November 22, 2011

Fresh Italian Chestnuts

Whether you roast on an open fire or in the oven, Chestnuts are delicious. It's always funny to me that these are in the "nut" family. Chestnuts are soft, chewy, sweet and creamy, everything your typical nut should not be. But breaking all the nut rules just makes these funny looking snacks even more bad-ass. The rebel nut, if you will.  

The directions tell you to make an X shape with a sharp knife on the flat side of the nut. This can be tricky because you have very little leverage. So make sure your knife is really sharp and try not to cut all the way through that slippery bugger. Once you bake for 20 minutes the X will open up which allows you to peel off the hard and slightly fuzzy shell (let them cool a few minutes before peeling). Then enjoy.
The options with chestnuts are endless but since I'm in the holiday spirit I might just toss them into my thanksgiving stuffing and call it a day. Happy Turkey Day everyone!

My Rating * * * *

November 12, 2011

Creamy Polenta with Spinach and Carrots

This polenta is found in the Italian area of the frozen section. I was really excited to try this because I love polenta and never seem to find the time to make it from scratch. When I opened the bag I was surprised to see these alien-pod-like polenta nuggets, but I have never cooked frozen polenta before so I suppose it makes sense. I poured everything into my skillet and cooked on medium heat for about 15 minutes. 
I paired my polenta with a grilled pork chop and sauteed kale which I thought was a great combination. 
The polenta was creamy but lacked that gritty cornmeal flavor and texture. It was also completely overpowered by a ton spinach but for some reason I still slightly enjoyed it. I think I'm just a sucker for any side dish with that creamy comfort food consistency. 

Two quick tips that I think will enhance your polenta party.
  1. Take out all of the frozen polenta-pods and place them in the pan. Then use about half of the spinach and carrot mixture. (that way you will taste the cornmeal flavor)  
  2. Add salt, Parmesan cheese, or some sort of sodium element. When it comes to salt, I don't usually like to add it to pre-made frozen dishes but this polenta needs it. 
Next time I try this I'm going to cook it in the skillet, then spread it on a baking sheet and bake it until golden brown, then chill it. I wonder how it will turn out. If anyone tries that, let me know how it works out for you.  

My Rating * * * 

November 8, 2011

Kale Chips (homemade)

Here is a quick and easy snack if you're feeling guilty about eating potato chips. These crunchy kale bites are extremely delicious and addictive. They are similar to the TJ's roasted seaweed snack minus the ocean flavor.

All you need is Trader Joe's Kale (comes in a bag by the mixed greens section), extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other herb or spice you might want to add (be creative)

Preheat your oven to 275.
1. Spread kale on baking sheet in a single layer (we don't want steamed kale here)
I lined my sheet with foil, but you can use parchment too. Also, if you find some stems in the mix DON'T toss them out, they are really tasty after you bake.
2. Pour about 1/2-1 tablespoon olive oil on kale (easy on the oil, they don't need a lot)
3. Add some salt, pepper and any herb or spice that sounds good (I added a dash of dried dill)
4. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for about 10-20 mins. Keep an eye on them, they can char very quickly.
5. Enjoy the crunchiness of these healthy chips.
6. Make some more. (they shrink down quite a bit so if you're like me, you'll probably will want a few batches)

November 4, 2011

Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix

With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving fast approaching I decided to make this delicious pumpkin treat. This is a dry mix and all you need to do is add water, 2 eggs, and vegetable oil. Easy as pie, or muffins I should say. Since I chose to make muffins I wanted to doll them up a bit. But because I decided this after my shopping trip I had to look in my pantry for some encouragement instead. Now I had regular almonds which the box recommends adding as part of their "holiday bread" but I thought that was too boring. Then I found a half eaten box of the Trader Joe's "Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar, Dark Chocolate Almonds" (thats a mouth full) YUM!!! I chopped up about half a cup and dumped them into the amber-tinted batter. The cooking time and temperature was accurate to what the box said (FINALLY) and after about 20 minutes my apartment was oozing with holiday scent and my little bundles of pumpkin pleasure were ready, so was I.
The batter was full of spice and everything nice. I tasted cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. The muffin part was light and fluffy and the dark chocolate sea salt almonds were the perfect balance of sweet and salty.

If you like pumpkin anything, I really think you will enjoy this classic baked good. I will now be having my morning cup of tea with one of these muffins, for as long as they last (which won't be long)

My Rating * * * *