Getting Nuttier

Pretty much my favorite place to do grocery shopping is Trader Joe’s. Well, that is because there isn’t a Wegmans close by (DC residents, have you heard the latest rumor about the Fannie Mae building on Wisconsin Ave and them looking at the space??).

Anyway, there is of course point-of-purchase stuff at TJ’s and one I opted to grab recently was their Mixed Nut Butter. It’s a blend of Dry Roasted & Salted Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts & Pecans. Sounds great. I’m just not a huge fan of the Brazil nuts, but I’ll eat them. It doesn’t say smooth anywhere, which is cool, too.

IMG_8338

The flavor was ok, but it was almost too many flavors fighting with each other. When you buy mixed nuts you can taste each one on its own. I also love chunky nut butter and it was a bit too smooth, for me. Not much salt in it, though salt was an ingredient. Not something I’ll buy again, but glad I tried it. Price was $5.99, I think. Not cheap, especially for the size. Totally worth the test.

IMG_8342

Asparagus Salad with Manchego and Almonds

As I continue going through some Cooking Light recipes, the next one I tried was an awesome asparagus salad.  The proper title — Shaved Asparagus Salad with Manchego and Almonds.  What was unique about this is that the asparagus is raw.  I can count on less than one hand the amount of times I’ve eaten un-cooked asparagus.  Game on!  When I made this, I did not add the egg because of everything else I was making for dinner, I didn’t need that extra bit of protein/food.

Asparagus1Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar because I didn’t want to buy a fresh bottle of sherry vinegar just for this and that’s what I had on hand)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons walnut oil (again, didn’t want to buy something new, so used some sesame oil)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic (of course I used more than that!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound large asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 ounce Manchego cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  2. Using a sharp peeler, thinly peel asparagus to equal 3 cups asparagus ribbons. Add asparagus and parsley to bowl; toss gently to coat.  *They make this sound SO easy.  Not so much.  With a carrot, yet, but with a smaller asparagus spear/stalk, not so much.  After awhile on each one, I’d stop and just throw a larger piece in the  bowl.
  3. *THIS IS THE PART I DIDN’T DO*  Combine 8 cups water and white vinegar in a large skillet; bring to a simmer. Break each egg into a custard cup, and pour each gently into pan. Cook 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove eggs from pan using a slotted spoon.
  4. Place about 2/3 cup asparagus mixture on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons almonds; top each serving with 1 egg. Sprinkle evenly with Manchego cheese.  *I don’t get this fancy.  I tossed everything in a bowl.

Asparagus2

It was DELICIOUS!  Crisp, fresh and some nice tang with all the flavors.  Highly recommend it!  I can’t decide if next time I’m going to try cutting the asparagus with a mandolin or V-slicer or cutting them in half and using the food processor with the proper blade.  I just need to hope the hit the blade horizontally to slice properly.  Though, I guess even if not, they’ll taste the same!

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I have a cookie recipe in my recipe binders that I’ve relied upon for years.  I never really get to enjoy the goods because of the butter in them but when people try them I hear rave, amazing, sometimes censor-needing (in a good way) reviews.  It’s Epicurious’ Chocolate Toffee Cookies recipe.  An amazing combo of chocolate, Heath bar…and dark rum.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon dark rum — I always throw a bit more in there
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Heath bar; about 7 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

IMG_0033

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy.

IMG_0035

Add egg, rum and vanilla and beat until well blended.

IMG_0041

Sift (or in my case I just add/drop in) flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into small bowl. (and then mix in with the power of KitchenAid) Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture.

IMG_0043

Mix in toffee and chopped almonds. (Ditto on the last KitchenAid statement — that’s what it’s there for!)

IMG_0049

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto heavy large ungreased baking sheet (I still use Silpat mats), spacing 2 inches apart.

IMG_0052

Bake until cookies puff slightly and crack on top but are still soft to touch, about 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely (cookies will become crisp).  And then heavenly bliss arrives.

IMG_0061

Repeat shaping and baking with remaining batter. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)