Butternut Crunch Toffee

My daughter Barbara, of SweetMacShop, recently held a class at a Cooking Store in Salt Lake City, teaching people how to make my Butternut Crunch Toffee recipe. Then she linked it on her Stories, and now I’m putting it here so all those searching can find it too. It’s also on my Recipe Blog at, if you need other delicious treats like Lemon-Butter Sauce for your holiday baking.

I found this in our local newspaper, back in the day when newspapers had full-fledged cooking sections.  In the olden days, back when newspapers were read every day around the breakfast/dinner table, there were many pages devoted to Christmas cookies, delectable sweets, ways to manage the Big Day’s meal, and lots of other columns imported from other news services.  I cut it out and tried it, because it had the promise “Master this and you will rule the world.”  My husband, whose favorite candy at the time was Almond Roca, declared this recipe A Hit.  I’ve made it just about every Christmas since.  According to the article, it came from Ann Hodgman’s Beat This! Cookbook, published in 1993.  Now you know really how old this clipping is.  I’ve made some changes: the recipe as listed below includes these changes.

1 cup (2 sticks) lightly salted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Scatter the whole almonds over a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until lightly toasted–don’t burn!  Let cool, then chop them up in a food processor, but don’t chop them into dust. Leave some chunks.  Scatter half of the almonds over a cookie sheet; reserve the rest for later.  [Note: I’ve always used a cookie sheet, but the recipe calls for a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Your pick.]

In a medium heavy saucepan, over medium to medium-low heat, melt the butter.  With a spatula kind of scoot some up on the sides so as to “butter the pan.”  As soon as the butter is melted, stir in the sugar. Continue to stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a rolling boil (a boil that can not be stirred away).  Add the corn-syrup-water mixture and stir well; the mixture will hiss for a few seconds, but that’s all right.

With the pan still on the heat, cover the saucepan and leave it covered for 3 minutes (use a timer).  Then uncover it and stick in a candy thermometer.  Keeping the heat at medium-low, and stirring once in a while, heat the mixture to 300 degrees.  (My sister Christine also uses the paper bag test: she holds up a brown paper sack and when the toffee is that color, it’s time to yank it. *Note: for higher altitudes, for every 1000 feet above sea level, subtract 2 degrees.*)

When the candy finally reaches 300 degrees (it seems to get stuck at 220 and stays there for a long time), remove the candy from the heat immediately and pour it onto the chopped nuts, tilting the pan back and forth to cover it evenly.  The recipe says not to scrape the pan or the candy might crystallize, but I’ve been known to help down the last little ribbon of toffee mixture from the side with my spatula.  Other than that, I obey, and generally don’t scrape the pan.

Let it cool for a few minutes, then scatter chocolate chips over the surface (another trick from my sister).  The heat from the cooling toffee will melt the chips.

When they are melted, take a spatula and smooth out the chocolate.

Scatter the reserved nuts over the surface.

Let it really cool down.  A lot.  When the chocolate is set (about 2 hours or so), break up the toffee into pieces by “stabbing” straight down into the toffee with a paring knife until you hear it break. More stabs equals smaller pieces.  I put it into a dish, then pour the extra bits of nuts and toffee over that.  Makes about 1 pound of candy.

Now you really will rule the world.

Covid-19 Times · Shine: The Circles Quilt · Something to Think About

Christmasy Shine Blocks • Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

The sign on the door of my sewing room as I sew a special gift for my husband.

Okay, you just have to see the creativity of my friend who pattern-tested all the later Shine blocks — the last few I’ve been talking about. The originals, you are familiar with. Now I’m doing them in Red, White and Blue. But my friend Linda, of @lkhomework (she used to teach school before she retired), did them all in Christmas fabrics, and she has graciously allowed me to share them with you.

Such wonderful eye candy, perfect for Christmastime and to help get us in the mood for this very different season in 2020.

As you can see, she plans a diagonal set for her blocks.

Yes, I realize I should have imprinted the number of the block before I posted them, but I didn’t. Here’s an index of them all, in mix of the original colors, illustrations and RWB:

Block #1, which is based on a traditional pattern, morphed into Block #7. Linda used both of these variants to great success. I think her quilt is going to be just fabulous!

And today the December QuiltMania newsletter was published, and with this, their series of my SHINE: The Circle Quilt blocks ends. The first 12 blocks can be downloaded by subscribing to their free newsletter; they will send you the link (details here). They will live at QuiltMania until early 2021, when they will come back home here to stay. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with QuiltMania, and feel like those scary disorienting days of covid are behind us, when I first made the offer to QM for them to use my patterns, in order to do my own little part to help keep interest in their excellent publications.

More than other years, I find this Christmas to be such a mix. I wrote on Instagram about seeing someone contemplating a jump from a freeway overpass. I had just come from visiting a friend who had successfully completed her initial phases of a stem cell transplant, the cells giving her another chance at life, and I’ve thought about these two contrasting experiences for days.

She, working so incredibly hard to keep life, to beat her disease, putting up with all manner of incredibly painful and difficult treatments and procedures. And then to see this young man who appeared to have cut open the chain mesh fence that shields our overpasses from just such desperate decisions. Our traffic was slowed, and as my car neared the bridge, I could see the man clutching the fence, holding on, having given himself a second chance as the fireman secured a belt around him, preserving his life. It was a different kind of second chance than my friend fighting cancer. Hers, a grueling year-long journey. His, a reconsidering of a tragic decision in a split second.

And so our year continues with such contrasts: thousands of people dying from the pandemic, while we turn inward to try and find the joy and the happiness, aware that just around the corner, ennui and disease and depression await. It’s a dance in the best of times, but made so much more complicated this year with its seemingly endless conveyor belt of tragedy. With hearts so tender, Christmas sewing is a tonic: the snowmen and Santa, the holly and ivy, the red and green, patchwork and stockings and gifts and delights.

And so I rejoice in Christmas.

I light the candles on our kitchen table and set out the soup. Over dinner, my husband and I (a covid-bubble of two) talk over the news, before moving on to the detritus of our day. I relish the lights, delight in the sight of our miniature tree and my husband’s nutcrackers, all anchoring symbols of familiarity, grounding us and keeping us tethered.

I rejoice in carols: a favorite song can move me to tears, so close to the surface are the emotions of this season. I might post again before the year is out, but you may be too busy to respond; it’s less than two weeks until we close out the official holiday of lights and gifts and slide on into the new year. To wish you all the best as you make your way to 2021, I leave you with one of my favorite songs of Christmas (click on the link to listen). Sing along and enjoy!

Christmas Quilts · Quilts

Christmas Gifts

Since all the recipients of my handmade Christmas gifts have received — and opened — their presents, I can now share what I made for my four children. Gifts for adult children and their families can be challenging. Sometimes we’ve given money so they can share an experience, sometimes we’ve purchased gifts for the whole family  — spending hours in the toy aisle at Target — but sadly, most of the grandchildren want something from the toy aisle at Amazon these days.  Other years we’ve given a beautiful Christmas picture book.

This year, we went this way.

Christmas Gifts1aChristmas Gifts2Christmas Gifts3Christmas Gifts4

I had leftover bits from my Criss-Cross Christmas quilt, but had to search to find more fabric to make what I wanted, then used an entirely different line for the backing and binding.  When these lines sell out, they are gone gone gone.

I started these in April (in process photos, above) and finished, quilted, and bound them in November and mailed them before Thanksgiving so the families could use them in their decorating (if they wished).  I unpicked the upside-down animals, righting them (as seen in the left photo).

Christmas Criss-Cross, quilt #219

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We were at my daughter’s for Thanksgiving, and I snapped this quilt, casually tossed on her bed.  I thought it looked great.  I hope to get photos of what the other families are doing with their table toppers/bed accents/wall hangings/whatever.

Gridster Dec 2020 blocks.jpg

We finished up our 2019 Gridster Bee by making these hot air balloon blocks, free from Woodbury Way.  They are for Afton, who lives in an area known for their hot air balloon festivals, so it’s a fitting block for her (although she may just really like them, I haven’t asked).  I was supposed to do Block 4, but things just kind of morphed  into something else once I got going.

Road to California Sign D19

Finally, in other happy news, this is a photo of me dropping off three quilts that were accepted to the upcoming Road to California Quilt Show.

We have quite a group that will meet up there, with Lisa bringing friends from Utah, Carol coming all the way from Boston, Kelley from Palm Springs, and the locals (Simone, Leisa, Laurel and I).  It will be a gathering, of sorts, for a few members of the Gridster Bee!  We generally meet upstairs for lunch, overlooking the gallery of hanging quilts.  This year I’ll have a quilt in that gallery as well, as our Inland Empire Modern Quilt Guild has been selected to provide those quilts.  I’ll have more news about all of this when it gets closer to Road, which will be held January 20-26, 2020.

I have one more Christmasy post on Christmas Day, so until then, keep your spirits Merry and Bright while finishing up the shopping, baking and gathering.  And if you are having a solo holiday experience this year, I wish you lots of good music, great take-out, and quality sewing time.


A Little Christmas Treat: Spritz

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

I couldn’t resist this illustration of a a Spritz Christmas Cookie, as it looked so much like one of our quilts (first seen on They Draw and Cook).  And don’t we all need a moment of sweets–that is–EASY sweets. I like to add about 1/2 tsp. almond extract, as I love almond flavors at Christmastime (can also sprinkle with finely chopped almonds).



tiny nine patches

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