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.

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.

Raspberry Filled White Chocolate Almond Bars

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This week I have off from classes, and for the first time in a while I don’t really have anything pressing to do.  And I do not know what to do with myself. Besides listen to this song nonstop.

My name is Karen, and I can no longer do nothing.

I used to be able to just literally sit on the couch or at the computer all day long and do nothing.  Well, not nothing.  I had a very important TV schedule I followed.  Since our study didn’t have cable my line up was based on the standard channels as follows: Arthur (yes, the aardvark…), People’s Court, Judge Mathis, Judge Hatchet, All my Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital, and Maury.

I would love to say I have become more cultured and sophisticated in the years since, but I can still get sucked in by a good Real Housewives of wherever marathon.  I know I shouldn’t complain about this slow week and that a few months from now I will be longing for some nothing-ness.  Until then I will have to try and find some fun stuff to do this week.

Luckily for the second half of this week I don’t have to worry about doing nothing since I will blowing out of this one-horse town on a Texas roadtrip! I am excited to explore some cities, spend time with a friend, eat good food, and watch some fireworks.  From a good distance since I have a healthy respect/fear of explosions.

I really am revealing a lot of neurosis today.  Can’t do nothing, have a fear of fireworks. Hello.  For the sake of full disclosure, I also have an irrational fear of butterflies.

Anyway.  These raspberry almond white chocolate bars would be an amazing treat to bring to any BBQ celebrations. This recipe comes from my mom, and I knew whenever she made these for a holiday celebration, we were in for a treat.  Raspberry, white chocolate, and almonds are a threesome I can fully get behind.

No blue, but you got the red and white covered- just sit them next to a big bowl of blueberries or something.

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RASPBERRY FILLED WHITE CHOCOLATE BARS
Adapted from My Mom

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter
12 ounces white chocolate chips, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4-1 cup raspberry jam
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9 inch baking pan.

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add 6 ounces (about 1 cup) of the white chocolate chips. Do not stir and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat eggs until foamy. Slowly add sugar, beating until mixture is lemon colored. Stir in white chocolate chip and butter mixture. Add almond extract, salt, and flour. Mix until just combined. Pour approximately 1/2-3/4 of the mixture into the pan. Bake for 15-17 minutes.

In a small saucepan warm raspberry jam until easily pourable, about 2-3 minutes. Pour on top of warm crust. Spoon teaspoonfuls of remaining batter on top of jam with some jam still showing through. Sprinkle almonds on top. Bake for 25-27 minutes. Cool completely and cut into bars.

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.

Sour Cream Blueberry Pie

When it comes to food, I am a dessert girl.  My sweet tooth knows no bounds.  And when it comes to desserts, I am a pie girl all the way.  I love pies- a flaky, butter crust with a sweet filling is like a little slice of heaven for me.

At first, I doubted this recipe.  Sour cream and blueberries in a pie?  Then, I thought it’d be okay.  Then as I was mixing up the filling, I knew it would be good.  Then, as I was baking the pie, I knew it would be excellent.  As I waited for the pie to cool, I knew this would be one of the best pies I’d had.

And it was.

Do not doubt this pie recipe.  It’s sooooo (that is 6 Os there) good, and it’s not like any other pie I have had before.  It’s creamy, sweet, and delicious.  The recipe has a pecan crumble topping, but I honestly think the pie would be better without it.  Their recipe for pie crust was good but not great, so my search for the best pie crust continues.

SOUR CREAM BLUEBERRY PIE
Slightly Adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts
INGREDIENTS

1 pie crust
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS
Partially bake your pie crust according to your recipe instructions (typically about 20 minutes).Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, whisk sour cream, sugar, flour, egg, almond extract, and salt together until well mixed.  Fold in blueberries.  Pour filling into warm pie crust.  Bake until filling is just set, 30-35 minutes.  The filling should jiggle slightly and be set on the sides.  Cool to room temperature.

Fig and Strawberry Baklava


I have been waiting for fresh figs to pop up in grocery stores for about a year.  I just missed last year’s fig season by a couple of weeks (this was back during the days when I was only beginning to cook for myself), so it’s been a long year of anticipation.  Except that I completely forgot that fig season was happening, so maybe not so full of anticipation.  I nearly walked past these in the grocery store, but luckily I finally got to buy my fresh figs while they are in season.
Now that I had fresh figs, and I went to work finding a recipe to make with them.  I wanted a recipe that let figs shine as the star.  I debated between a savory or sweet recipe, but in the end, I decided not to fight my sweet tooth.  I browsed through my recipe books and was sad to find that most of the recipes with figs only needed dried figs.  I wanted to make a recipe that could only be made with fresh figs, so I decided to come up with one myself.
This is my spin on baklava, using fresh fruit instead of all nuts.  And it’s still somewhat healthy for a dessert, so everyone can stick to their resolutions for 2012 and still enjoy a little something sweet.

FIG AND STRAWBERRY BAKLAVA

From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS

15 strawberries, chopped
10 figs, chopped
3-4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
16 ounces walnuts, chopped
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Toasted almonds, for serving

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine strawberries, figs, honey, and brown sugar.  The amount of sugar and honey needed will depend on the the sweetness of the fruit used.  Taste and add more sugar if needed.  Macerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush a 9×13 baking pan with butter.  Layer 6 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing with melted butter on each layer.  Top with a small layer of the strawberry and fig mixture.  Top with walnuts.  Layer 3 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing with melted butter on each layer.  Top with a layer of strawberry and fig mixture.  Top with walnuts.  Layer 6 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.  If top begins to brown too much, cover with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, combine honey, water, sugar, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Let cool.

After taking baklava out of oven, pour honey sauce over top warm baklava.  Let cool to room temperature for several hours.  Cut with a sharp knife into triangles.  Top with toasted nuts if desired.