Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cider Cinnamon Nuts

Well, it turns out that my Facebook fans are nutty for nuts!  So, by popular demand, here is my quick, easy, and mouth-watering recipe for Cider Cinnamon Nuts!

First, take 2 cups or so of the nuts of your choice.  I went with almonds this time because I enjoy them, plus I have a ton of them right now...thanks, Costco.  I think this would be awesome with pecans too, or mix it up with any variety of nuts!

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven at 350 to toast for about 7-8 minutes.

While the nuts are baking, you can start on the rest.  In a medium saucepan, measure out 1 cup of white sugar and 1/3 a cup of apple cider.  Bring that up to a boil and use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.

When it reaches 238 degrees, take it off of the heat.  Immediately pour in 2 generous teaspoons of cinnamon and stir to combine.

Pour the syrup over the nuts, and then stir, stir, stir.

As you stir and the syrup cools, it will form a delicious coating on the nuts.  Cider and cinnamon, The flavors of fall, on your nuts.


Serve these as an appetizer, snack, or even dessert!  Packed in cute containers (Like maybe, I don't know, jars?), they make great gifts too.  And it seems that everyone loves a great nut!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No Tricks, Just Treats - Homemade Candy Corn

Do you like candy corn?  Do you hate candy corn?  It seems like there's very little middle ground here.  But I have the solution: homemade candy corn.  If you like candy corn, you will LOVE this, and if you hate candy corn, give this a try, because it's not like any candy corn you've had before.

Word of warning: this is a treat.  We make it a couple of times a year, tops.  So it does include ingredients that are not typically in my lexicon.  There is corn syrup.  There is food coloring.  Both of which you can find more natural versions of, but both of which I wouldn't make a habit out of using. Here, they make it work.  I don't live in black and white.  And hey, it's still better than that ingredient list of the bagged stuff, plus I know what's going into it.

The original recipe that I use for candy corn came form Alton Brown, that wonderful , science-geeky, brilliant foodie-minded genius.  Like most things, once I got comfortable with it, I started to play around and push it a bit, but the basic recipe is the same.  It's much easier than you'd think.

In a food processor, measure out 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, 6 1/2 tablespoons of powdered dry milk, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Give it 6 pulses to blend it well.

In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of light corn syrup, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of water.  Put it over medium heat, covered, and cook for 4 minutes.

Then remove the lid, add 2 tablespoons of butter, and put in a candy thermometer to watch the temperature.  Cook it a few minutes more until the temperature reaches 230 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take it off the heat and add in 1/2 teaspoon of the extract of your choice.  For a classic, go with vanilla.  With my more colorful candy corn, I went with lemon this time.  If you're making these for another holiday, change it up.  Peppermint or cinnamon would be fantastic for Christmas candy corn!

After the extract, mix in the dry mix until everything is combined.  Pour it out onto a sheet of parchment and let it cool a few minutes, until you can work with it.

Divide the dough into 3 parts.  Add a few drops of food coloring to the balls and knead to mix.

Classic candy corn uses white, yellow, and orange, but again, feel free to break out of the mold.  I am thrilled with the purple/orange/green combo.  I think they look like monster fangs, or witches' incisors.

Roll each color out into thin snakes.  Don't stress if they break, just do a bit at a time, and then smush them together as necessary.  If you have little helpers with clean hands, this is a great job for them to help with.

Line up the three colors together and lightly smush.

Cut the candies.  You can use a knife, but I like using my straight edge.  It's also a bit safer to let my kiddios have a go with it.

Once the candies are cut, use your fingers to finish shaping them into the classic candy corn triangles.  I find that using the natural V of pinching fingers makes it quick and easy, but my helpers all follow their own drummers.

If you have leftovers of a color or two, or if you're just feeling creative, do your own thing!  This year, pumpkins and "monster eyeballs" made an appearance at our place, as did "tie-dye balls".  It's all about having fun!

Let the candies dry on the parchment for at least an hour, then move them to an air-tight container, with parchment sheets dividing the layers.  They get better after a day or two, but don't get me wrong...they're excellent right from the start.

Making candy corn has become one of my family's favorite fall traditions.  It's quick and easy, and a lot of fun.  I love that we can have bonding time in the kitchen like that.  Give it a try and maybe start your own Halloween tradition!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spiced Millet Puff Snacks - AKA Spicy Balls

Are you bored with the run-of-the-mill snacks?  Tired of chips and dip or a veggie platter?  Do you think that hummus is overdone these days?

Do I have the snack for you!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Baked Apple Enchiladas

So, you've made yourself some apple pie filling, or cheated and bought some pre-made stuff, and now you're looking for ideas on how to use it?

How about these here Apple Enchiladas?  Crispy outsides, warm gooey pie's delicious cousin.

When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally get apple enchiladas from Market Day.  They were frozen, and before that, I'm pretty sure they were deep fried, and all you had to do was stick them in the oven for a bit and voila - dessert.  But again, I'm a control freak, and I like to know what's in and what's been done to my food.

So I made my own.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Apple Pie Filling: The Start of Something Good

So, it might not surprise you to hear that my family, besides getting our veggies through a local farm's CSA, is also a member of an apple CSA.  Which means that every other week in the fall, I get to head over to our friend Amy's and pick up a huge 10-pound bag of organic apples, picked earlier that week at Earth First Farms, a couple of hours away in Michigan.

Thing is, 10 pounds is a lot of apples.  And even though we love apples here...well, no matter how much I pack them into lunches and use them for snacks, they tend to start taking over.  I can barely close my fridge right now!

Applesauce is a given, and some day I'll get to posting my easy method for that, but this year, I've been looking outside of that.  I'm a big fan of those apples they serve at Cracker know the ones I'm talking about...the gooey, sweet, slightly spiced apples that taste like you're eating pie filling?  But I'm pretty sure that I don't want to know what's actually in them.  Something that good is bound to have something bad, right?

I haven't even tried making those on my own yet, because every copycat recipe I came across online had some ingredient that made my food morals set off warning bells.  But I did come up with my own apple pie filling, and some delicious ways to use it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Almond 5 Spice Snickerdoodles

There's something about fall and spices that just fits together right.  Spices are like a warming blanket, making your food soul-soothing and deliciously multi-faceted.  Whenever the temps outside start to drop, I start subconsciously moving towards foods with spice.  And it's not just me.  Think about what starts selling in fall: pumpkin SPICE, SPICED apple cider...we're just craving that warm feeling!

One spice blend that I adore is a good Chinese 5 Spice.  You can get it pre-mixed, or find several recipes for making your own throughout the internet.  I suggest getting it from a good quality spice company, for the most complex flavor.  Chinese 5 Spice is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, and fennel. It's typically used in savory dishes, but I have found that I'm addicted to it in sweets. 5 Spice caramels?  Fageddaboutit.  Simply amazing.

So, once again, my culinary brain gets a bit twisted.  The kids and I made snickerdoodles the other week, and as we were rolling them in cinnamon and sugar, that inner kitchen alchemist in me whispered, "Chinese 5 Spice..."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Asian Meatloaf with Honey-Sriracha Glaze

That crazy inner kitchen alchemist inside of me has been at work again...

A couple of weeks ago, the faint whisper on the breeze came to me.  "Asian Meatloaf..." it called.  "Think garlic, onion, ginger, and miso.  Think honey and sriracha.  Think savory and sweet and spicy."  It became my siren song, invading my thoughts randomly throughout the days.  Until I was finally able to find the time and focus to make it tonight.

So.  Freaking.  Good.