Daily Archives: December 13, 2010

Chipotle-rosemary spiced nuts

Whenever I’m in one of those “meet the parents” or “meet the best friends” or “meet the co-workers” situations, I avoid cooking at all costs. Unfortunately, someone usually has mentioned that I have a food blog at said situations, so it’s expected that I wow the crowd.

A girl can’t handle that kind of pressure!

See, this is the same reason I avoid cooking for guys on the first couple dates – I don’t know what their tastes are and I worry that I’d be too nervous to pull it off. And nothing would be more hurtful to my ego than a date disliking something I’ve prepared. It’s become my “thing.” What’s my hobby? Cooking. But not on the first date (except on one occasion that I’ll describe soon).

One way I’ve been able to avoid this nervousness, especially during the holidays, is to make some really simple finger food. Extra points if it is simple AND unique. Just like Ina Garten’s chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts.

My dad first made this as a snack over Thanksgiving, and I knew I wanted to make it for one of the Christmas parties I was attending this holiday.

First of all, what is better than roasted pecans? Nothing. Add cashews, walnuts and almonds sweetened with maple syrup and spiced up with ground chipotle peppers and piney rosemary, and you have my attention. This smoky-salty dish has been a huge hit wherever it’s appeared and I know it will become a holiday staple.

Chipotle-Rosemary Spiced Nuts

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
  • 2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
  • 2 cups whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces)
  • 1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. In a large bowl, toss the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again.

Spread the nuts in one layer on the sheet pan. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary.

Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.

I put mine in a nice decorative bowl, covered it with Saran wrap and put a bow on top. The perfect hostess gift.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t crave a certain nostalgic sweet this time of year. My mom always turns Martha Stewart during the holidays, but of all her confections, these festive cookies remain my favorite, year after year.

I never knew why I liked them so much until I grew up and realized that it was the addition of cream cheese in the dough. Then I got even older, and wanted to keep the tradition alive thousands of miles from home, finding that almond extract plus vanilla extract provides the unique flavor.

And there was one other thing: margarine. And no salt. When questioned, my mother said she found that butter makes the cookies too crumbly for the cut-outs, and margarine and cream cheese have all the salt you’ll need. So, okay, I trusted her.

The result was a soft and creamy dough that produced perfect cookie cut-outs, ready for a little sugar-crystal sparkle. This is a truly unique and wonderful twist on the classic Christmas sugar cookie. I dare you to dislike it!

Almond-scented cream cheese sugar cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c. margarine, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl or your mixer, beat margarine and cream cheese until combined. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and almond extracts; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (or make ahead and freeze).

Preheat oven to 375. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to as thin as you like. Maybe a quarter inch? Thicker will be chewier. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and place on a nongreased cookie sheet. These won’t spread much, so you can really fit a bunch. Chill the dough in between batches, so it doesn’t get too soft.

Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar, or any decorations you like (or use frosting when baked and cooled!).

Bake for 6-8 minutes until just lightly browned at the edges – they will still be quite white. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish.

Go on, create your own Christmas cookie tradition with the loved ones in your life. I know I’ve been making all sorts of new traditions this year!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo