Tag Archives: walnuts

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts

l1050692I let a few months pass in-between posts again.  Like a lot of other people in this country, I have been trying to find healthy outlets for my anger, sadness, and disappointment in the election. I have been doing a decent amount of holiday baking.  One day, I came home from work and just decided to start looking for craft projects online. If nothing else, I figured it would be a nice distraction for me, and a way to channel my feelings into something creative.  My mom, being a very crafty lady, is very happy about this.

Mr. K and I had a pretty rough autumn with both of my grandma’s dying within one month of each other. We flew to Minnesota for both funerals, and in between those trips we moved to a new apartment.  The past few weekends have started to feel “normal” again, as we slowly return to our old weekend routines and attempt to create new ones. We moved to Harlem and we are both very excited about trying new restaurants and discovering all of the little gems that define our new neighborhood.
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I am taking advantage of living in Manhattan again. Before we moved to Astoria, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday was to go to a matinee and/or bring a book along and sit in a coffee shop and read. I did that last weekend and it felt so indulgent. It was a good reminder for me that I need to force myself out of the apartment on the weekends. Being around other people, and just being out in the world observing things, always helps my state of mind.

Word of caution:  if you make these candied nuts, you might not be able to stop eating them. They are incredibly good, with the perfect combination of smoky, salty, and sweet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
l1050695Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon of hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside.
2. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly.
3. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

My husband and I just returned from the best vacation we’ve ever taken.  We went up to Cape Cod for 5 days, and then spent another 3 days in Boston.   I love getting away from NYC in the summertime.  There is something about breathing in the smell of fresh cut grass, strolling outside with a hot dog or ice cream cone, and adjusting to the slower rhythms of small town life that makes me nostalgic for childhood summers.

For the first three days of our vacation I walked around with a big, idiot grin on my face.  I kept remarking to Mr. K that something would inevitably go wrong on this trip since everything up to that point had been so perfect.  He would simply respond by shaking his head at me.   Whether slurping down raw oysters, reveling an IPA, or breathing in the smell of salty ocean air, I was in a kind of vacation trance, whereby everything we did seemed to me to be the perfect thing to be doing at that exact moment.

One of the highlights of our trip to Cape Cod was the 3-course breakfast we were served every morning out on the back patio of our Bed and Breakfast.  The owners of the B&B were this extremely gracious older couple, and the husband proudly told us that he made all the meals.  Every morning I would go for a jog, and then my husband and I would proceed downstairs like two kids on Christmas morning, eagerly anticipating that day’s breakfast.  The courses included dishes like baked eggs in prosciutto “cups”, applesauce pancakes with bacon, and fruit parfaits.  Mr. K and I would take our time savoring every bite, and I took added pleasure in being served a home-cooked meal.

After we returned home, one of the first things I did was write down all of the great moments from this trip that I didn’t want to forget.  The next time I have a stressful day or week, I will look at that list to be reminded of life’s pleasures.
DSC_5026Speaking of which, this salad is truly of one of my current pleasures.  I can’t eat it without moaning just a little bit.  I got the idea for it from a local restaurant that makes a similar salad.   If you like bacon at all, you will enjoy this salad.  Oh, and my apologies for only taking one picture this time around.  I was running late and we were starving, so it was the best I could do.  Quick tangent:  when we were in Boston we ducked into a run-of-the-mill pub near Boston Common for lunch one day.  I wasn’t that hungry so I ordered a BLT, thinking I would just eat the 2 or 3 strips of bacon out of the sandwich along with the tomato and lettuce and that would be that.  Well, the sandwich had a PILE of bacon in it.  We’re talking at least 8 strips of bacon.   I ate a pile of bacon for lunch, and I had absolutely no regrets.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

Yield:  4 servings

5 oz. baby spinach
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 Fuji apple, quartered and diced
8 strips of applewood-smoked bacon

Ginger Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
sea salt
black pepper

1.  In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy, around 8 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
2.  Meanwhile, place spinach on 4 plates.
3.  Crumble goat cheese and distribute evenly, along with walnuts and apples, over each salad.
3.  Roughly chop cooked bacon and distribute onto salads.
4.  Add olive oil to a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk in lemon juice, ginger, sea salt and black pepper.  Dress salads, toss, and serve.

 

Somewhat Healthy Granola

DSC_3992Mr. K and I just returned from Christmas in Minnesota.  Family time is hard, isn’t it?  My parents divorced when I was 16.  I was actually ok with it at the time, seeing as my mom and dad are not compatible in the least.  Both of my parents are remarried and have been for at least a decade.  I don’t think I was aware of it at the time of each of their weddings (or if I was I didn’t quite know how to handle it), but I felt very territorial when they remarried other people.  Perhaps part of it was dealing with the unresolved feelings from their divorce several years earlier, but I really struggled when they remarried.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I hid this very well from my mom.  I’ve never had a hard time telling my mom how I feel about things.  Of course, this isn’t necessarily a good trait.  Especially when my honest feelings end up hurting her.  I wasn’t crazy about my stepdad at first.  The summer after my sophomore year in college, I stayed at his house since my mom had recently moved in with him.  We ended up butting heads a lot that summer.  I think we both felt threatened and it played out like a bad sitcom.  I remember getting into an argument with him because he thought it was rude of me to not eat my dinners with them every night.  Naturally, he had no idea that I had been eating dinner solo basically since I was 16.  My stepdad and I have come a long way since then.

There were a few tense moments with various family members during my visit.  I grew up in a VERY small, rural town in Minnesota.  Many town residents consider Minneapolis “the big city” that some younger people end up moving to after high school or college.  For those of us who end up moving much farther away and to a much larger city, there can be a cultural divide when we go home to visit.  Many people in my extended family tend to feel threatened by this.  After I moved to NYC, I was hyper-aware of how I sounded and what I talked about during my first few visits home.  I wanted to be true to myself and my lifestyle without offending anyone that might feel intimidated by this.  It’s a tricky balancing act:  I want to share all of the fun and interesting things I’ve done lately without sounding pretentious.  Why hasn’t someone created an App for this yet?
DSC_3988 Tense moments aside, I realized during this visit home that I still tend to feel territorial towards my parents from time to time.  I love them both fiercely, and over the years I have become quite protective of my relationships with each of them.  It could be partly related to the fact that I no longer live close to them and haven’t in almost 11 years.  We are all getting older and our time together is limited.  Therefore, when I go home I want to spend as much time with them as possible.  And when I feel someone is threatening that, my fangs can come out.  Luckily, they only came out once or twice on this trip.  Maybe one of my New Year’s resolutions should be to sand down the fangs in 2014.  Nawwww, I don’t do resolutions.  But I will be sure to tell my parents how much I love them.

Do you know what else I love?  (Ok, that was a bad segue.)  This granola!  I’ve been making it regularly for my husband over the last year or so.  We are never out of this granola at our house.  Mr. K likes to eat it with fruit and almond milk for dessert most nights.  I am not blessed with the same metabolism, so I try to keep my intake to once a week or so.  You’ll notice that I call it “Somewhat Healthy Granola”.  I feel like granola is often touted as a healthy snack food, but the thing is, granola isn’t all that healthy.  There are probably two camps on this, but I put granola in the unhealthy category of food.  Most mass-market granolas are covered in sugar and oil, making them very delicious but very loaded with calories.  A lot of smaller granola producers have sprung up over the last few years, and they are holding back on the sugar and oil.  Instead, they highlight the oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit that make up the majority of the granola mixture.  This makes for a less sweet (and usually much less crunchy) but healthier granola.  My Somewhat Healthy Granola recipe falls into this latter category.  But don’t fret, the brown sugar and maple syrup still ensure a wonderfully-rich sweetness.  And although there is no butter in this recipe, there is a hint of butter flavor that comes from the toasted nuts.  I’m a sucker for salty-sweet snacks and this falls under that umbrella.  If you aren’t crazy about salty sweets the way I am, you can easily cut back on the salt.

Happy 2014!

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Somewhat Healthy Granola
Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: 6-10 servings

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds, pecans, or walnuts (or whatever your favorite nut is)
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, nut, coconut, and brown sugar.
4.  In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil and salt.
5.  Add oil mixture to oats mixture and stir until combined.
6.  Pour mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
7.  Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes to ensure even toasting.
8.  Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour.
9.  Transfer granola to a tightly-sealed container.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Arugula, Walnuts and Manchego

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I love the smell of roasted cauliflower.  I am writing this while sitting on the futon in our guest bedroom with the sun streaming in.  I feel like a cat sitting on a windowsill.  (Why don’t I have a cat?  Oh, right:  I’m allergic.)  My husband and I moved out to Astoria over a year ago.  We upgraded to a 3-bedroom from our 1-bedroom in Manhattan and get this…we are paying less in rent!  Oh Manhattan, I would have stayed with you if you didn’t make it so goddamn hard to afford you.  It only took us 10 months to completely unpack and settle in to our new place.  Between my chocolate business stuff and my husband not liking to get rid of things, we had a lot of boxes to go through.  Living out of boxes for 10 months can put a strain on a marriage, especially if one of you (moi) is a bit of a control freak.  But one of the things I’ve learned about marriage is that the ugly times don’t have to just be ugly.  They can actually be a stepping stone to get to the next level of a lasting marriage.   Even though whenever we have an issue my body is taken over with panic and dread at the thought of having to discuss it, I always feel elated after we talk through something.  Happy endorphins rush through my brain like a leprochaun sliding down a rainbow.  I think it’s partly due to the fact that for a short period of time I don’t feel anxious, but also knowing that we came out of it even stronger is an emotion that I cherish every time. DSCF2860

Cauliflower is one of those foods that I don’t care for raw but I absolutely love roasted.  In fact, I think I love any vegetable that has been roasted.  It completely transforms the flavor of food, especially raw veggies.   I made this dish while my mom and stepdad were visiting last week and we all agreed that it was a keeper.  Everyone had two servings and bypassed the pork tenderloin completely.  Now that’s some good cauliflower.   The arugula adds a nice bitter, peppery flavor while the toasted walnuts and Manchego add some nuttiness and creaminess to the dish.  You could probably substitute any other nut if you’re not a fan of walnuts.  If you have another nutty cheese on hand, like Gruyére, that would work just fine too.  It’s also a very pretty salad that would go nicely on your Thanksgiving table if you want to forego that green bean casserole this year.  Sacrilege!  Ok, make it in addition to the casserole.

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This salad is best served warm.  The cauliflower can be roasted one day ahead.   Just slip the roasted florets back into the oven for 15 minutes or so right before serving.  Assemble the salad, dress it, and let your guests swoon over it.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Arugula, Walnuts and Manchego
Adapted from A Good Appetite, a New York Times column

Yield:  4-6 servings

1 head cauliflower, but into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
5 oz. arugula
1 cup Manchego, grated
2/3 cup toasted walnuts

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast, tossing every 10 minutes, until golden, 30 to 40 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar with the remaining salt and pepper, and then whisk in the remaining oil.
  3. In a salad bowl, toss the arugula, cheese, nuts and warm cauliflower.  Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss until well combined.

 

Caramel Nut Tart

DSCF2812It only seemed fitting that my first post would be for something sweet.  My grandma had a cafe in the small town I grew up in, and she made the best desserts.  Pies, cakes, cookies, donuts, you name it.  Given our German heritage, I definitely inherited her propensity for sweets.  Seeing that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and I am a pecan pie fiend, making a take on this ubiquitous pie seemed perfect.  Like many Americans, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It is not affiliated with a religion and even better: it’s all about the food.  Since I moved to New York, I have definitely missed getting together with my family to celebrate.  More times than not, I have eaten my Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant simply because the thought of making tons of food for two people seems kind of silly.  Some meals have been better than others.  One of my most memorable Thanksgiving restaurant meals was at Jane.  It was the first time I had ever tasted brussels sprouts and liked them.  In fact, I lurrrrved these.  They were salty, crunchy and were blackened the tiniest bit which gave them a nice charred quality.  I still remember one of my first Thanksgivings in NYC.  My friend and I went to the Pink Tea Cup for a delicious meal of turkey and all the fixin’s.  But to my horror they didn’t have pecan pie on the menu.  This, of course, was sacrilege.  So we paid our bill and I proceeded to stop at every grocery store we passed on the way home to get my pecan pie fix.  What, no one has ANY pecan pies left at 5pm on Thanksgiving??!  I wouldn’t be thwarted.  Once we arrived home, I ended up calling a nearby diner and ordered a piece of pecan pie to be delivered.  I’m sure I had to order something else to meet the minimum delivery requirements.  The pie turned out to be very mediocre.  But I laid on the couch and rubbed my belly with a smile on my face.

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I have been wanting to make this Caramel Nut Tart recipe ever since finding it back in 2009 on The Splendid Table’s website.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with TST, it is a fantastic NPR show that I started listening to back in 2002 when I was living in Minnesota.  It is hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who happens to be one of my food heroes.  She is a never-ending well of knowledge about all things food related.  And you know how rubbing behind a dog’s ears puts them in a trance?  Well Lynne’s voice does the same thing to me.  Subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already.

I didn’t fall in love with this tart right away.  But it definitely grew on me over the course of the week.  The super-buttery, salty/sweet shortbread crust is what kept me coming back for more.  I’m a sucker for all things buttery and I love the salty/sweet combo.  In fact, I would compare this to a sweet pecan pie sitting on top of a rich shortbread cookie.  The rich, buttery crust pairs really nicely with the crunchy, sweet topping.   If I made this again, I would even drizzle a little dark chocolate over the top of the finished tart.

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Caramel Nut Tart
Adapted from The Splendid Table

Makes an 11-inch tart or 8-10 servings

One of the best things about this tart is that you don’t have to roll out any dough.  Just use your fingers to spread it into your tart pan.  In fact, I don’t own a tart pan so I used a pie pan.  Voila.  The pastry can be made several days in advance.  But once you make the filling, it needs to be poured into the pastry and baked immediately.  The top of this tart looks like a shiny, beautiful medley of mixed nuts.  Perfect for your Thanksgiving table.

Pastry:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 cold large egg yolks, plus 3 tablespoons ice water (more as needed)

Filling:
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup firm-packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pecans
2/3 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup whole walnuts
1/3 cup shelled, salted pistachios
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. To make the pastry, put all the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Run a few seconds to blend.  Add the cold butter and process until mixture resembles peas.  Turn off the machine, sprinkle dough with yolk and water mixture and pulse until dough begins to gather into clumps.  You should be able to squeeze it together easily.  If dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water and pulse to blend.  Gently gather into a ball, wrap, and chill 1 hour to overnight.
2. Grease an 11-inch fluted, false-bottomed tart pan.  Roll out dough to a little less than 1/8-inch thickness and fit into pan.  Double over dough at sides.  Trim away excess.  Chill tart shell 1 hour to overnight.3. To bake, prheat oven to 400°F.  Line tart shell with foil and weight either with dry rice or beans.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove liner, prick botton of shell with a fork, and bake another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.
4. To finish tart, preheat oven to 350°F.  Place baked tart shell on a baking sheet. Combine the second quantity of butter, brown sugar, honey, and white sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
5. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir with a whisk until it comes to a boil.  Boil one minute, or until thick and large bubbles form.  Stir in nuts, quickly remove from heat and stir in cream.  Immediately pour the mixture into tart shell.  Spread out evently to cover the entire surface of the pastry.
6. Bake on baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack.  Serve at room temperature.

Can be refrigerated for up to one week.