Friday, December 31, 2010

Vanilla and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

After successfully cloning the hubby's favorite knoephla soup, I've decided to continue my recipe clone attempts. If I never have to leave the house for my favorite foods, I will have successfully attempted my quest to become a hermit.

Or at least I'll never be stuck without my favorites during a blizzard. (There was a 100-vehicle pile-up on the interstate near Fargo yesterday. Really.)

One of my favorite snacks is the cinnamon-roasted almonds that you can buy at state fairs and street fairs and craft fairs and pretty much any kind of fair. They're so yummy, but pretty pricey, and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to eat them anytime we want.

This is a Taste of Home recipe that got rave reviews online, so I decided to try it. Just a disclaimer: This isn't exactly like the cinnamon-roasted almonds at the fair, because the coating isn't as thick or crunchy. They do, however, have a stronger vanilla flavor that comes through when you're not distracted by all that candy coating.

I hope four cups gets me through the weekend.

Vanilla and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
Makes 16 servings

2 egg whites
6 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. whole, unblanched almonds
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and grease two 15" x 10" baking pans. (I just spread parchment paper on the bottoms. I don't like getting messy.)

2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Stir in vanilla extract.

3. Add almonds and stir gently to coat. Combine the sugars, salt, and cinnamon, add to the nut mixture, and stir gently to coat.

4. Spread evenly onto pans. Bake about 30 minutes or until amonds are crisp, stirring once during the baking time.

5. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knoephla Soup

When you're all stuffed up, nothing hits the spot like some chicken soup. Unless you're the hubby. Then nothing hits the spot like some knoephla soup.

If you've never tried knoephla soup, you: a.) Probably aren't German, and b.) Haven't lived.

Knoephla soup is a very simple soup that typically contains potatoes and knoephla, which are dumplings. This soup is a staple at a local diner, which sells it either by the generous bowl or the generous bucket. Yes, you can get your knoephla soup in a big ol' plastic pail.

However, the diner doesn't deliver, and I don't always feel like leaving home when I'm sick. So this is my attempt to replicate -- and perhaps even improve on -- the hubby's favorite.

This attempt was completely off-the-cuff; all I know is that the diner uses potatoes, dumplings, celery, and cream of chicken soup (because those little bits of chicken are unmistakable). I did swap out the celery for some carrot, because the hubby does not like celery and the little man loves him some carrot. And, because I'm the world's slowest potato-peeler, I used thin-skinned yellow potatoes (Klondike Goldust, to be exact) and left the skins on.

The results? Very, very similar to the hubby's favorite. In fact, I thought it was better. But I might be biased.

Knoephla Soup
Serves 6

2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 shallot, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
Salt and pepper
Bay leaf
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 soup can of water
2 cans chicken broth
2 c. frozen or homemade dumplings
1/4 c. cream (either heavy cream or whipping cream)

1. Heat butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Saute shallot for about 1 minute, and then add carrot and potato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add bay leaf. Cook about 2 minutes.

2. Add soup, water, and broth, and stir well.

3. Bring soup to a boil, and then add dumplings.

I cheated-ed-ed and used frozen dumplings. But I used the time that I saved to reorganize my closet, so now the little man can store toys in his closet instead of my shoes.

Welcome to Angel in the Kitchen, where the little details make a difference.

4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until dumplings, potatoes, and carrots are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

5. Remove pot from heat and stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

(Just a quick note that if you're reheating leftover soup, do so slowly and carefully, so the cream doesn't curdle.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pillsbury review and some housekeeping

I mentioned in my last post that we'd been inundated with illnesses and work deadlines, and I think I was just jinxing myself for more. Although my work deadlines are now on hold for the holidays, you can't swing a dead cat* in this house without hitting a sick human.

The hubby, little man, and I did not have the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving, unless you count the mozzarella sticks from the hospital cafeteria. (Which, at the time, were about the best thing I've ever eaten.) We had to cancel our family holiday portraits, so those of you on my Christmas card list might be receiving Arbor Day cards. And on the one day that I'd set aside for holiday baking, I woke up with the virus that the little man had earlier in the week.

Jack takes this "season for giving" thing very literally.

We left town for a week, and just returned ... to get sick again. I'm beginning to see a pattern here.

I do have some blog posts planned, because I have actually made a few edible dishes these past few weeks. But in the meantime, I wanted to belatedly post a product review for Pillsbury pie crusts. Pillsbury generously provided a coupon, information, and the following prize pack through MyBlogSpark.

I have to admit that I didn't try anything new and crazy with my pie crust, but as we do every fall, we visited my parents to help with their fall cleanup and their apple-picking. This also entails making a big pot of beef stew and an apple pie with the fresh apples and Pillsbury pie crust.

It feels odd posting a review of Pillsbury pie crust, because I've been a huge fan for years. I use them all the time for pies and other desserts, pot pies, empanadas, you name it. This isn't just an issue of laziness, although it is so much easier just to unroll that package; I honestly haven't had a pie crust that rivals the taste of texture of Pillsbury's.

And, as with the first apple pie of every fall, I'm convinced that this was the best apple pie that I've ever had. But I'm pretty sure I was right this time.

*Note: We do not actually advocate the swinging of cats, dead or otherwise. We like cats.