Rock Candy Lollipops Recipe

Rock Candy Recipe

It was a case of a rock star gone pop. Lollipop, that is.

Rock Candy Finished

My girls were raving fans of a successful experiment we did out of a science kit, growing rock candy crystals in a jar. In that experiment we hung a sugar-coated string down into some sugar syrup, which results in crystals coating the string and jar. But when you all told me on facebook that you wanted a Spinning Cook rock candy recipe, I knew that it had to be lollipops.

Lollipop Stick Preparation

Here is how I connected three pops in a line between two tongue depressors with double-sided tape. A clothespin is much easier, if you only need to make a few.

The biggest complaint I’ve seen regarding other rock candy recipes, is that they sometimes don’t successfully form crystals, or take a really long time to do so. While I hate to criticize, many recipes simply have the wrong sugar ratio, or unclear instructions. But you and your young scientists deserve a reliable outcome. I can assure you that after extensive testing, this method works. It has also been simplified down to a minimum of steps; follow them carefully and you’ll have a household of happy scientists.

Rock Candy Lollipops Recipe
5.0 from 3 reviews
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-12
Making rock candy can be a great family activity, combining science and cooking with sweet success. If you follow the instructions carefully you should see substantial crystals forming after just one day, and full lollipops after 3-5 days.
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • food coloring (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon flavor extract, such as cherry or vanilla
  • Special Equipment:
  • 2-3 small to medium heat-proof canning jars (jelly jars work well)
  • 4-12 round bamboo skewers or cake pop sticks
  • clothespins or tongue depressors, for holding the sticks
  • 2-3 small plastic bags
  1. Start heating the water in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Pour the sugar into the center of the pan, and continue to heat without stirring, until it boils. Let it continue to boil rapidly for two full minutes, then remove it from the heat. The syrup should now be clear, not cloudy or grainy (if it is not clear, continue boiling for another minute or two).
  2. Carefully pour the hot syrup into your canning jars to an equal depth, which should be at least 3 inches in each jar. Add the flavoring extract to the jars (you can use different flavors in each, but ½ teaspoon is about right for the total amount). Add a different type of food coloring to each jar, and give each jar a quick stir. Cover each jar loosely with a small plastic bag.
  3. Dip each stick into the syrup about three inches, then sprinkle it on all sides with granulated sugar over a piece of parchment paper or wax paper (you don't want these sugar crystals getting into the jars at this point). Set the sticks on the parchment or wax paper to dry. Set the timer for one hour, which will allow the syrup to cool while the sticks are drying.
  4. After an hour has passed, use a spoon to gently lift off any hard coating which has formed on the surface of the syrup in the jars and discard (don't scrape or chip away, just lift away the big chunks). Next, prepare the sticks to be inverted down into the syrup. If you only want 2-3 lollipops per jar you can simply pinch each stick with a clothespin, and set the clothespins across the mouth of the jar. If you want to make more than this, use tongue depressors, two-sided tape, and scotch tape as follows. Apply two-sided tape to two wooden tongue depressors, place three lollipop sticks between them with the tape facing in, and then wrap scotch tape around the two tongue depressors to hold them tight. Using either tongue depressors or clothespins to hold them, now place the sugared sticks down into the syrup so they are at least ½ inch from the bottom of the jar. Cover each jar again with the plastic bag.
  5. Place the jars somewhere out of the way, and gently jiggle them about once per day to ensure that they are not connecting to crystals on the bottom, top, or sides of the jar (or each other). Wait 3-5 days for the lollipops to reach your desired size, then remove, and dry for a couple of hours before serving. Drying can be done on wax or parchment paper, or hanging inside a clean jar to avoid a flat spot. If using long bamboo skewers, these should now be trimmed down to a reasonable handle size of 3-4 inches. Once fully dried the lollipops can be kept indefinitely in a sealed container.


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Posted in Dessert, Kid Friendly, Science, Snacks, Techniques

Living Upside Down: Are We Celebrating Birthdays, Anniversaries, or Australia Day?

Cake Pop Birthday Photo: It doesn't feel like my daughter's birthday. It feels like the 8th anniversary of a completely. Different. Life. Happy Birthday my love.
Cake Pop Birthday Photo: It doesn't feel like my daughter's birthday. It feels like the 8th anniversary of a completely. Different. Life. Happy Birthday my love.

It’s hard to put into words what they mean to me, so I put it in pictures. I’m still “processing” the food photography workshop at last year’s International Food Bloggers’ Conference, and can’t wait for this year’s in Seattle.

Eight years ago my life turned upside down. And starting today the Spinning Meals app can turn upside down as well, which is really important for some people.

Most of you know personally how different life becomes when a child enters. They come into this world needing…everything. Needing to be taught…everything. And bearing great joy and meaning. The journey has been a kick in the pants, though every so often it feels like a kick in the teeth, because it can be so. Darn. Hard.

Two of my kids had birthdays this month. One wanted cake pops, which led to this fun photo. It took a bit of fiddling with lighting effects, but was worth it I think. Fun, right?

We’ve also been fiddling with the app, turning it upside down so to speak. See, the app thinks it’s pretty smart since it knows when winter is, and can automatically make a meal plan and shopping list at the right time of year. Except when it’s the wrong time of year, since south of the Equator it’s actually summer. Case in point: today’s Australia Day holiday, filled with summer barbecue and fireworks, a lot like our July 4th from what I understand. So our latest version lets users enable a Southern Hemisphere mode, to flip things upside down. Or right-way up, depending on your perspective, perhaps the Northerners have had it wrong all along.

So please enjoy the new version of Spinning Meals. And welcome to the world of automatic seasonal meal planning, to the good folks of: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (not just the country), Argentina, Chile, and countless others. I want to visit every one, truly. But right now I have kids to attend to, as my world is kind of upside down.

What location in the Southern Hemi do you most want to visit? Or if you’re there or have  already had first-hand experience, what are your favorites?

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Posted in Dessert, Food Articles, Kid Friendly, Parenting, Philosophies, Snacks, Spinning Meals, Thanks

Spinning Meals 1.3: Easy Matters

Short posts are best, right? We can all use the extra time. Speaking of saving time, our new version 1.3 of the Spinning Meals app has a completely rebuilt internet recipe capture capability, making it easier than ever before to find and store recipes online.

Internet Recipe Capture screenshots

Easy is good. Slick, right?

It finds recipes from, Food Network, Martha Stewart, Epicurious, Taste Of Home,  as well as some blogs like The Pioneer Woman, Simply Recipes, and Steamy Kitchen. Recipes you like are saved in your app as a personal copy, just like a print-out at home, and can be built into your automatic meal plan.

What other sites would you like to see added? Is meal planning important to you in 2013? And as we continue to improve the app, what feature(s) would you most like to see?

Happy New Year, everyone. To your health!

P.S. Here is the link to the app in the app store.

P.P.S. I’ll be speaking about my app development experience at the Portland Culinary Alliance meeting at Serratto Restaurant next Saturday January 12 at 11 am, along with Bob Greenberg of TablesUp, and Brett Burmeister of Food Carts Portland. Follow this link for details and registration if interested.

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Posted in Dinner, Food Articles, Parenting, Spinning Meals

Great Gifts, Great Escape: Cookbooks I Love

Food is love, and cookbooks are therapy. When life seems crazier than it should be, a good cookbook can be a great escape, nourishing us with creativity, education, inspiration, and confidence. Here are four new books I’m absolutely loving right now, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments, what you’re reading, cooking, and gifting this year.

Roots, by Diane Morgan

Diane is my original mentor in food writing. She teaches an excellent course on all the basics of the business, and her seventeen wonderful cookbooks attest to her great skill. Her latest takes it to a new level, with ambitious complete coverage of familiar and many intriguing exotic root vegetables.

A great cookbook can be read front-to-back and back-to-front. That is, great tips and recipes should jump off the page (high quality) as you browse from the beginning, but there should be enough there (high quantity) that you can look something up from the index and find it’s covered. Roots fits that to a T, which is why I’m sure I will turn to it often, for new inspiration as well as trusted advice on basics.

What jumps off the pages: the very tasty Carrot Margarita from Beaker & Flask; Carrot Ribbons with Sorrel Pesto and Crumbled Goat Cheese; Sushi-Style Pickled Ginger; Homemade Ginger Ale; Taro Chips; now I know what to do with Jicama; Chapter intros covering varieties, history and lore, basic use and preparation; the juxtaposition of exotic roots I’ve never heard of, with classic basics like mashed potatoes

Perfect gift for: Anyone trying to elevate vegetable consumption with more variety, year-round (should be all of us).

Modern Sauces, by Martha Holmberg

If there’s one single skill which can elevate your cooking beyond the basics, it’s mastering sauces. The right sauce can take something delicious and make it surreal. And as a parent, I use sauces to enhance and “sell” dishes which I expect my kids may not eat alone.

Just like Roots, this book is ambitious, but in a different way. Frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine the confidence it must have taken for Martha to take on such a broad book on such an established topic. But she has the confidence, and really seems to have pulled it off.

She covers the gamut: vinaigrettes, pestos, tomato sauces, cream sauces, gravies, custards, fruit sauces, desserts, you name it. Like Roots, I will use this for inspiration, as well as a go-to reference I can rely on for everyday situations and recipe development.

What jumps off the pages: Excellent chapter introductions with sections titled “What’s going on in this sauce?” and “What can go wrong and how can I fix it?”; All seven of the caramel sauces; Saffron-Red Pepper Hollandaise; An authoritative yet friendly, casual voice

Perfect gift for: Anyone wanting to elevate their game in the kitchen

The Great Meat Cookbook, by Bruce Aidells

Bruce is a great example of the principle “do one thing, do it well.” But for someone who focuses so entirely on meat, he demonstrates a thoughtful balance on the topic in a number of ways. In his sausages which are so popular at our house, he uses ingredients like fruit juices to blend in moisture, while minimizing or avoiding the traditional animal fat additives. And in his new cookbook this meat lover dares to utter “Meat as a Condiment” and labels some recipes with that category. Not many though.

It’s clear what he loves, yet it’s equally clear that the world of meat has changed substantially in recent years, both in terms of our attitudes, awareness, sustainability issues, industry terminology, and the composition of the product we find at butchers and grocers. Bruce addresses all of those topics, so there’s an educational aspect that goes far beyond the recipes.

What jumps off the pages: Categories like Great Meat Dishes of the World, and Meat as a Condiment; some great side dishes like Broccolini with Pecan Brown Butter; Goat recipes; and extensive use of Guinness, Bourbon, and Whisky

Perfect gift for: Meat lovers. Note: The book strictly interprets the word “meat” so you won’t find poultry or game recipes here.

Food In Jars Cookbook, by Marisa McClellan

The authors above spent years becoming individual experts on their various topics in the traditional way, which I greatly respect. Marisa represents a different kind of authority, a fantastic blog (which also took years) where a vibrant community comes together to provide constant interaction, inspiration, and feedback as the content comes together.

One nice thing about blog cookbooks is that even though many of the same recipes are freely available online, the book format allows for years of content to be arranged and packaged in a way that’s more accessible to a new reader. For instance, this book does a great job of walking through the basics of canning for someone who is new to it.

What jumps off the pages: Oven-Roasted Peach Butter; Mimosa Jelly; Honey Roasted Peanut Butter; and great honest writing: “I’ve heard so many people confess their canning fears. Mostly, they’re terrified that they’re going to kill their families.” Ha!

Perfect gift for: New or experienced canners

Cookbook Round-Up Wrap-Up

So which of these is more intriguing to you, and what are you reading, adding to your wish list, and/or gifting this year? Here’s hoping you can escape into something great this year, and next.

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Posted in Cookbooks, DIY, Food Articles, Recipes, Snacks, Spinning Meals, Thanks

What my grandfather taught me about food: Eating well Navy-style

My Grandfather on WWII Shore Leave

Here are a few treasured stories from one of my heroes, and what they can teach us about feeding our families.

Trickery Is Fair Game

My Grandfather on WWII Shore Leave

Here is a picture of my grandfather on shore leave in Seattle during World War II. Resemblance?

As an electrician on a Navy destroyer, my grandfather had a way of getting access to the officers’ much tastier food stores. The carefully-practiced routine went like this:

  1. During an inspection of the officers’ quarters, unplug the refrigerator.
  2. Return to your station, and empty out a toolbox. Wait to be called upon.
  3. When one of the officers notices that the fridge is out, act surprised. Respond to that service call with empty toolbox in hand.
  4. Load up the toolbox, plug the fridge back in, and take credit for a speedy repair job.

Lesson learned: We know our kids employ some trickery, like sneaking food to the dog under the table. As parents, let’s stay on our guard and keep a few tricks up our own sleeves.

Sometimes Dinner Is Just S.O.S.

At dinner, S.O.S. stands for Same Old Stuff, Slop on a Shingle, or…that other word that begins with S. Basically we’re talking about a creamy meat dish (typically sliced, canned “chip beef”) served over toast. Today you might actually pay a lot for it at a nice restaurant if they described it as “Thin-sliced braised Cascadian natural beef shoulder in a béchamel truffle sauce” and called the toast a “garlic crouton.”

Lesson learned: Sometimes you’ve just gotta eat what’s on your plate. Ease the process by making up funny names for your family’s recipes.  And don’t forget that even the most basic scratch-made meals typically beat the nutritional content of drive-thru.

Ice Cream For Pilots

One of the key missions of a destroyer in the South Pacific was rescuing downed pilots. Nearby destroyers would race to be first to these reported coordinates, not just for the sake of the pilot, but because carriers paid out a 5-gallon container of ice cream for each returned pilot. The problem was, this wouldn’t come close to feeding all the men on the ship, and as anyone with small children knows, rewarding just a portion of your crew is a recipe for mutiny. The solution was (I’m not kidding) to save up pilots on your ship, ideally delivering 5 at a time for a full-crew ice cream social.

Lesson learned: Always consider the health and happiness of your whole family, not just a subset. Have you ever found yourself feeding the kids well and forgetting yourself entirely?

Thank you veterans, we are all indebted to you.

Are there any military food stories in your own family history? Do you employ dinner table trickery, or have favorite nicknames for recipes? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Posted in Family, Food Articles, Parenting, Philosophies, Thanks


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