Almond Nectarine Muffins


Good morning– Made these sweet muffins on a Saturday morning, when Paige dropped in for coffee and talk. She’s a darling young woman–we talked about work and plans and life’s ups and downs.  Amazing girl.

And the muffins were yummy warm from the oven– love baking with peaches/nectarines.  Seems like they are in season such a short time– they taste like summer!

ALMOND NECTARINE MUFFINS

Streusel:
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 tab. butter
1/4 cup almonds

Muffins:
1 medium nectarine
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tab. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. amaretto (or almond extract)*
1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
1  1/2 cup flour
1  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Make the streusel first.  Combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender of two forks until it looks crumbly.  Stir in the almonds.  Set aside for now.

Cut the nectarine into small bits (no need to peel).  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the oil, white sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, amaretto and sour cream.  Then mix in the four, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Finally stir in the cut up nectarine bits.

Spoon the batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin papers.  Makes 12.  Sprinkle the streusel over the muffins and pop them in to 375 degree oven for 20 to 22 minutes– until the are slightly browned and firm to the touch.  Wonderful hot from the oven with a little smear of butter!

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Couscous


Hello everyone– This recipe started with a cookbook from the library shelves and a big bundle of cilantro.  I picked up Half Baked Harvest from the new book shelves at the library.  It’s beautiful.  I started to bookmark things I’d like to make and it’s pretty much every recipe!

And then my dear buddy Janet showed up at my door with a huge bouquet of cilantro from her garden and this recipe from the book came to mind.

It’s spicy and so flavorful.  Easy–since Larry is the one who cooks it on the grill!  And the couscous is moist and crunchy and a little sweet from the apricots.  I think you’d really like it…

MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKEN WITH COUSCOUS

Chicken:
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. powdered ginger
2 tab. cilantro, chopped fine
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tab. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Couscous:
14 oz. can chicken broth
1 cup couscous
2 tab. olive oil
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped to bits
1/2 cup whole almonds, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Garnish:
cilantro sprigs
lemon slices

In a zip loc bag, combine the garlic, ginger, 2 tab. chopped cilantro, smoked paprika, cumin, red pepper, chili powder, sugar, salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon zest and juice.  Squish the bag until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Cut the chicken to skewer size pieces and add to the bag.  Zip it and squish the bag until the chicken is all coated.  Let the chicken marinate in the spices at least an hour up to 10 hours.

Thread the chicken onto 2 or 3 skewers.

Just before you grill the chicken, make the couscous.  Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a sauce pan.  Remove from the heat and add the couscous.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the oil, apricots, almonds and 1/4 cup cilantro.  Cover to keep warm while you grill the chicken.

Grill the chicken 10 to 12 minutes until the outside is charred and the chicken is cooked through.

On a pretty platter spread the couscous and top with the chicken skewers.  Garnish with cilantro pirgs and lemon slices.

Almond Mocha Brownies


Hey all- Do you have an absolute favorite flavor of ice cream??  Mine is Jamocha Almond Fudge.  I usually  intend to try a different flavor, but when it comes down to it, I pretty much always end up with JAF.

So here is the best ice cream translated into brownies–  Mocha flavored brownies topped with rich creamy almond studded cream cheese frosting.  I’m embarrassed to say how many of these I ate!

ALMOND MOCHA BROWNIES

Brownies:
1 family size brownie mix (for a 9″x 13″ pan size)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 tab. instant coffee (about one small instant coffee packet)

Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 stick)
2 tab. unsweetened cocoa*
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 box)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tab. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whole roasted almonds, cut in half

Mix up the brownies according to the instructions on the box (mine used 1/2 cup oil, 1/3 cup water and 2 eggs).  Stir in the instant coffee until it’s all blended in.

Spoon the brownie batter into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake it up at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the brownies cool before you add the frosting.

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer to combine the melted butter and the unsweetened cocoa.  Then use the mixer to beat in the cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  (Start the mixer on low so you don’t send all the powdered sugar flying!)

Then stir in the almonds and spoon the frosting over the cooled brownies.  Enjoy!

*I like Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Hello Cookie Eating Friends–  You know there are some foods that just belong together– peanut butter & jelly,  peaches & cream,  bacon & eggs…  What’s your favorite pair??  Mine is chocolate & almonds!  When the occasional box of See’s candy comes in our door, I search the box for the little mound of perfectly chocolate coated almonds.  Heavenly!

So here’s a great little chocolatey almond cookie.  I made a big batch for an evening with friends and am sorry to say I ate almost I ate almost all the leftover cookies!!  Not too sweet, rich and buttery.  I think you’d like them as much as I do!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP ALMOND COOKIES
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature*
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tab. amaretto** (or vanilla)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mini chocolate chips

With an electric mixer (start on low so ingredients don’t fly out of the bowl!), beat together the softened butter, powdered sugar, amaretto, flour and salt– until it is a bowl of coarse crumbs.  Be patient.  It takes 3 or 4 minutes to combine the butter and flour.

Then add in the almonds and mini chocolate chips and beat it with the electric mixer until the dough all sticks together.

Spread a thin layer of flour on the counter and roll out the dough until it is about 1/4″ thick.  If it sticks to the rolling pin, flour a tiny bit on top as well.

Use your favorite cookie cutter shape to cut them out and lay them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes until they are golden around the edges. Enjoy!!

*If you’re pulling it out of the fridge (like I did), just give the butter 15 seconds in the microwave.
**I use amaretto because it gives the almond flavor, but at a fraction of the cost of almond extract.  The recipe I worked from used vanilla instead, so that would be great too!

Muesli (with yogurt & cherries)

Hi friends– The first time I met muesli was on a road trip with our kids years ago when we lived in Spain.  Some friends in Austria offered to let us stay in their apartment while they were away– as long as we would feed their rabbit and feel free to help ourselves to anything.  That’s where we found the muesli– in their kitchen cupboard!  And loved it from the start.

So here’s my current version, sweetened with maple syrup and full of lovely crunch.  With yogurt and summer cherries, it’s perfect!

MUESLI (WITH YOGURT & CHERRIES)
3 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup coconut
2 tab. sesame seeds
3 tab. olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. sea salt*
also– serve with yogurt & fruit (like cherries!)

Stir together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until the oats are thoroughly coasted.  Spread the muesli evenly onto two baking sheets that have been lined with foil.

Bake the muesli at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, taking it out mid-way to stir it up and spread it back out over the pans.  Let it cool and then heap it onto a bowl of yogurt & fruit!

Mandarin Pomegranate Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

 

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Hi all–  A couple weeks ago we had friends in for a wintery night dinner.  There was honey crusted pork loin, wild rice and Brussel spouts– and this bright sweet salad to start us off.

The real hit of the evening was after dinner, when our friend Mark pulled out his little bag of tricks and did an amazing magic show!  How did the nine of hearts jump from that stack of cards to the other?? Or the coin go right through the table??  You had us totally mystified Mark.

MANDARIN POMEGRANATE SALAD WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING

Salad:
4 cups of your favorite greens*
3 mandarin oranges
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1 avocado, cut to neat chunks
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. orange vinegar**
2 tab. honey
1 tab. poppy seeds
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel and break the mandarin oranges into neat segments.  Then layer the greens, mandarin segements, pomegranate seeds, avocado and almonds onto a pretty platter.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the oil, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds. salt & pepper until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad when you are ready to serve it up.

*I used baby arugula– spinach, green leaf lettuce, bib lettuce are all great.
** Love love Trader Joe’s Orange Champagne Vinegar, but red wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar would be terrific too.

 

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Pork & Butternut Squash in Maple Glaze

 

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Hi all-  My sis Lulu and I were snooping around the mall and wandered into the William Sonoma store (one of our favorite window shopping stops).  The clerk there was giving out sample of stewed chicken and veggies cooked in their bottled maple bourbon sauce.  It was delish– and set me to thinking about dinner at home.

So I chunked up a pork loin and roasted squash to stir up in my own simple version of a maple glaze.  It turned out just fine– enjoyed it with my sister and her husband sitting at the table with us.  That makes every meal good!

PORK & BUTTERNUT SQUASH IN MAPLE GLAZE
1 1/2 pound (or a little more) pork loin
3 tab. olive oil
1 small butternut squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, chopped to small bits
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 green onions, cut to bits-green part only

sauce:
3/4 cup water
3 tab. soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tab. cornstarch

Cut the butternut squash in two halves the long way, and scoop out the seeds the stringy part of the squash.  Put it cut side down on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the the squash is tender and slices easily with a paring knife. When it cools a bit, peel off the skin with a knife and cut it into small chunks.

To get the sauce ready, put the water, soy sauce, maple syrup and cornstarch in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake it heartily until it’s all well blended and set aside.

Cut the pork into smallish chunks.  Heat a large skillet with the 3 tab. of olive oil on medium high.  Drop in the pork and cook 8 to 10 minutes until the pork is browned and cooked through, but still tender. Remove the pork from the pan, but leave on the heat.

Put the butternut squash and bell pepper in the hot pan for two or three minutes to absorb the juices in the pan.  Add the pork back in.  Then give the sauce a few more shakes to make sure it’s all blended and then stir it in to the pan until the sauce thickens, 2 or 3 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve it up, stir the almonds into the pork mixture.  Serve it with rice or farro or noodles on a large platter and garnish the top with the green onions.  Rich and delicious!

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