Missions Accomplished: DIY projects and plenty of Pok Pok

Sweet braised pork/Pok Pok cookbook

Muu Waan, Thai sweet pork, with coconut rice. Made from the Pok Pok cookbook.

While I have slacked on blogging these past few months, I can say — at the very least — I have been successful at some of my food goals for 2015.

Back in February, I made homemade Fritos (Faux-itos?), using a recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen DIY cookbook. My corn chips weren’t an immediate win, but the more I ate, the more I craved “just one more.” They were very crunchy and full of corn flavor. The downside was that the texture was a little too gritty from the cornmeal rendering them a bit tough on the teeth. Some day I’ll have to give them another go — though I have doubts they will ever reach the greatness of the packaged kind.

Masarepa and corn meal

Masarepa and corn meal

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Things that are too delicious to be allowed in my house…

Sweet & Salty Caramel Corn, otherwise known as evil incarnate

Sweet & Salty Caramel Corn, otherwise known as evil incarnate

I have pretty decent willpower when it comes to food — with a few notable exceptions. At the top of that list resides the Jalapeño Cheeto (not to be confused with Flaming Hot Cheetos whose only redeeming quality is this excellent video). I don’t know what magic took place to make Jalapeno Cheetos even more delicious than the original flavor, but it worked. These things are the straight-up definition of addictive and I am absolutely powerless against them.

My initial encounter was a few years ago when my husband left a small bag open on the kitchen counter before he left for work. I came home early and poured out a few nibbles before folding up the bag and putting it away. Those few bites was all it took. I kept creeping back into the kitchen and sneaking handfuls until the bag was (shamefully) empty.

When my husband came home, I told him he was forbidden from bringing them into our house ever again. While he hasn’t completely complied with that request, they are thankfully a rare indulgence.

I mention this story because I have recently discovered  — thanks yet again to my husband, bearer of evil temptations — something just as hauntingly addictive as those spicy, cheesy morsels.

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The Ups and Downs of Homemade Peeps

Homemade Easter Peeps

When I was younger, I always wanted to like Peeps — they were so cute and colorful and looked so festive it was hard not to want to bite their little heads off. But even as a kid, I’d get halfway through the pack and lose interest. They just weren’t as delicious as their bright candy colors made them seem. (They were still better than Cadbury Eggs, with their creamy yolks that still give me the creeps, but a far cry from my favorite Easter candy, mini-Whopper Robin Eggs.)

And yet, this year I became obsessed with making my own. After all — homemade marshmallows are infinitely better than store-bought ones, so it would seem that homemade Peeps would follow the same logic.

I did some recipe and technique research before I began, which led me to trying out Alton Brown’s recipe for marshmallows. Normally I am a big proponent of Martha Stewart’s recipe, but it seemed like as good a time as any to try something new. (Personally I still find Martha’s recipe to be fluffier and sweeter, but feel free to use whatever recipe you like best.)

If you are a newbie at marshmallow making, make sure you have a candy thermometer that is calibrated and that actually works (mine broke and I ended up having to test for the soft ball stage using a cup of water. Effective but not very fun). Also prepare yourself for the mess, especially if you try to color part of your mixture like I did. Imagine yourself in a stringy web of sugar — it gets everywhere!

And in hindsight, dying the marshmallows was pretty silly. The sugar covers them anyways, I was just experimenting.

Pink and White Marshmallows

Pink and White Marshmallows. They look unassuming but managed to put up quite a fight.

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Marsha, Marsha, Marshmallow…

I have been on a marshmallow kick lately. Or, more accurately, I have wanted to be on a marshmallow kick. But the thing is I couldn’t track down these elusive peppermint marshmallows that I kept seeing on Pinterest. I figured Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table would have something similar, but upon visiting those stores last weekend, I struck out.

Then my husband showed me these amazing-looking marshmallows online. I wanted to buy some for me, for my mom, for everyone because they looked SO good. But how to choose with all the possible flavor combinations? How much would it suck to buy the two-pound marshmallow in a bad flavor! You have to choose wisely. So instead we tracked down the one store in our town that the website said stocked their products.

We left immediately and finally I had some success: a display carrying several varieties of these fancy little things. It was hard to choose because they all looked delicious. In the end, we certainly chose wisely. The toasted coconut marshmallow is simply melt-in-your-mouth amazing. I haven’t even had one in cocoa yet because I keep eating them straight from the package. The are fluffy and tender and not too sweet.

But I still kept dreaming about more marshmallows and the desire to attempt making them was overwhelming. I tried to convince my buddy DB to assist me in a marshmallow-making extravaganza but I got back an email that shut me down with a succinct “nyet” followed by “you’re not gonna Martha Stewart me.”

Every once in a while he will call me out on wanting to do something he deems a little too frou-frou. Like last summer, when he was headed over to my house and I asked him if he liked banana daiquiris. Trying to be a good host, I was going to have a blender full of icy rummy goodness awaiting his arrival. Instead I got back a smart-ass text asking if we were going to paint each others fingernails next. Then I discovered he had actually never had a daiquiri before and upon tasting mine, he quickly helped himself to one…with an additional 3 oz of rum to be on the safe side.

I didn’t even make him drink his out of a pineapple!

But clearly marshmallow-making was not a battle I was going to win. I was on my own.

I did some research, finally discovering that the peppermint marshmallows I had seen in the very beginning were (of course) courtesy of Martha Stewart. I read the reviews of several different recipes and ultimately decided on Smitten Kitchen‘s. I was nervous, but figured I’d try it when my husband wasn’t home just in case it was an utter disaster. My cats know better than to gloat at my failures.

UPDATE! Marshmallow Success!