Savory Spiced Nuts

Nuts are a staple snack in our house. In the interest of health, I’ve been avoiding buying the pre-roasted, salted varieties. So, I buy raw nuts and toast and spice them myself. This is our favorite savory spiced nut recipe thus far. It’s also quite easy as it’s all made on the stovetop. Once completely cooled, store the nuts in a glass jar.

Savory Spiced Nuts

SAVORY SPICED NUTS
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1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1 c. raw almonds
1 c. raw walnuts
1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add all the spices and stir to make a paste. Add almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds and stir to coat evenly. Continue stirring the nuts, toasting until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Cool in the pan.

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Classic Hummus

I always have such healthy eating goals after the sugary (and delicious!) excess of the holidays. So, I’ve started brainstorming some healthier snack options and decided to make hummus. Over the weekend, I made a double batch of it and we have been enjoying it! The kids even like it which is always a plus! I serve it with carrots, celery, and pretzels – the best compliment is our three-year-old proclaiming, “I loooove hummus.” Too cute!

Anyway, this is a quick, easy, and inexpensive snack or side dish. So yummy! You could easily add roasted red peppers or cilantro or other flavors to change it.

CLASSIC HUMMUS
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1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved
3 Tb. lemon juice
2 Tb. tahini
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. salt
black pepper
2 Tb. olive oil
parsely, chopped (opt.)

In a blender or food processor, pour garbanzo beans into blender with chopped garlic. Add lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic and salt in blender. Blend until creamy and well mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl or storage container. To serve, sprinkle with pepper and parsley, and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Superbowl Snacks: Jalapeno Dip

We are being pounded with bad weather and ice here in Indiana and sadly, that means I don’t have a picture of this for you today – I simply didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand to make a batch. But, I have made it several times and I will add a picture as soon as I am able.

My family and friends can vouch for the delicious goodness of this recipe! I first had Jalapeno Dip this fall – my boss made something similar for an open house we had at work. It is not low in fat or calories so if you want a healthy superbowl party, look elsewhere.  But it is so easy and so popular with everyone – you may become a celebrity with this dip! 🙂 Oh and you can easily halve this recipe…but you won’t want to!

JALAPENO DIP
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2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (4 ounce) can sliced jalapenos – double if you want it spicier
1 cup bread crumbs (panko or regular)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted

In a food processor, add the first 6 ingredients and process until smooth. You do not need to drain either can of peppers. Spread the dip into a greased 2-quart casserole. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter; mix well. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges.

Do not over cook this dish or the mayonnaise with separate and you will have a grease puddle in your dip. Serve with Butter crackers or a thinly sliced French baguette (my personal favorite).

Superbowl Snack: Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn

To be honest, I wasn’t initially excited about the idea of “peanut butter and jelly popcorn” when this recipe first crossed my inbox. But, the novelty of the idea caught me and since I love food experimentation, I couldn’t help but try this recipe. That’s when I discovered that this popcorn is addictive. Yes, it is. It was nearly as good as caramel corn, but with far less sugar and only a few minutes of time invested. It’s my new favorite.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY POPCORN
(adapted from the Cook It Quick Newsletter)
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1 large bowl of popped popcorn (probably 2 bags of microwave popcorn)
3 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. grape jelly (or jelly/jam of your choice — I used strawberry jam)
2 Tbsp. butter

Melt peanut butter, jelly, and butter together in microwave or over low heat.

Pour over popcorn and toss evenly to coat.

Serves 4-6.

Off the Shelf: January Magazines

Well, it seems January is the month of double issues – many of the magazines are January/February issues. Frankly, after all of the fun and inspiring holiday issues, I found these a little lackluster. Of the many I perused, Food Network and Cooking Light were my favorites.  Are you shocked that Bon Apetit didn’t make the list? Me, too! But I just wasn’t interested in the recipes – I really tried to be and read the issue probably four times. 🙂

FOOD NETWORK (Alaina) – After looking at all the wonderful recipes, I finally settled on the delicious looking homemade pretzels in this issue. The 3 page article, photos, and recipes were so inviting. And (if we are being honest) I love bread and I have wonderful memories of making pretzels with my mom. I had  illusions of making memories with my kids as we twisted pretzels into all kinds of fun shapes. This was a fail.

My oldest son opted to stay in (instead of sledding) to help me. And part way through, he sweetly said, “Mom do you think I’m a little better at this than you?” I had to laugh and agree with him that he was indeed “a little better.” I think it failed because, despite my familiarity with yeast, my dough was a bit dry and I underestimated the time commitment.

Anyway, we made the pepperoni pretzels, the sweet pretzels, and the everything pretzels. They seemed impossible and took forever but they actually tasted pretty good but they were not the great soft pretzel I was going for.

And I would try making pretzels again but I’m going to get my mom’s recipe because I do love homemade pretzels. Here’s the link to the recipe – use at your own risk – it has not gotten very good reviews on the website either, I’m afraid.

COOKING LIGHT (Alaina) – This issue had 25 different ways to cook chicken and so chicken was the natural choice for a recipe. I opted to use an unfamiliar cooking method which was basically pan frying chicken that I had pounded thin. I know many people love this method because it is quick, easy, and tasty and after trying it, I will definitely be incorporating this into my repertoire. The Dijon pan sauce was incredibly good and the whole family declared the chicken delicious. I served it alongside mashed potatoes inspired by a side dish recipe in this issue that had caramelized onions in them – they were really good, also.

CHICKEN CUTLETS with CREAMY DIJON SAUCE (Cooking Light, January 2011)
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4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1  tablespoon  olive oil
3  tablespoons  chopped shallots
1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1  rosemary sprig
3  tablespoons  whipping cream
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard

Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a serving platter. Add shallots to pan; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and rosemary sprig; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in whipping cream; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard rosemary. Stir in Dijon mustard. Spoon over chicken.

EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY (Stephanie) – The past couple months I’ve been disappointed by Rachael Ray, so was pleasantly surprised to find this issue filled with good sounding recipes I’d love to try: Ham, Ricotta and Fig Tart; Mushroom-and-Marsala Pappardelle; Cashew-Pesto Pasta; Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart with Caramel Drizzle. I chose to make Pork with Rosemary Lentils and Braised Onions, both because it sounded good and because I had all the ingredients on hand and no time to go to the grocery. 🙂

Anyway, the recipe went together quickly and in about an hour I had a meal that could be completed with the addition of a green salad or some steamed broccoli. The rosemary and garlic in this really stand out and make for some good eating!

PORK WITH ROSEMARY LENTILS AND BRAISED ONIONS (Every Day With Rachael Ray, February 2011)
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4 1/2-inch bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 2/3 lbs)
7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 c. lentils, rinsed
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a resealable plastic bag, rub pork chops with two-thirds of the garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil; refrigerate. In glass baking dish, combine the onions, vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 c. water. Cover and bake until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 50 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 2 c. water, lentils, rosemary, and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve pork chops on a bed of lentils topped with onions. Serves 4.

Market Fresh: Marinated Mozzarella

Antipasti Platters are a beautiful and easy appetizer or snack or simple supper. With a little forethought and an attractive platter, you can quickly put on together. I include cooked and chilled cheese tortellini seasoned with salt, pepper  oil, & vinegar, marinated green olives (the jar salso included pepperoncinis & garlic), crispy breadsticks, salami, and marinated mozzarella. I wish I had a good picture of the platter but alas, the lighting was horrible and we were expecting company at any minute. Hopefully I will have the occasion to make another one soon and take a proper picture.

The marinated mozzarrella cheese is easy to make and absolutely delicious!

MARINATED MOZZARELLA
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1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb. dried parsley
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 lb. cubed part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes turning occasionally.

Take out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Market Fresh: Basil

Basil is a beautiful, tasty green herb. You can grew it year-round indoors or you can find it in the herb section of the grocery store. I like using it in sauces as well as  on pizza or pasta and it’s even good tossed into your salad or on your roasted vegetables. It’s most often featured in Italian cooking.

Today I’ll share a wonderfully easy recipe that is suitable as an appetizer or snack or even as a delicious side to a salad or soup. Though tomatoes are not in season here in Indiana, you can find some nice ones in the store – especially campari tomatoes which is what I used. It is a spin on the traditional caprese salad of tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

CAPRESE on BREAD

Crusty French or Italian bread, sliced 1/2-1 inch
Tomatoes, thinly sliced
Fresh Mozzarella, thinly sliced
Fresh basil (you can use the whole leaf or chiffonade it)
Olive oil
Balsmic vinegar
Salt
Fresh ground Pepper

Arrange slice of bread on a broiler-safe baking sheet. Drizzle or brush lightly with olive oil. Top top with a slice or two of tomato, salt & pepper, fresh basil, and sliced  mozzarella.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar over top. Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and lightly browned – it will only take a few minutes so watch it. Serve immediately – although they are still good when they have cooled.

Welcome

Welcome to The Cooks Next Door — a brand new blog whose goal is to inspire you to creativity in your kitchen, richer times with family and friends, and a greater enjoyment of the gift of food.

We want to provide you with seasonal recipes that are delicious and achievable and encourage you in your efforts to provide a well-rounded diet to your family and friends.

We plan to post daily, Monday-Friday, with at least one recipe each day that has been tested by us. We have some great topics to discuss, weekly features and even a few giveaways planned.

Here’s what a typical week will look like:

Monday — “Market Fresh”: This post will focus on what is fresh and seasonal at the Farmer’s Market (or supermarket) this week and give you a recipe for using it.

Tuesday/Thursday — We plan to use these two days each week to give you a variety of topics including: Ingredient Focus, Hospitality, Desserts, Simple Suppers, Gluten-Free Goodness, Tea Time, Soup Pot, Yeast Breads, and of course, Giveaways!

Wednesday — “Off the Shelf”: Each week we’ll pick a cookbook, food memoir, or magazine to review, and include a recipe for you to try.

Friday — “Weekend Fare”: This feature will appear every Friday with something simple and delicious that you can enjoy over the weekend.

We are very excited about all the wonderful recipes and posts we have planned. We hope you will enjoy this blog and find it helpful whatever your current place in life is — cooking for one, cooking for a large family, learning to cook, or just enjoying the pictures.

For today, here is a very simple festive snack everyone can enjoy.

Apples with Cinnamon
IMG_7165

Place sliced apples on a plate and sprinkle with cinnamon. It’s amazing how something so simple can taste so good!

And now, to borrow the words of two famous cooks: Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!