Maple Glazed Walnuts

Posted on March 20, 2010. Filed under: Appetizers, Snack |

2 things that are on my daily menu are maple syrup and either pecans or walnuts. How do I incorporate them into my diet, everyday? Easy. Maple syrup sweetens my coffee and walnuts and/or pecans are a snack throughout the day. Combining the 2, ingenious!

I have made candied pecans before, but never maple walnuts. It didn’t seem that hard though:

3 cups walnuts
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
pinch black pepper

Throw all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stirring every minute or so. You know when they are done because the stickiness becomes thicker and stickier. Real technical description, I know.

Pour the glazed nuts onto a sheet of parchment paper and let them cool. Once they cool you can break apart any chunks.

*If you want chopped walnuts, you can chop the nuts before or after you glaze them with the maple.

I was EXTREMELY pleased with how these came out. They have a distinct maple flavor and ooze of a rich nutty butter taste. Even though there isn’t any butter or oil added. As the walnuts warm in the saucepan the natural oily favors are extracted. And oh man, the taste tingles your taste buds!

There are a few ways I plan on eating this batch of maple walnuts:

served over a wedge of brie with some crackers as an appetizer

topped on a baked sweet potato

Or just by the handful into my mouth. I may spend the entire day snacking on these. Like I said, maple and walnuts are 2 of my favorite things!

These would be a great addition to your Easter appetizers. You know how grandma always has a little bowl of mixed nuts n the table? Make these instead, everyone will be impressed!

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Soft Pretzels

Posted on February 28, 2010. Filed under: Appetizers, Snack |

We have all been to the mall, walked by the pretzel store and smelled the wonderful aroma of fresh, salty, warm, doughy pretzels being made (at least I think we all have??). The smell of fresh baked bread products is just incredible. It is comforting.

Here in southern California we are on STORM WATCH 2010. Ridiculous. I think it rained less then an inch yesterday. But, no matter when you live, when it is rainy and cold outside, staying in, eating comfort food and curling up under a blanket and watching a movie always sounds GOOD. So yesterday we did just that. A friend came over and we had a cooking/baking extravaganza (before the movie part began). First on the list, Soft Pretzels.

We were both pretzel making virgins. So we payed close attention to the recipe because the process was foreign to us. After the finished product came out of the oven we we fell in love with them. I have decided I love making these because they only have to rise once. So many yeast dough recipes have to rise, punch down, form and rise again. So by the time the bread it out of the oven it can be 4 hours later. Not with these. Rise, cut into sections, form the dough ropes, shape, boil, bake, eat. Start to finish these take about 2 hours. The hardest part of forming the dough ropes (the shaping of a pretzel is easy, if you choose to do that rather then nuggets).

Learn from our mistakes:

First: We put flour on the surface we were making the dough ropes on. Don’t do that. It made the dough too dry and we were unable to easily roll it or shape it. You can grab either end of the small dough rope and sort of fling it in your arms like a mini jump rope. This will help stretch it out. But what we found while doing this, is the ends can get too thin and the middle stays thick. Soooo, you can to sort of squish the dough through your hands to evenly distribute the dough through the rope, and also do some jump rope action to it.

Second: When you form the pretzels, make them about a medium size (maybe 3-4 inches long/wide). If you make them too big they are more difficult to remove from the boiling water. I had a slotted spoon in 1 hand and a spatula in the other trying to fish the bigger pretzels out of the pot. It would have been easier to just use one of the utensils.

Third: Don’t put too much egg wash on the top of the pretzels. Just a little will give it a nice brown color. If you put too much egg wash you will have a small pool of egg stuck to the bottom of your beautiful, golden brown pretzel.

Okay, now you go and try to make them. You will be SO pleasantly surprised as how easy they are to make, and how WONDERFUL they taste.

Makes 8 LARGE pretzels or about 120 nuggets
Recipe Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Vegetable oil
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flours and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
*We made 4 pretzels and used the remaining 4 sections to make pretzel bites.

Boil the pretzel bites (or pretzels) in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites (or 2-3 pretzels) at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds (the pretzels will be floating on the top when it’s done). Remove with a large slotted spoon.

Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the rock salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Dip in mustard, marinara sauce or a cheese sauce. Or just eat them plain and enjoy the taste of the yummy rock salt on the top.

This picture makes me feel like we are up to our eyeballs in pretzels. We sort of were.

This obviously makes a lot. After you bake them and they cool, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or 2. When you want to eat them, just reheat them in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. You can also freeze the baked pretzel. Bake the frozen pretzel at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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Homemade Graham Crackers

Posted on February 11, 2010. Filed under: Desserts, Snack |

The January challenge for the Daring Bakers was to make homemade graham crackers. There was a second part to the challenge too, but I didn’t get a chance to do that. But at least I made the graham crackers.

I have decided that once I make a homemade version of something I can buy at the store, the store bought version is no longer even edible. Homemade ice cream, cake batter, bread, marshmallows, and now graham crackers. They are all substantially better then store bought.

Honestly, these aren’t as hard to make as I thought they would be. Sure, they take some time to chill, and then re-chill. But that isn’t working time. I let my dough chill in the fridge for 2 days before I was able to make time to roll out the dough. And then even though you should chill it for 30ish minutes before baking it, I didn’t have time to do that for the first batch, so I baked it right after rolling it out. And they turned out great. So don’t be intimidated by the directions. Go for it. You will be pleasantly surprised at how yummy these graham crackers are.

Makes enough crackers for about 25 s’mores (that is the only way I could think o measure the quantity)
Recipe Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
For the crackers:
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover (*I used Wildflower and it gave it a nice deep rich flavor)
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.
Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. let cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes then allow to completely cool on a wire rack.

So now that you have all of these graham crackers, what can you do with them?
1. Make some homemade marshmallows to go with them and enjoy some s’mores.

2. Wrap them up and give them away as a little gift. They package easily and are just so tasty that anyone will love them.

3. I think my favorite thing to do with the graham crackers is to enjoy them with a cup of coffee in the morning (Oh, and a homemade marshmallow in my coffee). Like biscotti, they soak up the coffee and make the cracker soft. MMMM, so delicious!

*Side Note: These graham crackers made the Top9 on FoodBuzz. Yea, that makes me so excited!

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Vanilla Latte Trail Mix

Posted on August 25, 2009. Filed under: Snack |

I love trail mix. I love munching on it at work, in the car, sitting on the couch, on a hike. Pretty much anywhere I am I would prefer to be consuming trail mix.
Here is a mix I cam up with while browsing the bulk section at Henry’s Market.

Tral Mix is also a great snack to put on the table when you have guests over.

Yogurt Covered Raisins
Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
Dry Roasted Almonds
Dry Roasted Cashews
Yogurt Chips
Walnuts Halves

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Honey Roasted Nuts

Posted on February 10, 2009. Filed under: Snack |

I love to snack on honey roasted nuts. And I recently thought, “why don’t I make my own?” Then I know how much sugar is being added. The stores have a great variety, but there just seems to be too much unnecessary sugar and fat sometimes.

2 cups nuts (raw or dry roasted with no salt): peanuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia, walnuts, pecans
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
dash salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat butter and honey together in a saucepan. Once it is melted, toss in the nuts. Remove from heat.

Lay the nuts on cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 5 to 10 minutes or until nuts are golden brown.

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Bananas and Peanut Butter

Posted on January 29, 2009. Filed under: Snack |

This is one of my favorite snacks and recovery meals after a good run. It is sweet and salty. And it replenishes my muscles and energy. It is easy to digest, and man, it just tastes good! If I am feeling wild and crazy I might throw some chocolate chips on there to spice it up a bit.

Serves 1
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Sliced the banana in half, length wise

Spread or dollop the peanut butter on top of the open banana.

Drizzle the honey over each side. Srinkle with cinnamon.

It is a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

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