Posts tagged ‘nutty’

November 14, 2011

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Ok, I waited long enough.  It’s now officially holiday season with Thanksgiving only 10 days away!  I’ll continue to post some healthy alternatives to get you through the cookie season, but this is not one of them.  This is melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, sugary heaven, and a perfect way to begin the festivities.

These quick, easy powdered sugar-covered shortbread cookies are known as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies.  Either way they’re delicious, and dead easy to make.  They’re very similar to a shortbread cookie, but have the added flavor and texture of pecans and the silkiness of powdered sugar.

The secret to great tasting Mexican Wedding cookies is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract.   Yep, it’s that simple.  The distinctive quality of these cookies that make it stand out from others is the smooth, velvety texture, light as air yet buttery flavor, and the surprising hint of crunchy nut which elevates this from simple cookie to a grown-up confection. I remember being horribly disappointed by these cookies as a kid because they aren’t overly sweet.  Now I appreciate that subtle sweetness and complex nutty flavor.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract or fresh vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.*
  • Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.
  • Take one tray and line with chopped pecans.  Toast nuts for about 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant.  Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the batter
  • Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer at low-speed until it’s smooth and light in color.
  • Beat in vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg at low-speed.
  • Keep mixer on low and gradually add the flour.
  • Once you add all the flour, remove mixer from stand and mix in the pecans with a spatula.
  • With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent.
  • Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies.
  • Place crescent shapes prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Before the cookies are ready to come out, prepare a shallow bowl with confectioners sugar
  • Remove cookies from oven and when cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners sugar
  • Cool on wire racks

* QUICK TIP: If you’re short on time, you can raise the oven temperature to 350 and cook for 12-14 minutes per batch.  I prefer the slow cooking method, it keeps them evenly cooked and you have less chance of overcooking them, but the hotter oven also works.

Buying vanilla extract can be a challenge as there are so many choices. The first thing to do is to make sure that it’s labeled “pure” and not “imitation”. The best I have found, although it is quite expensive, is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract that can be found in specialty food stores and online.

 

 

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November 5, 2011

Sautéed Corn and Water Chestnut Salad

Water chestnuts are a texture food, and are prized for their crispness.   They add a great crunch and slight earthiness to any salad, stir fry, or curry, and are a good source of potassium and fiber.  When rummaging through my pantry the other night for something to add to my corn salad, I was excited to come across a can tucked way back in the corner.

Corn brightens any meal and it´s one of the most loved of all vegetables (at least it is for me).  What can I say, I’m a corn addict, I love its naturally sweet taste, crisp bite and flavorful center.  So in my effort to whip up something more interesting than steamed corn, I pulled a few ingredients together, tossed them in a pan, and 10 minutes later I had a gourmet side dish.  I love that sweet corn turns a bit nutty when it’s sautéed, and the sweet flavor and crunchy texture of water chestnuts gives this dish a unique quality.

As the weather gets cooler, I’m always searching for warm side dishes over a summery salad, and this was an unexpected discovery.  It would also make for a great topping for acorn or spaghetti squash, or a side to a juicy steak or meatloaf.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of frozen corn (or 2 cans of corn)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Heat a medium size skillet with oil on medium heat
  2. Add onions and sprinkle with salt, let them cook down for about 5 minutes until they just start to go brown
  3. Add corn and toss with another sprinkle of salt, if you use frozen corn pop it in the microwave for 4 minutes and drain the excess water.  If you use canned corn drain the water before adding in the corn
  4. Cook additional 5 minutes
  5. Add water chestnuts, garlic powder and toss well
  6. Let cook 5 minutes and taste to see if you need to add more salt or pepper.  Toss the cilantro in right before serving

This can be served warm or at room temperature.  It would be a great dish to bring to a BBQ or house party since it doesn’t take long to make and packs a lot of flavor, and it’s healthy so you can feel good about getting a second (or third) helping.

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