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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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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Sunday Brunch - Part Homemade/Part Not

A bounty of yum.

A bounty of yum.

Hosting a brunch can be easy, or a lot of work.  It can be made up of all the usual suspects, or a mash up of the expected and the unexpected.  I am never one to shy away from hard work, but I am also a huge fan of working smarter not harder.  So the idea of creating a sumptuous brunch spread that would serve up that mix with as much ease as possible was what I was aiming for.

One of the keys to achieving success; a good mash up of homemade items with banging good store bought items.  This greatly cuts down on the amount work.  Another huge help is asking guests to bring an item or two.  I'm sure your guests, as do ours, always ask, "what can I bring?" This is the perfect time to say "Bagels, or lox".  Or both!

Such was the case when we hosted a Sunday family brunch.  Our guests provided the bagels, lox and cream cheese. While we prepared the remaining dishes. 

For me, the perfect brunch is a like a moveable feast.  As with any party that isn't a sit down meal, there should be a decent variety of items ranging in temperatures and protein choices. A to and fro of movement.  Nibbling here, picking there. Foods that can last for several hours of conversation without too much fuss.

Here is what we offered up, and what was consumed with zeal.

When you buy quality products, the best plan is to let them shine with maybe just a few embellishments. That was the case with all of the "some assembly required" items. The Spanish sardines were enhanced with cucumbers and tomatoes. 

Spanish sardines with cucumber and fresh grape tomatoes.

Spanish sardines with cucumber and fresh grape tomatoes.

Cucumber slices bring a crisp, freshness to the intense sardine.

Cucumber slices bring a crisp, freshness to the intense sardine.

Plate them simply and use the rich oil they are packed in.

Plate them simply and use the rich oil they are packed in.

You've seen me use boquerones before. This brunch crowd loves them so, of course, I would serve them.  These fresh anchovies dressed with chopped garlic and parsley and good olive oil always get gobbled up.

I selected fish shaped dishes for these two under the sea selections. I love the shape and cobalt color. I've had these dishes for 30 years. Yes, you read that number correctly.

I selected fish shaped dishes for these two under the sea selections. I love the shape and cobalt color. I've had these dishes for 30 years. Yes, you read that number correctly.

Cheese/Charcuterie platters are another easy to assemble ahead offering that everyone loves.  And a perfect brunch item.  So go ahead and create one chock full of your favorite combinations.

It's always good to have a full board of charcuterie and cheese mixed with fruits, olives and nuts.

It's always good to have a full board of charcuterie and cheese mixed with fruits, olives and nuts.

The lentils were partially homemade, in that I used delicious precooked lentils that I get from Despaña but enhanced them by sautéing onions, carrots and celery then adding the lentils to warm through.  That simple.

This group of guests hadn't had my Eggplant Gemolata dish yet, so why not make it again. I did alter the feta topping, keeping it simple and not using the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and lemon zest but adding oven roasted tomatoes to finish the dish.  It was a huge hit with no left overs. This is one of those dishes that you can prep, then cook right before serving.  The flavors are powerful and beautifully melded. It has never let me down, no matter the event or the guest.

Eggplant with feta gremolata.

Eggplant with feta gremolata.

A little something for the meat lovers. Pork belly, lovingly prepared by JuanCarlos, cut in bite sized chunks and simply served on a wooden board.

Pork belly does take some time, as it is twiced cooked. Slow oven roasted to render the fat, then seared crispy in a skillet.

Pork belly does take some time, as it is twiced cooked. Slow oven roasted to render the fat, then seared crispy in a skillet.

The usual brunch suspects, bagels, lox, cream cheese are always welcome and always the perfect Sunday comfort food.

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, capers. Also served was Sushi grade Salmon Sashimi.

Bagels, lox, cream cheese, capers. Also served was Sushi grade Salmon Sashimi.

Eggplant, lentils and a bowl of the extra oven roasted tomatoes.

Eggplant, lentils and a bowl of the extra oven roasted tomatoes.

Make your life easy with the table setting.  Throw a graphic cloth down the middle as a landing strip for all the dishes. Then a simple stack of all the right plates, bowls and utensils in an easy to grab fashion keeps the laid back feeling going.

Finish with a little something sweet, Apple Tart.  And that's how part homemade/part not is done.

Create the vibe you want by selecting food that fits that mood.  A spread that spreads love.  One that invites conversation and fills their bellies and their souls.  What a great way to mark a Sunday, or any brunch day.

 
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5 Quick, No Bake Desserts - In a Pinch

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I realize that this title will come as a shock to those of you who know how much I love to bake, but sometimes I need a dessert in a pinch.  If I've got 5, 6 or even more appetizers to make, plus the meal; well dessert just ends up getting the short end of the stick.  With these 5 fast and easy assemble desserts, you don't have to stress about making sure there is something sweet and appealing after your meal.  Plus a few of these can easily be brought as a dessert offering when you are the one asked to bring something sweet.

 

Fresh Ricotta with Figs, Peaches & Honey

There is nothing as simple as assembling items on a board or platter.  

 

This sweet and savory offering is just that kind of dish.  Arrange seasonal fruits, like figs & peaches for the summer, on a pretty plate or a wooden board. Fill a bowl with fresh ricotta & drizzle with honey.  It's just that simple. You can toss some nuts in if you like, but for the sheer simplicity of this dish, it's not necessary.  Let the purity of these vibrant flavors speak for themselves.  The creaminess of the ricotta against the nature sweetness of the fruit with that extra sweetness from the honey is soothing combination.

 

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

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This one might take a tad more effort but not much more.  Use the fruit of your choice or the ones in season.  I had raspberries, blackberries and bananas on hand.  Dip each piece in melted dark chocolate and let cool on parchment paper.  You can roll them in crushed nuts or coconut to ratchet it up a notch.  Then arrange on a plate and watch these fly faster than they took to make.  Believe it or not, these little 'pop in your mouth' treats are so pretty that they will make an "ohh' statement on your dessert table.  So easy enough to make, you can get your kids to help.

 

Cheese Course

Cheeses with strawberries, grapes, mini  bread sticks  and  Tortas de Aceite  (Sweet Olive Oil Crackers).

Cheeses with strawberries, grapes, mini bread sticks and Tortas de Aceite (Sweet Olive Oil Crackers).

Blue cheese (such as  Cabrales ,  Valdeon,  Stilton or Gorgonzola). Add nuts, date loaf, figs in syrup, oranges.

Blue cheese (such as Cabrales, Valdeon, Stilton or Gorgonzola). Add nuts, date loaf, figs in syrup, oranges.

Ok, this is not my idea, of course, but more of a reminder in case this option was misplaced in the memory banks. Instead of serving cheese as part of your appetizers, save it for dessert and do it the French and Italian way. Enjoy it after the meal.

Fresh Fruit Lovingly bound by Chocolate

This colorful, flavorful option is similar to but slightly different to the above chocolate dipped fruit.  Instead of individual chocolate coated fruits, this version creates a bed of chocolate for the fresh fruit, nuts and sea salt to lie gently atop.  I made this on just such an occasion when I didn't have time but wanted to serve a dessert after lunch.  It was better than I thought and served the purpose beautifully.   I already had a chocolate ganache in the fridge. (Ganache is just chocolate with a tad of cream added to it.  This keeps it from getting completely hard and makes it pourable to glaze a cake or drizzle. I liked using the ganache for this version because once I refrigerated it, it became hard enough to hold the fruit together but still had a softness that added to the yumminess. A result I didn't quite realize would occur. 

Spread the ganache on parchment. Not too thin.

Spread the ganache on parchment. Not too thin.

Lovingly place the fruit in a visual manner that pleases your eye and your belly. Add nuts and sprinkle with course sea salt.

Lovingly place the fruit in a visual manner that pleases your eye and your belly. Add nuts and sprinkle with course sea salt.

 

Chocolate Bark

If you don't happen to have fresh fruit, then go the traditional chocolate bark route.  This version does not use ganache.  It is pure chocolate melted down.  I use a combo of dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. Spread the melted mixture onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Then top with whatever suits your fancy.  I like cashews, dried apricots & dried cherries plus a healthy sprinkling of course sea salt.  That really makes the chocolate sing. Refrigerate until solid, then cut or break into shards.  No brainer of sheer joy. 

 

I hope these ideas provide you a few quick, easy but delicious desserts to have in your back pocket when you are in a pinch.  I promise you, your guests will not miss the cake or pie or any other more labor intensive sweet.