Category Archives: Snacks

Bar Stool Fridays – Healthy Cocktail Snack

I always enjoy snacks during happy hour.  And, even though I’m not consuming alcohol right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want something to nibble while everyone is imbibing.  But, I don’t want to fill up on empty calories – I want a filling snack that tastes good and is good for me, too.

Enter the almond.

Why eat almonds?

1.  They help you lose weight.  Studies show people who eat a serving of almonds at least twice a week are less likely to gain weight.  Almonds are high in calories, though; stick to no more than 1/3 cup – a small handful – each day.  Pick whole, roasted almonds.  Sugar coated almonds are not a super food.

2.  They lower your risk of heart disease.  Almonds are high in monounsaturated “good” fats, which help lower cholesterol.  By adding almonds to a low-fat diet, you can reduce your chance of heart disease by 30 to 45%.  Choose nuts with little or no salt, which can raise blood pressure.

3.  They’re a quick source of protein.  No time to make eggs in the morning?  Here’s a fun fact: A 1/4 cup of almonds (approximately 20 – 25) provides just as much protein as a single egg, strengthening everything from your eyes to your nails.  So when you’re reaching for an afternoon almond snack, you’re not only satisfying cravings but also supporting your entire body.

4.  They help strengthen your bones.  Just one serving of almonds contains 10% of your daily recommended calcium intake, making for strong, resilient bones.  They’re also high in magnesium, which supports calcium in keeping teeth healthy.

5.  They may boost your immune system.  A recent study revealed that naturally occurring chemicals found in the skin of the nut improved the ability of white blood cells to detect viruses while also increasing the body’s ability to prevent viruses from replicating and so spreading inside the body.  They discovered that even after the almonds had been digested, there was still an increase in the immune systems defenses against viruses.

These spicy almonds are slightly addictive, so do watch your portions.  But, I think you’ll find they are just as good with cocktails as they are with ginger ale.

Spicy Almonds
Makes about 3 1/2 cups

1 lb natural almonds
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake almonds 10 minutes on a baking sheet.

Combine butter, honey, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne in a large bowl.

Toss with almonds.

Return to baking sheet and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with  salt while still hot.

Let nuts cool and break apart with hands.

Store in an airtight container.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Easy Does It Smoothie

Avocados can be used for so much more than just guacamole.  Not that I don’t enjoy guacamole – I just don’t like to limit my enjoyment of avocados to merely being scooped up by tortilla chips.

Did you know that the avocado is considered a fruit, not a vegetable?  Many cultures serve avocados for dessert adding sugar to the fruit.  This is not something I eat all the time because I do like avocados with my savory foods, but I encourage you to keep an open mind.  I’ve enjoyed avocado ice cream and find it a delicious addition to fruit salads, however, I understand that it can be a big taste transition to someone who’s only served avocados with their tacos.

Here’s an easy way to combine a sweet taste with your avocado by adding pineapple and orange juice.  Besides, this recipe entails little risk since it just uses one avocado and is a smoothie so it is easy to share with fellow adventurous taster.  Sweet, creamy, and healthy!

Avocado Smoothie
Makes 1 large smoothie

1 small ripe avocado (pitted and removed from peel)
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 – 3/4 cup orange juice
1  - 2 Tbsp agave syrup

Puree all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Adjust the amounts of  juice and agave syrup depending on your preference for taste and texture.

Pour into glass and serve right away.

Tips for selecting fresh avocados:

The best way to tell if an avocado is ready for immediate use is to gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand.  Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit is firm yet yields slightly to gentle pressure.  The color doesn’t tell you enough about ripeness – the Hass avocado will turn darker as it ripens, but other varieties remain light-green even when ripe.  Avoid avocados with dark blemishes on the skin (like many in the above picture) or overly soft flesh.

If you don’t want to serve avocados for a couple of days, purchase hard, unripened fruit.  I find that leaving the avocados on my kitchen counter is adequate for ripening, but some folks swear by the process of putting the fruit in a paper bag and adding an apple or banana to help it ripen faster.

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Game Day Eats – Apple Cider Doughnuts

Consider the doughnut.

In the words of M.F.K. Fisher does it live, “a dreadful but exciting life”?  Naw, probably more like a short and delicious life.

Who doesn’t love this fried confection?  It is one of my favorites without a doubt.  But, they are best eaten quickly after frying.  It is indeed a brief and joyous time for us.

If you are planning a brunch for your friends this weekend or your tailgating starts early, might I suggest you wow them with some apple cider doughnuts?  You won’t be sorry…

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Makes about 20 doughnuts and holes

Modified from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for  working with the dough
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
not small quantity of vegetable shortening (aka Crisco)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce apple cider to about 1/4 cup.  It took me about 20 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until each is incorporated into dough.

On low speed, gradually add the apple cider and buttermilk, mixing until just combined.

Add the flour mixture, and continue to mix until dough just starts to come together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Turn the dough out onto one of those sheets and using your hands, flatten the dough until it is about 1/2-inch thick.

Add more flour, as necessary.  Place the baking sheet of dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until it is slightly hardened.

Pull the dough out of the freezer, and cut out doughnut shapes.  Place the cut doughnut onto the second baking sheet.  Place the cut doughnuts in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.  If you need to re-roll the scraps, refrigerate them again for a while before cutting.

Add enough shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 2 inches.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side and heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees F.  Have a plate lined with paper towels ready to receive the fried dough.

While the shortening is heating, you can make your toppings, if you like.  We made both cinnamon and sugar (self-explanatory) and a glaze of apple cider and powdered sugar.  Set them aside until the doughnuts come out of the oil.

Once your frying oil is ready, carefully add just a few doughnuts at a time.

Don’t crowd the pan to ensure even frying.  Fry until golden brown and gently flip to the other side.  Drain on paper towels for a minute or so and then dip in toppings.

They are best if served immediately.

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Game Day Eats – Boozy Caramel Corn

When I was single, I would sometimes make dinner out of beer and popcorn.  Occasionally, it was followed by ice cream.

I would come home too tired to do much of anything but take off my high heels and plug in my air-popper.  But, that was enough.  The salty, crunchy, buttery (real butter, of course) corn would improve my mood in minutes.  Okay, okay…the beer and ice cream helped, too.

I’ve spread the popcorn habit to my husband, but we don’t eat for dinner.  Just lots of snacking.  I so clearly convinced him of the value of regular popcorn that he bought me a huge table top popcorn popper for our bar.  Now, we can make big batches for our friends when they come over to watch a game.

But, when I want something a bit more than butter and salt  on my popcorn, I mix up something like this…

Tequila Caramel Corn
Makes about 4 quarts

4 quarts popped popcorn
1/2 cup unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp tequila
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts

Place popped popcorn in a large, buttered roasting pan.  Place the roasting pan in a 200 degree oven to keep the popcorn warm while you make the caramel.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, syrups, and salt.  Stirring constantly while it heats.

Once it starts to boil, stop stirring and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Remove the popcorn filled roasting pan from the oven.  At the end of 5 minutes, quickly stir in baking soda and tequila.  You may want to add spicy tequila, like I did.

Working very quickly, sprinkle 1 cup of peanuts (I used chile lime peanuts!) on top of the popcorn.  Then, pour the  caramel on top.  It is very helpful to have an assistant here so one person can scrape out the caramel and one person can stir it into the popcorn and peanut mixture.  It is very hot, so be careful.

Once the popcorn and caramel are well mixed, put the roasting pan back in the oven and increase the temperature to 250 degrees F.  Bake the mixture for about an hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Break apart and let cool before storing.

Charley is not my only four-legged friend.  I also have a cat, Izzy.  He apparently wanted to see what that other black cat was doing…

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Game Day Eats – Make Ahead Snacks

You’ve had a busy week.  Maybe things didn’t go as you planned or you are in a bit of a funk.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel – the weekend approaches.  You are looking forward to hanging out with friends and family, and you can’t wait to watch your team win the big one.

But, said friends and family are coming to your house to watch said game.  And, you are expected to feed them.

What snacks can you make in advance before kickoff?  What can you do to avoid an even longer trip to the grocery store without resorting to the freezer case?  Not that I don’t sometimes enjoy pizza rolls or  7-layer Mexican bean dip, but sometimes you want to mix it up…make something a little more special for your guests.

Or maybe you don’t.

If you do, though, then here are a couple of sophisticated snacks for even the pickiest eaters.  And, most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry or cabinets.  They are both easiest if you have a food processor, however.

These straightforward recipes are not only perfect to make in advance and keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but they also travel well (to a tailgate or friend’s house) and they taste just as good in the fourth quarter as they did during the pregame hype.

White Bean Dip
Makes about 2 cups

1 (15 oz) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 – 3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
about 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed, plus more for garnish
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pita chips, carrot sticks, and/or celery sticks for serving

Place beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pulse again until smoothly pureed.

Transfer bean puree to a small serving bowl.  Sprinkle lightly with minced parsley for garnish.

Serve with pita chips or crunchy carrot and celery sticks.

Black Olive Tapenade
Makes about 2 cups

about 3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
juice of one lemon
about 1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 – 2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, to taste

Add olives, capers, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes to bowl of food processor.

Pulse until it makes a smooth paste.

Slowly add olive oil while processor is running.

Season with black pepper, to taste.

This pungent olive paste is great spread on crostini or sandwiches.

Or include a small bowl of the tapenade on a platter of grilled vegetables (think eggplant, peppers, tomatoes) with mozzarella or goat cheeses.  Or mixed into a classic pasta salad.  You get the idea…

Let’s go team!

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Game Day Eats – Chile Lime Peanuts

When my friends and I watch sports we drink beer.  And when we drink beer we like to snack.  And when we snack we crave spicy, crunchy, and salty.

So what do I do about that craving?  Why, I make chile lime peanuts.  And, you can, too.  Have this simple snack ready for your guests by the time they hit your couch or tailgate.

Chile Lime Peanuts
Makes 2 cups

2 cups raw peanuts (skins are okay)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp lime juice (bottled okay)
1 – 3 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir to combine peanuts, olive oil, salt, and sugar and coat evenly.

Scrape mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast nuts until fragrant and they begin to darken.

It took me about 25 minutes on a dark-colored baking sheet.  Open the oven and stir every 7 or 8 minutes.  Keep in mind they will still cook a bit once out of the oven.

When done, transfer the nuts back to a bowl.  Add lime juice, hot pepper sauce, and cayenne, stirring to coat evenly.

If you’ve added the maximum amount of hot sauce, I recommend you scrape the nuts back onto the baking sheet so they crisp up and don’t get soggy.

Cool nuts completely before serving.  You can make them  up to a week ahead, just store them in an airtight container.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

Can you believe it is already September and football season has begun?  I’m not quite ready to give up on my summer produce or wearing shorts and sandals everyday.  And, don’t get me started on the lack of sunshine.  Or how grumpy I get when I have to pull on a jacket to walk the dog.

My friend Kate tells me that Fall is her favorite time of year. She likes the cooler weather and looks forward to picking out jackets and enjoys everything pumpkin.  She says this with a twinkle in her eye and a broad  smile.

Hrumph.  I’m not convinced, but I guess we do both enjoy watching football.  And, we definitely both enjoy the snacks that come with football watching.

These stuffed peppadews were a big hit for my fellow football fans.  The peppadews are sweet peppers, but the stuffing is spicy with just the right amount of heat.  Plus, the red flesh of the peppers will brighten any buffet table.  No matter how much you don’t want it to be Fall.

Sausage Stuffed Peppadews
Makes 50 to 60 pieces

Modified from Food & Wine magazine

1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed (pork or turkey is fine)
1/2 cup cooked white rice (I used Arborio)
2 Tbsp olive tapenade
cooking spray
50 to 60 red peppadew peppers, drained (see note)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 450 degree F.  Spray a rimmed cooking sheet with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine sausage, rice and tapenade.  You can use a spoon, but I found it easier to blend the ingredients with my hands.

Once it is mixed, you are ready to stuff the peppers.  Push the filling in with your fingers to make it compact.

Place the stuffed peppers on the prepared baking sheet.

I nestled them together and pushed down just a little bit so they wouldn’t roll all over the place.  Once you’ve finished stuffing, drizzle all the peppers with olive oil and sprinkle them with the grated Parmesan.

If you want to make them in advance, you can put them peppers in the refrigerator at this point and keep them there overnight.

Bake them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.  Serve warm.

INGREDIENT NOTE: You can find jars of peppadew peppers in the grocery store (usually near olives or pickles).  I typically see 14 ounce jars.  Two of these 14 ounce jars are enough for this recipe.  If you can find them in a deli or Italian grocery, though, get those.  They are often a little bigger and have firmer flesh.

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Fermentation is My Friend

Salty…spicy…crunchy…subtly sweet.  Mmmm…  I really enjoy eating kimchee.  Kimchee (or kimchi) is a Korean dish of fermented vegetables.  Luckily, my friend Virginia is willing to make it and share her recipe for cucumber kimchee with me.

I understand that kimchee is not for everyone.  Some folks don’t like the heat of the spice.  Some folks don’t like the smell.  I suppose that it could be the fish sauce, but it adds the necessary umami flavor.  (What is umami?  It is a Japanese word for savory, one of the five basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.)

It could also be the fermentation factor that turns some people off the dish.  I think fermentation is fascinating, though. I do not fear the bacteria.  And not just because I enjoy beer and other alcoholic beverages.  The ancient person(s) who discovered how to cultivate yeast or helpful bacteria to create delicious foodstuffs deserves a place in our history books.  I, for one, am very grateful.  There is a character in the food world, Sandor Katz, who writes about fermentation and teaches folks how to make things like sauerkraut.  He likes to say, “that without culture, there would be no civilization.”  Of course, he means bacteria cultures, not just art and stuff.

Now, go cultivate some bacteria. Mmmm…

Virginia’s Cucumber Kimchee

6 to 10 smallish unwaxed, thin-skinned cucumbers (pickling, Kirby, or Korean)
1/4 cup salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Korean chili powder
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2 Tbsp sugar
Glass container(s) tall enough to hold the cucumbers upright with lid

Wash cucumbers, and trim the ends.  The cucumbers need to be sliced to expose the center, but stay whole.  Stand each cucumber upright on your cutting board and slice through the center down almost the whole length, but stop before you cut all the way through.  Rotate the cucumber and repeat the slice in a perpendicular direction.

Fill a large bowl with water.  Add the salt and let it dissolve.

Fully submerge the cucumbers in the salt water for 30 minutes.

You may want to put a plate on top to keep the cucumbers under the surface of the water.

While the cucumbers are soaking, make the stuffing.  In another bowl, combine garlic, chili powder, fish sauce, carrots, and sugar.  Mix well.

After about 30 minutes, remove the cucumbers from the salt water.  Don’t rinse them.

Fill each cucumber between the connected pieces with spicy stuffing, and place them in a glass container next to each other.  Virginia often uses gloves when she fills the cucumbers so her hands do not smell like fish sauce for days on end.

Once you’ve used all the stuffing mixture, don’t rinse the bowl.  Add one to two cups of water to the bowl so you can get the last of the spice mixture and then pour it over the cucumbers.  They should be almost submerged.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and store at room temperature for at least 12 hours.  (Sometimes Virginia leaves it on her counter for about 18 hours.)  Then, move and store in the refrigerator.

Cucumber kimchee is good by itself, but I also enjoy it with rice or as a garnish for other dishes.  We even like it on hot dogs!

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Be Cool and Patriotic

Cool off at your US Independence Day party with these red, white, and blue popsicles.

My brother bought me some new popsicle molds that look like sailboats, so I’ve been playing around with different recipes.

I made these with my friend, Laura, in mind.  Her favorite holiday is the Fourth of July.  In fact, she likes it so much she even chose it for her wedding date.  Pretty cool, huh?

Now, I’m a sucker for the fun shapes of the popsicle molds (as my husband can tell you), but you don’t need them to make this recipe.  You can just use paper cups and wooden craft sticks.

Patriotic Popsicles
Makes about 6 popsicles (depends on size of molds)

about 1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed and cored
about 2 cups of blueberries, washed and stemmed
3 – 5 Tbsp agave syrup, divided
about 6 Tbsp vanilla yogurt (low-fat, no-fat, whole, or soy all okay)

Puree strawberries with 1 to 2 Tbsp of agave syrup in a food processor or blender.

Pour equal amounts into popsicle molds and place in freezer for about 20 minutes.  This is creating the top layer of your popsicles.

Puree blueberries with 2 to 3 Tbsp of agave syrup in a food processor or blender.

Pour  equal amounts into popsicle molds on top of slightly firm strawberry puree.  Place in freezer for another 20 minutes to create the middle layer of your popsicles.

Remove popsicle molds from freezer and spoon in equal amounts of vanilla yogurt to create the final layer of your popsicles.

 

Put in sticks or tops and place back in freezer to completely firm.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Pie in the Hand Is Worth…

A lot.

Hand pies are great, aren’t they?  I mean, the fact that a piece of pie doesn’t require a fork to eat it is pretty cool.  And, that is not just because I don’t have a dishwasher.  No, I’m more impressed by the ease in which it can move from the pan to my mouth.

I wanted some pie this weekend, and I liked the idea of not using forks, but I didn’t want to roll out and press a bunch of individual pies.  So, I made a slab pie instead.  (ASIDE: When I told my husband that what he was smelling was a slab pie baking in the oven.  He replied that he had never tasted slab, but he hoped it was good.)  No, silly, it is called slab pie for its shape, not its flavor.  It is long, flat, and rectangular, like a stone slab.  I figured it was a sturdy enough pie that once it was cut into slices, it could be eaten out of hand.  I was right.

Strawberry Blueberry Slab Pie
Serves 8 to 12

Crust:

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
18 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I mean it, really cold)
3 Tbsp cold vegetable shortening
1/3 cup cold water

Filling:

4 cups berries (I used equal parts sliced strawberries and blueberries)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp orange juice
1/2 Tbsp orange zest

To make the crust:
I experimented with a Fine Cooking recipe for pie dough because I wanted to use my food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make this recipe by hand,  though.

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.

Add the really cold butter and vegetable shortening.

Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  It took me about 10 pulses.  You want the fats cold when you mix with the flour so it will stay in little pieces and make your crust flakier instead of just melting together.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup cold water and pulse until it just starts to come together.  It took me about 8 pulses.  Be careful not to overprocess.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and with your fingers shape into a rectangle that is about 8 x 12 inches.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Make filling:
In a bowl, toss together  berries, salt, sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, and orange zest.  Set aside.

Assemble and bake pie:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Retrieve the dough from the refrigerator and turn out on t0 a lightly floured work surface.  With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thick rectangle.  You can probably get as large as 12 x 18 inches, but it is okay if it is smaller.  You may need to add a bit more flour as you roll, so it doesn’t stick.  If you want it pretty, you should trim the dough and make the sides straight.  If you don’t care how it looks, just how it tastes, leave it alone.

Transfer the dough to your prepared baking sheet and turn it so the long side if facing you.  Spoon/spread the berry filling along the bottom half, leaving about a 1/2-inch border.  Because my berries were so juicy, I used a slotted spoon to move the berries onto the pie crust.

Fold the top half down to cover the filling.  I lifted the exposed bottom layer on top of the top layer to seal the pie, but you can line up the edges, if you prefer.

To seal the filled pie, press a fork along the seam or edges to secure the sides.  Press the fork down gently, just enough to create a good bond, but not so hard that you push through to the second layer of dough and pierce it, which could cause the filling to leak. (Like what I did.)

In a small bowl, beat an egg with about 2 tsp of water to create an egg wash.  Brush this mixture over the top of the sealed pie.

Using a sharp paring knife, cut 5 or 6 steam vents into the top of the dough.

Bake until the pie is golden brown, about 50 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

When ready to serve, use a serrated knife to cut into slices.  It is best eaten within 24 hours, but it will keep for a couple of days, well-wrapped in the refrigerator.

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