December 21, 2011

Kale Chips

Have you ever tried those seaweed snacks?  No?  You should.  Wait, no, you shouldn't because if you like salt, you seriously won't be able to stop. Like me. I'm addicted. While seaweed is healthy, I'm sure these are not with their high levels of sodium. That is why I'm addicted. I love salt. So, I needed to find an alternative. My friend, Liz, introduced me to kale and recommended I try kale chips. Um, a great snack and I'll make this for dinner than store in a container and have as a snack for the next day. 

Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale
2-3 tspn olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 350.

1. Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. Separate and for each leaf, remove the hard stem. Break the kale into small pieces.
2. Spread the pieces of kale onto a baking sheet. Make sure your kale is completely dry or your 'chips' will not crisp up.  Drizzle the olive oil over and give it a good toss with your hands. Sprinkle with the salt and garlic powder. Bake for about 12-15 minutes.
3. Eat immediately! I was able to keep mine for the next day to snack on by storing it in an airtight container.

December 19, 2011

Spiced Nuts

Love this recipe. I have tried a few variations and this is my favorite.  You can make sweet, spicy and even savory flavors. For the savory nut recipe, it used salt and fresh rosemary,  but I still prefer the sweet variation! Nothing taste (and smells) better than fresh nutmeg and cinnamon on these nuts. 

I've used several types of nuts and I prefer a half/half combination of almonds and pecans. Walnuts don't taste as good with this recipe.

Sugar and Spice  
1 lb nuts
1 egg white
1 tbspn water
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cinnamon (fresh if possible)
1 tsp nutmeg (fresh if possible)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

2. Mix together the sugars, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon (freshly grated if possible) and nutmeg (freshly if possible). Set aside.
2. Whisk the egg white with water until frothy. No need to bring out your hand mixer, just use your handy dandy arm and whisk for about a minute. Put the nuts into a large bowl and add the egg white mixture. Mix well to ensure all the nuts are coated.
3. Add the sugar mixture to the wet nuts.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Don't skip this part! Otherwise, you will have a hot sugary mess stuck on your baking sheet and give you much grief cleaning...  Spread the nuts evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes. 
5. Let the nuts sit on the counter for about 2-3 minutes. Then, taking two forks, start to separate the nuts into individual pieces. Again, don't skip this part or you will have large clusters of nuts. I like to lightly dust the top with a little more cinnamon and white sugar - optional.  Store in an airtight container and these will be good for at least two weeks.

December 18, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Yes. I know. Christmas is one week away. Why am I posting about Thanksgiving when I should be thinking about our Christmas meal? The past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I'm in denial that Christmas is only seven days away or that 2012 will be here in two weeks. So I'll continue to be in denial for the rest of this post, the night and probably for the next few days. I'm telling myself that Thanksgiving was just last week and I have plenty of time to start/finish all of my holiday shopping and errands.

Thanksgiving this year had its successes and fails. I did not try anything too complicated but tried to look at more 'traditional' Thanksgiving dishes - cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, soup, etc. 

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
This was a great success. It was silky and rich.  The extra dollop of sour cream on top help tremendously. The only fault of this recipe? It makes a TON of soup so be prepared to have leftover soup for several days. Recipe here from Ina Garten.  My variations: I did not add any curry powder, I added the sour cream on top and instead of using a food processor, I used my sister's handy immersion blender!  I want one now!
Brined Turkey
Here is the big sha-bang, the TURKEY!  It turned out pretty tasty except the wings were a little crisp. I used the same recipe as last year, found here. No variation this year.
Chopped Salad
Have I told you that I love pinterest? I found this recipe for a great salad several weeks ago and love it. It's delicious. I think the charm is the combination for the dressing - 3/4 poppyseed dressing and 1/4 balsamic dressing, which I simply use balsamic vinegar than the pre-mixed dressing type.  You can really add anything to this salad but I think the musts are the toasted walnuts and the pear or apple slices. I also used the crispy bacon from the turkey above and crumbled a few slices for the salad - double yum!  You can find the recipe here from Espresso and Cream.
Roasted Cauliflower - Not a fail but prefer the simpler method
You know from previous posts that I love simple roasted cauliflower - but I can't just have simple roasted cauliflower for Thanksgiving so to kick it up a bit, I followed this recipe. My variations: No anchovy paste or raisins. Honestly, I think the extra work was nice but I'll stick to simple roasted cauliflower with just garlic, olive oil and S&P - taste just as good.
Boursin Mashed Potatoes 
No feast is complete without mashed potatoes. Not just any mashed potatoes but Boursin mashed potatoes. I buy the garlic and herbs variation of Boursin cheese but I'm sure any of the flavors would work. My variation: I added heavy cream instead of the milk and cut it in half, 1/2 stick of butter (yes, I know. Over indulgent but it's okay.), and freshly chopped thyme and rosemary. Next time, I'd push to roast a whole garlic clove in the oven (or even take from the turkey) and add to the potatoes.
Cream Corn
Ross' mom has shared a few recipes with me - Rum cake, pecan pie and cream corn. I've made this every Thanksgiving since she bestowed these amazing recipes to me and I'm surprised I have yet to share it with you!  This is not for the health conscious, those that are scared to use cream, or those who don't want to taste awesomeness. A future post to come soon.
Cheese Ball - Fail
I was first introduced to a cheese ball by Laurie during a holiday party and simply remember myself stationed next to this cheese ball for a good portion of the night.  I've looked through pinterest and came upon this recipe. For me, this was a fail - I'm not sure if it's the way I prepared it, the amount of time I let it rest in the fridge or that I'm simply comparing it to Laurie's amazing cheese ball. I'll attempt this again and may work on some slight variations but if anyone has a solid recipe to share for a cheese ball, please let me know!
Carrot Cake
In addition to the aforementioned Rum Cake, I also made a carrot cake for dessert. It's dense, has pineapples and is not sharp with hits of spices. Having had this since I was little, I actually thought this was the norm - until I had the carrot cakes that are covered in creamy frosting, light/flaky at times and with a heavy cinnamon flavor. After asking my mom if this was her recipe, I found out that she pulled this recipe from a Chinese newspaper back in the day!  No online recipe as it's on a handwritten and I'll work on putting up a separate post soon.
Cranberry Sauce
The last item we made was cranberry sauce. If you can believe it, we've never had cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving. I gave it a shot and most of us agreed that we weren't a fan. Unfortunately, this particular side probably won't make an appearance at future dinners. I realize that I didn't even take a picture of this final dish... 

What do you think of our Thanksgiving 2011?  My mom also made her Asian noodle dish (recipe here) and oily rice (similar concept to this). I didn't have time to take pictures while she was making the latter dish, but will do so next time as it's quite good and easy to make. 

Stayed tuned for some Christmas holiday cooking and some recent cookie recipes!