Tag Archives: candy

Shrimps and Bananas

Halloween is fast approaching, and I’ve made a new discovery at the candy shop: Shrimps and Bananas. They are adoreable and tasty. I mean, look at the packaging! Funny happy zoo friends having a snack together. Monty Monkey says, “I want bananas!” Ronni Rhino begins to dance around singing, “Shrimps for me! I love shrimps!” Then Gina, the Giraffe who eats anything, decides “Let’s ALL have shrimps and bananas!” Of course, it’s much cuter when you read it with a British accent.


At first, I thought they were a strange savoury treat, but the kid-friendly package design and the ingredient list (sugar, sugar, and sugar) indicated sweetness. When I felt the packet, I could tell the candies were softish, and I began to suspect they might be related to one of my most favouritest nostalgic treats: the Circus Peanut.

Fresh Circus Peanuts are wonderful sugarbombs. Giant orange peanut shaped cousins to the marshmallow. They have a firm and foamy texture, with a post-peanut hyperactivity warning on the label. Just kidding. But yes, they are kid candy. And no, they do not contain peanuts. On my good-ol’-days candy list, they are second only to the Orange Slice (close relative to the gumdrop, and a Christmas grab bag staple).

The bananas tasted very faintly of banana, and the shrimp tasted absolutely nothing like shrimp . . . more like strawberry maybe? Ginger Man declined to eat them because they were shrimp shaped, but his tastes tend to favour the sour anyway. So, my candy-loving fellows, hie thee to yon sweet shoppe and return forthwith avec Shrimps and Bananas that ye sweet toothe might be appeased.

Vancouver Farmers Markets: Fresh, Local, and Fabulous!

Vancouver lies in the bountiful cradle of the Fraser Valley, and the  farms and orchards of the Okanagen are not too far away. Being a port city, exotic produce and goods are readily available to consumers, and many items are available year round. Seasonal local products and produce are wonderful, however, and Farmer’s Market season is in full swing in most Vancouver communities come summertime.

I usually buy produce from local independent shops, and occasionally I’ll venture out to Granville Island Market for some “trendy” grocery shopping and a grand day out, but I what I love best is milling about with the locals at a seasonal Farmer’s Market. Seeing an array of folding tables laden with an incredible selection of fresh fruit and veg or homemade goodies or handmade crafts make me feel at home no matter what city it’s in.

I love the smell of sweet fruit in the warm sun, and the taste of free samples. An infinite palette of ripe natural colours  greets me, and I don’t mind the noise and bustle of a crowd of interesting strangers. I daydream my way through homemade bread, cakes, pies, perogis, pastas, samosas, spreads, dips, sauces, and whatever else the cornucopia of tasty treats may offer. I usually come back with a bag (or two) of fresh, fragrant, and delicious things.


An array of ripe strawberries.


Scrumptious home-baked goodies.


Gorgeous fresh mushrooms.

Today, I purchased a dozen brown speckled eggs laid by happy free-range chickens living in the Fraser Valley, and some ground beef and sirloin steaks taken from grass-fed Angus cattle raised on a Cariboo-Chilcotin ranch. I also picked up some red and yellow peppers, fresh strawberries, and a bag of various greens (including pea shoots and dandelion greens). Baked goods were plentiful, and a small rhubarb crisp came home with us, but we ate an apple-compote crepe and a ham & cheese scone on the spot.

Speaking of spot, there were quite a lot of dogs in the crowd or waiting patiently along the perimeter. I enjoy a dog-friendly neighbourhood, especially when people respectfully leash their animals and the pups have good manners. It’s always a treat for me to meet someone else’s dog, since I cannot have one of my own right now.


Little French Bulldog

My Favourite Finds:

Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup Taffy immediately makes me think of Laura Ingalls-Wilder making snow candy in Little House in the Big Woods. In the winter, her mother would pour swirls of hot maple syrup into a pile of fresh snow and make sweet little candies. Oh how I wanted to do that, begging Mommie Dearest to let me every time there was a good snowfall, but to no avail. Maple Syrup Taffy works on a similar principle. Among French Canadians, it’s called tire sur la neige meaning “to draw in the snow.”

After a brief hand-wash with sanitizing gel, I selected a wooden stick and the Syrup Guy poured a line of hot syrup on top of a barrel full of crushed ice “snow.” I counted to three and pressed the stick into the syrup at the end of the line, then slowly began to collect the sweet sticky candy, rolling it up on my stick. I let my Maple Taffy lolly sit for a moment to firm up, but I could hardly wait to taste it.

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

It was sticky like caramel, but light and not too sugary. The mapley flavour was clean and bright, like a moment of unspoiled childhood happiness.  I also bought a maple sugar cone for Ginger Man. They are like little tiny ice cream cones, filled with a bit of taffy in the bottom and a more crystalized maple sugar candy on top. Apparently, it’s quite a popular treat among the Quebequois. The sugar buzz kept us going all morning. It was a delightful experience.

Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt

At the Maison Coté booth, there were bags upon bags of spice mixes, peppercorns, and seasoned salts, as well as a shelf of oils, vinegars, and little balsamic spritzers. I picked up some Citrus sea salt (with lemon, orange, and grapefruit peel), a bag of Kitsilano peppercorn blend, and a White Truffle Balsamic spritzer to mist on my greens (I’m told it’s also nice on chicken and fish). I wish I had brought an extra $20 bucks at the time, because I would have immediately thrown it down to have a bag of the Italian black truffle salt. The vendor was kind enough to give me a whiff, and it really knocked my socks off. That earthy, pungent, luscious truffley aroma was truly amazing. Happily, his shop is in the city, so I’m looking forward to visiting and bringing home some of that orgasmic salt blend soon.

Farmers Market Shopping Tips

In the Vancouver area, most farmers markets open between April and July and continue through October or September. The majority run Saturdays or Sundays, but there are several venues with markets on a Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Arrive early to be sure you get what you want, or visit near closing time to get last-minute deals from some vendors
  • Bring CASH to make things simple, or purchase some “Market Money” using your bank card. Use it like cash at any vendor.
  • Some vendors rotate between different venues during the season, but many of them take orders from their websites.
  • BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags! Most markets sell tote bags and packs of veggie bags if you need them.
  • Bike, bus, or walk if you can. Parking in some neighbourhoods can be tricky to find, and drive cautiously around pedestrians. Besides, it’s no bad thing to be a little “green” and leave the gasmobile at home.
  • Keep an eye out for “delivery services” at the market entrance. You can load up with goodies and someone will bike or drive it to your home.
  • Don’t forget, Farmer’s Markets aren’t just for veggies! You can also get fresh eggs, frozen meats and fish, pickles, preserves, oils, spices, honey, handmade soaps, fresh flowers, potted plants, hats, jewelry, pottery, just about anything!


Video of Maple Syup Taffy

Empire Valley Beef

Maison Coté

VFM Seasonal Produce Guide

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets

Candy is dandy, but crickets are bugs.

Today, I did a brave and stupid thing. I stopped in our friendly neighbourhood candy store (which was sadly all out of TimTams) and decided to have a bit of a spree for the sake of a good blog. This place carries all kinds of interesting sweets from over the border and across the pond, and their selection varies slightly from time to time. You never know what you’ll come across.

I made a beeline for the American imports right away and picked up the following:

  • assortedcandyPopeye “Tasty Candy Sticks
  • Jelly Belly Sours
  • Hoffman’s CupoGold
  • London Mint chocolates
  • Zero Bars (Dark and Milk)
  • Pop Rocks Wild Berry
  • Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate 70%
  • Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg
  • Walkers Crispy Duck & Hoisin crisps
  • Scorpion Sucker Banana Flavor
  • Crick-ettes Bacon & Cheese

Crick-ettesWhen I decided to purchase the box of Crick-ettes, it was all I could do to hold them in my hand. At one point I forgot what I was carrying, and when I looked down and saw their dead buggy faces staring back at me from behind the cellophane, I nearly threw them down and ran screaming out the door. But, I didn’t want to make a scene in the candy shop, so I composed myself. “Stay strong . . . they’re just for pictures. You don’t have to eat them.” Or so I told myself at the moment.

cricketsReally, what kind of foodie would I be if I didn’t at least have a wee nibble? Just to educate my taste buds . . . clearly I had  lost my mind. Ginger Man pretty much agreed, but I got him to try a hind leg with me. Perhaps if I had just popped one in whole and crunched it up like a brave girl, the experience might have been more informative, but no, it wasn’t worth it to me. I had a cricket in my hand and a steak in my freezer; the choice was clear. Still, a taste test was in order.

There was sufficient fake bacony cheese dust to impart a flavour of some kind, but the texture completely turned me off. It was like I had just bitten into food and my tongue found an inedible particle, a thing that didn’t belong, and was trying in vain to evict it from my palate. Ptooey sums it up best. I must say, however, the crows were very pleased with the Crick-ettes.

scorpsuckaI was quite happy to move on to the badass banana scorpion sucker. There was a whole lotta sugar between me and that critter, so I was game for a lick or two. Examining the little scorpion, delicately preserved in the center of a golden confectionary window made me feel like a paleontologist. At the same time, whatever morbid human curiosity the goodie satisfied, I couldn’t help thinking how many of those little animals had gotten their stingers ripped off and died in a suffocating yellow goo so that geeks like me could throw down some money for a laugh. Curiosity satisfied, that’s the last one I’ll ever buy.

chipsThe duck and hoisin chips weren’t half bad. The taste reminded me of brown gravy. The Walkers Crisps company in the UK recently held a contest with 6 new flavours including Crispy Duck & Hoisin, Fish & Chips, Chili & Chocolate, Onion Bhaji, Builder’s Breakfast, and the one I really wish I could have tried: Cajun Squirrel. I don’t usually like weird flavours on chips, but Canadian dill pickle flavoured chips are rather addictive. Salty, vinegary, herby. Ketchup chips aren’t as interesting, but they are kinda tasty. What I really miss are authentic Moore’s Cheesies, which are no longer produced. There is no substitute. I’ve searched everywhere and have yet to find any cheesy poof that comes close. I’m sure they were made out of crap and plastic, but darnit they were yummy! I occasionally miss those phantom childhood tastes. Those things that I haven’t had in forever and I remember them being incredibly delicious beyond imagination, like HoHos and Moon Pies and those six packs of sugary doughunts and YooHoo! Then when I actually get one, it’s inevitably disappointing.  Sometimes the nostalgia factor is enough to make it alright, even if it’s stale and plasticky tasting and nothing like what I remember.

kinder apeI handed over all the jelly belly sours—Ginger Man’s reward for trying the cricket, and because I love him. He wants me to eat the orange ones, but I like the red ones, and I’m cute, so I get my way. He got the pop rocks, but we split the Kinder egg (he gets the chocolatey outside; I get the toy inside). This time it was a real cutie: a fuzzy green ape! So much better than a dumb robot with weird chicken arms.

popeyecigsThe dreamy London Mints are for after dinner for the next couple days, and the “candy sticks” are for whenever I feel like putting my feet up and having a fake smoke, cuz we all know those are candy cigarettes. In order not to start smoking rebelliously the last time I was home for a visit, me and my sisters stopped at every convenience store in the county looking for candy cigs. I went through about a pack of Round Ups a day.

The CupOGold, that’s for a special afternoon with a big ol’ cuppa coffee. Marshmallow and chocolate. Save the best for last.

Daniel Le Chocolat Belge

Daniel ChocolatesOn an early April foodie safari along Granville Street, I came upon a little chocolate shop, just in time to add a few goodies to my Easter basket. Daniel Le Chocolat Belge had plenty of goodies to choose from. In addition to their regular supply of truffles and molded belgian chocolates in the candy case, there were shelves and displays filled with adoreable bunnies, chickens, and delicious praliné eggs. It was hard to decide what to pick!

I didn’t want to blow my basket budget, so I went with a small box of peanut butter bunnies, four exotic truffles, and a few praliné eggs. I’ve waited ages to break into them, but now I can tell you all about how delicious they are. These are some of the creamiest chocolates I’ve ever had, with gorgeous mouth-feel and flavour. Not grainy in the slightest, not too sweet, and the exotic truffle flavours were fun.

Here’s a rundown of my sampling:

Easter TrufflesDark Advocaat Brandy
Lush and velvety smooth

Milk Cinnamon-Nutmeg
Interesting. Snickerdoodley.

Dark Chipotle
Good. Super creamy, not peppery.
Flavour is a little hidden.

Peanut Butter BunnyMilk Mojito
Excellent! Creamy chocolate with
a fresh hint of mint and lime.

Praliné Eggs
Creamy, crunchy, sweet, delicious.
Milk or dark chocolate with a creamy chocolate filling made with ground caramelized almonds or hazelnuts.

Peanut Butter Bunnies
Melt-in-your-mouth cuteness.

About Daniel’s Divine Chocolates

View Daniel’s Chocolate Map

Daniel Poncelet (Chocolatier) was born and raised in Belgium, where he says “chocolate was an inseparable part of my daily diet. I still remember how good it was to let it melt in my mouth and try to make the piece last as long as possible in order to be the last one in the family still enjoying it.”

He learned his craft from Clovis Harmegnie, “an exceptionally passionate Belgian master chocolatier,” and grew to appreciate not only the art of making chocolates but also fine quality ingredients. According to Daniel, this inspired his determination to create chocolates “without compromise, with zealous adherence to purity.”

Daniel uses only 100% natural ingredients to make chocolates that are preservative free with no artificial colorings and flavors and no hydrogenated oils or tropical fats.Daniel sources premium chocolate from world renowned chocolate manufacturer, Barry Callebaut. Callebaut’s chocolate heritage spans more than 120 years, and the company actively supports cocoa farmers and communities as part of its commitment to maintaining a sustainable cocoa industry.

Daniel’s Belgian Chocolates is located at 2820 Granville St. Vancouver, BC with additional locations in Metro Vancouver and Toronto as well as an online shop.

S’mores + Peeps = Smeeps!

Pretty peeps all in a row.

Pretty peeps all in a row.

Easter is hopping right around the corner, and marshmallow Peeps are popping up on store shelves everywhere. They are certainly an essential part of my annual Easter basket.

I love Peeps. All the fun of a marshmallow with a vibrant sugar coating. I bite their heads off . . . so they don’t suffer. Okay, really so I don’t have to look them in their little candy eyes. Exactly the opposite of how I consume a chocolate bunny. I don’t know why that is.

Peeps are best fresh out of a brand new package, but don’t think I won’t eat them a little stale and chewy. It also didn’t take long for me to figure out what would happen if you put one in the microwave. Try that on some ice cream or a brownie . . . or both. Have mercy!

Forked PeepThen one day, Easter came around and Peeps were once again plentiful. The weather was becoming fine and clear where I lived at the time, and I was buying groceries for a lovely weekend for camping. Of course, where there’s a campfire, there must be marshmallows, and where there are marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers cannot be far away. I thought to myself, “Self, what do you reckon would happen if we stuck one of them there Peeps on a stick and roasted him over the fire?” *DING-DING-DING*

I had to run a few tests right away. Microwave heat is very different that fire heat (which is much less predictable, to boot). I no longer had a gas stove (sigh), so I fired up the electric burner and contemplated the possible outcomes as I poked a long-handled fork into a marshmallow chicken. What would happen to that sugar coating? I silently prayed for carmelization.

meltyCarefully, I positioned my peep for maximal even heat, rotating it slowly and watching for the slightest change in color or shape. The chick began to expand. It rapidly became lopsided, threatening to droop off my fork, but years of marshmallow toasting had provided enough skill to regain control just as the yellow sugar coating began to brown.  Oh here we go . . . carmelize, you beautiful marshmallow. A bit of color here, a bit of color there, and away you go. Once off the heat, the sugar coating began to harden slightly . . . like the top of a creme brulee.

Perfectly toasted.

Perfectly toasted.

I have to say, this is one of my most favouritest ways to eat a Peep. The outside is crispy, the inside is melty, and it takes on a whole new flavour.

CAUTION: Count to 10 before you try to eat the Peep or you will burn your mouth. Caramelized sugar is VERY HOT but will cool off quickly.

You can make a s’more with these guys, just as you would with a regular marshmallow: sandwich the toasted Peep between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate. However, I often prefer to toast them under the oven broiler to and serve them open-faced. They are also exquisite with a little peanut butter.

How to Make a Smeep:

  1. S'more + Peep = Smeep!

    S'more + Peep = Smeep!

    For each serving, place a graham cracker on a cookie sheet.

  2. Top each graham cracker with a square of chocolate (milk or dark) and a marshmallow Peep (bunny peeps work great for this because they are flat and brown more evenly).
  3. Place under a broiler for a few minutes until the chocolate softens and the top of the Peeps are slightly browned and carmelized.
  4. Cool slightly before eating.

Can’t get enough Peeps?

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Pinwheels

Creamy and Sweet

Creamy and Sweet

I’ve been on a sugar kick lately, and for whatever reason these nostalgic treats kept popping into my mind. They were extremely popular where I grew up and often graced the child’s-eye-level shelf at our local store bakeries. One version of the recipe uses cold mashed potatoes in the sugar dough, and at first, I was bent on making potato candy . . . then my sister talked some sense into me. You can indeed use plain leftover potatoes, but according to Sissy, the result can be unpleasantly grainy and not as tasty.

Half a batch provided plenty of candy for our house. If you’re having a bake sale or a party, simply double the ingredients for a super-size batch. The dough comes together very easily in a stand mixer, but a wooden spoon and a bowl will work just fine (be sure to knead the dough).

The dough is quite easy to handle. It also has plenty of sugar, so I reccommend using a fresh ground nut butter or a natural variety like Adams. The distinct lack of sugar in the nut butter provides a welcome contrast to the creamy, sweet dough. I initially used 1 cup of creamy cashew-peanut butter (so yummy) with no sugar added, but I think that wasn’t quite enough, so I suggest at least 1 1/2 cups in the recipe.

Sissy’s Peanut Butter Pinwheels

  • 1lb powdered sugar (3 3/4 cups)
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup) melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs heavy cream
  • good quality peanut butter (about 1 1/2 cups) room temp

sugar doughMix sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add cream slowly (1 Tbs at a time) until a dough forms.

rolled out sugar doughKnead on board covered with powdered sugar at least 5 minutes. It should be nice and smooth. Divide in half. Roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap.

ready to rollRemove top sheet of plastic. Spread dough with Peanut Butter. Roll up jelly-roll style.

candy logCover with plastic wrap. Chill until firm.

Use a sharp, clean knife to cut 1/4″ slices.

Keep this candy refrigerated . . . I keep it wrapped and just cut off a slice when I want a fix. I don’t know how well it freezes because it never stays around that long.