor. And just like that, good mood restored. Now, go watch Hannah Hart get drunk and make some ice cream.

Sincerely, Stasia


Ready? February 21, 2012

Filed under: Random Thoughts — sincerelystasia @ 10:40 am
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This blog has been up and down several times over the past few years. As always, I continue my promise to undoubtedly be the laziest, most unpredictable, and unreliable blog poster person ever. Just throwing it out there in advance. In this blog you’ll find all sorts of random things that I enjoy – Music, recipes, ideas for teachers, etc. Promise #2: I am brutally honest, especially when it comes to sharing bits and pieces of my own life.

To get things squared away before we begin, here are some explanations for you. I am many things – including but not limited to a teacher, doctoral student, and lover of all things random. But the one thing, or person, I am not is Stasia. Stasia is my grandmother who, like my grandpa Hunny before her, was taken by cancer a few years ago. She was the most honest person I’ve ever met and by far the most headstrong. She was a very strong influence on me and this blog is my way of keeping her around just a bit longer.

So, as I take this journey into the blog world, here are some things you may or may not want to know about me.

  • I’m a teacher – Fourth grade English at a 4-8 middle school. I know the power of the smelly sticker and the creativity of a 10 year old mind. I love, love, LOVE what I do. I consider myself a lifelong learner and am always looking to learn new ways to inspire my kids. They make me laugh every single day and I love being able to do the same for them!
  • My absolute favorite thing to do is pour a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get busy in the kitchen. I love cooking and baking and I try to do it whenever I can. I’m always searching for new recipes and have an addiction to buying cookbooks.
  • I’m currently finishing my first year as an education doctoral student. While I was unsure about whether I fit in at the start, I’m proud of my current work and am really looking forward to starting my dissertation research within the next year and a half.
  • I am proudly from New Jersey. Not “MTV Jersey Shore” New Jersey, but the real Jersey shore. I grew up with my toes in the sand and that’s where I head whenever I need to center myself – There are fewer cures that work more swiftly than salty air and crashing waves.

Over the course of the next few weeks I’m hoping to get back into the blog world and share some info that I, as a working teacher and full time grad student, find interesting, helpful, and delicious. Now, if I could just find my original five readers, circa 1999.

Sincerely, Stasia


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