Lettuce Eat Local: Finding the sweetness in Plan B

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Amanda Miller
Columnist
Lettuce Eat Local

 

“Well that lasted about five minutes.”

I don’t think I’m the only mom of young children who finds herself repeating this phrase, turning it into a daily refrain. We have a great idea, hype it up in our minds and in our kids’, do all the things to get it ready and into action, and then…it ends up being anticlimactic, to say the least. 

Sometimes it’s just a total fail, hard to find any salvageable or redeemable aspects. Technically, time spent connecting with our kids is always a win, whether the project succeeded or not; the amount of cleanup, however, at times can unfortunately rival or surpass the actual activity. Some days are just like that, and I have to remind myself it’s okay.

Fortunately, occasionally when Plan A fails, Plan B shows up and saves the day, if we have the flexibility to let it. 

A few weeks ago we had all that snow, beautiful inches and inches of it, but it came with a windchill much too cold for not only this wimp mama to go out in but also my snow-adoring son. Since we couldn’t go outside, I had the bright idea to bring the snow inside. We’d done that a few times before already, just scooping some powdery snow into a tupperware for him to tromp his animal figures around in. That seemed to have run its course, so I decided to up the ante a bit and bring “paint” into the picture; I mixed up some colorful drink mix packets really strong, and gave Benson eye droppers to drop the dyed water onto the snow. 

It worked great! For about five minutes. The thing about super-concentrated bright blue and pink liquid is that it’s super-concentrated bright blue and pink liquid. I’m not a complete novice, so I had already put an old towel under the snow container, yet for some reason it didn’t register that he was wearing a white shirt until some electric blue polka dots got added. Sometime around there my son figured out that a spoon transferred the “paint” a lot faster than the eye dropper, and we escalated quickly from tranquilly adding beautiful drops of color to our canvas of snow to sloshing and dumping it (“to feed the bear in the cave,” he said). I mentioned before how much my son loves to eat plain snow, but the stakes suddenly got much higher when he realized there was sweet flavored snow available — and he was in charge of how sweet and flavored it got. 

Like I said, things escalated. Clearly we were onto Plan B, which I decided was hydration. My child has not peed even close to so much since watermelon went out of season. Success! 

Another notable alternate success recently was our caramel apples. Benson had been adoringly admiring the decorated caramel apples displayed at the grocery over Christmas, but since I wasn’t going to buy him one, I figured we should make our own. So fun, right? I even had sprinkles and toppings ready to go. 

Most recipes called for corn syrup; I don’t buy that either, but no biggie. Um yes biggie. It smelled amazing while the sauce was caramelizing, but then it barely wanted to stick to the apples. Which was actually a good thing since it cooled harder than a rock, and the only way to eat the apple was to completely remove the caramel (at least if you wanted any teeth left). 

In my annoyance I dumped some milk into the is-this-even-possible-to-ever-get-clean pot of hardened caramel and heated it. Voila! the most amazing caramel drink ever. In this case Plan B was way better than Plan A would have been. 

And if you sip slowly, it lasts longer than five minutes. 

 

Plan B Caramel Milk

This takes a smidge of time and attention to cook the caramel, but the concentrate keeps well in the fridge for a week or two — ready to create a perfect glass or mug of caramel milk in seconds. Try to keep the kids distracted with a different project (good luck) while you’re making this, as the hot sauce is very hot. The drink is great served alongside sliced apples….

Prep tips: I can’t decide if this was better hot or cold, so make sure and try it both ways. A candy thermometer or similar tool is important to get the sauce caramelized. 

1 cup cream

1 cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon salt

4 cups milk, plus more

Whisk cream, sugars, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium, whisking often, until caramel thickens and reaches 245°. Let it cool for a bit, then carefully pour in milk. Heat over medium heat again, stirring until caramel all melts into the milk. When serving, add milk to taste to achieve your preferred sweetness. Store leftovers in the fridge, shaking well before using. 

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