As someone who nearly failed the one economics class on her college roster (and who needed explanation), I called in the big guns...my roommate with the ivy-league economics degree. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, um, so what's 'diversifying your assets' mean?
Roommate: It's part of managing your portfolio. Basically you don't want to have all of your eggs in one basket in case something fails, so you put your assets into a variety of stuff.
Me *brows furrowed with intense concentration*: I see......so you're saying that if I really want something to do well, I need to spread the risk out....or...'diversify'....yes, I think I see it now....
Roommate: ...er, glad to help
That afternoon I put my new-found economic knowledge to the test; I made birthday treats.
But did I make just one type of treat? Heavens, had I learned nothing about risk management that day? Did I made just two types of treats? No self-respecting economist would ever accept those odds. No, I made three, yes three, types of birthday treats. And it was darn lucky I did (since I forgot about the popcorn-aversion of one good friend). So here's a quick economics lesson from me to you: when baking birthday treats, never forget to diversify, diversify, diversify!
Keynesian Popcorn Caramel Crisps
Adapted from Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way, by Lorna Sass
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups plain popped popcorn
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
Step one: Spread out a length of waxed paper or saran wrap to make a stick-free working space. Pour sugar in a heavy saucepan with the lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue boiling and stirring until the color begins turning from light to dark amber (about 8 minutes of boiling). Continue cooking and stirring for another two minutes, or until the mixture is a few shades darker, and then immediately stir in the butter and baking soda. Lorna Sass warns that at this point you should stand back because the mixture may splatter, but I found it just frothed up and turned bright red (and yes, I did cackle like a mad scientist).
Step two: Turn off head and work quickly to stir in half the popcorn and nuts, coating them evenly before stirring in the other half. Continue to work quickly as you set heaping tablespoonsful of the mixture onto the waxed paper. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, shape each mound into a ball, and let them cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.
Stagflation Spanish Peanut Saucers
Adapted from Great Cookies by Carole Walter
2 cups salted Spanish peanuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Step one: Preheat oven to 375 and cover two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take 1/2 cup of the peanuts and chop them into small pieces using either a food processor or a knife. Combine with flour, baking soda and salt and mix well.
Step two: Place butter in a saucepan and melt slowly over low heat. Cool to tepid before blending in the peanut butter with a whisk. Stir until smooth and creamy and then stir in the sugar. Add four of the egg whites and vanilla and mix thoroughly to blend. Add the dry ingredients but mix just enough to combine.
Step three: Whisk remaining egg white in a small shallow dish with 2 teaspoons water. Place the remaining 1 1/2 cups peanuts in a wide, shallow dish. Take a 1/4 scoop of dough, and then tap on the counter to release it. Dip the top side of the dough into the egg white and then into the peanuts, covering the surface generously. Place the dough, nut side up, on the cookie sheet and press the surface gently with the heel of your hand, flattening the ball into a 3-inch disk. Place cookies three inches apart on the baking sheet, and sprinkle the top of each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining sugar.
Step four: Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until the sides of the cookies begin to brown and the tops are set.
Federal Deficit Fudge
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
5 oz. evaporated milk
1 Jar marshmallow fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 oz. semisweet bakers chocolate
Step one: Take a 9-inch square baking pan and line with tin foil. In a large saucepan, combine the first 5 ingredients. Stir over low heat until blended. Heat to a full rolling boil, being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
Step two: Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate is all melted. Pour into the lined pan, and allow to cool for at least 4 hours before cutting into 1 inch pieces.