holiday treats

I'm too tired tonight to comment on my review board or final paper other than to write that both went well and I'll share more on board follow-up a bit later. It takes me a few days to decompress...

In the meantime, I've been keeping myself busy with holiday projects, which, this year, included a fair amount of time spent in the kitchen. Usually not such a good idea, but my festive treats turned out pretty well this year, if I do say so myself (Neal valiantly tried to salvage my miserably failed triple-chocolate fudge of last year, which resulted in a heaping pile of never-quite-solidified chocolate that hung out on the bottom shelf of our fridge for months). This year, after spending a whopping $6 and change on the holiday edition of Martha Stewart Living (I blame a long line at the store), I was determined to get my money's worth, selecting four recipes to try and another two or three craft projects.

For the food, I decided on two sweet and savory nut recipes that I made the evening before my board: Sesame Soy Cashews with Wasabi Peas and Nori

and Cinnamon Spice Maple-Sugar Walnuts.

The wasabi peas are pretty spicy and the walnuts are super sweet so I guess they kinda balance each other out.

Both recipes worked pretty well. Magazine recipes are never as thorough as they could be (especially for someone as inexperienced and unnatural in the kitchen as me), so, for example, I wasn't sure exactly what the recipe meant by cutting the sheet of nori (probably about a square foot with strips sort of suggested by what appeared to be perforated lines going across) into 3/4 inch strips. I cut little bit-size squares, but honestly, I didn't care much for the nori anyway. It adds a nice color contrast, though. And the sugar, syrupy liquid that you cook the walnuts in probably needed another couple of minutes to reduce before I added the nuts, but it all worked out in the end.

I didn't have time - before my board - for the third recipe I selected (making a quick loaf of banana bread instead), so I made these last night: classic truffles dipped in cocoa powder, chopped hazelnuts, shredded coconut, and candy cane bits.

I've had such inconsistent luck with fudge over the years (I guess I could break down and buy a candy thermometer...it's just that it worked so well one year without it!) that I thought for sure truffles would be equally tricky. But once you get the hang of it (mostly the scooping of the truffle mixture and then the dipping in melted chocolate and rolling in topping parts), they're actually pretty easy. They're not as perfectly round as Martha's, but they taste pretty good. As the recipe suggests, I attempted to use a cookie dough scoop that I bought at Michael's (where I got the candy boxes)...It worked for about one truffle and then the metal bit popped out. Note to self: Michael's is not a specialty food or kitchenwares store.

And I had little success with the coconut. I'm not sure if there's some special kind of coconut (I used shredded) that would have worked better...Perhaps if I'd pulsed it a few times in the food processor? So Neal and I will have to put them out of their misery along with the other rejects. The hazelnut worked best, followed by the crushed candy cane, and of course, the cocoa powder covered them pretty well.

More sharing to follow...

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