There were many warm and cozy moments this past weekend while visiting home in Phoenix. Warm mostly because it was eighty to ninety degrees each day we were there, and cozy because – HOME. My life so far has been split mostly between southern California and Phoenix (Arizona). With a few random years in Vancouver (Washington), and now a year here in Denver (Colorado). The ten years leading up to marrying Scott and moving back to southern California were spent in Phoenix. That is where both of our parents still live (as well as Scott’s sister, her husband, and our two nieces). It’s where I went to high school and college, plus where Scott and I met + got married + lived for our first year together. It just feels like home. The kind of home you return to for family, comfort, the feeling of safety, and so many happy memories.
Whenever we visit home Scott and I return back to kid-dom. We split up – he goes to his parent’s home, I go to mine, and that is where we spend the majority of our time. I try to make it over to his parents’ house to visit at least once, and he does the same over at my parents’. Its like we’re dating again, and it is so fun. This is how we do holidays at home too (I know, we’re so bad) but we know that once we bring little groms into this world everything will change. So for now – we split up, we return to being kids, and it is awesome. I get my old room to myself, bright yellow walls and all. I wake up early to go for my run, then shower and get back into my pjs. My mom and I sit on the couch with mugs of coffee and just talk. There is usually a cooking show or old movie on of some sorts, but we can’t keep from chatting. Slow, honest chatting. Lots of smiles and giggles, but very little movement. This is the one time I “lounge” – and only my mom can get me to do it. Many episodes of The Great British Bake Off were watched, a movie or two, and some Martha Stewart for pure therapy. There were sunrise and sunset walks, some baking, some trips to Pomegranate Cafe for lunch, and lots of bare feet + pjs. Pecos Road takes you deep into Ahwatukee Foothills where my parents live, alongside a giant indian reservation. You can watch the monsoons coming in from hundreds of miles away in the late summer, and see the most beautiful sunsets behind the Sierra Estrella mountain range every night. This place is so peaceful. Every time I go home I feel my heart slowing down a few beats. I’m more relaxed and at peace. The three days we spent here this past weekend were needed, enjoyed, and crazy appreciated.
I was helping my mom put up Halloween decorations in the front yard and it brought back memories of so many Halloweens spent at this house. Mainly in high school, when my habits went from trick or treating in hopes of scoring the most Milky Ways, to watching spooky movies and sneaking Baby Ruths from the candy bowl at the front door. I don’t know how it happened, but my disgust for nuts in chocolate dissipated in high school, and my love for them has been growing ever since. When I was thinking of a candy bar to share here this season, my thoughts immediately turned to this newer favorite. I was determined to make it wholesome, using only the highest quality ingredients sans all the processed mumbo jumbo. After my first batch I handed one over to Scott. His eyes lit up as he took his first bite and turned to me, eyebrows raised, and said, “YOU DID IT.” We both swear these are better than any store-bought version we’ve ever had. And don’t let the long instructions below discourage you, they are incredibly easy to make – I just wanted to make sure I was super detailed in order to heighten your success rate at making and enjoying these tasty morsels! I’m obsessed. And now want to make homemade candy bars every week – someone hold me back.
Tid-bits: I dipped these here in my favorite go-to dark chocolate bar, but also discovered this chocolate bar free of processed sugar that tastes AMAZING while making a batch at my parent’s house last weekend. I highly recommend either of the two for dipping. And as for the nuts – I have made these with classic dry roasted peanuts (as done here) as well as raw cashews. Verdict? Both are incredible. If you aren’t a huge peanut fan, or have a bag of raw cashews laying around, I would highly recommend going the cashew route all the same.
BABY RUTH CANDY BARS | FROM SCRATCH
Makes 16 mini candy bars.
2 cans of full fat coconut milk, refrigerated*
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
a good pinch of salt
about 6.4 ounces of dark chocolate, melted for dipping
*When it comes to refrigerating full fat coconut milk cans in order to get the cream to separate, I recommend a few days of chilling. If your refrigerator runs very cold (ie. the items in the back of the refrigerator freeze) chilling overnight should do. However, if you have an old refrigerator like mine that doesn’t run as chilly, I place my cans of coconut milk in the back of the fridge for 2 or more days before using.
Begin by making the caramel. Open the cans of coconut milk and scoop out the thick cream that should have separated from the water (try not to add any of the water, this will make the caramel runny). Each can should yield 1 cup of cream (so 2 cups total for this recipe). Add the thick cream to a saucepan with the maple syrup. (Get ready to stand by your stove, this caramel gets all of your attention please!) Bring to a boil, watching it carefully and whisking to mix the melted coconut cream and maple together well. Once boiling, turn down the heat to low (if using gas) or medium (if using electric) whisking constantly until it reaches a simmer. (You want to have a good, healthy simmer going on here. Not a boil, but not a weak bubbling.) Let the caramel simmer for 20 minutes, giving it a hearty whisking every 3 minutes. After 20 minutes the caramel should have reduced to half of its original volume, be much thicker, and be pulling away from the sides of the saucepan when bubbling. If it isn’t, continue to simmer and whisk every 3 minutes until it boils down enough to do so. (For those of you at sea level this can easily take 30 minutes.) Transfer the caramel to a heat proof bowl on the counter. Let it sit, uncovered, for about 20 minutes to cool a bit.
When the caramel has cooled some, stir in the 2 cups of dry roasted peanuts along with a good pinch of salt. Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and pour the candy bar filling into it, smoothing out the top so that it is flat. Place the loaf pan in the freezer until the bars are firm enough to handle and cut (30 minutes to an hour). Remove the pan from the freezer when the caramel no longer sticks to your finger when touched, but is firm. Pull out the filling using the parchment, and peal away the sides of parchment (use a knife to do so smoothly if needed). Cut into 8 bars, and then slice them in half to get 16 rectangles. If they are still a bit sticky, lay them flat on a parchment lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer to set for another 10 to 20 minutes.
Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler on the stove. Remove the bowl of melted chocolate once melted, and place on a heat proof pad on the counter. Using a fork, dip each frozen bar into the melted chocolate, and transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once finished, place the sheet in the refrigerator to set. Transfer the bars to a zip lock baggie (or air tight glass container) once the chocolate has set, and keep stored in the refrigerator. As the caramel thaws it returns to its gooey, caramel-y state. Eat as you would like, and enjoy, you just made a flipping candy bar (!!!).