Grandma’s Cashew Brittle

Every year around Christmas, Mr. Happy Stuff and I like to make cashew brittle together. I believe it was originally my Grandma Beachey’s recipe, but we’ve been making it our own for so long that I’ve forgotten. I love it because it’s tasty AND you don’t need a candy thermometer. Here’s a list of ingredients to gather:

A “walnut-sized” piece of butter (this recipe note is how I know it’s old)

1 c. sugar

½ c. light Karo syrup

½ c. water

1 t. vanilla

1.5 c. cashews (or other nut)

1 ½ t. baking soda

The first thing you’ll want to do is prep your work area. Once your brittle gets to the right stage, everything will move VERY quickly and you will not have time to measure anything. It also helps to have a second person around to help. To prep your space, measure out your baking soda and cashews into separate containers, ready to pour when ready.

Also make a small bowl of ice water and set it next to your stove.

and butter a stiff rubber scraper or wooden spoon and have either a buttered cookie sheet or non-stick mat ready too. (note: my mat in the photo below is still damp from washing and I do NOT recommend that… this batch is weirdly sticky on the back side and I think it’s because of the water.)

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium.

Stir and stir and watch it go from clear to bubbly to really bubbly and slightly amber colored….

…to a darker amber color and a thickness that allows you to see the bottom of the pan as you’re stirring the hot sugar mixture.

when it reaches this stage, drip a tiny bit off your spoon into the bowl of ice water.

then fish out the drip of sugar. If it’s still soft enough to squish, you’ve still got a long way to go.

If you bite it and it’s hard and crunchy (basically the same texture you want your brittle to be in the end) then you’re ready for the next step. If it is crunchy, but sort of sticks in your teeth, leave it for just another few moments and test again. Once it’s at the right stage of crunchiness, remove it from the heat and quickly stir in your cashews:

stir until the sugar mixture is thoroughly coating your nuts, then dump in the baking soda and stir like crazy (this is where it’s nice to have 2 people!).

the sugar will turn a little foamy and lighter in color, less transparent. Stir until all of the baking soda is mixed in. It will start to stiffen up, but once the baking soda is thoroughly incorporated, dump it onto your non-stick surface and use your buttered spoon to flatten it out to your preferred thickness (generally not thicker than one nut’s thickness).

Jay pointed out that using a rubber scraper for those last hectic steps is a bad idea — use a stiff wooden spoon for more leverage. Once the brittle is fully cooled, break it into pieces and share with a friend!

One last note: don’t fear the sticky sugar in your pan. Hot water will generally dissolve it right off, but if you’re really struggling, just fill the pot with water and bring to a boil and it will definitely come clean.

As tempting as it may be, I wouldn’t double this recipe unless you’ve got someone REALLY strong and fast to help you with those last steps. Enjoy!

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meals for moving in

my parents moved here to live closer to us (hooray!) and, knowing that they’d be busy unpacking and fixing the house to suit their needs for the next few weeks, i made a list of easy-prep menu ideas and bought the groceries to stock their house before they arrived. in case anyone else is in this situation (or in case you’d just like a list of my family’s favorite “quick & easy” menu ideas), i thought i’d post it here.

note: this is not a list for any restrictive or allergy diet needs. it’s not the healthiest foods, and it’s certainly not the most “authentic” recipes (my apologies to anyone who makes real huevos rancheros, etc.). it’s just the easiest and quickest meals that my own family gravitates to time after time. if you’re looking for an excellent source of healthy and tasty weekly menu plans and shopping lists, may i recommend the sprouted kitchen cooking club? i didn’t join because i love doing my own menu planning, but her instagram posts each week make me reconsider that choice every single time. if you live near me and you’re looking for something even easier, i’d suggest the pasture and plenty weekly meal kits. they come with something ready to heat and eat that night, something to cook for another day that week and something for your freezer and they use re-usable containers that you return each week when you pick up your next kit so there’s no waste!

but if you’re here for quick, cheap foods your kids will likely eat, here’s a pdf of my family’s go-to list and a grocery list of all of the ingredients you need to make all of these menu items. and here are the “recipes” for each of those menu items (i use the term “recipe” loosely because many of them are just assembling ingredients.)

what are your family’s favorite go-to, quick & easy meals?

note: you can find the granola recipe linked in my previous blog post.

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nutty granola no. 5: a paleo cereal

a few months ago, i did another “clean” cleanse, but this time, i did the “gut” version. once again, i’ve adopted a few new habits that i’m enjoying continuing even though i’m officially done with this round of the cleanse.  the “gut” version of the cleanse is reallllly similar to paleo eating, so while i was on the cleanse and madly searching for recipes that my family might also eat, i found a recipe for “nutty granola” in a special edition magazine (which was actually my favorite resource for family-friendly paleo recipes!) and it inspired me to see if i could alter my favorite granola recipe into a paleo / clean version.  this recipe is not strictly “clean gut” because it has 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, but otherwise, it’s realllly close.  i’ve been baking up a batch every few weeks ever since the cleanse and eating it regularly for breakfast with some cut up fruit and a scoop of plain noosa or homemade yogurt, without any added sweetener (ahem, not clean or paleo, but packed with probiotics!) or some coconut/almond milk if i’m wanting to be more “clean.”  when it’s hot out of the oven it’s really hard to keep mr. happy stuff (or myself) from eating it by the handful.  it also makes a fantastic sprinkle on the top of ice cream, or eaten with cashew butter and celery or apples.  the ingredient list is flexible as all good granolas are, but i’ve tried to choose nuts and seeds that are the most “flake-like” for a nice crunchy cereal texture.

nutty granola no. 5

(modified from orangette‘s amazing granola no. 5)

16 oz. raw mixed nuts

4 oz. unsweetened wide coconut flakes

4 oz. sliced almonds

4 oz. raw sunflower seeds

4 oz. raw pepitas (i forgot to add those in the batch photographed above, oops!)

2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup, dark or grade b if you can get it

1 teaspoon salt

spread parchment paper on a baking sheet and pre-heat oven to 300. (i usually use sil-pats when baking, but i find that parchment seems to make this granola much crunchier and lighter and clean up is easier, so if you’ve got parchment, use that.)

dump the mixed nuts into a food processor and pulse a few times until the nuts are a nice rubble.  don’t pulse so much that you end up with too much dust at the bottom (though you’ll undoubtedly have some).  mix the nuts and the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl until everything is slightly shiny with the oil/syrup.  Spread the mixture out on your prepared baking sheet and bake at 300 for about 40 minutes, checking every 15 min. or so.  it’s done when it’s golden and smells so good you just can’t wait to taste it any longer.  let it cool completely before storing in a jar.

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Healthy-ish Snacks, week 2


i’m realizing that perhaps my snacks have a tendency to skew sweet and could probably use a little more presence from vegetables, so i’ll commit to calling them at least “healthy-ish” because they’re still better for you than a nutty bar and a diet coke (the favorite lunch menu of an ex-supervisor of mine).  here’s this week’s collection:


1. Guacamole with fresh root vegetable “chips” (today it’s kohlrabi + turnip). (note: the guacamole was already brown on top by day 2 even with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly to the top of it and the sliced veggie chips gave off a distinctly vegetal funk when i opened the jar, but they were still crisp and crunchy and as long as you’re okay with, say, the flavor of radishes, they tasted great too!)


2.  Mango Melba truffles: pretty much the recipe linked to, but I soaked the mango in water a little longer this time and they turned out too sticky, so I rolled them in crushed almonds.  Also, I didn’t add the dates.  These might be pretty rich, so you might consider stretching the five truffles into two day’s snacks.


3. Hummus with broccoli & pickled turnips (these could definitely use more broccoli, but the jar was too small to squeeze in more).


4. CocoCashew mix + fresh cherries (I used these coconut chips)


5. “Peach” Pie overnight oatmeal (contains: oats, almond milk, chia seeds, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon & nectarine)

I believe that last week’s most popular snack was the hummus and peas, so i feel less guilty about using hummus two weeks in a row now.


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healthy snacks, week 1 (or “little miss happy goes overboard….. again.”)


i have a snacking habit.

sometimes it’s healthy snacks and sometimes i get in a “let’s shove cheese and crackers in my face as fast as possible” rut and sometimes the terrible, practically plastic cookies in our staff break room at work begin singing my name and i eat them and regret it even mid-bite.

the only successful way i’ve found to counter my impulsive snacking on awful things is to pre-plan a bunch of tasty treats that are actually good for me.  single-serving portions, preferably with a bit of protein for sticking power.

i was thinking about how nice it would be to have a set of snacks for the week, but not all the same thing every day. and i was thinking about how the snacks i eat are probably not (all) going to appeal to my family members. and i was thinking about how successfully my salad swap is still going (wow!  that link is a year old!) and i wondered if maybe i could arrange a snack swap.

i think that maybe most people were daunted by my personal definition of “healthy” snacks (for now at least, i’m going to attempt to keep them gluten-free, dairy-free and processed sugars free) and so my first invitation to a swap didn’t get much response.  so i decided this time to try doing it more like a CSA, but instead of being Community Supported Agriculture, it could be Community Supported Snacking.  In essence, people could sign up for a snack subscription from me.

finding interesting snack ideas that fit my narrow definition of healthy was more challenging than i’d thought it would be and so i decided to start listing my weekly menus here in case it would help anyone else (and to have as a personal reference when i’m feeling uninspired in the future).

here are my first week’s menu items (note to self for the future…. this combination was way too time-consuming for one week. next time, at least purchase pre-made hummus!):

IMGP1151  peanut butter bites + appleIMGP1154

green deviled eggs (smash 1/2 avocado with 4 hard-boiled egg yolks.  add a little salt and a little apple cider vinegar, smash it smooth, then tuck back into the empty egg whites)

IMGP1148lemon chia pudding with fresh berries (1 can coconut milk + 1/4 c. chia seeds + juice and zest of one organic lemon. i might add more chia seeds next time.  add sweetener if desired, but i prefer it tart like this.)


sriracha hummus  (just my regular hummus (except i was out of tahini, whoops!) with a swirl of sriracha on top) + sugar snap peas


granola no. 5 + banana

fresh garden mint (I recommend just stuffing it into a mason jar with some cold water and letting it sit overnight. Add sweetener if you want to, but I find it’s quite refreshing even without!)


i packed it all into cute, insulated lunch bags that i picked up at a discount store for easy carrying to and from church.

p.s. i haven’t forgotten the tidying up series, i just got a little distracted.  it might get finished someday.

Posted in recipes, summer, yum | 1 Comment

movie monday: dyeing eggs with two kids is…. interesting.

seriously.  i like to watch this through twice–once watching her the whole time, once watching him. love these two!


Dyeing Eggs with Izza from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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tidying up: part 5, reflections on functionality vs. aesthetics


a big “thank you” and “good job!” to everyone who has been responding to these posts with their own clean-out journeys. it’s very encouraging to know i’m not alone and to feel that i’ve inspired even one person to try the same thing in their own home is highly motivating to me!

here are some thoughts that maybe everyone else will think, “well, duh” but were revelations to me:

So every once in awhile, I remember to really clean out my fridge.  When I have the time to do it right, this means taking everything out, wiping down the shelves, throwing away any mysterious things or anything else that i know will never get eaten and then putting the good food back in. This purge feels like I’m finally doing that process to my whole house for the first time ever and it’s driving me crazy to look around and see all of the stuff that’s the equivalent of “mysterious fridge things” that are taking up room in my house.  And to also realize that maybe, JUST MAYBE, instead of keeping food just because it hasn’t spoiled yet, perhaps my criteria should be, “am I (or anyone else in my house) excited to eat this food?” because if not, then it will just take up room in my fridge until it molds and only then will it get tossed. With sincere apologies to my Depression Era grandparents and to all of the people in the world who do not get enough food to eat on a regular basis, I don’t think that holding on to leftovers that were only grudgingly tolerated during their original meal is helping anyone. But this series isn’t really about my fridge or about food, it’s about my house, so in this instance, what I’m really talking about is stuff that’s in my house that no one really loves but it’s still functional. Argh.  Still flying right up into the heart of privilege here, but let’s talk about my bathroom hand towels, shall we?


I probably own about 7? And of those, most are stained or have bleach spots (which are a mystery to me.  I don’t use bleach ever.  Does whitening toothpaste also bleach fabric? And if so, which one of my family members is getting toothpaste all over the towels?). I am itching to go through the whole linen closet and get rid of everything that I don’t love (pilly flannel sheets, I’m looking at you!) because while many of these items are technically still serviceable, I cringe every time we have to use them.  But if that means replacing them with higher quality pieces (I’m really curious to know whether the Garnet Hill flannel sheets would be less pilly than the cheap-o Target ones I get once a year*.  I’m open to recommendations!), I am able at this point in my life to be able to make that choice and spend a bit more to get really quality pieces.  But does that fly in the face of my Simple Living upbringing?

*note: after writing this reflection, i did go ahead and order a set of garnet hill flannel sheets that were on sale.  i’ve washed them once (turning them wonderfully soft) and they’re on our bed now and i am loving them!  of course, the true test is how i’ll feel about them in a year or so, but they’re already behaving better than the cheap-o ones do, so i’m optimistic.

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movie monday: knock-knock jokes with cow chicken

Knock Knock, Cow Chicken from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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movie monday: playdough

How to play with playdough from carissaabc on Vimeo.

This one is fun to compare with a similar one of the happy little dude when he has just a little bit older than she is here.

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tidying up: part 4


Purge, part 2:  pants, skirts and dresses


As I pulled these items out of my closet and dresser, I thought, oh, this isn’t that much…. then I’d remember another stash of items.  Some are in the “too small but I LOVE them” stash, some are in the laundry, some were in the workout clothes box…  I’m worried that NONE of my pants fit right now.  The pile is larger than I thought it would be (again).  We’ll see how small it gets….



okay.  interesting. We purged three plastic tubs worth of stuff. now I have 2 pairs of jeans, two pairs of leggings (sort of three, but only two of them could also be pants), two pairs of corduroys and two pairs of colored jean-weight pants. Listing it all out like that sort of sounds like a lot of pants, but that is WAY fewer pants than I have ever owned before.  (oh, and i guess I still have some work-out/PJ pants and some summer capris/shorts if we’re listing everything)  And Mo says I can’t buy more pants without also weeding a pair.  But honestly, unlike with the tops, I don’t feel like there are any gaping holes in my pants wardrobe that need to be filled with new purchases.  weird.  We’ll see how I feel about it in two weeks.  We also sorted through skirts and dresses and I feel like I did pretty well with decreasing those.  Most of my skirts ended up in the summer box (I have only one tailored skirt for professional wear that is still in my closet) and my dresses are only the ones I REALLY love (we even got rid of two that I thought I loved, but when I tried them on, I realized that they didn’t fit me as well as I’d thought they had).

here are all of my pants, folded in the “konmari” method.


Thought-provoking quotes from Mo this time —

“if you spend less time shopping for clothes, maybe you’ll have more time to do other stuff.”

“There are enough other things in life that we can feel guilty about.  Our clothes (or other belongings) shouldn’t cause us to feel guilt.”  [so if you’re feeling guilty about not fitting into that pair of pants, get rid of them!]

“If you’re only buying one, favorite best of something (like a cozy all-the-time sweater), you can afford to spend more and get one that is fair trade or hand made where you know that the person who made it isn’t getting taken advantage of.”

Thoughts 5 days later:

will it REALLY mean I can shop less?  I mean, yes it SHOULD me I spend less time shopping, but at least for now, when I feel like there are active HOLES in my wardrobe (still don’t have a cozy but not worn out sweater to throw on for just around the house), I’m finding myself obsessing about shopping everywhere to find the exact perfect thing instead of just finding one at a thrift store that’s “pretty much” what I want.  This mindset will take awhile to shift, won’t it?

One other realization– since I didn’t actually try on EVERY pair of pants as I was sorting them, I discovered that of the two pairs of corduroy pants that I kept, one pair is a little long and the other pair is a little short.  Yes, I realize I can hem the long ones (and I might, or I might just keep stepping on them–it’s not THAT bad), but the short ones are tragic.  I love the way they fit other than the length.  sigh.  Adding corduroys to my “look for ones I really love” list.

Weird side effect: aprons!

Since I didn’t save a lot of my scruffy clothes, I’m often still wearing favorites when I cook dinner. I really don’t want to get grease stains on my faves. My first instinct was to consider grabbing something back out of the box to wear for cooking. Then I remembered–I own aprons! That I actually like! (Also, I took this opportunity to purge my apron/oven mitt/dishcloth drawer.  It’s so much nicer to open now!  And I don’t have the grubby dishrags and hotpads anymore!)





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