Roasted Pumpkin Spice Almonds

The other day while grocery shopping I came across some Planters Pumpkin Spiced Almonds and was extremely close to buying them. I had never seen such a thing. Pumpkin lattes, sure; pumpkin candy, whatever; pumpkin cereal, oatmeal, eggnog; this is all commonplace to me now. But pumpkin nuts? Never before. However, a battle raged inside me, and frugality won. It is tough for me to shell out $10 for 20 ounces of nuts, no matter what flavor they are, when I can buy 3 plain pounds for $14. This is why I always have trouble in the snack aisle at Target – Archer Farms was made to make me rue my own poorness, I’m sure of it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m nuts about nuts, I just prefer satiating my obsession in a cheaper way. I figured making my own Pumpkin Almonds shouldn’t be too hard and I was oh-so-right about that.

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Isn’t it great how you can see something you want and make it yourself? I never realized this as a kid. I figured some things just weren’t possible. For instance, it came as a great epiphany that there was such a thing as pasta makers, because until the time I was about 20 I had the naive assumption that the only way to produce pasta was by a huge shiny machine, one I had not quite thought out the technicalities of, but just stopped at that. I haven’t yet obtained my own pasta press, but it is a dream I hope to one day realize.

Another big one was homemade bread. Once in a while when I was a kid, my mom would make bread in the bread machine (these were always the best days, the yeasty richness of a fresh loaf permeating every corner of our tiny home), but more often than not this bread came from a box mix, and more often than that we just ate the Great Value wheat bread (which is pretty good, but doesn’t come close to the deliciousness of homemade). So basically I grew up thinking: 1) the only easy way of making bread yourself was via bread machine, and 2) bread came in a box mix, and without that failure is inevitable. It was a wonderful day, the day my lovely Nana gave me her old bread machine. At last, I thought to myself. Homemade bread once more! I quickly realized with help from my awesome elementary math skills that buying box mix yeast bread was darn expensive and there were a ton of recipes for bread machine bread that were easy as 1-2-3. So I started experimenting, making my own recipes, etc, etc and life was a glorious compendium of fresh bread smells and carb overload. But then the bread machine broke. (Sweet lamentation!) My love for homemade bread had swiftly become an obsession, so I was forced into simply making bread by hand, a task I had long feared. It was something about the kneading that set my nerves aquiver. But I have come to realize that making bread by hand is a simple undertaking, and as long as your yeast is fresh and you don’t mind a thin dusting of flour over every surface of your kitchen, it produces a fantastic result. I don’t even buy store made bread anymore.

This is a long tangent I know. But just think of how enslaved we Americans are to industry. We have our loyalties to brands such that they have become staples to our pantries. Campbells soup has a distinct metallic aftertaste, did you know? It sits in a can for who-knows-how long, like food meant for a future apocalypse, and then we eat it and think it good. This is the same for all canned soup, veggies, fruit. Why not just whip up some homemade soup with the things in your fridge?? Do people not realize how easy it is??? I will never eat Kraft macaroni and cheese again, because it doesn’t even blink to macaroni and cheese I could make from scratch. But kids don’t dare eat Mac-n-Cheese unless it’s bright orange (and this is a proven fact, experimentation resulting in a pot full of uneaten Parmesan and Cheddar Macaroni, scorned by the four and eight-year-old kids I was nannying due to its pale color. The 14-month-old ate it, though, only further proving how as Americans we are raised to accept only the streamlined and mass produced). The list is endless: individually packaged  Quaker oatmeal, Swiss Miss hot cocoa, Betty Crocker cake mix, etc etc etc.

Now, if any of you actually read this monstrosity of a post, I apologize for how far I strayed from Pumpkin Spice Almonds. And all this came to be due to the frustration I sometimes experience at my lack of funds to buy expensive, name brand things (or is that just prudence?). But really, these homemade Pumpkin Spice Almonds are delicious. I may never know how they compare to Planters, but maybe that’s a good thing.

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Pumpkin Spice Almonds

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup raw unsalted almonds
1 tbsp pureed pumpkin
1 tbsp pure maple
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Mix maple, pumpkin, spices, and salt. Mix in almonds and stir until coated evenly.

2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely before eating or you’ll burn your tongue off (nuts magically retain heat for a reeeaaaalllly long time. Yes, I learned this the hard way).

 

Tomato Basil Bread (Whole Wheat)

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I’ll take any opportunity I can get to use herbs from my precious little herb garden I planted earlier this year. The leaves are not very big yet, but evidently (especially with basil) using baby leaves is perfectly fine, even good. Baby basil has a strong flavor, and I’m glad for it! It makes a mean tomato basil bread.

What really inspired me to make this bread was strolling around the Ames Farmer’s Market. While it is not very big, I still enjoying seeing all the different vendors, some of them selling very strange products.

For instance: Until last Saturday, I had never eaten bee pollen (on purpose, that is). When I came up to a honey seller’s booth and saw a jar of bee pollen, I exclaimed, “Wait, you’re supposed to eat that?!”

The old man nodded curtly and a small smile churned on his lips. “It’s good for lots of things,” he said. “Allergies, acne, weight loss…”

The list went on and on. While I didn’t completely believe all that he was saying, I instinctively said yes when he asked if I’d like to try some and then poured it out on my hand. It’s a weird flavor. Like honey except chalky and gross. And so far I’m neither dead nor cured of all my ailments (and I ate quite a bit), so opinion pending on its abilities.

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But anyway. Back to my herbs and this delicious bread I made. It has a very strong tomato-y flavor which is exactly what I wanted. The fresh basil tasted exceptionally delicious in there as well.

I love making bread. Even though it takes a bit of time to knead and let rise and what not, it just makes the perfect addition to a meal. And I feel so much better about eating homemade bread than the stuff from the stores.

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This particular loaf uses whole wheat and oatmeal, and there is a ton of flavor packed in. This bread will make excellent croutons, too. If it makes it that long, that is.

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Whole Wheat Tomato Basil Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup fresh basil (or 2 tbsp dried basil)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 egg
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely processed oatmeal

METHOD:

1. Place yeast in warm water and let rest until foamy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and oatmeal. When yeast is ready, add  basil, tomato sauce, parmesan, olive oil, egg, garlic, and honey and stir well. Add flour mixture to the wet slowly. Mixture will be dry. Knead on a floured surface for five minutes, until elasticy. Form into a ball.

2. Spray a bowl with oil and place the dough ball inside, turning once to coat both sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.

3. When dough has risen, punch it and then knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Place onto a sprayed cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes more. Preheat oven to 375F.

4. When bread has risen, cut an x shape lightly on top of the bread ball and place in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes.

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Strawberry Rosemary Yeast Bread

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It’s been so long since I’ve posted! /O\ But alas, I am in home sweet Texas for my ten-day summer break, and loving every minute of it. Somehow, it’s not too hot this May and the days have been full of sun and badminton and painting giant scrabble pieces (photos soon to come).

My brother and sister are also home for a couple weeks, and I just love it when we are all together. As my fiancé so kindly pointed out, we are some of the weirdest people around, and when we are together that weirdness is magnified. This is all to say, I’ve been a bit too busy to post!

I love my family. While in College Station to celebrate my brother’s graduation from A&M, we putzed around this charming little fresh produce market a block from my brother’s house. Good times.

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This market is open all year round. It must be so nice to have such accommodating weather. I’ve lived in Iowa for half a year and I’ve already forgotten what it’s like to have only three seasons (summer, spring, colder spring). Normally by May it’s freaking hot in Texas, but I’ll take that over snow any day.

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My crazy familia. It’s been so good to spend some time with them!

But here’s the recipe you came here for. Strawberry Rosemary Yeast Bread. Really it was an experiment. I was thinking about that Banana, Almond, and Date Yeast Bread I made a while back and the frozen strawberries I had in the freezer. I’d never heard of strawberry bread before, so I thought I’d give it a try.

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This is a savory bread and the strawberry flavor is subtle, but definitely there. It’s tangy, too, with the addition of balsamic. It’s kind of like a strawberry balsamic salad in bread form. Which means utter deliciousness!

Whoever said strawberries couldn’t be savory anyway?

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Strawberry Rosemary Yeast Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup pureed strawberries
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
3 tsp yeast
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp balsamic
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp rosemary
1 egg
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix pureed strawberry, agave, milk, balsamic, whipped egg, and yeast mixture. Stir slightly.

2. Form a well in the flour mixture and pour liquid into it. Mix. On a floured surface, knead dough for three minutes. Let rise for one hour or until doubled in size.

3. Knead again for one minute. Let rise for ten more minutes. Spray a baking sheet with oil and separate dough into three balls. Roll into long strips and braid. Let rise for thirty minutes. Brush with olive oil and balsamic mixture and sprinkle with dried rosemary.

4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

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Egg White Cinnamon French Toast (with Banana, Almond, and Date Yeast Bread)

IMG_3396IMG_3399I will never forget the day my 7th grade French teacher told my class that the French only eat French toast when they are sick. She said that over there the “mushy bread” isn’t a special-occasion breakfast dish but something easy to get down when you can’t get anything else down…

Eh, I still love it.

Besides, with my new working knowledge of food from all these great cooking shows I am addicted to on FoodNetwork (Cupcake Wars, Sweet Genius, Chopped, Restaurant Impossible, Worst Chef in America, etc. etc.) I have learned that the French equivalent to our French Toast is called “Pain Perdu” (pain is the French word for bread – it has nothing to do with our word pain. FALSE COGNATE), and is commonly enjoyed as a light dessert.

All this to say – YUM FRENCH TOAST IS THE BEST.

It used to be my favorite breakfast meal. Okay, I admit it; it still is. But I’ve found myself getting a little more experimental with this classic dish as the years go on. Remember this delicious Banana, Almond, and Date Yeast Bread I made a couple days ago? Whilst experiencing an intense craving for French toast, my eye fell on the remnants (too scant considering it wasn’t long ago that I made it) and I had an epiphany. It would make the best French toast! And so it did.

IMG_3385IMG_3383My recipe, however, can be made with any sort of bread. I particularly enjoy sourdough French toast, but whole grain, Texas toast, or a sliced baguette would be equally yummy.

Cutting out the yolk in this recipe cuts out a large portion of fat and does not take away from the taste at all. So if you’re concerned about your fat intake, here’s your solution (however, remember that our bodies require a certain amount of fat to function, and the fat from eggs is a suitable fat to consume – better than butter or cheese or three pounds of Cheetos). I cut it mainly because eggs make me feel rather queasy, and eliminating the yolk seems to also eliminate that.

IMG_3398Egg White Cinnamon French Toast (with Banana, Almond, and Date Yeast Bread)

INGREDIENTS:

1 large egg white
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
larger pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp agave nectar (optional)
4 or 5 slices of bread

METHOD:

1. Whip egg white with whisk. Add milk and vanilla and continue to whip. When well blended, add in salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and agave.

2. Spray your pan with cooking spray and set heat to medium high. Soak bread in egg white mixture (not letting it get too soggy) and place on heated pan. After a minute or two, flip over and let the other side get golden brown.

3. Enjoy with strawberries, greek yogurt, and agave. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or bananas and pure maple syrup. The possibilities are endless.

 

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Banana, Almond, and Date Yeast Bread

IMG_3385IMG_3369You’re going to have to forgive me in this post because you are about to get barraged with a billion pictures of bread dough. I don’t know why, but I have this fascination with rising dough…

Regardless of that, the bread. This bread. Banana Almond Date Yeast Bread. Yes, I know it’s a long name, but all of those components are SO IMPORTANT! And they make this bread the most delicious bread in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. I didn’t even add in the other vital aspects of the bread, such as the fact that it is whole wheat and cinnamony and incredible.

IMG_3386What exactly would a bread such as this taste like, you ask?

Okay, imagine this. You come home to the smell of freshly baked yeast bread (sandwich bread or italian bread or sourdough bread, for those of you who don’t know the difference between quick bread and yeast bread), you break off a piece, take a bite, and all your culinary dreams come true. It’s a science. Now imagine fresh banana bread, sweet, rich, moist, and oh-so-happy on your tongue. Now, put those two imaginings TOGETHER and you’ve got this delightful hybrid bread, the best of both worlds.

IMG_3378It’s not too sweet and the banana flavor is subtle. However, that wonderful thing about homemade banana bread still resonates in this healthier alternative. The “fresh baked bread” superiority still applies. The dates give it an extra pop of decadence and the almonds provide a slight crunch.

If you are frightened away by the braiding, fear not. It’s not necessary. But it was oh-so-fun. And watch this magnificent progression

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IMG_3372BAM! Golden brown. Mmmm, that was fun. Again!

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Banana Almond Date Yeast Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup warm water
1 large egg
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large banana, mashed
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flax
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup chopped and pitted dates
1/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

for glaze:
1/2 tbsp milk
1/2 tbsp agave
cinnamon

METHOD:

1. Place all ingredients except last two in bread machine according to manufacturers specifications. Set for the dough cycle. When the dough cycle stops kneading temporarily for add-ins, add the dates and almonds.

2. When dough cycle is complete and bread has risen to at least twice its size, take out of machine and form into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Let rest for ten minutes.

3. Form into three balls, and shape them into long cylinders, about 6 inches. Braid together and tuck ends under. Cover with saran wrap and let rise on parchment lined baking sheet for 45 additional minutes. Mix together glaze, and when the bread has risen sufficiently, spread the glaze thinly over top (do not soak).

4. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes. If top begins to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil.

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Cheesy Cauliflower “Bread”

IMG_3127My dad loves this stuff. My mom said you’d never guess it was actually cauliflower beneath the deliciousness. Believe me, don’t be scared off by the weird concept. This recipe is delectable.

IMG_3105Most people are suspicious of cauliflower, and for good reason. It has a weird smell and tastes kind of like clean feet. However, in this recipe, the cauliflower is completely transformed. Not only is the stereotypical creepiness of the cauliflower absent, it tastes like something you’d find at a deep-fat-fryer-obsessed Italian restaurant. Not healthy at all. (Don’t be fooled; it is actually very healthy.)

IMG_3129IMG_3130It involves a process called “ricing,” in which you process the cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice in size. Then microwave it (without adding water) for about five minutes. I think this is the step in which all the magic happens and the cauliflower-ness apparates out.

This really does resemble bread – without the empty carbs. It is great for those health conscious eaters out there, but good enough even for people whose first concern is taste. It’s got taste in the bag.

Cheesy Cauliflower “Bread”

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 head cauliflower

1 clove garlic

italian seasoning

1 tbsp ground flax

1/4 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup parmesan

1 egg

Cheddar or other favorite cheese for topping

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Rice the cauliflower by processing in food processor until it resembles rice in size. Put in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 5 minutes.

2. While cauliflower is cooking, chop garlic and place in a bowl with seasoning, parmesan, flax, and oatmeal. When cauliflower is done, add to garlic mixture immediately and stir until well combined. Let mixture cool before adding the egg. Add egg and mix well.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place mixture on parchment paper and press down in a circular shape. Press it well (should be thin and resemble pizza crust).

4. Place in 425F oven and cook until golden brown (about 20 minutes). Remove from oven and top with cheddar or other favorite cheese. Return to oven (this time on broil) and cook until the cheese bubbles.

5. Serve with soup, steak, or marina sauce. Eat it for breakfast or dessert. LOVE IT.