Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts – Updated!

Here’s another quick, easy, and totally delicious idea for your holiday table.  They’re great for keeping on hand when unexpected guests may stop by.  They’re also great for just keeping on hand to enjoy by yourself =)

A word of warning: you may find yourself eating these candied nuts until you are sick.  It just can’t be helped.Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts | A Nerd Cooks

I blogged about these nuts a couple of years ago; My original post on candied nuts can be found here.

You’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • generous pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 lb unsalted nut of choice

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the sugars, salt, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg white and water until the egg white is frothy, but not stiff.  Add the nuts and toss to coat.

Add the spices to the nuts and toss it all around until everything is evenly coated in the sugar and spices.

Bake for 30 minutes, stopping to toss everything around at the 15 minute mark.  Remove the nuts from the oven and break them apart as they cool.  Try to not eat the entire thing in one sitting.

Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts | A Nerd Cooks

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Butternut Squash, Kale, and Feta Hand Pies

I was invited to a pie-themed potluck party recently.  When trying to decide what I wanted to contribute, I kept a few things in mind:  1) The hostess is a vegetarian; 2) Something savory would lessen the chances of us ending up with several pumpkin pies; and 3) Cute food is almost always good.

Enter: the hand pie.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Feta Hand Pies | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbs olive oil, divided
  • spices of your choice (I used salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and sliced into ribbons
  • 1/2 cup water or broth of choice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • pie crust dough of your choosing (I cheated and used store-bought!)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • kosher salt for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Put the peeled and cubed butternut squash in a large zip top bag.  Add 2 tbs olive oil and spices.  Zip the bag shut and toss the contents around until all of the squash pieces are evenly coated.  Divide the squash onto the two prepared baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer.  Bake for 15 minutes, toss everything around, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender and cooked through.

In a large skillet, add the remaining 1 tbs olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook until just fragrant.  Add the kale and stir to coat the greens with the garlicky oil.  Cook uncovered for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the water/broth and cover the skillet.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until the kale has begun to wilt down.  Turn off the heat and remove the lid.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the butternut squash is cooked, add it to the pan of kale, along with the feta cheese.  Stir everything together.  Take a taste, and adjust your seasonings accordingly.

Remove the foil from the baking sheets, and line the sheets (or different baking sheets) with parchment paper.

Using whatever pie dough you choose, use a cookie cutter or water glass to cut circles of dough (2 per hand pie).  I used a circle that was about 3.5 inches in diameter.  Place circles of dough for the bottom half of the hand pies onto the baking sheets.  I was able to fit 6 per baking sheet.  Place 2-3 tbs of the squash/kale/feta filling on the middle of each circle of dough.  You want to have a decent amount of filling in each hand pie, but also want to make sure that you’ll be able to seal everything closed without filling spilling out.  Top each with another circle of dough to make the top of the hand pie.

Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges of the dough (see the picture below).  This will help to seal the pies shut.

Brush the tops of the hand pies with the beaten egg.  This will help to ensure that the hand pies get brown and crispy.  Sprinkle each hand pie with kosher salt.  Cut a small slit or two into the top of each pie to allow steam to escape.

Bake your pies according to the directions for whatever pie dough you’ve used.  I baked mine at 400 for 20ish minutes to get them to be golden-brown.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Feta Hand Pies | A Nerd CooksThey are delicious right out of the oven and piping hot, as well as at room temperature.

Turkey Taco Wonton Cups

Hello everyone!  Before getting to the recipe, I wanted to share some photos with you from my recent trip to Seattle, WA.  I was out there for a conference, but still made lots of time for some shenanigans.  I had the opportunity to spend time with old friends, eat lots of good food, enjoy lots of good beer, and see some pretty cool stuff.  Just a few of the highlights are as follows:

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I even made it back to the East coast without incident, narrowly missing out on some nasty winter weather.  All in all, a pretty fantastic trip.  Now, I know you’re really here for the food, so here we go…

Wonton cup-related treats (check out these shrimp and these cannoli wonton cups) have been pretty popular on this blog.  I’m pleased to show you another!  We had these while watching the Super Bowl and they were great.Turkey Taco Wonton Cups | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe came from the blog Buttercream Blondie.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (or whatever meat you’d like to use)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs chili power
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar, plus more for topping
  • 2 tbs plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • green onions, sliced thinly for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once it’s hot, add the ground turkey, and cook until brown, crumbling while doing so.  Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Season the mixture with salt, pepper, and other spices.  Stir in the salsa and turn down the heat.  Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or so.  After simmering, add the 2 tbs of yogurt/sour cream and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.

While the taco filling simmers, press the wonton wrappers into a mini muffin tin.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bake for 6-7 minutes, or until they start to get slightly brown.  Remove from the oven.

Spoon a bit of the taco mixture into each of the cups and top with a bit of cheese.  Put them back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with a dollop of sour cream and some green onions.

Homemade Buffalo Cheese Ball

Our friends, Matt and Adrienne, recently bought a beautiful house in the suburbs of Cleveland.  So, this past weekend, Sean and I drove to Ohio to attend their housewarming party.  It was so good to see them and spend time with them and other friends that we don’t get to see nearly enough.  There was so much food, beer, and laughter.  I woke up Sunday morning, and my stomach muscles actually hurt from all of the laughing that I did.  It was a wonderful weekend.

Homemade Buffalo Cheese Ball | A Nerd Cooks

To help out, I made some cookies (recipes to come!) and this cheese ball.  I found this recipe on Little Leopard Book.  It’s downright addictive.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbs ranch dressing
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbs Frank’s red hot
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the pecans.  Mix well.

On a length of plastic wrap, spread the chopped pecans.  Shape the cream cheese mixture into a ball and roll it around on the chopped pecans until the entire ball is covered.

Wrap the cheese ball in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Serve with crackers or vegetables (I used Wheat Thins).

Caprese Salad Skewers

I made these cute little skewers for my cousin’s bridal shower this past weekend.  They’re very easy to make, and are quite tasty.  I’ve seen these all over Pinterest, so I can’t attribute this to any one site/blog in particular.

Caprese Salad Skewers | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • grape tomatoes
  • fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks approximately the same size as the tomatoes
  • basil leaves
  • toothpicks/skewers/etc.
  • optional: pesto, balsamic vinegar, balsamic vinaigrette (for drizzling or dipping)

All you need to do is skewer the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil onto your toothpicks/whatever you’re using in any order and quantity that you’d like.

You can drizzle them with some pesto or balsamic vinaigrette if you’d like, or just provide some for dipping.  Or let the little skewers go naked!  Whatever you feel like.

Shrimp Wonton Cups

Here’s another wonton wrapper-related creation that I made for NYE.  I had actually made these same wonton cups for last new year’s eve, but forgot to take a picture before we scarfed them all down.

The recipe comes from The Pampered Chef.

You’ll need:

  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • Cooking spray
  • 10 oz. shrimp, shelled, deveined, and cooked
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Press the wonton wrappers into a mini muffin/cupcake pan.  Lightly spray the wrappers with cooking spray.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove pan from oven.

Chop the shrimp.  Combine the shrimp, cream cheese, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, green onions, carrot, and mozzarella in a bowl.  Mix well.

Fill each wonton cup with about 1 tbs of the filling.  Return to the oven for 5 more minutes, or until the filing is bubbly.

Dig in!

And remember, guys, that I’ll host my first giveaway once the blog’s Facebook page (facebook.com/anerdcooks) hits 100 likes!  So if you like what you see here, please like the page =)

Ree’s Olive Cheese Bread

The blog’s Facebook page has been picking up a few more followers lately.  In fact, we’re approaching 100 “likes”!  This got me thinking…  Maybe I should think about a giveaway.  Sooo… I’m planning to host my first giveaway as soon as the page hits 100 “likes”!  So, if you’re a reader of this blog, and you like what you see, please either head on over to the Facebook page or see the little box on the right hand side of this page and “like” it.

So now let’s get to the cheesy goodness.

This is not health food.  It’s anything but.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

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This recipe comes from the cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, by Ree Drummond.

You’ll need:

  • 1 6 oz. can black olives, drained
  • 1 6 oz. jar pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (no substitutions, please)
  • 1 lb. Monterray Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 loaf crusty French bread

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the black olives on the cutting board, chop roughly.  Do the same with the green olives.

Slice the green onions, then mill through them and chop them roughly.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, mayo, cheese, chopped olives, and green onions.  Stir it up until everything is thoroughly combined.

Slice the loaf of bread lengthwise.  Spread the olive-cheese mixture in an even layer on each half.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese mixture is thoroughly melted and beginning to turn brown and bubbly.  Cut into slices and serve immediately.

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