Grape and Almond Bites

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I adapted this recipe from one on writes4food and changed a few things to make it a dessert rather than an appetizer.  The combination of flavors is wonderful.  I used these as a light dessert, but I can also see two or three of them on a plate with some fancy sandwiches for a tea.  They are neither difficult nor time-consuming to make, but a little messy.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

GRAPE AND ALMOND BITES

  • 5.3 oz. pkg. goat cheese (cold from refrigerator)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese (cold from refrigerator)
  • 2 tsp. apple juice
  • 20 seedless grapes
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tblsp. toasted sliced almonds, finely chopped.

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Use goat cheese and cream cheese directly from the refrigerator so it will be easier to handle.  In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese and apple juice.  Take out a scoop of the cream mixture that is just slightly bigger than the grape.  In the palm of your hand, form the cheese into a ball and then press the grape into the cheese, pressing it into place to cover the grape completely.  Roll in chopped almonds.

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Place completed grape on a paper plate or waxed-paper-lined plate.

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Repeat with the remaining grapes and cheese mixture. Roll each cheese-covered grape in the toasted almonds to coat lightly. Place on plate, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to set the cheese.
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Yield: 20 Grape and Almond bites (depending on size of grapes)

I used 5 of the bites as a light dessert at lunch – 4 servings 

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Salted Caramel Grahams

I had made a similar cookie with a chocolate coating and my daughter wondered how they would be without the chocolate.  I also changed from slivered almonds to roughly chopped whole toasted almonds and added a sprinkling of sea salt.  We found out they are absolutely delicious – buttery, crisp, lots of nuts and the sea salt adds an extra bit of punch.  My family loved them.  Also, fast and easy to put together.

SALTED CARAMEL GRAHAMS

  • Servings: Depends on size of bars
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  • 12 long graham crackers
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 cup butter (the real thing)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Line 11 x 16 inch jelly roll pan (with lips) with parchment paper.  Lay graham crackers in pan to fit snugly.


Sprinkle with almonds and set aside.


Put butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a full rolling boil while stirring constantly (about 4 minutes).


Pour the hot caramel carefully over the almond/graham cracker base, spreading to cover all of the crackers and nuts.  You can use a spoon to dip up small amounts and patch any uncovered spots.  Sprinkle with sea salt.


Place in a 350° F oven for 8-10 minutes, or until bubbly all over.  Place on a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Using a knife, pry up pieces of the cookie and break into serving-size pieces. 


Good either chilled or at room temperature – caramel is softer at room temperature.  This recipe makes a lot of very rich pieces.


They’re hard to resist.

Banana Mocha Snack Cake

topperOver 20 years ago, I copied the recipe for this cake from a 1986 Dole Banana flyer.  Today, I just got around to making it with a few of my own touches.  This is a very good, not too-rich, satisfying snack cake with a strong coffee flavor.  It’s an easy cake to mix – everything is put together in a baking dish.

BANANA MOCHA SNACK CAKE

  • 2 ripe bananas (1 cup mashed)
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tblsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tblsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a small bowl, blend mashed banana and instant espresso coffee powder.

In an ungreased 9″ baking pan, combine flour, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Blend well with a fork.  Make a well in the center.

In a cup or shaker, mix together the egg, oil, vinegar and vanilla extract.  Pour this into the well in the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until well blended.

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Smooth out the batter in the baking pan and bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

When completely cool, frost the top with Mocha Cream Cheese Frosting:

MOCHA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 3 Tblsp. butter, softened
  • 2 Tblsp. cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup toasted almond slivers

Beat the butter and cream cheese together, add confectioners’ sugar, instant espresso coffee powder and vanilla extract.  Beat until well blended.  Frost top of cooled cake.

Sprinkle with toasted almond slivers.

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This would be a nice cake to take on a picnic or to a barbecue – or just enjoy at the kitchen table with a big glass of ice cold milk.

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Chicken & Fruit Orzo Salad

For about 10 years, this has been one of our favorite summertime salads.  Full of chicken, orzo pasta, fruit and topped with toasted almonds – what’s not to like?

CHICKEN & FRUIT ORZO SALAD

  • Servings: 6 one-cup servings
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  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta

Fruit:

  • 3/4 cup pineapple tidbits in juice, drained
  • 3/4 cup green grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2-1/2 Tblsp. lemon juice
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced (reserved)

2 chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed (about 2 cups)

Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. curry powder
  • Sprinkling of salt and a couple gratings of black pepper

1/4 cup slivered toasted almonds

Cook orzo pasta in boiling salted water for approximately 7 minutes.  Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Place orzo in a large mixing bowl.

In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, grapes, raisins and lemon juice.

Place fruit mixture in bowl with orzo.

Add cubed chicken breast to bowl with orzo.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, curry and salt/pepper.

Add to dressing to orzo/chicken bowl, mixing well to blend.  Place salad in a covered container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

When ready to serve, mix in reserved banana slices and sprinkle slivered almonds on top of each serving.

Yield:  Approximately 6 cups of salad. 

Windmill Spice Cookies

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When I was growing up in the 1930s-40s, we didn’t have cookies very often.  My mother didn’t care to make them and we seldom had store-bought cookies.  Once in a great while, when there was a small amount of change left in the food budget, Mother would let us get a few large, brown, spicy windmill cookies that were sold in bulk from a big tin container in our corner grocery store.  I loved these cookies, particularly the bits of sliced almonds scattered here and there.

Sadly, the “windmill” cookies found now in plastic wrappers aren’t shaped like windmills, don’t have almonds and don’t taste nearly as good as I remember.  I found a recipe about 25 years ago that I thought was very reminiscent of the wonderful cookies of my childhood.

WINDMILL SPICE COOKIES

  • Servings: Depends on size of cutter and thickness of dough
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  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream margarine and sugar, add egg and mix well.  Stir together the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture.  Mix well.

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Roll out on floured board to desired thickness (I like the crisp ones about 1/4″ thick).  Cut with floured cookie cutter and place an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.   Press sliced almonds into the cookies.

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Bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool. 

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I have a nice collection of Dutch items and one of my favorites is this piece my daughter made for me a few years ago.  I love the Delft scenes all around the border.

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Teriyaki Almonds — New Year’s Snack

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These almonds are really good and addictive.  They are quick and easy to make and since they’re baked and have a small amount of sweetener and oil, they make a nice snack, especially for New Year’s Eve.

TERIYAKI ALMONDS

  • Servings: Makes about 2 cups of almonds
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  • 2 cups whole natural almonds
  • 1 Tblsp. teriyaki sauce
  • 1 Tblsp. Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  On an ungreased sheet, spread almonds.  Toast in oven for 15 minutes without stirring.  Remove sheet from oven and let almonds cool.  Reduce oven heat to 250 degrees F.

In a medium sized saucepan over medium low heat, bring the teriyaki sauce and Lyle’s syrup/honey to a boil.  Stir in almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until the almonds absorb the sauce, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add oil.  Toss until almonds are well coated.

Turn onto baking sheet, separating almonds.  Bake for 5 minutes, stir, then turn almonds and bake 6 minutes longer.

Cool on wire rack, stirring frequently.  Store in a plastic bag or covered container.  Makes about 2 cups.

According to my DietPower software, a 1/4 cup serving would be:  122 calories, 10 gr. fat, 0 gr. cholesterol, 6.04 gr. carbohydrates, 3.72 gr. protein.