Category Archives: Appetizers

Tomato Overload

Guess what didn’t take Labor Day off? The tomatoes in your garden. It’s hard to keep up with the crop, though I’m trying my darndest, and probably headed for whatever toxic event occurs from too many tomatoes. I swear those suckers ripen by the hour. It’s all good though, except that there’s this one doctor out there on the interwebs who gets really bad on tomatoes. I just have to ignore his advice for the next couple of weeks. Same with the corn haters. Now is NOT the time.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s just revisit some of our all-time tomato season favorites. Purists of course will go no further than the white bread and mayo tomato sandwich. Solid. But it uses exactly one tomato. Not helpful. When you’re looking for mass consumption of the bounty, I suggest a batch or two of sweet and spicy tomato jam. For the easiest dinner on the planet, totally appropriate for hands off entertaining, go for Best of Summer Simmer Chicken. If your job is to bring a side, embrace the heat with Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad, or just go straight for Most Popular with THE Panzanella.

If those don’t use up your tomato backlog, here is an easy way to give your tomatoes (and the taste of summer) a little more staying power.

If nothing else you should go to Smitten Kitchen just to look at the picture of the pre-roasting tomato rainbow. Impressive. Mine do not look like that. BUT I assure you they taste darned good, and they are perfect to throw on a pizza, spoon on bruschetta, toss into a salad, smoosh on bread, mix in pasta, etc. You get the picture.

Slow roasted tomatoes, just hanging with the fresh crowd.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
  • Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes. When they are done, you can remove the cloves of garlic and save them for another use. They’re a delish side bennie.

Use the tomatoes right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever.

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Bring It Summer All Stars

Summer is here my friends. Just in time, the good people of the webhosting universe have fixed my site so subscribers will actually get posts. What a great idea? Thank you Bring It loyals for your patience. And now, on to the weekend!

Before you head out for the Memorial Day shop with the rest of humanity, I picked out some all star classics that will help you slay this weekend. With a little prep you can head into summer looking like the master entertainer you are at heart.

First and foremost…

Bring on The Slaw:
If you have never made Hero Slaw, just trust me on this. It will make you famous. Go ahead and claim it as your own if it helps. Prep it, bag it, put it in the fridge and you can take on any invite that comes your way. Or just enjoy it yourself for a few days. If nothing else, make up the dressing to have on hand and turn kale into something the family might actually eat.

Have Some Balls:
Buffalo chicken meatballs are back on my regular rotation (thank you Neely for reminding me!) until I master the perfect veggie balls. Stay tuned for that. Until then, make up a lot of these (ahead if needed) and know they will disappear fast.

Brush up on Your Bruschetta Fixin’s:
You will never be sorry to have a Funitella bruschetta stashed in the fridge. With the miracle that is petite diced canned tomatoes it take all of about 5 minutes. If you want to get more ideas, take a gander at bruschetta deconstructed, and the consider toppings like pickled fig, creamy cheese and crunchy nut crostini, strawberries and goat cheese, and Sicilian caponata.

Get Your Guac On:
You’ve got to have it, and it hardly requires a recipe. BUT if you want to go the extra distance this crazy one with apples and tequila is my new fave. Mango jicama guacamole is another solid contender. Both add crunch and assert that this is not your first guac fiesta.

Think (of drinking) Ahead:
You know you’re a pro when…You’ve got your Frosé and Sandy’s daquiris in the freezer, and fixins for some fancy lemonades. You bridge into genius status when you also have watermelon juice at the ready to whip up watermelonade, spicy watermelon margaritas and watermelon sangria.

Watermelon Sangria. Summer in a glass.

Watermelon Up:
While we’re on the topic of watermelon, cut up some watermelon and prep it for watermelon poke bowls and you are set for fresh weekend lunches for Vegans and non Vegans alike. If you double up on the feta you get for Funitella Bruschetta, and make summer perfection watermelon feta salad, I promise you won’t be sorry.

Sweet Endings:
Oh where do we begin on these? Well, summery Lemon Beach Pie, a whole mess of Rubble or Loosey Brucey Rhubarb crisp are a good place to start. As Bruce would say, nobody ever complained about to many good recipe ideas.

New recipes next time, but of now let’s go with what we know and get this summer party started.

Must…eat…more…pie. Sweet, salty, sweet, salty, and oh yeah—creamy, crunchy, cool and tart.

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Holiday Favorites: Stay Sane, Go Nuts, Be Happy!

Fluff up your marmots and break out all things sparkly, the holidays are here. This is the season for many things: fake fur, sequins, fizzy drinks, warm everything. This is not the season for experimentation. We’re keeping our heads above water here, which means sticking with what we know. tried and true meals that make us happy, and treats to give that make others happy.

Maple oat breakfast bread

With that in mind, in my own kitchen I’m revisiting whole lot of Bring It tried and trues. That means soups like Thai Coconut Corn Soup, or Sugar and Spice Squash Soup. And yep, that means a crock pot full of Chicken Taco Chili that feeds a crowd with about 6 minutes of prep. All of the above, of course, beg for People’s Choice Cornbread or No Knead Challah or a honkin’ slice of Maple Oat Breakfast Bread to dunk in there. That is, UNLESS dirt bread is your thing…you know who you are, you little hemp seed eating chia pets. I’m with you there.

You might be needing some holiday entertaining staples like pomegranate everything (along with a genius pomegranate wrangling technique). What’s winter without fondue, and the easiest in the world Guinness Fondue at that? And what’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” without snacks? I highly recommend a batch of Nootch Popcorn or a bowl of Hail Mary Coconut.

As far as gifting and hostess offerings, you will never go wrong with crackle and its intriguing, slightly sophisticated dark cousin, pretzel and beer Crackle 2.0. And cookies? Yeah we’ve got those, basics like my faves—champion chip cookies—as well as totally slacker kiss my crust cookies, made from refrigerated pie crust and whatever chocolates you have around. If you need to scare up a snowstorm, or a reason to start a sweet family tradition make up a snow ghost pie.

Snow Ghost pie ad

And lest this be a pure re-hash of deliciousness we have an actual new recipe. I realize this blog has a somewhat extensive nut treatment, including honey thyme walnuts, spicy rosemary maple walnuts and an entire holiday nut anthology. But it turns out you really do need one more way to make roasted almonds. These are very similar to ginger glazed almonds (see anthology above), but without the ginger and with a coating of sesame seeds. You can choose a mix of sweeteners for your preferred flavor dimension (honey and sesame were pretty much born for each other), but for the best texture and glaze use at least some brown sugar.  

We’re talking nuts here, not rocket science, so be bold and mess around with flavorings, spices, herbs, types of nuts etc. Above all, enjoy the madness of the season and, like James says, remember “Shower the people you love with love.”

Sesame Almonds

Makes 3 1/2 cups almonds

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (or sub out up to 2 tablespoons with honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or your healthy oil of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pound raw almonds (a scant 3 ½ cups)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) white sesame seeds

Method:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet and 2 wire cooling racks with parchment paper and set aside.

Pour the almonds into a mixing bowl. (If you keep your nuts in the freezer, warm them up in the oven for a few minutes first). In the microwave or on the stovetop stir together the brown sugar/honey/syrup, oil, salt, paprika, and vinegar over low heat. Pour mixture over the almonds and toss until the almonds are thoroughly coated. Transfer the almonds to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.

Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until the almonds are brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes total. They should be a rich brown color and just start to smell toasted as you open the oven door.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the hot almonds and stir to evenly distribute the seeds. This is where I go a little overboard, and try to get as many sesame seeds as possible to coat the almonds. Divide the nuts between the 2 prepared cooling racks and use a spatula to spread the nuts out so they do not touch. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Break apart any nut clusters that are stuck together if needed.

Bringing It:

Pour these babies into a treat bag, jar, tin or a cardboard takeout container lined with festive tissue paper, and store them in the fridge until you are ready to give them or devour them.

 

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Bringing It With Heart: Peacemaking Pepitas

Bringing on the love, and healthy debate.

You can’t please all the people all the time. This is true when it comes to food, and especially when it comes to what people consider “healthy” food. For various reasons, I’ve been flirting lately with both Vegan and Whole 30 ways of eating.

For those of you oblivious to food trends, Vegans avoid all food that comes from something with a face—meat, fish and all dairy, including eggs. The most vigilant Vegans also avoid honey, to protest the enslavement of bees. Whole 30 basically lines up with the Paleos, who embrace “high quality” protein, and especially animal protein. They make the sign of the cross to all grains, beans, processed foods and soy, which means tofu, tempeh, seitan and the like. Paleos blame life’s ills on inflammation, which come from the body trying to deal with sugar, a whole lot of which comes from grains. Vegans embrace grains and beans because without all that Verboten animal protein they get darned hungry.

Vegans are among the most creative eaters, making cheese from nuts, milk from hemp and mayo from chickpeas. The paleos get crafty points too, making pancakes without flour, oatmeal without oats and pizza crust from cauliflower. Martha points for all! Vegans get smug when the topics of obesity and high cholesterol come up; Paleos get smug when the Vegans look wan and tired; and the topic of bacon will polarize a mixed crowd faster than you can say Trump. All of this explains the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which cuts right down the middle. Mediterranean eaters sit back and watch the show, enjoying a little bit of everything. They snack on olives, guiltlessly savor their dark chocolate and red wine and think, “Ah, yes. Life is moderately good!”

We had a recent health scare in our house, which prompted a close look at nutrition. People showed up bearing delicious, heart-healthy meals, as well as plenty of dark chocolate. It reminded me of how much I love our community and inspired me to tweak Bring It towards the healthier end of the spectrum. Like many of our friends, we lead pretty healthy lives, but there’s always room for improvement.

As discussed above, “healthy” means different things to different people; but, we’ve all got to try to get along in this world, especially at the table, and especially while we striving towards our own healthy, realistic, sustainable way of eating. Most of us just want good, healthy food that won’t break the bank, or take all day and an advance culinary degree to prepare. Fortunately, there are a few things on which all zealots agree, and I like to picture them as overlapping areas of a Venn diagram. The overlapping area of foods to avoid or seriously limit includes sugar, processed foods and, sadly, cheese. The overlapping area of acceptable foods includes greens, colorful veggies and roots, nuts, avocados, fruit (more or less) and coconut in its many forms. So we’ve got a starting point for common ground.

Of course, there will be many things that are beyond the universal overlap of all “healthy” diets. There are also times when you just have to go off the reservation. I’ll point you to those recipes with gusto, even if I’m not making them myself for a while. Case in point are these bronzies that a friend brought over recently. They totally raise the dessert bar, and WILL make you MVG (Most Valuable Guest).

For today, we’re keeping it simple and healthy: Pepitas roasted with sweet/salty coconut aminos. Coconut aminos are soy- and wheat-free, and while they are still a form of sodium, it’s less than straight up salt (a Tablespoon of coconut aminos has 300 mg sodium, the same as in 1/8 tsp salt). Even better, the Paleos turn a blind eye to the main ingredient, coconut sap, which sure sounds like a form of sugar to me. Shhhh! Let’s just enjoy this.

These pepitas are great sprinkled on salad, soup (like this one!) or roasted vegetables or as a snack any time of day.

Peacemaking Pepitas

Tweak the amounts up and down, but for best results don’t crowd your baking sheet. 1½ cups of nuts at a time per sheet is about the max.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw pepitas
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos (or more if you’re feeling it)
  • ½ -1 tsp chili powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour pepitas on the parchment lined sheet, drizzle with aminos and stir them around to coat. Sprinkle with chili powder if using.

Bake for 10 minutes. Stir and check them for doneness. Return to over for 5 more minutes.

Let cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container (they get soggy otherwise).

Bringing it:

Warp ’em up! These make an excellent hostess gift or contribution to any feast.

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Drunken Fig Jam: Where fresh figs go to party

Fig Jamming New England style, with cheddar of course

How did I make it through life this far without ever canning? Why did I start now? Two fine questions. My two fine answers are fresh figs and fresh corn. They’re only around for a bit and they are so darned good.

Let’s start with figs. This recipe come from Treas, out in Cali, head chef at Granite Chief Command Central. Her recipe, which she shared with me after two years of my passive yet unremitting coersion, says that fig season is only in August. This handy guide to all things fig, gives us a larger window. According to google, there is a short season in early summer and then a longer season in late summer/fall. Either way, fresh figs are not around forever, and once you buy them you’ve got to use them fast. We should have a few more weeks at least, and cognac is always in season, so we’re good there. 

A little heads up to you non-canners out there. You need a big pot, you need to know that when you fill it too full with water and then put your jars in, your stove may have a hazardous overflow situation. You can only use canning lids once, which is why that whole mysterious section of parts in the grocery store exists. I guess that’s about it. I was going to get into racks for the bottom of your pot, but this recipe doesn’t call for one, so let’s run with the “ignorance is bliss” theory.

Another small cautionary note: When you are heading out to book group for three hours it’s best to turn the burner under your boiling fig jam OFF.  Next up? Corn relish to give Stonewall Kitchen a run for their money…and a new stockpot.

Fancying up a fall salad

Drunken Fig Jam

Recipe and action shots from Treas Manning
Makes 6 1/2 pint jars

Ingredients

• 2 lemons
• 4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed,
cut into 1/2-inch pieces (use food scale for accuracy)
• 4 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup brandy or Cognac
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Method:

Using a vegetable peeler, slice peel from lemons (try to avoid as much as the white part as possible) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips. Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens (30 to 35 minutes), and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally use a hand blender to puree the mixture. It’s fine if there are small bits of lemon peel and fig, but I do like the bits to be minimal. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Notes: At high altitude over 5500 feet, process the jars for 15 minutes.

Drunken Fig Jam is yummy:

  • on a toasted baguette with a slice of melted Irish Cheddar, and a walnut on top.
  • on crusty bread with fresh burratta or mozzarella
  • on a grilled bone in pork chop, or on slices of pork tenderloin
  • on whole wheat toast topped with a strip of bacon for breakfast.
  • with cheese, sliced pears and walnuts on a groovy pizza

Bringing It and Giving It:

Makes a darned nice Christmas gift, especially canned in a Ball and Mason squatty wide mouth jar

 

 

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ZUKES! Zucchini Bruschetta and More Green Ideas

Summer’s Surplus, all fancied up and ready for company.

It’s that time of year when it’s perfectly ok to eat fresh corn every day, tomatoes appear at every meal, and zucchini magically appear on your doorstep. I’m NOT complaining about the zucchini bounty, especially now that I have my “as seen on TV” spiralizer (a brilliant gizmo everyone should own), but using it up does present a challenge.

You could go the zucchini bread route, but if you’re not in the baking mood or you’re not in to cranking up that oven on a hot summer day, here are some alternatives. First, is a brilliant zucchini bruschetta. I have long suspected that Martha Stewart cuts her recipes to fit the page, leaving out a step or an ingredient here and there. On the positive side, it cuts out the micromanaging of how to make your toasts. If you need a bruschetta clinic, I’ve got you covered. And if you need other ideas on what to put on them, try Funitella Bruschetta, Sicilian Caponata , this creamy crunchy pickled fig extravaganza or sooooo many more things. As for missing ingredients, the only thing Martha missed in this case was a squeeze of fresh lemon. The fact that she left off the fancy fresh herb chiffonades is just a pure gift to humanity.

Zucchini Bruschetta

Ever so gently adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July/August 2015. It’s a good thing, Martha. I promise. 

Pro move of the day: salting the zucchini before cooking it draws out water, eliminating sogginess.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice (not sure how Martha missed this!)
  • Toasted baguette slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving (optional)
  • thinly sliced or grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Method

  1. Shred zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. (You should have about 4 cups.) Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bowl. Let stand 10 minutes. Squeeze out excess moisture with your hands.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add shallot; cook 1 minute. Add zucchini; cook until tender and golden, 5 minutes. Stir in red-pepper flakes; Squeeze fresh lemon over the whole shebang and season with salt and pepper. Serve atop baguette slices, drizzled with olive oil, if you must.

Double Zuke Roll-Ups

For the adventuresome (and truly zucchini laden) among you…Out of desperation for a suitable appetizer, I fell upon a brilliant way to put zucchini inside of zucchini. It seems a little cannibalistic, or like a vegetarian version of a turducken. But it all works and it’s tasty. It also uses pesto—preferably with fresh mint thrown in—to address other surpluses in your fridge or garden. Garnish with tomatoes because, well, August tomatoes. I am quite sure this would taste fabulous with some fresh corn stirred in. Yes go ahead try that! Blueberries? Easy now, let’s draw the line right there.

There are no amounts here because we’re using what we’ve got, right? Any leftovers are going into the spiralizer for a zoodle future.

Ingredients:

  • Whole zucchini, preferably on the larger side
  • Your favorite pesto. This Vegan one was darned good, but pick your fave and sub or add some mint for bonus points
  • Zucchini from zucchini bruschetta (see above)
  • Balsamic glaze (if you’re fancy, and I know you are)

Method:

Chop off the end of the zucchini and thinly slice into strips. Use either a mandoline (easiest), or bear down hard with a vegetable peeler. Spread some pesto on each strip, and then layer on some of the shredded zucchini mixture. Leave a little space at the end of each strip for a tidy closure. Roll up that bad boy and secure it with a toothpick. When you have all your roll ups on the plate, drizzle with balsamic glaze, if using, just before serving. You can also drizzle some oil on these and bake them to serve with the main meal. 

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Or ten? Please let me know!

This picture right here is why you use balsamic GLAZE vs straight balsamic. Live and learn…

 

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Furikake Fireworks Popcorn

Weird as hell? Yes. Delicious? Yes, yes and more yes!!!

Weird food on the weekend. It’s a thing. Ok, maybe it’s not a thing, but it’s a thing this weekend if you make this. Spoiler alert: you won’t be sorry! You will, however, have to get a few things you might not have in your pantry. And you will have to suspend your disbelief that this bizarre mix of ingredients can combine to make a snack that is not only edible but also addictive.

Now for a little background. I’ve been meaning to make this ever since I saw it on Joy the Baker nearly three years ago, but I got stuck at Furikake—both the pronunciation and the procurement. As for pronunciation, say Foo-ree-kah-kay, and you are close enough. Say furry cocky and you are either a teenage boy or an adult who can’t help yourself. You know who you are.   

As for procurement, Furikake must be having its moment because the day I finally broke down and got it on Amazon, I found it at our awesome Coop. Only later did I discover that there are several flavors of furikake. Mine from the Coop was yasai fumi— “vegetable” flavor.” The yet-to-be used one from Amazon—Nori Komi—is seaweed flavor. Scary? A little.

Honestly, even harder to find than Furikake were the Corn Pops. Props to the Coop for taking the high road and not carrying Corn Pops, but in this case it sure would have helped. I considered buying two packs of mini cereals at the mini mart just to cobble together the cup of Corn Pops but dang—that’s a lot of surplus Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks.

On to the recipe. You’re going to cook up some bacon—good and crispy like you mean it. You’re going to chop it up fine. You’re going to make your own kettle corn—in your Whirly Pop, your big covered pot or your cracked Mickey Mouse popcorn maker. You’re going to brown some butter. Then you’re going to marry it all together with some additional weirdness including chopped up dried pineapple, corn pops and the precious furikake. And you’re not going to substitute anything for anything, because Joy said not to. After seeing this popcorn disappear with both kids and adults, I trust her on this.

So here you go. I hope this brings you and your people joy and weirdness this weekend.  

Roy Choi’s Furikake Kettle Corn

Ingredients

For the Kettle Corn

  • 3 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • salt to taste

For the Mix

  • 4 heaping cups kettle corn
  • 1 cup Corn Pops (the cold cereal)
  • 2 tablespoons furikake, plus more for topping if desired
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped dried pineapple
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped crisp bacon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and browned
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives

Instructions

  1. To make the kettle corn, in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (or your weapon of choice), heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the corn kernels and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place the lid over the pan, keeping the lid slightly ajar. 
  2. Allow popcorn to begin popping. Once or twice, cover the pan completely, and use pot holders to lift the pan and shake it. When popping slows, remove from heat and sprinkle lightly with salt. Shake into a large bowl. 
  3. Add Corn Pops, furikake, red pepper flakes, pinch of cayenne, diced pineapple, and diced bacon. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and toss to combine. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with more furikake and minced chives. 
  4. Serve and enjoy! 

Bringing it: 

Shovel that good stuff right into a ziplock bag and take it where you will. I’m talking to you hikers, road trippers, party hoppers, fireworks watchers, Drive In goers…

 

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Spicy Rosemary Maple Nuts

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Nuts. Straight up. This is my fantasy.

It’s here people. Crunch time. This is your week to bake or cook your way out of small gift madness.  Let’s review some options: We have, of course, the standby Crackle, and the more grown up Guinness and dark chocolate version. We have easy as pie (crust) cookies and jars of salted caramel cholliesauce or honey thyme walnuts. And speaking of nuts…we now also have an updated riff on sweet and savory roasted nuts.

Sadly, I have no kill switch when it comes to sweet and spicy roasted nuts. Until now the men in my house have allowed me to make them, give them and sample (hoard) them with no interference. This year, however, when I made these for Thanksgiving they disappeared before they were cool enough to hide. Either the locals’ tastes have evolved or this recipe is just that good.  It calls for fresh rosemary, maple syrup and cayenne—standard issue stuff amongst us nut fans. What takes them over the edge is the amount of rosemary (lots) added both before and after baking. Oh, and flaky sea salt. No secrets here.

They’re sweet but not too sweet, and have enough heat to get your attention but not in a scary way. Best of all, there are no egg whites or other fussy things involved. Yes, those are angels singing. You’ve got to get fresh rosemary—I’m not letting you off the hook there—but you can use a mix of whatever raw nuts strike your fancy. Pictured is the full walnut monty, but a mix with pecans, almonds and/or cashews is divine. Love the one you’re with, baby.

Make a lot so you don’t have to be stingy with your family. It’s so close to Christmas and all.

Spicy Rosemary Maple Nuts

From Kitchen Konfidence

Ingredients

  • 1 pound unsalted mixed nuts (cashews, walnuts and almonds are delish)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt or kosher salt, plus more to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, toss mixed nuts with melted butter and maple syrup. Add 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, dark brown sugar, cayenne pepper and 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, mixing until the nuts are well coated . Spread nuts out onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until glazed and golden (about 18 – 20 minutes), stirring twice during the cooking process.*
  2. As soon as the nuts come out of the oven, season with an additional 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, and flaky sea salt to taste (I added an additional 3/4 teaspoon). Serve warm immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Notes

  • Set the timer and If your oven runs hot, be sure to check the nuts a bit early. Nuts can turn on you and go from golden to bitter if you ignore them.

Up next: What if you find out Santa is gluten free….and you only have access to a mini mart? Got ya covered.

nuts-n-stuff

 

 

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Of Empty Nests and Butternut Squash

 

butt-pizzaSometimes—most times really—I’m not the quickest to pick up on the obvious. When I was wondering why it had been so hard to get inspired for fall a post I looked within, to all manner of character flaws, for an explanation. It took a friend in the grocery store, mocking the paltry contents of my grocery cart to make it obvious. I no longer have two of my biggest, loudest, stinkiest, most wonderful reasons to cook. If, like me, you are slow to notice signs here some dead giveaways.

You might be an empty nester if:

  • You no longer park near the cart collection stands at the grocery store.
  • You buy milk in half gallons, then quarts, and still wonder if it’s gone bad.
  • You put everything you can imagine needing into your cart and it still costs less than $50.
  • Your ice cream has freezer burn.
  • You actually pay attention to special diets, and try to accommodate them.

This last point is what today’s post is about. Well, that and butternut squash, my food champion of fall. (Let’s remember squash on toast, sugar and spice soup and Halloween Soup and on and on in the butternut/kabocha hall of fame.) The empty nest is suddenly available for visitors, which is awesome, and they bring with them special diets. At one point recently three guests joked that one was gluten free, one was sugar free and one was calorie free. Guest Number 4 was Vegan. This all worked because a: They all had a sense of humor and adventure, and b: I had time to care (see above).

In my quest as a Vegan sympathizer I’ve tried a lot of things recently. I’ve tried to make both cheese and pizza crust out of cauliflower. No and no. I’ve made Reuben sandwiches out of seitan, a thousand times NO. I’ve also found some reasonably good stuff like grain-free carrot bread, and mayonnaise made with chickpeas. And, with much inspiration from Minimalist Baker and other sites, I’ve made some unbelievable stuff, like butternut squash pizza, the key ingredients of which I share below.

It’s been a fun experiment, and I like being able to find things that can broaden my own food horizons and make people on special diets happy. That said, life is about finding the right balance. When I asked my husband if he was game to try black bean sweet potato burgers for dinner, he merely went to the freezer, removed a steak and thunked it on the counter. Know your audience, people, and enjoy whoever is in your nest.

Butternut Squash Sauce

From the Minimalist Baker, with amounts adjusted

butt-pizza2

Also makes a mean pizzadilla, on a corn tortilla procured by the Vegan for the gluten-free girl.

Ingredients

For every cup of cubed butternut squash you will need:

  • 2 tsp olive oil ( 1 tsp oil for roasting and another tsp for adding to the sauce)
  • 1 garlic clove, whole, skin removed
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • a pinch of salt and pepper.

Keep in mind 1 Tbsp is 3 tsp. Sooooo, math whiz that I am, for 3 cups squash you will need 1 Tbsp of oil for roasting, and another Tbsp oil to add to the sauce, and 1 Tbsp maple syrup. A baking sheet easily holds 4 cups, so amp up ingredients if you’ve got the squash.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Add cubed butternut squash and peeled garlic cloves to a baking sheet and drizzle with half total olive oil and a pinch each salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until all squash is fork tender.

Transfer squash and garlic to a blender or food processor with remaining olive oil and maple syrup. Purée until creamy and smooth, adding more olive oil or a touch of water if it’s too thick. The consistency should be creamy and spreadable (not pourable). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Use sauce as you would pizza sauce, topping it with your desired cheese and toppings and baking the pizza at 425. Make a great Pizzadilla as well, as evidenced on the fine corn tortilla pictured above.

fall-food

Old fall favorites and some new ones

Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Also from Minimalist Baker

This is surprisingly good. As with any imposters, better to think of it as its own thing. (I’m looking at you, black bean “brownies”). It’s sort of a weird craving now. Like I needed another.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews (try raw slivered almonds or brazil nuts too)
  • 3 Tbsp (9 g) nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Method

Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Lasts for several weeks.

But that’s not all! Some bonus fall accessories:

Tahini Miso Sauce

If you don’t have miso in your fridge, do yourself a favor and get some. Merely figuring out how to use it up you will take you on a flavor adventure. Toss this sauce with pretty much anything roasted, but especially cauliflower, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc, etc.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • optional: grated fresh ginger, pinch of red pepper flakes, splash of Tamari. Do experiment here!

Whisk or stir all ingredients, adding enough water, a spoonful at a time, to make a smooth sauce.

Fried Sage Leaves

Put them on anything for fall goodness

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Fresh sage leaves, twice as much as you think you want
  • Coarse salt

Method:

Heat oil in a pan. Fry sage leaves 6 or so at a time until crisp. Remove to a paper towel with slotted spoon and sprinkle with salt. Repeat until you have enough to actually share with others.

sage-coffee

Fried sage next to the very best Vitamin C!

 

 

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California Dreamin’: Pickled Grapes and other Weird Things

Pickled grapes, accessorized for fall.

Pickled grapes, accessorized for fall.

Well hello fall! I’m not sure how we got from frosé season to apple season so fast, but here we are. Have we all fit an unreasonable amount of fresh corn and tomatoes into our diets these past few weeks? And rescued every last watermelon from the cardboard bins? If so, good job. If not, there’s still time…but barely!

I’m just back from a long trip to Cali, and it of course involved lots of weird food. Why even go to California if you’re not going to dive all in? My weird food fest got rolling at Jack London Square in Oakland, first at a vegetarian restaurant with a mushroom pecan pate that still haunts me in the best way, and then at an event called Eat Real. Very groovy indeed. Super tart, super strong Red Branch hard cherry cider kicked it off. Fabulous street eats ensued, including sesame peanut zucchini salad with furikake…Damn! So good and so fun to say. The miso sesame muffin from Berkeley’s own Sam’s Patisserie wrapped it all up with an oddly addictive bow.

A beer drinker's decision tree. Takes the pressure off.

A beer drinker’s decision tree at Eat Real.

From there I went south, for pink pepperberry gin and tonics in Santa Monica, Tuna poke and tamales in Pasadena, and then—because you’ve got to be on your A game of weirdness in Topanga—rosemary-brined grapes and basil pickled cantaloupe.

Today, I’m bringing you the grapes, because they are stupid easy and crazy good. Plus, they are red and green and would be a perfect offering for any holiday feast. Make them now, try them in a week or so, and if you like them you’ll have plenty of time to go into production. So, let’s not be sad as we let summer and linen and the quest for perfect toenail color drift away. There are apples to be eaten, pies to be baked and ciders of all potencies to be quaffed.

This comes straight from the Wall St. Journal food section, which is awesome. Read the article for other pickled fruit recipes, including cantaloupe. And if there’s a deal on grapes just make a ton. As the article instructs, their flavors improve after about a week, and they’ll keep in the fridge for months… unless I come over.

Pickled Grapes

Adapted from “The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern” by Ted and Matt Lee

Active time: 15 minutes Total time: 45 minutes Makes: 1 pint

  • 2 cups seedless red and/or green grapes (about 10 ounces)
  • ¾ cup distilled white or white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Leaves from 1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  1. Pack grapes into a glass jar or airtight plastic container. Pour vinegar and water into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add salt, sugar, garlic, rosemary and chili flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute.
  2. Remove pan from heat and pour brine over grapes to fill container. Strain remaining brine into a measuring cup (you should have a little less than ½ cup left over) and reserve for making butter lettuce salad with pickled grapes, toasted pecans and soft goat cheese (recipe below). Transfer any garlic, rosemary and chili flakes remaining in strainer to container with grapes.
  3. Cover container tightly, shake to distribute seasonings, uncover and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cover again, and transfer container to refrigerator to chill further, about 15 minutes more.
Among the least weird things in Topanga

Among the least weird things in Topanga

img_5160

Straight up awesomeness in the East Bay

 

 

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