December 20, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Red-Tailed Hawks and Homemade Fudge...

I was driving out from Portland yesterday, and watching as usual for red-tailed hawks sunning themselves in the trees along the way. On this stretch of road there's an estuary, prime hunting ground for the red-tailed, the rough-legged, and the marsh hawks that live nearby.

Checking the trees on the sunny side of the road, especially in the late-morning and mid-day warmth, it's easy to spot the buff-colored chests of the red-tails basking on a high branch. One day last week, I counted five hawks, a rare treat, and I wondered, as usual, how many people just zoom past and never notice them.

And now, on to homemade fudge. Those last minute gifts from your kitchen may well include some fudge, a perennial favorite. Fudge has an interesting history, something we'll look at another day, but I'm sure most of us have tasted that grainy, spoon-soft, first attempt at fudge-making. For me, it's the candy-thermometer thing! So, of course, I only make fudge recipes that don't require a thermometer, such as cream cheese fudge.

The following peanut butter fudge recipe will look strange at first glance, with flour as one of the ingredients. This is a foolproof recipe, yielding a big batch of richly flavored, smoothly textured candy. It is kid-doing easy, with supervision of course, and the light-colored pieces make a wonderful checkerboard pattern in a box with your usual chocolate fudge. If you're feeling downright extravagant, add a white fudge with cherries and almonds.

Peanut Butter Fudge

4 cups white sugar
2 sticks butter/margarine
1 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter (I use extra chunky)
1/2 large jar marshmallow
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour

Mix the sugar, butter and milk and boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pb and marshmallow, then stir in the vanilla and flour. Pour into a 9" x 13" pan and let set.

The next time we get together let's look at nut mixes since nuts are enjoying new popularity as a health food. And don't you just love all the research on the health benefits of dark chocolate!