Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Honey Crystal Almonds

There's still time to make this one for Christmas! I got this toasted almond recipe from a coworker when she brought her holiday leftovers to work one year. I was on them like a seagull on an abandoned bag of Doritos. For that very reason, I would recommend making a double batch. Then you have plenty for guests, and you can hope for some left over when the guests are gone. I also have the nasty habit of picking at them after I've made them, just to "make sure they're okay." That usually takes several testings for some reason. One bit of advice - after you've made the almonds, let them sit on the cookie sheet for maybe one or two hours. They're pretty sticky little guys, and letting them air out a little helps when it comes time to putting them in a bowl.

2 cups whole raw almonds
1 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbs. butter

Spread almonds in a shallow pan. Place in cold oven; turn oven to 350 degrees and roast 12 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until well-roasted. Over medium heat in a medium saucepan, heat honey and butter to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add almonds; simmer and stir 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer almonds to a baking sheet greased with butter or vegetable oil. Spread in a single layer and cool slightly. Toss almonds with sugar to coat.

There are serving suggestions with the recipe my coworker gave me, but I usually just put them out with all the holiday goodies. Her suggestions were to serve them with sharp cheddar and blue cheese, champagne, and fruit salad.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yellow Split Pea Soup

This is a very easy meatless pea soup recipe. It takes time but requires very little effort on the part of the cook. Try adding dumplings for something extra filling!

1 lb. yellow split peas
3 quarts water
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 whole allspice
4 whole peppercorns
1 cup diced carrots

Boil all the ingredients, but the carrots, slowly for about 4 hours or until peas are tender. Add carrots 2 hours before soup is done.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Steamed Vegetable Salad

If you're looking for a potluck salad for the holidays, here's a good one. It's colorful and full of flavor. Make it a day ahead to give the vegetables a chance to marinate.

2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups baby carrot, halved

1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Steam the vegetables, making sure they are still crisp. Rinse under cold water. Put in large bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, and let it set for about 20 minutes. Shake well and drizzle over vegetables. Refrigerate salad and serve cold.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Italian Beans with Sundried Tomatoes

I've had a little fascination lately with cooking with pasta sauces in place of regular tomato sauce. I'm not one for opening a can of tomato sauce anyway, so when a recipe calls for it, I usually just mash up some tomatoes as a replacement. But when the snow is blowing, it's not the time for tomatoes. To avoid canned vegetables, I often turn to good jarred tomato sauces. There are lots of sauces on the market with no preservatives or added unnecessaries. The one I used here is Delallo Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce, but you could use any one of your choice here, with a few sundried tomatoes thrown in for added flavor. This is a recipe fresh from my kitchen today. I served it with Italian sausage and a green salad.

2 cups dried navy beans
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce (Delallo) or 1 cup sauce your choice with a few chopped sundried tomatoes added

Boil the beans, changing the water a few times (to reduce gas issues later!), until the beans are almost soft. At this point, keep only enough water in the beans to avoid sticking to the pan. Add all other ingredients but the sauce. Cook until the beans and the onions are soft, stiring occasionally and keeping the water level so there's just enough to avoid scorching. Remove the bay leaf and add the sauce. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Herbed Vinaigrette

Here is a nice alternative to bottled dressings. Mix up a double batch to keep in the fridge if you prefer. I put mine in a glass jar and give it a couple shakes before putting on a salad. Experiment with different herbs or add chopped garlic for variety.

2 Tbs. vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup quality olive oil
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano

Mix all together in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. If using dried herbs, let it sit for about 30 minutes before using. Shake before pouring on salad.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Italian Meatloaf

Here's a nice little twist on an easy meal. We had this for the first time tonight. In fact, it was one of those happy things that occur when you've got a few ingredients and some time to fiddle. This variation is zippy and full of flavor. My husband kept bemoaning the fact that we had no wine. Wine with meatloaf! It was a hit with us. I hope you enjoy it too. (I think it'd make a great meatloaf sandwich as well. Sort of an Italian meatball sandwich feel.)

Try to get a nice hormone-free ground chuck. It'll be lower in fat and tastier too.

2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 lbs. beef ground chuck
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup pasta sauce (I used Delallo's Sundried Tomato Sauce - no preservatives!)
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Mix eggs and milk, then stir in bread crumbs, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and mustard. Mix in meat and put into a loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Pour sauce on top and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, mashed potatoes, and a green salad.