New Year, New Food

I didn’t mean to put off posting these recipes for so long, but I was just enjoying the last few days of break and didn’t feel like getting into such a long blog post. I’ve decided that a possible differentiating factor for my blog could be taking recipes and substituting expensive ingredients with more affordable substitutes…this kind of similar to what Sandra Lee does with her show, except I’m not doing this to make the recipes easier to cook. I still want to use fresh ingredients, but if a recipe (this one is going to be obvious, but it’s the first one that came to mind) calls for pancietta, I’m going to use bacon instead – not only is it cheaper, but I don’t even know if grocery stores around here even carry pancietta (it’s the same for a lot of foods, like polenta, something I really want to try). I’ll also substitute ingredients if there’s a healthier route to take.

I’ve also decided to start listing out on here three new recipes I’m going to cook each week, mostly so I can keep track of what I want to do…I tend to forget the things I want to cook. These recipes can range from something simple like a peanut butter, cheese and apple quesadilla to something more complicated. Tonight I went through all of my Food Network/Rachael Ray magazines and all of my cookbooks to mark recipes I want to print out. I really need to reorganize my recipe folder…I should have done this before school started. Blegh.

Anyways, now on to the spiced nuts I made for a New Year’s appetizer and the blondies Shelley and I made.

At first, I was going to use Giada DeLaurentiis’s recipe for the spiced nuts, following the recipe exactly. Since the majority of my family is into spicy food, however, I decided to change up the spices for the nuts. This is Giada’s recipe:

Toasted Cecchi, Almonds, and Pistachios

– 1 can of chickpeas, drained
– 1 cup of almonds
– 1 cup of shelled pistachios
– 4 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
– 1 tbsp fresh thyme
– salt
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the nuts, all you do is drain the chickpeas, pour them on a baking sheet and toss them with 1 tbsp olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Then add the rest of the nuts and spices and bake at 400 for another 10 minutes.

And this is where my first culinary “trial and error” comes into play…

The nuts ended up burning during the second ten minutes…it was either because the temperature was too high (my oven is temperamental) or because I left my dad the task of watching the nuts while I finished getting dressed (most likely).

Thankfully, most of the chickpeas were okay, and I had enough almonds and pistachios left over to make another batch. This time, however, I decided to try to sautee the nuts in a pan. I melted a bit of butter and added honey with the nuts, then added the spices and mixed them around on medium high heat. This didn’t work very well either – the spices didn’t stick as well and the nuts didn’t get the pretty, glossy look they developed from cooking in the oven. Next time, I think I’ll bake the nuts, but maybe only at 375 for ten minutes.

For my spice mixture, I used:

– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1 tsp cayenne
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1 tsp paprika
– salt

All of this was kind of eye balled, especially during the second go round. They tasted great though, and I’m really glad I decided to change up the spices. The chickpeas became completely crunchy from the 40 minutes total baking time, but they really worked well with the almonds and pistachios. Baking the almonds and the pistachios also really brought out their nutty flavor, and I think slightly burning the almonds actually made the flavor come out even more. Peanuts and cashews would also be good additions to this mixture – I’ll have to try those next time. Also, adding raisins after baking the nuts would add an interesting and sweet contrast to the spiciness and saltiness of the nuts. For those who aren’t into spicy food, cutting the cayenne to half a teaspoon would add just a bit of a kick without being too spicy. My grandma and my uncle thought the nuts were too hot, especially the ones baked in the oven (the mixture stuck to the nuts much better), but my aunt and other uncle loved them so much that they asked for the recipe! These nuts are definitely a keeper, and would be a great gift basket goody.

So, for next time, I’m going to add peanuts and cashews, and add in raisins at the end.

Next, the blondies. Not only did I discover why blondies are called blondies (I am so stupid sometimes), but I also realized that they are just as good as brownies.

Yeah, there’s another dessert bar that tastes just as delicious as brownies.

Just to let you know, I’m REALLY resisting the urge to make a corny reference the saying “Blondes have more fun”

I got the recipe from 1500 Best Bars, Cookies, Muffins, Cakes and More by Esther Brody. I don’t have the recipe with me (the book is at home), but I do remember that it had 2 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of peanut butter chips AND that the bars were INSANELY delicious. Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my top three flavor combos, and these bars were like mega Reese’s cups, except WAY better.

I don’t know how anything can be any better than a Reese’s Cup, but man, these blondies were awesome. I know they aren’t anything super fancy or unique, but bear with me here – I’d never had one before.

When they came out of the oven, Shelley and I decided to melt the remainder of the chips and drizzle them in a decorative manner over the top and then sprinkle some whole chips over the top as well. The result? Some really pretty blondies, as you can see from these pictures. The best part of any dessert with any kind of chip is the way the chips glisten after being baked – it almost (key word = almost) makes me not want to eat them.

Yeah, right.

Anyways, here’s a picture of the glorious blondies. I’ll put up the recipe if my sister remembers to send me the recipe tomorrow.

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