Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spiced candied nuts

I usually crave spiced nuts during cold weather. But recently I visited my friend and she had some spiced nuts on the table and I completely emptied it. Then that craving didn't go away. I had to make some and have some in my house! We like candied nuts for salad and because I bake a lot, we usually have some kind of nuts at home and I could start right away. 

I've always done cinnamon version but never added cayenne before until I found this recipe. This is so yummy! A little hint of spiciness. I actually made two versions. One batch with cayenne and another version with paprika so my tot can enjoy it too. I was sending a big care package for my sister who just had my new niece and this was a great add on too. She loves whatever I make and on top of that, she loves spiced nuts. Anything with cinnamon. 

This is so addictive that I have to really control myself. No more than a small bowl at a time. Otherwise I would just empty a jar without knowing. Since it's warm and nice out now, we will be entertaining a lot. And even though it's not the weather you crave warm spices, I think it's a great snack to put out with the "welcome drinks" when the guests arrive. Okay, I have been staring at these pictures long enough. Time to sneak into the pantry and get some before my tot finds me. =)

Spiced candied nuts

Ingredients :

3 cups nuts of your choice(I used equal parts of pecans,almonds and cashews)
1 egg white
1 Tbsp water
1/3 cup brown sugar(light or dark)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or paprika for mild version

Directions :

1. Preheat the oven to 300F. 

2. Whisk egg white and water together until frothy. Pour over nuts and toss. 

3. Mix both sugars, cinnamon, salt and cayenne or paprika and pour it over the egg white and nuts mixture and toss well. 

4. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, spread out evenly. Bake for 28-30 minutes and let it cool. When cooled, break the clusters if desired. Keep in airtight container. 

*Recipe from Avery cooks

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Balsamic skirt steak & polenta bites

Wasn't last weekend just perfect? Oh we needed it so badly. It was so nice I was in such a great mood even though I was so busy and exhausted. And what comes naturally with this great weather? BBQ! YES! BBQ season is back! We scrubbed the bbq inside and out and was ready to go! Well..Okay, I have to be honest, Steve scrubbed the bbq. I supervised. =P

Nutty yet crispy grilled polenta with slightly spicy baby arugula and tender steak with sticky balsamic glaze. OMG, so yummy. I just LOVE polenta. It's so simple to make polenta at home but yet, it's even easier to buy a cooked polenta log so I always go the lazy way. I always have to grill extra polenta as my tot devours these.

With skirt steak, I am sure you all know it but you have to be really careful not to overcook it, otherwise it's not edible. Once time I was talking to Steve while cooking it, got distracted and I completely overcooked it and ruined his dinner. =( 

If you prepare it in advance, like marinating ahead, this is a great, quick appetizer(takes just less than 10 minutes to cook) to please guests or a fabulous small portion lunch. 

Balsamic skirt steak & polenta bites

*Makes about 2 appetizer portions

Ingredients :

steak marinade
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dark or light brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb skirt steak(or flank steak)
1/2 log ready to grill polenta, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups baby arugula, washed
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions :

1. Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl and marinate skirt steak for at least 30 minutes.

2. In a sauce pan,add balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. As soon as it start boiling, turn the heat to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes or until it reaches syrupy consistency to make balsamic glaze.
3. Heat oil in a grill pan and grill polenta until golden brown on both sides. I grill about 3 minutes each side.

4. Grill the steak about 3 minutes each side and remove from the grill pan or grill. Tent it with a foil and let it rest for 8-10 minutes. Slice thinly.

5. Arrange grilled polenta on a plate and top with baby arugula and skirt steak and drizzle balsamic glaze.
* Marinade recipe by Pointless meals.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Peanut butter espresso cookies

This is probably the first time I mention on this blog that my tot will be a big brother. It is just weeks away! I can't believe how fast time goes. Unlike the first time, I have my tot to keep me busy every second. First time around, by now, my tot already had a wardrobe full of clothes and accessories. Not to mention the nursery was done long time ago. This time, just a few weeks away, we have bought just enough clothes, bedding's still on the way, nursery's ALMOST done. Well..to be fair, we lived in an apartment in Manhattan when I was getting the nursery done for my tot and this time, it's a proper sized nursery which gives me more visions than I could handle!! Haha. 

Even though I am usually very decisive, I could see the room going to a couple of different directions which I liked all, it took a long time for me to actually come to the final decision. Not to mention the process of finding a painter who can give me the perfect look I was going for. I was lucky enough to find the perfect person and now we're filling up the room. 

Espresso...I love espresso but not espresso furniture for a nursery. The color of my tot's furniture set was that and it was never my cup of tea from day one- surprisingly I let Steve win at that time. So recently we donated my tot's old set to a family who could appreciate and need it more than us and got a beautiful new furniture set we both like. Now he probably learned that if we don't want to spend double, we are better off going with what I like. =P

So now that we spilled the beans, I can talk about my cravings. Pregnant or not, I often have strong cravings for savory stuff but this third trimester, I started to crave more sweets. Can't eat a lot of sweets but variety of sweets at different times. A little taste of chocolate at one point, a little taste of coffee at another. And strangely for a coffee lover like me, I do not crave actual coffee. Instead I drink lots and lots of tea. Of course I have to control the caffeine level so I start my day with a cup of earl grey and rest of the day is herbal tea. One thing I learned this pregnancy is that you have to be careful even with herbal tea. With my tot, I still craved coffee, not tea so I just drank decaf most of the times but this time, I wanted chamomile which I never ever craved(in fact I couldn't stand it before pregnancy)and all kinds of stuff. Then I learned that chamomile tea is not good for pregnant women! Anyway, I drink hot water with a slice of lemon or peppermint tea a lot. Definitely different cravings. 

I am sure occasional treat of these little guys isn't going to do anything and these are so enjoyable. I halved the cream filling recipe when I made it. For some reason, even half the recipe made more than enough for mine. Makes about two dozen sandwiched cookies.

Peanut butter espresso cookies

Ingredients :

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 tsp instant espresso powder(or instant coffee)
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Peanut butter filling

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup + 2Tbsp confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp fine sea salt 

Chocolate to drizzle and cocoa nibs or chopped chocolate to garnish(optional)

Directions :

1. In a bowl cream the butter and confectioner's sugar until smooth.

2. In another bowl, combine rest of the dry ingredients and whisk. Mix it into creamed butter. When combined, add vanilla extract. 

3. Wrap it in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. While chilling, preheat the oven to 350F.

4. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out circles. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

5. While cooling, make the filling. I halved the recipe and it was enough. Cream butter and peanut butter until smooth and add confectioner's sugar and sea salt. Mix until smooth. 

6. Place about 1 Tbsp filling on a cookie and top with another. Assemble rest of the cookies the same way. If desired, melt some chocolate and drizzle on top and sprinkle chopped chocolate or cocoa nibs.

Homemade "saltine"

It was a crazy week last week. Weather's finally becoming more appropriate for the season and I had so many late nights. Thankfully not late nights due to the tot waking up, those nights were voluntarily planned by me. I can't remember the last time I was out till close to midnight! Great fun week but by the time Sunday Easter brunch was over, I just passed out. Haha. Not going to happen again for a while I guess.

As I mentioned a few times before, my tot loves all things crispy. And he loves saltines. I love experimenting homemade commercial snacks. After trying homemade goldfish/cheese crackers, oreos and so on, saltine was my next project in mind. When I found this recipe, I tried right away as it's so simple. The only thing that needs effort is rolling out the dough thin. We have a pasta maker so I could just feed the dough through and it wasn't that big of a deal but if I didn't, it would be a lot of work. I like how the bubbled up parts are so crispy. 

The reason why I call this "saltine" or saltine-like crackers is, it is not EXACTLY like saltine but it definitely taste like saltine. Texture is slightly different. Maybe because they're too thin? Would not making holes makes make a difference? I don't know but these were pretty darn good and addictive. It might sound funny but I like my saltine with some berry jam. Dip these in a little jam for a little sweetness or snack on them as is. Simple ingredients and my tot couldn't stop munching on these. At least I know what exactly is in it. Whether you want something simple homemade snack to munch on or to serve it with cheese for the guests, I think this will work very well. I didn't mean to scare you by saying it needs effort, if you roll it out as a couple of large sheets, it won't be that much of work. And your patience will be well worth it!

Homemade "saltine"

Ingredients :

1 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
water for brushing
salt for sprinkling

Directions :

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add melted butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal.

2. Add water and pulse until dough is formed. Dough will still be on the crumbly side. Put them on a clean surface and knead to make a moist dough disk.

3. Rest the dough for 30-60 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400F and roll out the dough very thin. Cut into squares and place them on a parchment paper lined sheet pans and brush the top with water. Sprinkle salt evenly.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. They crisp up more as they cool. Keep in airtight container. 

*Recipe by stress cake.