1. Make your sugar count! Since tons of sugar isn't good for anyone, make sure when you have something sweet, it's really good, and not just empty calories. Some store bought goodies really don't have much flavor, so what's the point? I'm often disappointed when I hit a dessert buffet or sample a plate of cookies; something that looks amazing tastes like cardboard. I'm learning to take a bite, and if it's not really yummy, to just put it aside.
2. Pair your sugar with protein. There are at least two reasons for this. First, protein is harder for your body to digest than sugar, and slows down the release of insulin. Too much insulin can cause you to store unused calories as fat. For more on this, you can check out this article. Second, sugar makes us sleepy and protein wakes us up, according to a recent article in "Wired" that you can read here. And we need all the energy we can get around the holidays! If you have a hard time finding protein, you may want to carry a few sticks of celery in your purse (although not protein, they do have a high fiber content and help me balance sugar lows). Other easy options are nuts and cheese, which are often available at parties.
And on to the recipes: These both come from my mom via my grandfather who worked during his high school years as a baker, and was the family confectioner. We loved to visit their house at Christmas where tins of fudge, caramel corn, chocolate covered nuts and myriads more goodies were scattered throughout the living and dining rooms. Enjoy!
Baked Pop Corn (ss good as Cracker Jacks, really!)
4 quarts popped corn
1 c unsalted peanuts
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter
1/2 c corn syrup
1/2 t salt
1/2 t soda
1 t vanilla
Heat oven to 250. Place the popped corn and peanuts in a large pan. (I use my turkey roaster.) Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt. Heat til boiling and boil for 5 minutes. (You can do this on the stove or in the microwave). Add soda and vanilla. (This is fun to do as it starts to puff up.) Immediately pour over popcorn and stir. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 5 or 10 minutes. When done, pour out on waxed paper so the corn doesn't stick to the pan.
Butter Cookies (our favorite cut out cookies)
1 c butter
1 c sugar
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla (I think this is what makes them so yummy!)
Blend in: 2 2/3 c flour
Chill for one hour. Then roll out 1/8 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 375 for 7-10 minutes or until edges just start to turn golden. Ice with your favorite frostings and sprinkles.