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Posts Tagged ‘snacks’

Spicy Gold Smoothie

August 17, 2012 4 comments

Spicy Gold Smoothie

My last post featured a way to preserve fresh peaches – in frozen peach cubes. This post includes a fruit smoothie recipe that uses the peach cubes. The name, Spicy Gold Smoothie, is a little silly but it is descriptive. This smoothie has plenty of golden fruits (peaches, Rainier cherries, and pineapple) and a nice spicy kick thanks to generous pinches of cayenne pepper and ginger. Use as much or as little as you like. I like icy heat, so I add plenty of spice. This smoothie is a great way to kickstart your morning!  It also makes a nice afternoon snack.

Special thanks to my mother-in-law and father-in-law for the beautiful birthday table linens from Sur La Table. I love this store! We visited one when we were in Seattle. It is probably a good thing we do not have one near us. Thanks to my in-laws, we now have placemats, napkins, and beautiful dish towels! They are almost too pretty to use. But we will :-). I will also use them as photo props and decorative accents in the kitchen. Yes, I just wrote decorative accents. For those who know me, you know how strange that sounds! I am no Martha Stewart. But with these kitchen and table linens, I can pretend!!

Peach Cubes, Etc.

Spicy Gold Smoothie

4 peach cubes

½ cup frozen Rainier cherries (fresh would also work if you have them)

½ cup frozen or fresh pineapple chunks or cubes

¼-½ cup water or juice (tangerine, apple, orange, white cranberry, carrot, pineapple etc.)

6 ounces yogurt or kefir (~½ cup, any kind works – soy, coconut, regular)

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of powdered ginger

pinch of turmeric

Optional add-ins: protein powder, fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves, ice cubes if you use fresh fruit (I like cold smoothies)

Pour contents into blender container. Cover with the lid. Blend until smooth and golden. Sprinkle with more spices if you want. Enjoy!

Servings: 2 snack-sized servings or 1 meal-sized serving.

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Cheese Straws

June 29, 2012 7 comments

Cheese Straws

Today would have been my mom’s 76th birthday. Hard to believe it’s been almost three years since she died. Mom was my inspiration for starting this blog. She was a wonderful writer and gifted storyteller, though not the best cook. Mom was the first to admit it! She always said Dad was the better cook and she marveled at how Dad and I would cook without recipes. She urged me to write my recipes and share them with others. Hence this blog.

Mom had three favorite food groups – butter, salt, and mayo (it’s amazing she was as skinny as she was). Probably her favorite snack was cheese straws. Cheese straws have two of her basic food groups covered! It’s only fitting that I share the recipe today.

Cheese straws are a Southern party staple. We serve them at teas, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, open houses, gallery openings, and even at funerals. We give them as gifts and they are well-received.  I always look forward to a package from our friend Ursula during the holidays. I know it will include her delicious cheese straws.

There are many different types of cheese straws. The traditional kind that I grew up with is made with flour, butter, cheddar cheese, cayenne pepper, and salt. The dough is typically pushed through a cookie press into long thin crispy straws.  However, there are many other varieties:  cheese straw wafers, cheese straw “biscuits” with Rice Krispies, sausage (or soy) cheese balls, and even cheese straw dough wrapped olive puffs (the star of many 1970’s cocktail parties at our house!). The South loves cheese straws so much that there are bakeries that specialize in them and there are cooks who have a cherished cheese straw recipe handed down between generations. 

I have experimented with some healthier substitutes. Gluten-free flour blends are better now and can be used in the recipe. Spelt flour also works. Personally, I have not experimented with a vegan version, but I have heard it is possible to use almond or soy cheese and margarine (or a coconut oil blend).

This particular recipe is a tweaked version of several friends’ recipes with a few of my own twists. Special thanks to Dan Tatum, Ursula Vann, and Connie Ulrich for sharing their recipes over the years. I must give full credit to Dan for the technique. I have always used a cookie press but then I tried Dan’s cheese straws over the holidays. He rolled them out with a rolling-pin and then cut them with a pizza cutter. They were awesome! Like little crispy, French fry-shaped cheese biscuits of goodness. The cheese straws in the photos are a little short. We ate the long, pretty ones and then I decided to take photos for the blog. Oops, I’m still learning! Hope you enjoy one of my ma’s favorite snacks…

Cheese Straws (Print recipe)

2 cups grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese, softened at room temperature*

1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Paprika

Preheat oven to 375º F. Mix all the ingredients – you can use a food processor, a mixer with a dough hook, or mix it by hand, the old-fashioned way (my preferred method!). You will end up with a thick dough. You can use either method to form your straws:

Traditional method: Use a cookie press with a star attachment to form the straws directly on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

-OR-

Dan’s method: Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough on a floured surface. You want the dough about 3/16”. You can use chopsticks on either side as guides. Then, use a pizza cutter to cut long, thin strips. Transfer them carefully to a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Store in an air tight container.

*Notes about the cheese: After grating the cheese, leave it out until it comes to room temperature. Whatever cheese you use, you want to grate it yourself! Store bought pre-grated cheese just isn’t the same in this recipe. Something must be added to keep it from clumping and it interferes with the texture of the cheese straws. Cheddar varieties: for the cheese straws in the photo, I used an extra-sharp aged white Cheddar cheese. They were delicious but not the same as when I use sharp or extra-sharp yellow Cheddar cheese.  They just didn’t look the same. Cheese Straw Purists probably won’t like my white Cheddar substitution, but it’s what I had. I thought they were good, even if they weren’t traditional looking! And finally don’t skimp on the cheese, you want 2 full cups.

 

Cocktails and Kale

June 9, 2012 3 comments

Three Cocktails + Kale Chips = Friday Night

Cocktails and Kale…Today’s odd sounding post is courtesy of  a lazy Friday evening spent at home on our patio. We bought some delicious fresh kale from Tune Farm at the Greene Street Market on Thursday night and we still had strawberries from Dennison’s Farm so it seemed like a natural fit. Well, not strawberries and kale together (but it might not be the worst combination). Instead, we had strawberry cocktails served with oven baked crispy kale chips. In the last post, I shared several recipes for simple syrup. Those recipes will come in handy in the strawberry cocktails. The drinks feature strawberries because they are still so plentiful, fresh, and delicious. However, the drinks would also be good with blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries. These recipes also make wonderful non-alcoholic spritzers.

The drink recipes call for a muddler  and muddling. So, what is a muddler? It is a bartender’s tool, similar to a pestle, used to mash things (muddling). If you do not have a muddler, you can use a fork, the back of a spoon, or even a potato masher (though it probably won’t fit in a glass). I’ve used my lemon reamer and the pestle from our chinois conical strainer to muddle the ingredients. I’ve also thought about using my porridge spurtle. Yes, we have a porridge spurtle. What is a porridge spurtle? A wooden tool of Scottish origin used to stir porridge. We bought a hand-carved spurtle several years ago at the Monte Sano Art Show. We have yet to use it to stir porridge :).

Note: Each recipe makes two drinks. You can muddle and make the drinks in individual glasses, in a cocktail shaker, or even in a large pitcher if you are multiplying the recipe. The directions are for making two drinks directly in the glasses; however, feel free to change if you are using a cocktail shaker or making a pitcher.

Back to the drinks and snacks…these cocktails are light and refreshing, perfect for this early summer-like weather. The crispy kale chips are a crunchy, earthy, and salty balance to the drinks. Enjoy and have a happy weekend…

Strawberry Basil Refresher

Strawberry Basil Refresher

8 strawberries, hulled and sliced (or mashed)

2 tablespoons simple syrup (plain, strawberry, basil, or citrus)

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 ounces rum (I prefer white rum for this drink)

Crushed ice

Club soda

Garnish: 2 whole strawberries, 2 lemon wedges (or slices), and 2 sprigs of fresh basil

Serves: 2

Equally divide the strawberries, simple syrup, basil, and lemon juice between the two glasses. Use a muddler to mash everything together. Add rum and crushed ice. Stir. Then fill the glass with soda water. Stir again. Garnish with a strawberry, lemon wedge (I forgot the lemon wedge in the photo!), and basil.

Strawberry Mojito

Strawberry Mojito

8 strawberries, hulled and sliced (or mashed)

4 tablespoons mint simple syrup (or plain or berry simple syrup)

2 tablespoons lime juice

6 fresh mint leaves, torn

2 ounces rum (I prefer white rum for this drink)

Club soda

Crushed ice

Garnish: 2 whole strawberries, 2 limes wedges, and 2 sprigs of fresh mint

Serves: 2

Equally divide the strawberries, simple syrup, lime juice, and mint between the two glasses. Use a muddler to mash everything together. Add rum and crushed ice. Stir. Then fill the glass with soda water. Stir again. Garnish with a lime wedge, strawberry, and/or mint leaf.

Non-alcoholic version: Just omit the rum. You can add a few extra berries and lime if you want to intensify the flavor. Also, feel free to omit the syrup if you are watching your sugar intake.

Strawberry Mule

Strawberry Mule

This is one of my favorite summer beverages. I especially like how they make it at Amendment XXI; however, it is just as tasty when made at home. It might even be better! You will want to use a strong ginger brew if you can find it. I like Reed’s Ginger Brew. In Huntsville, you can buy Reed’s at Garden Cove, Earth Fare, Foods for Life, and The Fresh Market (I believe they carry it). If you can’t find Reed’s or you think it is too gingery, then regular ginger ale would be fine. 

8 strawberries, hulled and sliced (or mashed)

2 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (lime or lemon juice)

2 tablespoons simple syrup (plain, berry, ginger, whatever you prefer)

2 ounces vodka (plain or citrus)

Crushed ice

2-6 ounces ginger brew (or ginger ale)

Garnish: 2 whole strawberries and 2 lemon or lime wedges

Serves: 2

Equally divide the strawberries, citrus juice, and simple syrup between the two glasses. Use a muddler to mash everything together. Add vodka and crushed ice. Stir. Then fill the glass with ginger brew. Stir again. Garnish with a strawberry and a citrus wedge.

Non-alcoholic version: Just omit the vodka. You can add a few extra berries and citrus if you want to intensify the flavor. Also, feel free to omit the syrup if you are watching your sugar intake. If this is the case, then you can use sugar-free ginger ale. You can even substitute club soda for the ginger ale and add some freshly grated ginger if you prefer.

Kale Chips

Oven Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch of fresh kale

Olive oil

Salt*

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Wash and drain the kale. Remove tough stems. Chop or tear into medium-sized semi-uniform pieces. I like a few “extra crispy” small chips so uniform is a relative term. Dry the kale – I roll the washed and chopped leaves in a clean kitchen towel. The drier the leaves, the crisper the chips.

Place the dry kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. If you have an olive oil sprayer or mister that would be great (I need to replace our broken one). Toss so the kale is coated evenly. Spread the kale into a single layer on the pan(s).

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan(s) from oven. Don’t worry if the kale has shrunk and looks funny. It will be delicious! Stir. Rearrange in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. If you used two baking sheets, now would be a good time to rotate the sheets (especially if your oven is as uneven as our oven). Bake another 10 to 15 minutes until crispy (not burned). Sprinkle with a little more salt it you want. If they look a little greasy, you can drain them on a paper towel or a clean brown paper bag. Otherwise, you can cool them on a rack. I skip this cooling step, because I prefer them right out of the oven. As they age, they can get a bit soggy so please store in an airtight container.

*Note: I wait until half-way through to sprinkle with salt. If you add it too early, it can bring out water in the kale while it bakes. Actually, this could make it steam.

Variations:  sprinkle with cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper, finely grated Parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon pepper, Greek seasoning, etc.

The End of a Nice Evening

 

Pretzel Button Snacks

April 4, 2012 6 comments

This is a quick snack that is perfect for parties. Hopefully there is enough time for you to try them this Easter weekend. This is also a versatile recipe with all the different flavors of Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s that are now available. The flavor combinations are almost endless! There are also lots of new candy colors that make this an especially cute snack! If you want to coordinate with party colors, you can even order special colors of M&M’s from their website (http://www.mymms.com/).

Variations:

  • I tried these with Rolos and pecans. Not bad for a “quick turtle” candy treat. Sprinkle with a little flake salt for an extra sweet and salty treat.
  • Spelt pretzels are also very good in this recipe for people on a wheat-free diet! I like the spelt pretzels from Newman’s Own.
  • Removing the wrappers from the Kisses takes the most time (aside from the cooling).  To save time, you can use jumbo chocolate chips, sometimes found in the baking aisle.  They won’t be as chocolatey, but I bet they would still be delicious. 
  • You can also use chocolate disks or wafers found at cake supply stores (like Lynelle’s in Huntsville). 
  • Future experiment:  I think mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would be delicious, but I’m not sure how they would look (not that it really matters, since the taste would be so good!).
  • I don’t think the peanut M&M’s are as “cute” as the regular sized M&M’s, but they still taste good!
     

 Pretzel Button Snacks

1 bag pretzels (squares are perfect; round, or traditional also work)

1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (most any flavor would work)

1 bag M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces (most any flavor would work)

Preheat oven to 300º F.  Line a baking sheet (preferably with sides) with parchment paper.  Cover with a single layer of pretzels.  Place a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each pretzel. Carefully move the baking sheet to the oven.  If you jostle them too much, you might end up with lopsided pretzel buttons (not that I did this or anything :-).  Bake for about  2½ to 3 minutes. Watch them while they cook; you don’t want them too melted.  You want them just melted enough to hold an M&M.  Remove baking sheet from the oven.  Immediately, press an M&M into each melted Kiss so it looks like a button.  Don’t press too hard or chocolate will squish everywhere. Allow the chocolate to harden before storing or serving.  You can either do this at room temperature (if you have enough time) or in the refrigerator (if you have enough space).  Store in an air-tight container.