Monday, March 1, 2010

Candied walnuts and more!

Morning!  A bit early in the morning, I know, but I’m going to bed here in a bit, I promise!

I actually slept in this morning!  I woke up at 11:15 and was ecstatic that I’d slept in this much!  Normally, sleeping in for me is waking up at 7:30 or 8 a.m., so this was like an awesome Christmas present for me!

I decided to be a bit non-traditionalist for breakfast, so on a whim I decided to make scrambled eggs (an egg and 1/2 cup of eggbeaters with a dash of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) alongside some tortillas, a small bit of cheese and some fire-roasted green salsa.  It was SOOOO good!  After eating the Mexican feast and my pear, I was only able to drink less than half of my coffee :/. 


This morning I made some coffee that I’d gotten at Target a couple of days ago – Giada de Laurentiis’ (GDL) Special Blend coffee.  I LOVE Giada.  I think she is really entertaining to watch.  Hopefully I’ll be able to meet her someday.  Hahaha, I’m almost picturing myself similarly to the Julie/Julia Project, except that it’ll be the Ruth & Giada – BFFs in Crime (my version is Best Friend Foodies).  We’d be touring the world, trying awesome dishes, exchanging and creating superb recipes.  One can only dream! :)  Anyway, the coffee tasted pretty good, not that I’m biased or anything.

I’d had some Atlantic Salmon fillets sitting around in my fridge for a couple of days so I decided to do something with them for lunch.  I definitely need to work on my encrusting skills…they’re a bit lacking.  Needless to say, it was a filling lunch.


Spicy-Crusted Salmon Over Spinach


1 spray(s) cooking spray
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 pound(s) Atlantic salmon fillet(s), cut into four 6 oz pieces
1 tsp olive oil
1 bunch(es) spinach, steamed


Coat grill with cooking spray. Preheat grill. 

Combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and sugar. Rub salmon with spices and then drizzle with oil.

Grill salmon over medium heat, about 5 to 6 minutes per side. Serve with spinach.

*Adapted from Weight Watchers

Cook’s notes

I didn’t have any spinach, but who cares?  I still did the salmon filet.  It may not have been a golden brown crust, more like roughly charred decadence, (oy!) but it tasted pretty decent.  Definitely not spicy like the recipe name suggests!  I paired my salmon with some lettuce, blueberries, goat cheese, grape tomatoes and a few spritzes of Wish-Bone Balsamic Breeze spritzer.  I have to say that I somehow actually preferred the salad over the salmon :)  Charring anyone?  Hopefully yours will turn out MUCH better than mine.

Last week when I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, I stumbled upon mascarpone.  Because I’ve watched so many GDL shows, I now associate mascarpone with GDL.  So I decided to try to make something with it and take it to work.  Wasn’t sure at the time what to do with it.  So today I ventured off and decided it was going to be a Mascarpone day.  I didn’t know what it tasted like; I’d only seen it on TV and it looked interesting.  So what do I do?  I naturally look up GDL recipes on Food Network with anything mascarpone.  I came across this particular recipe.  Let me tell you it’s to die for.  I couldn’t stop eating the filling!  Mascarpone tastes kind of like cream cheese, but better.  Not all GDL recipes turn out well for me, but this particular one, did.  However, I do have to warn you that it’s pretty messy, but delicious!  Hopefully the co-workers will enjoy them.


Strawberry and Mascarpone Filled Cupcakes


1 box vanilla cake mix (like Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe French Vanilla)
1 (8-oz) container Mascarpone cheese, chilled
1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner’s sugar


Special equipment: 1 muffin tin

Make the cupcakes according to package instructions. Lightly grease the muffin tin and fill the batter almost to the rim of each muffin cup. Bake according to package directions and let cool.

In a food processor combine the mascarpone cheese, strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Push the tip gently into the bottom of a cupcake and squeeze in the strawberry mixture until the cupcake plumps. Continue with the remaining cupcakes.

In a small saucepan bring the 1/2 cup sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved. In a medium bowl combine the vanilla syrup with the confectioner's sugar. Stir until smooth. Working quickly, use a rubber spatula spread the icing on the top of the cupcakes. If the icing begins to firm up, place in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up again.

Cook’s notes:

I couldn’t find the Duncan Hines cake mix the recipe suggested, but I did find the Betty Crocker Moist French Vanilla cake mix.  I also couldn’t seem to find the confectioner's sugar in my kitchen so instead I used Splenda.  It still seemed to do the trick.  I also didn’t have a pastry bag (go figure) and so I improvised by using parchment paper.  Other than professional chefs, who really has a pastry bag?

I really got the 'itchiness’ for some candied walnuts today.  I’d previously tried to make some, but didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing, as I wasn’t following a particular recipe.  They turned out okay, but I felt they could definitely get some improvement.  Previously, I’d used light brown sugar and walnuts only – they had a nice texture, but I wasn’t satisfied with them.  However today I got some ideas as to what I could do, so this is what came out of the candied walnuts…


They turned out pretty good!  I’ve been putting walnuts in my salad lately, so I think these will definitely do the trick.  I’m totally looking forward to having some of these in my salad for lunch later today at work!

Candied Walnuts


6 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp orange-tangerine juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups walnut halves


Add 6 tablespoons sugar and orange-tangerine juice. Bring to a simmer, and then add walnuts. Cook until sugar is absorbed and mixture starts to caramelize around walnuts, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes, until all of the walnuts are completely coated.

*recipe adapted from Candied Walnut Butter Salad from Sandra Lee

Cook’s notes:

I didn’t have orange-tangerine juice, but I did however have V8 Splash Diet Tropical Blend, so I used that instead.  Overall, I think they tasted pretty good!  I also sprinkled a little bit extra brown sugar on top of the caramelized walnuts, to give it a bit more texture.

After the walnuts cooled, I lay them on a single layer on some parchment paper and let them sit for about 10 minutes. 


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