Dana's Nuts - Granola and Spiced & Candied Nut Offering

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Well, haven’t we all thought that at one time or another. This time it is true. I’m nuts. Nuts for sharing good things. Nuts for sharing the love. And one that will take you from morning to night time snacking.

Although, the sharing part is a bit ironic since this period marks the first time that I haven’t posted on a weekly basis. It actually felt odd and sad and weird, like something was missing in my life. The lack of posts were not because I haven’t been making a mess in the kitchen and inventing. Exactly the opposite. I have been cooking up things to offer you. A different type of offering. Instead of providing recipes that you may not have a chance to make, I will provide the actual result of the recipe. How’s that for an offering? I realize that some of you enjoy homemade but just don’t have the time for homemade. You appreciate the quality and taste of small batch food made with love but just aren’t always able to do that for yourself. I totally get it. So, I’ve launched an idea that people have been suggesting, asking, begging for for years - offering some of my baked goods for sale. (Of course, some of you have also urged me to open a restaurant. Now, I’m willing to tackle some suggestions… Others, not so much, but thanks for the vote of confidence.)

I have been giving baked goods as gifts for quite a while now, and each time I’ve heard, “I wish you would sell these. I would buy them.” So, I pinch my nose and take the deep plunge, starting small with ideas for growth. I’m keeping things simple just to get the ball rolling. My first offerings are my Crunchin’ Coconut Granola and Dana’s Nuts - Spicy & Candied.

My granola is made with oats, coconut, pepitas and sunflower seeds, oil and honey. Pure and simple. Baked to crunchy toasted perfection.

Crunchy goodness.

Crunchy goodness.

Once you get your bag home, place it in an airtight jar to keep it fresh.

Once you get your bag home, place it in an airtight jar to keep it fresh.

Since I know some of you eat granola regularly, my goal is to offer it on a monthly subscription basis, too. This way you are assured to get your granola every month, just in time to top off your morning yogurt, or evening ice cream. So, I welcome the comments to see if this is a service you would enjoy signing up for. The monthly cost of the granola would naturally be discounted from a single purchase. For now, single purchase is what I can offer, but with your feedback, subscription granola could be on the future horizon.

Enjoy it with yogurt, or milk. Or eat it like my husband does - with a spoon right out of the jar.

Enjoy it with yogurt, or milk. Or eat it like my husband does - with a spoon right out of the jar.

My Spiced & Candied Nuts are a mix of walnuts, cashews and peanuts baked with a spice mix and maple syrup. These nuts are the perfect blend of heat and sweet that keeps your hand grabbing for more. Ideal for a cocktail party or just as a snack. (There will be other nut mixes in the future.)

What goes better with a drink then a handful of nuts?

What goes better with a drink then a handful of nuts?

Ideal for a snack or a cocktail party.

Ideal for a snack or a cocktail party.

I hope you enjoy these treats. As always, I look forward to sharing with you in best way I know how, stirring life with goodness and love.

Please visit the SHOP page for more details. Happy Crunching.

Shop Granola
Shop Nuts

 
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Eucalyptus Burst - A Floral Spray

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It's been awhile since I have presented floral ideas.  Kinda makes me sad since I love flowers and love arranging them. Anyone who knows me, knows my obsession with flowers.  Fact is, I've been traveling around and have not been to the city much, therefore haven't visited my favorite NYC floral shop, Dahlia * in Grand Central Station.  Hence the lack of floral inspiration. But I happened upon an arrangement I created awhile back that I thought I would share.  My idea, if you don't have real flowers to look at, at least look at a pretty picture.  I am stretching it a bit?? Maybe.

This is not my usual color scheme, or theory on color, which is why I wanted to share it with you.  As I have often professed, I prefer to stick with a single color theme and vary the flower types, or when mixing colors stick to two of high contrast.  This arrangement does neither.  Go figure. Yet somehow it worked. Well, at least for me.

One of the leaves I really enjoy working with is eucalyptus.  But not the one with the highly intense aroma, and inflexible stem version. I like the leafy, droopy kind. Their branches are long and bit floppy which produces a huge spray that creates a wonderful backdrop for the florals.

After choosing the eucalyptus, for some reason I then selected three very different colors of 2 different flowers. 

  • Deep Red and Yellow Alstroemeria

  • Pale Pink Lysianthus

 A very odd day for me, apparently.  

Ready, set, arrange.

Ready, set, arrange.

Often times when using eucalyptus branches I reach for a tall vase. (However, I have also arranged them in a long, low vessel to create a wide arrangement that was super dramatic.) 
Proportion is everything with flowers. This long tulip shaped vase was a wedding gift, and I adore it.  I usually add stones to lift the stems a bit. 

Decorative stones in the bottom help to lift the stems.

Decorative stones in the bottom help to lift the stems.

Tall and elegant, the wide mouth aids in creating a full boquet.

Tall and elegant, the wide mouth aids in creating a full boquet.

Once the branches are placed to create that spray, I started with the Lysianthus, placing them around knowing I would fill in with the other two flowers.

Grouping all the Lysianthus together creates a higher point of interest.

Grouping all the Lysianthus together creates a higher point of interest.

My thought was to color block since I had such varying colors.  I concentrated the pale pinks in the center, then surrounded them by the yellow Alstroemeria.  Since the deep red Alstroemeria had yellow in their centers, I surrounded the yellow flowers with the red.  

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A burst of pure joy.

A burst of pure joy.

This turned out to be an interesting color palette, and one that seems to work due in part to keeping the same colors blocked together for the most part.  I also feel the reason it works is because the massive size and spray of eucalyptus.  The key aspect of flower arranging is do what brings a smile to your face, and a sense of peace when you see them. In this episode of creating floral joy, I chose a Eucalyptus Burst.

 

* I can't stress enough how I adore the flowers and service at Dahlia.  Their prices are always reasonable and the flowers durable.  If you go to the Grand Central location, ask for Simone.  She is the best.

 
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Amuse Bouche...That's not English, Right?

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Oh the French, they do give us some wonderful food and great phrases.  And the one that starts it all off is the Amuse-bouche.  The literal translation is mouth amuser.  In a restaurant, this is the appetizer before the appetizer. Not ordered from the menu by a customer, but given as a complimentary single bite from the chef to start your meal.  It is meant to amuse the mouth. Get it ready for the meal. Whet the appetite and get the patron excited for what is to come. 

Only the French would think of amusing your mouth. I dare say that the Italians aren't into amusing so much, but straight up satisfying from the onset.  I do love the idea of tickling the tongue with a little nosh to get you primed.  A little food foreplay, wouldn't you say?

This practice doesn't need to be limited to restaurants. As JuanCarlos and I prepare for a trip to France, I reasoned that this was a perfect time to honor their tradition and share some ideas on the subject. So go ahead,  treat your guests to an Amuse Bouche.  You like them, don't you?  So amuse their bouche.

Remember this is meant to be just one little bite not a full blown appetizer. However,  any of these can be an appetizer. (Just love when things can do double duty).  An amuse bouche can range from the elaborate to a very simple offering. 

Here are six offerings, each providing the all important combination of salty, sweet, tang, texture to get the mouth party off to the races.

Goat Cheese & Nut Topped Grapes

These are an easy, pop in your mouth kind of bite.  Refreshing and textural, and create the "more please" effect. 

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  • Use the stemmed end as the base, as this will help the grape stand up.

  • Slice a tiny bit off the top of the grape to have a level landing spot for a dollop of goat cheese.

  • Using a small spoon gather 1/2 tsp of room temp goat cheese and place it atop the grape. (I use my clean fingers to create a little dollop)

  • Dip it in the crushed/ground nuts (such as pistachios or a mix of pecans, walnuts or whatever nut you like). These can be made ahead of time, but save the nut dipping til just before serving. You don't want the nuts to get soggy in the refrigerate. NOBODY likes soggy nuts.

Prep yourself with everything at the ready. Look how simple this is. 3 ingredients. 3 steps: Slice, dollop and dip

Prep yourself with everything at the ready. Look how simple this is. 3 ingredients. 3 steps: Slice, dollop and dip

You can store in the fridge like this with plastic wrap

You can store in the fridge like this with plastic wrap

Dip right before serving.

Dip right before serving.

Salmon Topped Cucumber or Apple

Alright, this may be two bites, but satisfying ones, for sure. These deliver a creamy texture paired with a cool crisp  and salty bite.

Salmon / cream cheese roll up a top a cucumber slice.

Salmon / cream cheese roll up a top a cucumber slice.

  • Cut a 1/2" slice of cucumber.

  • Pipe a dollop of soften cream cheese on top.

  • Place a small piece of smoked salmon laid down in a crossed fashion.

  • Pipe another dollop of cream cheese in the center and top with capers and dill.
    (You can also use the Salmon Roll method. On a large piece of plastic wrap lay the salmon down, making sure to overlay slightly. Spread softened cream cheese on top. Sprinkle with capers, then roll up like a sushi roll, Refrigerate. Once chilled, cut into 1/2” rounds placing atop each cucumber slice. Adorn with dill, as seen above.)

Refreshing on a slice of apple. This is from my   Lox on What?   idea.

Refreshing on a slice of apple. This is from my Lox on What? idea.

Pea Soup Shooter

A chilled, tall drink of spring. (I have not tried these recipes but wanted to provide a few links for your reference.)
Pea Soup Shooter
Pea Shooter
Pea Soup

These were part of the offering at a catering event I did with Regina Mallon Enterprises, food by  Special Attentions .

These were part of the offering at a catering event I did with Regina Mallon Enterprises, food by Special Attentions.

Dates Packed & Wrapped

Boy, does this one get every part of your mouth ready.  It's got salty, sweet, crunch and tang.

Another 3 step method, Slice, stuff and roll.

Another 3 step method, Slice, stuff and roll.

  • Slice open a Meedjol date just enough to remove pit and replace with something better.

  • Stuff it with gorgonzola cheese and a marcona salted almond.

  • Wrap the date with Serrano or Prosciutto ham.

Simple set up of jamón Serrano, gorgonzola, marconas & dates.

Simple set up of jamón Serrano, gorgonzola, marconas & dates.

Just a little slice, yank out the pit and replace with yumminess.

Just a little slice, yank out the pit and replace with yumminess.

Cranked up Caprese Skewers

This is an amped up Caprese salad on a stick.

Ratcheted up a notch by grilling them until they are just warmed then dipped in grated cheese. Oh the melt, the sweet, the salt.

Ratcheted up a notch by grilling them until they are just warmed then dipped in grated cheese. Oh the melt, the sweet, the salt.

Another simple set up with just a few ingredients.

Another simple set up with just a few ingredients.

Once grilled, roll them in grated cheese. Want some heat, sprinkle red pepper flakes, too.

Once grilled, roll them in grated cheese. Want some heat, sprinkle red pepper flakes, too.

  • Skewer a grape tomato, a bocconcino, piece of basil and another grape tomato. (You can certainly serve them as is. But I highly recommend you go the next steps. Also, you can prepare these ahead of time and refrigerate until grilling.)

  • Coat with oil, salt and pepper and lightly grill, then roll in Parmesano Reggiano, and serve immediately.

Chorizo-Manchego-Olive Skewer

A one bite tapa mix that makes a hearty first nibble. 

Warm, cold. Savory, salty, creamy. Need I say more?

Warm, cold. Savory, salty, creamy. Need I say more?

Honestly, I feel like I could create one every week.  The options and ideas are 'to infinity and beyond'.  Just think of little bites that would get your guests ready for more.  Oh la la to the French for their playful amusement.  What a fun game of enticement. 

 
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Any Night Meal - Al Fresco

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That's right the weather has turned... Finally.  I'm sure you have washed off the furniture, swept the patio and tidied up whatever outside area you have, whether it be a terrace, a small deck or a rolling pasture. It's time to go - al fresco.

Of course, we are all anxious to throw garden parties, BBQ's and the like after enduring a long, long winter.  And California, please spare me the "oh, we have that all year round" remark.  We know just how special you are.  The rest of the country suffers through changes.  Which is why we are outdoor party ready.  But you don't need to orchestrate a shindig in order to delight in the summer's offering. Taking in an evening breeze while savoring a meal doesn't need to equate to a big ordeal.  A simple dinner will do just fine so you can bask in the longer days, the extended light and the brisk air of a summer's eve.

You can set the table and create warm vibes, or simply put dishes on the patio table.

You can set the table and create warm vibes, or simply put dishes on the patio table.

Cocktails - Here's a few ideas:

These Aperol Spritz cocktails are easy to drink, so be careful. If it's a school night, maybe just have one.

These Aperol Spritz cocktails are easy to drink, so be careful. If it's a school night, maybe just have one.

A dry rosé is the antidote to any long day.

A dry rosé is the antidote to any long day.

If you don't want the alcohol:

  • Cranberry juice, sparkling water and lemon wedge, or even add some frozen berries

  • Watermelon juice, sparkling water, basil leaves

  • Sparkling Water with Lemon & Lime Slices

The idea is to enjoy something refreshing.  So, go ahead and shake up a cool drink of your favorite flavors.

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The Meal

  • Summer Tart , simple puff pastry topped with farm fresh vegetables of the season

  • Large salad, it can be as simple as lettuces lightly tossed with fresh lemon juice and oil. Or a nectarine salad to reinforce that summer feel

  • Roasted salmon or grilled shrimp

  • Yogurt with honey and nuts

Puff pastry tarts don't need to be complicated. Fill them with whatever is fresh and seasonal and pop them in the oven. I always add cheese!

Puff pastry tarts don't need to be complicated. Fill them with whatever is fresh and seasonal and pop them in the oven. I always add cheese!

Salad ideas

Watermelon & Feta cheese served with a crisp white wine -  La Val Albariño  from Spain.

Watermelon & Feta cheese served with a crisp white wine - La Val Albariño from Spain.

Main Dish ideas


Keep it simple and roast fish on the grill.

Roasted Salmon is perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Roasted Salmon is perfect for outdoor entertaining.

 

You can even have dessert without a fuss.  Some Greek yogurt, nuts with a drizzle of honey is the just the right amount of sweet to finish off a meal. The idea is to get outside.  Grab whatever food you have and put it on a platter, pop open a beverage and breathe in the fresh air.  And the sheer joy of dining al fresco.  

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Whole Red Snapper stuffed with lemons and parsley and grilled on the BBQ. So fresh and clean and ideal for a summer night.

Whole Red Snapper stuffed with lemons and parsley and grilled on the BBQ. So fresh and clean and ideal for a summer night.

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Yogurt drizzled with honey & nuts equals an easy, satisfying dessert

Yogurt drizzled with honey & nuts equals an easy, satisfying dessert

Brunch Made Simple

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Brunch is supposed to be a relaxed, chill vibe. A time to hang with friends and family. The whole idea is rooted in the premise of sleeping in, then eating lazily in the late morning.  That is true if you are going out to eat, or to someone else's home.  But if you are hosting, it's a bit harder to sleep in. Plus it can feel a bit overwhelming, knowing there are mountains of ideas on what to serve.  I am guilty of wanting to offer up more options than are possible to consume.  (Or to make, for that matter.) The essence of brunch is that beautiful crossover of food from breakfast items to lunch or even a few heartier items. There in lies the rub.  All those choices create a mind numbing battle of what to serve when the possibilities seem endless.

That was my dilemma a while back when we hosted a brunch for our dear friends Carl and Malcolm. I had all sorts of ideas, but I was determined to keep it as simple as possible.  In the end, I felt like I accomplished that, so much so that I recreated the same menu for a Sunday brunch with our other dear friends, Nicki and Jeff. 

A little forewarning, in order to keep this post manageable, each recipe below is a hot link, bolded and highlighted in blue. Just click to be whisked away to see how to make it.

Let us begin:

There were two slight changes to the menu for Nicki and Jeff versus the original. I didn't serve the polenta cake, but did add an amuse-bouche of Ibérico ham, Marcona Almonds, olives.  It was a nice way to greet our friends and settle in a bit as we caught up on our life tales and the many moons that had passed.

Now, you've heard me say many a time that it is essential to serve warm items, room temp and chilled items. This holds especially true for brunch.  Certainly, if I were serving brunch in the winter I might lean on a few more warm plates, but this combo seems just right for the rest of the seasons. Plus, as we head into summer we are in prime time for more entertaining in general, especially outdoors.  Brunch is ideal for backyard entertaining.

 

 

After the nibbles that amused our mouths and whetted our appetites, we started off with a chilled dish, then moved on to all the other plates. Let the party begin with a refreshing and clean burst of citrus.

Citrus Salad Martini

A 'brighten your day' start to Sunday, or any day for that matter.

A 'brighten your day' start to Sunday, or any day for that matter.

Next up was a continuation of fruit, transitioning to savory with this lightly tossed salad.

GRAPED UP BOSTON SALAD

Boston lettuce with grapes, fennel, celery, scallion. It's bright and light.

Boston lettuce with grapes, fennel, celery, scallion. It's bright and light.

Something warm with...

TOMATO & GOAT CHEESE PIE

Warm and savory. The sweetness of the tomatoes balances the tang of the goat cheese.

Warm and savory. The sweetness of the tomatoes balances the tang of the goat cheese.

Something room temp and hearty...

Salmon Salad Platter, Deconstructed

Polenta Cake

Polenta cake cut into slices.

Polenta cake cut into slices.

Ingredients

2 c polenta (cook according to package)
1.5 T butter
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/3 c goat cheese
salt, pepper

Instructions

Once the polenta is cooked, remove from the burner and stir in the butter, goat cheese and chives, salt and pepper until combined.  Lightly oil a cast iron pan and pour in the polenta. Bake at 350 degrees until a crust forms. Turn onto a board or plate and cut into wedges.  Best served warm but room temp is good too.

What I love best about this meal is that so much can be done in advance. The big plus is that any of these can be served at room temp, therefore, less stress about timing and getting the plates to the table.  

Then for dessert, I kept with the same theme of simple.  Prepped ahead of time and waiting on the kitchen table, I brought out a small platter of fresh cheeses (Manchego & Ibores),  grapes, strawberries and Sweet Olive Oil Crackers. Certainly, you can go sweet at this stage of the meal, but this felt right, and I believe our guests thought so too.

So, although YOU might not be sleeping in as late as everyone else, but taking the homemade brunch route doesn't have to stress you out.  Create the perfect crossover meal.  

 
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