Posts Tagged ‘candy’

Candy update

Easter was pretty much a non-event around here– we went out to dinner the night before and spent Sunday mostly packing and doing other practical things. However, it was a special day because I was able to eat candy again. And these things?

Sooo good. I wouldn’t say they taste like cake so much as they taste like the ganache you’d put on a cake. They’re rich with well-balanced sweetness, and even though they taste like chocolate ganache they’re more firm– like a chocolate truffle without the slick, melty texture. I picked up another bag today to share with my family in the States :).


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Russian food

In my last posts I reflected on my two weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia a bit but didn’t say a whole lot about food. I’ll cram all that into this last post.

While in Russia I tended to eat a heavier lunch with my colleagues during the day and then eat simply (fruit, maybe a small salad or sandwich… and some candy) at night. Several times we made pelmeni, the little meat-stuffed dumplings that I adore. At home I usually pan-fry them but my colleague gave me some tips for boiling them: add salt, a bit of oil and a touch of plain white vinegar to the cooking water. It gives the dumpling casing a little extra flavor! And in general the pelmeni were very good there. While the filling in Estonian pelmeni is sometimes weirdly squishy, the Russian ones were always satisfying and meaty.

There was also a nearby market with a Korean stand that sold all different kinds of kimchi plus these amazing Russian eggplant rolls (I don’t have a picture of my own but they looked like this, photo courtesy of the previous link):

Oh my goodness, they were good. I love eggplant, and soft cool eggplant rolled around a nice rich cheese mixture? Amazing. I paired two of these with a salad for lunch.

Hm… a lot of the other local goods I tasted were sweets or beer.

My colleague recommended these cute walnut-shaped cookies (oreshki) to me. At first I didn’t love them, since the outer shell isn’t crispy, just sort of crumbly and bland. But the plain exterior combined with the caramel-like condensed milk filling was strangely addictive. I was a little embarrassed when I finished off the bag… and realized I had only purchased it the previous day. Oops.

I know Russia is mostly known for its vodka, but their beer is good too. Baltika 7 and 8 are also tasty.

On Sunday when I was walking around I escaped from the cold for a while with a latte and a slice of medovik honey cake. I like the Estonian version of this cake, but this particular slice was so sweet. I actually felt ill after finishing it. In general, I believe, the Russians like things very sweet. I encountered it with some of the chocolate candies I bought as well– some were so tooth-achingly sugary that after sampling one (or two…) I put the rest aside to bring home to J :).

Here’s a Russian kohuke, the chocolate-covered cheese curd snack I like to buy in Estonia as well.

I’ve compared the Estonian ones to cheesecake before, but the Russian one was even more so. It lacked the slightly grainy texture from the curd cheese and was so creamy and rich.

This last picture is for my friend who is learning Russian and requested more pictures of Russian text for her to decipher. Let me know how you do with this one!

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This year I decided that for Lent — which began a week ago — I would give up candy. I’d been eating just a little too much of it since the holidays and decided to use this time to remind myself that candy is not food (not in the nourishment sense, anyway).

A week into Lent I can see that avoiding candy isn’t that hard. Once it’s out of our apartment and my desk drawers I can’t reach for it anyway. Out of sight, out of mind. So I’ve decided to increase the challenge a bit for this year and give up chocolate as well (chocolate in all its forms, not just candy). While I may be able to forget about other candy when it’s not staring me in the face, I never forget about chocolate. It’s always in my mind :-).

I observed Lent for the first time when I was a teenager. My family wasn’t religious and we aren’t Catholic, so I didn’t have a religious reason for doing it — I just thought it seemed like a cool idea (is it weird that as a teen I thought the idea of depriving myself of a favorite thing for a month seemed like a fun thing to do?). Anyway, for the first few years I observed Lent I always gave up chocolate, and for a few of those years I actually managed to go the entire period with no slip-ups. Forty solid days (46, actually) with no chocolate at all. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!

So from now until Easter, no chocolate. At all. Lately I’ve been stirring unsweetened cocoa powder into my oatmeal — no more. No dipping into that jar of Nutella for a sweet fix. No chocolate chip cookies either :-(. I will now commence dreaming about an Easter basket full of candy…

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I am being positively spoiled with visitors this month. First my dad came, and then a mere week and a half ago I got an email from my friend Siret (of London and cupcakes fame) saying she’d be coming to Tallinn for a few days with her mother and mother’s fiance! What a lovely surprise, especially when I didn’t think I’d see her again before next summer.

Last night Siret and I had a girls’ night, catching up and enjoying dinner and a bottle of Riesling at African Kitchen (which has plenty of yummy choices for vegetarians like Siret). After dinner I accompanied her back to the rental apartment since she had “a whole pile” of stuff to give me. Man, she wasn’t kidding! I had asked her to maybe bring us a few bags of flavored coffee from the States, and this is what she actually brought:

Christmas pretzel M&M’s and Oreos

British Christmas treats from London

Lärabars! (she faithfully reads the blog so she knew I’d failed to obtain any during the summer)

Strawberry preserves with champagne (cannot wait to try this!)

Trader Joe’s tea and pumpkin butter

Bridal magazines and some British candies

…and of course, the requested flavored coffees (hazelnut, maple vanilla, and pumpkin spice!). Now we have to decide which one to open this weekend…

She is so sweet! I’m already happy that I get to see my oldest friend and her mother (whose flat J and I stayed in when we visited London last year), so getting fun food gifts from the USA and England is like the decadent icing on an already wonderful cake. Thank you Siret!!

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S’mores candy

Last week I went to ask my co-worker a question and she pointed to a box on her desk, saying “Take one!” She’d just returned from a work trip to the United States and came back with a box of Nancy Adams S’mores candies. She asked if I’d ever tried them before and I said no, not in candy form, as s’mores are usually the kind of thing you make yourself– start with one graham cracker (which is more like a cookie), place a square of chocolate on it, roast a marshmallow over a fire and then put it on the chocolate, which will melt, and top it all off with another cracker like a sandwich.

The candies have a thick graham cracker base topped with two marshmallow rounds, all coated in milk chocolate. To be honest, it wasn’t great. I don’t usually enjoy the texture of marshmallow candies, as they have the texture of a firm foam. The chocolate coating was also way too sweet and milky. I ended up only eating the graham cracker base, which was appropriately crumbly with a slight buttery taste. S’mores are so much better homemade. They’re incredibly sweet by nature, but it help swhen you’re able to toast the marshmallow yourself and get some char on it– it improves both the texture and the flavor immensely!

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Food souvenirs

Of course there were a million edible items I would’ve loved to bring home from the States, but due to SAS’s new one-bag policy that wasn’t possible. If they still allowed two checked bags, I can guarantee one would have been filled entirely with food (and wine). As it is, here are some of the items that made it home with me.

Corn bread mix from the Wonder/Hostess Outlet.

Chocolate halvah from a Middle Eastern store in Philly.

Various Clif, Luna, and granola bars (but no Läras– they’re so expensive!).

I tried a few Clif bars during the trip– White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Chocolate Chip, and Maple Nut. I think the Chocolate Chip was my favorite. White Chocolate Macadamia Nut tasted more like coconut than white chocolate, which is OK. And I like how Maple Nut has little crunchies in it to give texture, not just pieces of nuts.

Mini chipotle seasoning cubes.

Saigon pancake mix from a cool Korean market in Maryland.

Various hot sauces and barbecue sauces.

A whole bunch of candy, but most of it has already been eaten :-).

This might be the item I’m most excited about– Peanut Butter & Co’s White Chocolate Wonderful.

I haven’t opened it yet, because I’m not sure what to do with it– eat it with breakfast? Eat it with dessert? Either way I know once it’s open it’ll be gone far too quickly, and I won’t be able to replace it. Quite the dilemma… but on the happy day that I do open it, I’ll be sure to let you know how it is!

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Sin City

Oh yeah, baby– Las Vegas! J and I had been talking about going to Vegas for years and the plan became a reality when my mother offered to buy us a flight + hotel package for our birthdays. Thank you, ema!!

As an American, I know that the USA is huge, but even I was surprised how long it takes to get from Maryland to Vegas! We had about a 5-hour flight to Salt Lake City, then a short jump from there to Vegas. We took an early-morning flight so that we’d arrive there around midday. In addition to some instant oatmeal, I had these pretzel M&M’s along as a travel snack.

I’d been dying to try these! I like the crunch and the hint of saltiness. The pretzel nubs inside the candy were slightly more hard-crunchy than I was expecting, but I still liked the overall “lightness” it gave to the chocolate candies.

I know Vegas is a food and restaurant paradise, but on our trip, we were all about the deals. We managed to find some pretty good ones!

We were staying in the Flamingo, which was pretty much right in the middle of everything and right across from the massive Caesar’s Palace. We headed to the Forum Shops at Caesar’s for our dinner that night because J had read that the Palm Bar there has a heavily discounted bar menu during happy hour. They did indeed, and so it was that J got some delicious chicken strips and I had a plate of fried calamari for $3.50 each. Nice.

It was seriously yummy calamari too, though the fresh potato chips that came with it were lackluster. They needed more salt. I felt obligated to order a beer since we were sitting at the bar. J said I didn’t have to do that, but I tend to feel guilty about things I don’t need to feel guilty about. I don’t know– would you have felt awkward sitting at the bar eating their discounted food without getting a drink?

We worked our way northward on the Strip and discovered that things in Vegas are definitely further away than they appear to be. We also started to get used to the unique heat in the desert. It was very hot (106 F, or 41 C) but you never felt yourself sweat. When a breeze came I could only feel moisture underneath my hair (since I have really thick hair, I guess the sweat on my head didn’t evaporate as much). And the breeze itself was usually hot too, offering no relief. Fortunately the sun went down as we trekked northward, making the outdoors more bearable. When we needed a break we’d stop in a casino to play some penny slots and get some free drinks. I hardly even believed J when he assured me that all casinos offer free drinks on the floor– but they do! It felt funny at first, but we got used to it quickly ;-).

We walked all the way down to the Stratosphere and then stopped in Sahara for some $1 shots in souvenir glasses, because we’re classy like that.

When we got back to our neighborhood we needed a snack and were happy to find that a small Irish casino near our hotel had a beer-and-hot-dog deal for $3. We were bummed when we discovered that the food court in the casino had already closed, so no hot dogs for us (we got vouchers that we redeemed the next day). Luckily we had some snacks in our hotel room, and then we went to bed to rest up for day 2 in Vegas, which also happened to be my birthday!

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