Purple Kitchen Treats

Over the past few years, I have been working on a cookbook. During this time, I took time off to finish my Master's Degree. Now that I have accomplished that, I am working again on my cookbook, slowly but surely.

However, over the past few months, something interesting has happened...I have received multiple requests for baked goods, particularly my cookies. I am also receiving multiple requests for granola. So, with all these requests in mind, I have started to make my cookies for sale, along with my granola.

My official web site is available, but will be undergoing a significant redesign. Be sure to visit my "official" web site at: http://www.susanshonk.com and watch for some exciting changes.

From the heart of my purple kitchen to you,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Colorful and up-scale snack and a $$ saving tip

I was messin' around in the kitchen this afternoon looking for a snack for my husband.  I opened my pantry door and saw a few kinds of dried fruits, and a bag of larger size chocolate chips and knew that I always have a stash of nuts in the freezer.

So....I took the following nuts, toasted them and let cool:
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup pistachios
2 cups whole cashews

Added dried fruit:
2 cups dried cranberries
2 cups diced dried apricots
1/2 cup currants

Then to satisfy any chocolate lover:
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

And, just for fun cuz I LOVE candied ginger
1/2 cup of finely diced candied ginger

Mix it all together and enjoy.  The colors are simply beautiful.  The dried cranberries and apricots look like little jewels, the dark chocolate bits are sultry and reel you in and the crunch and flavor of the nuts followed by the sweet and hot, but subtle bite of the ginger is very seductive....is it getting warm in here or is it me???

The big surprise in this mix is the sweet heat of the candied ginger.  There is not much of it, so it is rather subtle.  Ginger and peaches or ginger and apricots is a classic combination.

$$ Saving Tip - make our own flavored simple syrup or sugars:
My favorite tea for iced tea is Ginger peach.  This typically can run about $18.00 per pound, or more depending on which brand and where I buy it.  To avoid the expense of purchasing the ready-made version of dried ginger peach tea, I purchase either peach or apricot tea for about $7.00 per pound and make a ginger simple syrup to sweeten the tea.

Please be VERY CAREFUL when making simple syrup.  Boiling sugar and water can cause a very bad burn.  Please wear closed toe shoes that cover the entire top of your foot/feet and be sure to turn the handle of the pan to the back of the stove.  Keep children and pets out of the kitchen and keep an eye on the syrup as it boils.  And, very importantly....please don't be tempted to taste the syrup until it cools.

To make simple syrup:
Add 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar to a heavy bottom pan, stir and bring to a simmer.  Let the syrup simmer until reduced by about 1/3 and turn of the heat and let cool.  This will keep about a week in the fridge.

If you would like, you can add any of the following ingredients to the pan when you turn on the heat:
- Cinnamon stick and 6 cloves
- Four 1/2 inch slices of ginger, cut in half...no need to peel the fresh ginger
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- the peel of a lemon, orange, lime or all three for a citrus flavored simple syrup

For additional flavors, you can add extracts to the simple syrup once it has cooled.  I like almond extract for use in cherry tea.  I also add maple syrup to the vanilla simple syrup to make maple vanilla tea.

These simple syrups make great gifts too.  Just find some great bottles or jars, fill them up, label them and voila!  Handy dandy trick to fill jars or bottles with narrow openings: shape some tin foil into a cone, insert the narrow end into the opening of the container and pour the simple syrup thru that into a jar or bottle.

And yet another, simpler gift idea.....to 4 cups of granulated sugar, add:
- a vanilla bean, split
- the peel of 1 lemon, 1/2 orange or 1 lime
- cinnamon stick and 4 cloves
And give as a gift of flavored sugar.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and tips.

Have a great day!

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