Sweet and Salty Almonds

Hello…hello anyone out there? It has been quite a busy few months (internshipinternshipinternship), and honestly, much of the time when I am cooking dinner i was just too lazy to prepare natural light, plate the food pretty, and take a picture. So I have still been cooking- albeit a little less creatively due to a certain picky-eater boy who has been hanging around, but excuses, excuses.

Enough is enough- time to get back in the kitchen more and dust off my old camera. I realzied that I missed having a blog to “store” my recipes open, and it’s time to get things back up and running. So let’s start with these almonds. I have made them multiple times, and each batch disappears faster than you can say “so stressed about internship applications.” Sweet, salty, and spicy (if you want). These are a great snack food. And it’s almonds, so really, it’s pretty healthy.

SWEET AND SALTY ALMONDS

Slightly Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

INGREDIENTS

2 cups whole almonds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon canola oil
Cayenne pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 250°F. Line baking sheet with foil.

Combine soy sauce, light brown sugar, and cayenne pepper in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Stir in almonds and and canola oil. Cook until liquid has been absorbed, 4-5 minutes approximately.

Spread almonds onto baking sheet in single layer (may need more than on baking sheet, depending on the size). Bake until crisped, 8-12 minutes. Let cool and store in seal container for snacking.

Lemon Couscous with Avocado, Currants, and Almonds

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Earlier this semester I had a food challenge to meet: I needed a quiet dinner food.

Once a week I have a night class that is during and far past dinner, and the professor’s one request is that we bring in quiet food as to not disturb our classmates as we ate.  The first few classes I brought in salads, figuring there would be a little crunch, but I had cut my food into small pieces and used soft toppings- and my lettuce was often old and limp so quieter than it could have been.

Well, salad was deemed a little bit too loud, so I went back to the drawing board.  I sat down and took a moment to ponder: “what foods are quiet foods?”.  After some deep reflection, it came to me: avocado. Avocado: the ultimate quiet, delicious, and filling food.  Thus, this salad was born out of a desperation for solitude and has been eaten once a week during class ever since.

Although I often leave the almonds off because of the crunch factor.

LEMON COUSCOUS WITH AVOCADO, CURRANTS, AND ALMONDS
Adapted from Erin’s Food Files

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup dried couscous
1 teaspoon aloppa pepper (or cumin as alternative spice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 small avocados, diced
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium low heat until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak currants in the water. Pour currants and water with onions and cook until liquid is evaporated. Set onion mixture aside.

Cook couscous according instructions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, aloppa pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in avocado (salt avocado if needed).

Serves 3-4.

Turkey, Apple, Almond Butter Sandwich

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These days have been some great ones recently.

I have forbidden myself from doing any work, so I have gotten in some good relaxation time.  And on top of that, I have been in hog heaven (or turkey heaven?) with all of my Thanksgiving leftovers.  Turkeys need to be roasted more often just for the sake of leftovers.

If you are looking for some ways to use up your leftovers, you have come to the right place.  I have been doing some experimentation with my leftovers, but I always find myself gravitating back toward the sandwich.  There are so many possibilities with sandwiches.

Stuffing? Sandwich.  Cranberry sauce? Sandwich.  Green bean casserole? Sandwich. If you have a question about what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers, the answer should always be: put it on a sandwich.  So many choices, yet leftovers always seem to run out before I can get to make all my concoctions.

If you are looking for a sandwich that uses turkey but with a less Thanksgiving twist, here is a great sandwich for you.  You get juicy turkey, crisp apples, melty cheese, and rich almond butter.  It is wonderful.

TURKEY, APPLE, ALMOND BUTTER SANDWICH
Adapted from Bev Cooks

INGREDIENTS

4 slices multigrain bread
1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
Turkey
Salt and pepper
Almond butter
Sliced cheddar cheese, optional

DIRECTIONS

Preheat broiler.

Spread almond butter on all slices of bread. Layer turkey on two pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Top with apple slices and cheddar cheese.  Broil until warmed through and cheese is melted, about 3-6 minutes.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

Orange Moroccan Couscous: Secret Recipe Club

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A little break from holiday food for this month’s Improv Challenge.  Because we all need to fuel ourselves while we prep those turkeys and shop for everyone’s gifts.

We have all gotten those life lessons from our moms, the ones that we have heard multiple times and replied to with “Yesssss mommmmm” with a groan. One of my mom’s personal favorite stories has the moral not to judge how clothes on the hanger look before trying them on. “Just try the dress on. It could look completely different on!”. I have heard a tale of an ugly bridesmaid dress on the hanger that magically transformed into a gorgeous gown in the dressing room many times.

My life lesson for you all is that you shouldn’t judge a dish before you eat it. Recently I had a surplus of oranges in my fridge that needed to be eaten. I enjoyed eating them plain as a snack, but it was getting a little old. Luckily this month’s Improv Challenge was to make a dish using oranges and cardamon.  I saw this dish while procrastinating doing my work and thought “Okay, I guess I will make this just to use up some oranges”. I wasn’t very excited, but I was oh so wrong.

I loved this dish and have eaten it at least five times in the past two weeks. I am considering buying a another huge bag of oranges just to be able to make this more. This is just the right combination of warm spices, juicy oranges, sweet currants, and yummy chickpeas. This is a great side dish for pork chops or chicken, or it is great as a main dish if you just eat a big bowl of it.

So, this is for you mom: don’t judge how a recipe looks until you’ve tried the dish. You’ll never know what it tastes like until you eat it.

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ORANGE MOROCCAN COUSCOUS
Adapted from A Farm Girl Dabbles

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1 1/2 cups dried couscous
4 clementines, torn into slices
Fresh mint, optional
Toasted almonds, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Stir together cumin, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, and saffron. Toast in pan until fragrant 1-3 minutes (be careful not to burn). Add oil, onion, and garlic. Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in raisins, salt, chickpeas, and orange zest. Stir in couscous and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover pan with lid and let cook until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Mix in clementine slices, almonds, and mint.

Serves 3-4.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Fig and Almond Rice Pilaf

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I am in love.  Jasmati rice has been a revelation.

I have recently been having huge rice problems.  The main culprit? Brown rice.  I would cook it using many different methods, but every time it turned out real al dente AKA crunchy.  Frustration galore. But thsi jasmati rice pilaf turned out perfectly.  I have reached a new rice chapter in my life, and there is no looking back now.

I got the inspiration from this dish from a Turkish cooking class I have been going to here in Lubbock.  It is so much fun to find little cultural niches in this otherwise small, mainstream town.  There is lots of talking and lots of delicious Turkish food (hello baklava).  For our first class one dish they showed us was rice.

Just rice.  Simple, buttery perfection.  Rice is such a difficult dish, but after eating their rice inspired me to give rice another go in the kitchen.  So off to the grocery store I went, and Jasmati rice found a new home in my pantry.

In this rice pilaf I added a simple base of red onion and garlic topped with some figs, inspired by Middle Eastern usage of dried fruit.  A little sweet with my savory. Yum.  A great side dish to go with any type of meat.

There may be some more Turkish foods around these parts in the upcoming months, so brace yourself.  If you have never had Turkish food before, I high recommend it.  It’s delicious!

RICE PILAF WITH FIGS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried Jasmati rice (or any other long grain rice)
4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cup dried figs
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Soak figs in warm water for at least 10 minutes.  Chop up figs.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add red onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Pour into bowl.

In the same pan over medium high heat add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add rice and saute until toasted and golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.  Pour in boiling water.  Cover pan with lid and reduce heat to medium/medium-low.  Cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in onions, garlic, and figs.

Serves 5-7 as a side dish.

Turkey, Pickle, and Almond Butter Sandwich

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First things first: No pregnancy here.  I feel like any strange food combo that includes pickles needs this disclaimer.  I still don’t know how to interact with children and lack any real motivation to learn how. But for those of you who are pregnant, forget pickles and ice cream.  Nut butter and pickles is where it is all at.

Yeah, you are probably making a face at this combination, but I promise the sweet and salty pickles works so well with the creamy peanut butter. Crunchy, creamy, and wonderful. I made my sandwich with my dad’s home-smoked turkey, and I loved the extra smokey flavor with the toppings.  G

You know what this sandwich also goes great with?  Watching The Newsroom.  Great transition, right? I should be a newscaster.

I love Aaron Sorkin’s writing and fast talking shows (Gilmore Girls, anyone?), but I only just started watching The Newsroom yet.  And a few days later, I have seen all episodes.  And am sad that my cable does not include HBO.  And I am 50% considering making a career change to be a journalist.  But that’ll change as soon as I watch a Law and Order episode on Netflix.  Then I will want to be a lawyer.

So to sum up this post: Make this sandwich and go watch The Newsroom.  I promise I do more than eat and watch TV.  Those are just my two most important activities.

Good night and good luck.

TURKEY, PICKLE, AND ALMOND BUTTER SANDWICH
Inspired by Joy the Baker

INGREDIENTS

Roast turkey
Almond butter (or any nut butter)
Pickles slices
Bread (sliced seed bread works best)

DIRECTIONS

Toast bread.  Spread almond butter on both sides.  Top with turkey and pickle slices.

Flourless Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies

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When I was a teenager, my doctors suggested that I go gluten-free to help my sinuses.  I was extremely reluctant to do so, but as a rule and parent abiding child (AKA a boring goody two shoes), my mom said I should try it and I did. And for about a year, I desperately craved a McDonalds cheeseburger.  It is a very sad moment in the drive-thru when your sister gets a happy meal with a burger and fries and you get a Caesar salad.  Without croutons.  Cue sad trumpet. I went gluten free long before it became mainstream, which means I ate some weird stuff.  Grey pasta, bread that got gooey if not eaten soon enough, and crumbly cookies.  My poor mom went through a lot to make me some good gluten free food, but it was tough back then and required lots of long trips to many different speciality stores. So for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was exited to get Chelsy’s blog Mangia.  I was ready to try some of my more up-to-date gluten free, paleo, and vegan recipes.  It had to be better than gray pasta, right? After browsing through her recipes, I knew I had to try a dessert.  And I decided to make cookies since I was at home with my family for vacation, and they are cookie-crazy here. I am a nut butter lover, so when I saw Chelsy’s Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, I knew I had a winner.  I made some modifications by subbing almond butter for peanut butter since my sister is allergic and adding in some chocolate chips because everyone loves chocolate chips in cookies. These cookies were great- chewy on the inside and crunchy on the edges.  I think some other great add ins would be almonds, toffee pieces, or raisins. These cookies are just as good as that first bite of a McDonald’s cheeseburger after going gluten-free for a year.  Mmm.

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FLOURLESS ALMOND BUTTER COOKIES Adapted from Mangia

INGREDIENTS

1 cup almond butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Pinch of salt 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl combine almond butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar.  Mix together until creamy.  Whisk in egg, vanilla extract, and salt.  Fold in chocolate chips. Place rounded tablespoon size balls of dough on prepared baking sheets.  Flatten with spoon.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown around edges.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes.  Finish cooling on wire racks.  Store in air tight container. Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

Blueberry and Sour Cream Pie Revisited

Since I have a never ending list of new recipes to try, I don’t remake dishes very often- especially desserts. There are just too many new possibilities that old ones fall to the wayside. However, when I do make really good dessert and repeat it, I notice how much easier it is the second time around.  I made this pie for our New Year’s Dinner earlier this year, and I remember thinking it was a pretty difficult recipe.  But this time around, everything went much more smoothly.

This time around, I found a much better pie crust (a pate sucree actually, how fancy) and I revamped the struesel topping to be even better.  This pie is still absolutely divine.  Something about the combination of blueberries, sour cream, and almond just works.  And if you want to justify this for a holiday pie, just say that the white sour cream represents snow and the blueberries represent snow flakes.  It’s a stretch, but no one will protest this pie replacing a more traditional holiday treat after they take that first bite.

BLUEBERRY AND SOUR CREAM PIE
Pie Adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts
Crust Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
4-6 tablespoons ice water

For the Pie:
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups blueberries

For the Topping:
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt.  Sprinkle cold butter on top and process until an evenly distributed crumb mixture forms.  At egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water and pulse.  Add more water if needed until a soft dough forms.  Turn onto plastic wrap and press into a small disk.  Chill for at least 1 hour.

For the Pie:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Grease a 9 inch pie pan.  Turn pie dough onto lightly floured surface and roll out to a 10 inch circle.  Press pie crust into pan, crimping the edges and removing the excess.  Freeze for 20 minutes.  Prick bottom of the pie with a fork.  Line pie with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove beans/weights.  Cover the edges of the pie with foil and bake for an additional 7-10 minutes, until sides are set.

While the pie chills or bakes, prepare the sour cream filling.  In a large bowl combine sour cream, sugar, flour, egg, almond extract, and salt.  Whisk together until smooth.  Fold in blueberries.

After crust is baked, pour filling into hot pie crust.  Keep the edges of the pie covered and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping.  In a small bowl combine butter and flour.  Mix together with your fingers until small crumbles form.  Stir in almonds and sugar.  Once filling is baked, spoon the topping on top of the warm filling.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool to room temperature.