Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 25 of 365

I never liked caramel apples. They are sticky, and messy, and hard to eat.

But a couple years ago I discovered Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's caramel apples. Caramel-chocolate-Butterfinger caramel apples, actually. The flavors were great, but the best part was they cut the apple for me. No more sticky, messy, hard to eat caramel apple.

I like replicating foods I've eaten elsewhere. In fact, I own the Top Secret Recipes books of cloned recipes from places such as Outback, Chilis, Cheesecake Factory, IHOP, Taco Bell, etc. Several of the recipes I use again and again. And the IHOP pancake recipe is my only go-to pancake recipe anymore. My thought is, why go out when you can make it cheaper at home?

So my latest attempt at a recipe was recreating the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's caramel-chocolate-Butterfinger apple. I wasn't able to find it in my Top Secret books or on the internet, so I tackled it myself.

I used Golden Delicious apples and had some leftover Wilton chocolate and white chocolate candy melts left over from Valentine's Day. I picked up a bag of caramels and a king size Butterfinger.

I scrubbed the apples well to get the wax off of them. I dried them, put popsicle sticks into them, and put the apples in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I combined the caramels and 2 tablespoons of water in a pot over medium heat. I cooked until completely melted, stirring almost constantly.

When the caramels were melted, I dipped the apples into the caramel, almost completely covering them to the top. I put the caramel covered apples onto a heavily buttered plate to cool, and back in the fridge they went for another 15 minutes. I melted the chocolate candy melts (you could use a bag of white chocolate chips) in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so. I then dipped the cooled apples into melted white chocolate, then rolled them in crushed Butterfinger. Back in the fridge again.

I did a different batch, too. I did a chocolate/white chocolate one. That one I dipped in melted caramel, cooled the apple in the fridge, dipped in white chocolate, cooled it in the fridge, and dipped it in milk chocolate candy pieces ( you could use a bag of chocolate chips here too), and cooled it in the fridge.

They looked almost too good to eat.

I let them sit at room temperature for a bit, then  used a knife to cut straight alongside the stick on both sides. I then cut the halves into smaller, more manageable slices. Yummy!

While I didn't have an "official" recipe, I'm happy with the way they turned out and they were just as good as the expensive ones at the chocolate shop.

If you like replicating recipes, I can highly recommend the Top Secret Recipes line of books (even though my apples weren't found in the books).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 24 of 365

I'm a bit obsessed about our power bill. We run all electricity, no gas (our city doesn't even offer gas), so everything - lights, TV, water heater, stove, dryer - all wind up on our power bill. I'm so obsessive about keeping control over our power output that I've been tracking our average daily kilowatt since 2005.

Our Idaho Power bill's monthly statement includes a chart of average kilowatt per day for every month for the prior year. It compares the current month to the same month the year before. I've been taking it a step further, though. Back in 2005  I started tracking the number each month and inputting it into a spreadsheet. Then when 2006 rolled around, I plugged that number into the spreadsheet and had the formula tally the difference between the two months average daily use. Sometimes it was higher, sometimes it was lower. Every year after that I've continued to plug numbers in. I can see at a glance which months we use more or less, and have formulas in to give us 6 year totals of ups and downs.

The reason I track it so closely is purely financial. We have "level pay", so our bill is the same amount every month no matter what power was really used during the month. But the power company does audits of the level pay and readjusts it if you used too much or paid too much. So I like to see that readjustment number go down. There's nothing worse than a higher readjustment - especially with my income gone.

When a month is higher than the year before, I make sure we watch our use. When I see a month we've been higher a couple years running (like September), we watch our use even more. Since we've been working on lowering each month's daily average for the last six years, now it's becoming quite a challenge to see a month show up lower.

Again, I'm not really a "green" person so I'm not doing the kilowatt tracking for environmental reasons. But I started thinking about what life would be like living "off the grid", without electricity. At one point in my life, I was considering moving in that direction. I remember as a teenager visiting a home in Northern California with some folks who built their own house out of logs that they cut from their land. They grew their own food (even made their own cheese) and raised chickens and goats. They had no indoor plumbing and no electricity.

I wonder what it would be like to create your own power. I've heard of people putting in solar panels, but how could wind power play into creating electricity? When we did our cross country traveling we saw many old farmhouses with windmills. When we were driving back from our little Spring Break getaway today we also saw a couple of wind farms off the freeway. Just how feasible would it be to produce your own wind power nowadays?

It's surprising how just one picture can get my mind wandering.