Today I was planning on making mille feuilles, and organizing my closet, and cleaning out the bins under my bed. Then I got home from my store meeting and decided to be... lazy, for the rest of the day. However, everyone else in my house had other plans, and my sister conniving-ly convinced me to make cookies that she snuck into a tub to bring to her boyfriend. Sneaky girl.
So today instead was the 'wrapping-up' of the last of the Christmas decorations and dishes, assisting my father in his poor use of the blender (he thought he could just blend cooked butternut squash without the liquid he boiled it in...), and drinking of an entire pot of tea. I also made elephant-shaped sugar cookies and opened a flickr account.
Before I share a few recipes, a few notes about the pictures: The first two are my parents, my mama packing up her Christmas dishes into bins and my dad enjoying the soup that he snuck some heavy cream into (I say snuck because my sister is extremely 'fat' conscious, so we lie to her and tell her that everything that has say, one stick of butter has actually half a stick of butter. Bad, I know, but you do what you have to to stay a sane cook in this house!) The tea cup is one out of my mama's collection which she keeps in a curio cabinet my uncle Michael made for her. She has so many beautiful cups and I try to use a different one every time- this one caught my eye today. The last one is me, a picture my sister took of me because, she said, "You just looked so cute." Well, cuteness aside, it shows the weight I've gained from the baby!
Anyway, yesterday I was extremely cold and decided that the only way to warm up would be with some cider and toasted nuts. Just a note about the cider, I would boil the apple juice before adding it to the sugar. I made the mistake of pouring cold apple juice into the 'carmelized' sugar, and it sputtered and splashed and looked generally scary and dangerous. So just be careful with it!
Caramel Apple Cider
2 tbsp white sugar
3 c 100% apple juice
1 cinnamon stick, broken twice
1" vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 whole cloves
-in a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan, spread the sugar around the bottom and heat over medium heat (without stirring!) until melted and a dark brown, it only takes about 3-4 minutes at most. pour in apple juice (if the apple juice is cold, the sugar will form a hard 'web'-looking structure, don't worry, it will melt again) and add spices, including vanilla bean. bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
-strain spices out of cider and pour into mugs. serve them with a cinnamon stick and dollop of vanilla whipped cream if desired!
Toasted Honey Nuts
1/2 c raw unsalted walnut halves and pieces
1/2 c whole raw unsalted almonds
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp cinnamon, separated, + 1tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c white sugar, separated into 3/4 c and 1/4 c
-pre-heat oven to 300*.
-in a small bowl, coat walnuts and almonds with honey and 1tbsp cinnamon. spread onto a broiling pan covered with aluminum foil (or a small cookie sheet with parchment, but I would use aluminum foil... :) )
-toast nuts in oven for 10 minutes, they will turn just slightly brown. remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes on pan. replace in the bowl and toss with 3/4 c sugar, 1tbsp cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. toast again in the oven for 20 minutes until brown.
-remove from oven and replace in the bowl, sprinkle the rest of the sugar and cinnamon over nuts and toss to mix.
This morning, I chopped the nuts and put them over my oats with some fresh raspberries and heavy cream. It was SO good!