For as long as I can remember my Mom has made sweet and savory treats to give as gifts to friends at Christmas. It takes a lot of sugar, time and energy to produce it, but she has always enjoyed witnessing the happiness it brings to those who receive her gifts made with love.
Despite having received a chemo treatment this past week; a treatment that has her feeling much worse than the last one – pained and very fatigued, she has made lists, shopped for ingredients and produced many goodies to share.
I arrived at mid-day to find her large kitchen filled with works in progress.
Sweets and Treats
“Stir this…”, she says as she hands me a wooden spoon and puts me to work in her kitchen.
Mom had already made half a dozen batches of peanut brittle and was putting me to work on Rice Krispie treats.
“We’ll do two batches. Do you think this is enough butter?” she asks as she throws in a stick.
My Mom’s ability to not follow a recipe and still come up with something delicious has always fascinated me. I suppose over time I’ve developed some of that talent, but not to the degree in which she perfected it long before there were hundreds of cooking shows on television each day to show us how it is done.
“What did you put in the cheese balls?” I ask her.
“Cheese” she says with a smile and tired eyes.
“I know that smart ass, but what else?”
With a smirk she says “A little of this and a little of that…until it tastes good.” She knows what she’s doing. The mix smells amazing!
We both laugh and then she proceeds to tell me about how my Dad used to eat anything she made – with gusto! (Dad was full of enthusiasm for life, and he loved food, so no surprise there.)
With cereal stirred into the marshmallow and butter, we worked together to put them into greased pans. The cheese ball mix had softened and after mixing it it bit more, I set to finely chopping parsley to roll them in before chilling and wrapping up for gift giving.
Mom sets to work on another batch of peanut brittle.
I think she has probably made close to 1,000 batches in her lifetime and since the invention of microwaves that production has increased.
Everyone who tastes it raves about it, so I thought I’d share her recipe (she gives it out so I’m not giving up a family secret here) for you to enjoy.
Emily’s Microwave Peanut Brittle
Kitchen stuff you will need:
- 2 Quart Pyrex GLASS Measuring Bowl (microwave safe)
- Metal baking sheet with sides
- Wooden Spoon
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Oven mitts
- Microwave 900 watts or more
- 1 Cup White Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Light Karo Syrup
- 1/4 Cup Water
- 1/2 Cup (1 stick) Melted Butter – salted butter is preferable and NOT margarine.
- 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla
- 1-1 1/2 cups Dry Roasted Peanuts (salted or unsalted)
Stir together in large Pyrex measuring bowl: sugar, Karo syrup and water and microwave on HIGH for 7 and a 1/2 minutes.
Carefully remove from microwave.
Add 1/2 Cup MELTED Butter and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla.
Stir into heated mixture and return to microwave to cook on HIGH for another 5 minutes.
Remove from microwave and add 1 to 1 and a 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), stir and return to microwave for the last 1-4 minutes of cooking on HIGH.
**The last part is the tricky one as you don’t want the sugars to burn (getting too dark). Watch carefully and if the color is golden brown it’s good! You don’t have to cook it beyond that point, so if it’s not yet at the 4 minute mark – no worries – take it out.
The last step…
Add 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda to the mix and stir. (It will puff up a bit, and turn a lighter color, which is normal.)
Pour hot mixture onto a greased or non-stick baking sheet.
**The bottom of the sheet will be very hot, but hold onto the edges and tilt it, letting gravity move the mixture slowly to thin out over the sheet. After a few minutes it’s OK to take a fork and press down the mix, pulling towards the edges of the sheet at the same time. As it cools these marks will fill in. When completely cool, twist the baking sheet to break up the brittle and store in air-tight containers.
Pride and Perseverance
Mom was staggering around the kitchen without her walker – something that drives me crazy as I always have this fear of her falling.
In between stirring and chopping, I found myself rounding up her walker and plopping it in her path. She’d smile and go the other way, leaving the walker behind.
This walker-game we play is both amusing and infuriating! Most days she indulges me while I can see her, but I know all bets are off when I’m not around. Sort of like a toddler or a teen, she needs to feel in control of her life. Especially when everything feels so out of control.
She has said to me many times that the thing that drives her most crazy these days is the loss of autonomy she feels. It’s having to depend upon others for so many things that when you can do them for yourself, seem so insignificant.
Things like driving to the market and easily walking inside, shopping and loading your groceries in and out of the car. Something like this that she has probably done thousands of times with ease, now looks as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest.
So on a day like yesterday when I could go over to her house and help her to accomplish something that is of great importance to her – assisting, but not doing it for her, it felt like a privilege. And as a bonus we got the opportunity to spend time together and do “normal” despite the increasing abnormal circumstances.
Later in the day Mom was weary and pained, but happy to be out and to have accomplished her goals for the day. We set out to deliver some treats and then on a whim decided to check out some streets decked out in holiday lights.
The decorations were amazing and the moments with Mom on this day – perfect in spite of cancer.