December 2017 - Page 2 of 2 - Birdseed Kitchen

Bengal Spice Chai Muddy Buddies

Bengal Spice Muddy Buddies - chai spice flavor muddy buddies

Bengal Spice Chai Muddy Buddies: a chai-flavored snack made from a sweet herbal tea with the flavors of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg.

I am a life-long fan of Chex Mix. Mom made some every year along with the Christmas cookies and candies, and it was a welcome break from all the sweetness. She used the original recipe, made with melted margarine, garlic powder, onion powder, and more than a little worcestershire sauce. Sometimes we made a hot-and-spicy version.

I’m not sure who came up with the idea for muddy buddies, the sweet version of Chex mix (a.k.a. “puppy chow”) but I want to knight that person with a wooden spoon. (“I dub thee… Sir Sweetus of Chexington!”) The first time I had muddy buddies, they were the (original, I assume?) chocolate and peanut butter version – Chex cereal, coated with a mix of melted chocolate chips and peanut butter, then enrobed in velvety powdered sugar. They are the original, and probably the best, version of muddy buddies.

The first new flavor of muddy buddies I encountered was snickerdoodle. Besides being a great insult and/or substitute swear word when you’re around the kids, the snickerdoodle is one of my favorite cookies. It’s chewy and soft, like all cookies should be, and it’s my dad’s favorite cookie. So the snickerdoodle muddy buddies were very addictive, and the bag didn’t last long. Soon I was roaming around Pinterest, looking for a recipe.

Find one I did – and now I have the power to create a portable snickerdoodle snack in less than 15 minutes, using only one bowl and no oven. Whelp. Pinterest, you are my weakness.

As it turns out, there are many creative versions of muddy buddies out there as well: mint chocolate, s’mores, chocolate churro, cookie butter (speculoos! – I never miss a chance to say that), Nutella, butterbeer, samoaunicorn poop… and the list goes on. I started thinking about how I could infuse different flavors into my own muddy buddy versions, and I thought the chai-like flavors of Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice Tea would make a delicious sweet snack.

The flavors in this herbal tea infuse readily into melted butter. I melt the butter together with the tea in a small saucepan, simmer on low (barely bubbling) for about 10 minutes, then strain the solids out and press them to extract all the butter. Then, because I like a strong, spicy flavor, I add a teaspoon of the grounds back into butter while it’s being mixed with melted white chocolate. If this is too strong for you, add less than a teaspoon.

Bengal Spice Muddy Buddies

I’m already thinking about the next flavor-infused muddy buddies I’ll make. Green tea? Earl grey? Or… what about coffee?

Bengal Spice Muddy Buddies
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Bengal Spice Chai Muddy Buddies

Course Snack
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 16 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 bags Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice Tea
  • 2 cups Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips (1 11-oz bag)
  • 8 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Add powdered sugar to a gallon-sized zipper bag and set aside.

  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Open teabags and tea to the butter. Stir to combine.

  3. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Mixture should be barely bubbling. Make sure the butter does not burn.

  4. Remove from heat. Pour through a fine strainer and press on the grounds to remove all of the butter.

  5. Add 1 tsp of grounds to the butter mixture and set aside.

  6. In a large bowl, microwave white chocolate chips on 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. When chips are completely melted, add butter and stir well.

  7. Pour melted chocolate over cereal, and gently fold to combine.

  8. Pour immediately into zipper bag. Seal bag and shake to coat cereal.

  9. Spread on cookie sheet. Cool for at least one hour. Store in a tightly-sealed container.

 

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Peppadew Chorizo Stuffed Tomatoes

Peppadew Chorizo Stuffed Tomatoes

Sweet, spicy, and smoky, the filling in these Peppadew Chorizo Stuffed Tomatoes also makes a great spread for crackers, or a dip for your crudité platter. With some of our Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish on hand, it’s ready in less than 10 minutes.

This post contains some affiliate links for products that I like and use in my own kitchen. If you click a link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I make a small commission from each sale.

It’s a real challenge to find a great fresh tomato in December. I’ve stopped trying. I just stocked up on our favorite canned tomatoes and we’re digging in for winter.

For most of the year, canned tomatoes are actually superior to fresh. It’s a controlled product; they are picked at the peak of ripeness and immediately canned, and that peak flavor is what you get when you open them in your kitchen.

I feel like I’ve tried so many varieties, cuts, and brands of canned tomatoes over the years, and I’ve finally settled on the brand I like. I’ve seen them stocked more widely in local stores lately, and about a month ago they were on sale at nearly half price – so we bought a case.

Occasionally, I’ll also pick up some grape tomatoes. The meaty little yellow pear-shaped tomatoes are among my favorites. I’m also a sucker for any tiny tomato variety box with a lot of different shapes and colors. That’s what I picked up last week, and I used some of the larger red and dark-red varieties to make these Peppadew Chorizo Stuffed Tomatoes.

The spicy stuffing for these tomatoes uses the Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish recipe that was posted earlier this week. Combined with cream cheese and finely-chopped spicy dry chorizo, the relish makes a tangy-sweet and creamy spread. It’s great with raw vegetables – or, stuffed into them.

Ingredient Notes

  • Dry spicy chorizo isn’t like the loose chorizo sausage you find in the fresh meat case. It’s dried and cured, and looks a lot like a salami.
Peppadew Chorizo Stuffed Tomatoes
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Peppadew Chorizo Stuffed Tomatoes

Course Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish
  • 8 oz soft spreadable cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp dry spicy chorizo finely minced
  • salt to taste
  • 12-14 large cherry tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Combine pepper relish, cream cheese, and dry chorizo. Mix well, and season with salt to taste. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

  2. Slice cherry tomatoes in half from stem end to bottom, and remove seeds and pulp.

  3. Fill a pastry bag with cream cheese filling, and fit it with a large, round tip. The tip should be large enough to accommodate the chunks of pepper and chorizo in the spread. You don't want it to get clogged. (But if it does, you can usually clear the tip with a toothpick of skewer.)

  4. Pipe the cream cheese mixture into the tomatoes, swirling once or twice.

  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 24-28 appetizers.

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Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish

Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish

The crisp, firm texture, bright sweetness and subtle heat of Peppadew Peppers makes them ideal for a spicy Peppadew relish. This Peppadew Relish is a condiment you’ll want to keep on hand for topping burgers, mixing with cream cheese to serve with fresh vegetables, or stuffing inside small tomatoes for an easy appetizer.

What’s a Peppadew?

If you haven’t encountered Peppadew peppers yet, it’s because they are a relatively new product. Discovered in 1993 in the Limpopo province of South Africa, Peppadews are now exclusively cultivated there, pickled in a sweet vinegar brine, and sold as a trademarked product of Peppadew International. The company describes them on the label as “piquanté peppers.” It’s not clear which cultivar of pepper plant they come from, but they seem to be closely-related to a hot cherry pepper, or at least their taste and texture is similar.

What sets Peppadew peppers apart is their refreshing (thus the “dew” part of the name) crisp texture, relatively mild heat, and sweet picking treatment that perfectly balances their spiciness. They are best eaten only briefly cooked (such as on a pizza), or eaten raw as part of an appetizer (stuffed with cheddar cheese), a salad, or made into this zingy Peppadew Relish.

Being the DIYer and occasional gardener, while I was researching the Peppadew for this post, I though, “can I grow Peppadew plants and pickle these little peppers myself?” As it turns out, the answer is noooooo! – unless you are willing to engage in international plant piracy and the illegal importation of an agricultural product. (I am not.)

As I discovered, the Peppadew variety is actually rights-protected by The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). As such, the plants or seeds are not sold by Peppadew International, although some people do acquire them through nefarious means. I’ve heard that birds carry the peppers away from the fenced and guarded fields where they grow these peppers in South Africa, and people collect the seeds. It’s still probably illegal if someone plants those seeds, but I’m sure the birds who drop the peppers a few miles away aren’t lawyering up anytime soon. Life… finds a way! That said, besides being illegal, it is a bad idea to sneak non-native species, animals or plants, into places they do not belong!

Where can I find Peppadews?

So, how do you legally acquire some Peppadew peppers? They’re often sold in bulk near the olives and other bulk relishes. You might also find them in jars (mild or hot – go for mild), or you can buy them online. They are most often red, but I’ve started seeing a bright yellow-orange variety show up called Goldew. What’s lovely about both varieties are their texture and flavor. Choose firm, non-mushy peppers to ensure that they are as crisp and juicy as possible.

I originally developed this recipe to top some lamb burgers, along with a parmesan crisp. While the burgers were tasty, as it turned out, this relish really needs to sit after it’s prepared so the flavors have a chance to meld together. So make it a day ahead if you can, and stash it in the fridge. Then use it to top sandwiches, deviled eggs, cheese and crackers, or blend into cream cheese for an excellent veggie dip. (I’m excited to post the specific recipe for this dip soon! You might want to follow me on Facebook or subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss it.)

Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish
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Peppadew Sweet Pepper Relish

The crisp, firm texture, bright sweetness and subtle heat of Peppadew Peppers makes them ideal for a spicy Peppadew relish. This Peppadew Relish is a condiment you'll want to keep on hand for topping burgers, mixing with cream cheese to serve with fresh vegetables, or stuffing inside small tomatoes for an easy appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot halved
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp parsley leaves packed
  • 8 oz red Peppadew peppers drained
  • 8 oz golden Peppadew peppers drained
  • 2 tsp capers drained
  • 1/2 tsp agave nectar
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, add shallot, garlic, and parsley. Pulse until finely minced, occasionally scraping large unchopped bits from the sides.

  2. Add remaining ingredients. Pulse until chopped evenly, scraping sides a needed. You're looking for a consistency similar to sweet pickle relish. Adjust seasoning as needed.

  3. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight before serving.

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Vegan Mushroom and Black Walnut Tartlets

Mushroom and Black Walnut Tartlets (Vegan)

A hearty vegan paté of earthy mushrooms, black walnuts, and velvety cashew cream is nestled into flaky puff pastry squares to create this crowd-pleasing vegan appetizer: Mushroom and Black Walnut Tartlets.

I’m the kind of person who wanders around a grocery store like it’s my second home. I usually have a list, but it’s just wishful thinking, because I’m never just shopping – I’m also designing. It seems like there is always a new ingredient to try, or something that’s ready to be rediscovered.

This time, I rediscovered black walnuts, an ingredient I grew up with. My grandpa’s large black walnut tree yielded literal buckets of black walnuts every year. He kept them in a shed behind the house, ready to be dried, husked, and cracked on the back porch. Grandma always had bags of black walnuts in her freezer, often using them in banana bread or oatmeal cookies. Black walnuts are the walnuts of my childhood.

Banana bread seemed like a good place to start. I pulled a card from Grandma’s recipe box, which I recently acquired after she passed away this September. I made a loaf with black walnuts, and another loaf with milder english walnuts, per the request of my son Lance who – as it turns out – does not like black walnuts. It was Lance who pointed out why: black walnuts have a funky, earthy, blue-cheesy taste. And Lance does not like blue cheese.

“Hmm,” I thought. “What if I used black walnuts as a stand-in for the flavor of blue cheese?” That would be perfect for something VEGAN!

I was vegan for a short time, and although I am no longer, I have a lasting appreciation and respect for vegan cooking. Nowhere have I found more creative and resourceful chefs and home cooks than in this community. I mean, someone took an ingredient like the leftover water from a can of chickpeas, whipped it into a foam, and now we have aquafaba, a vegan ingredient that’s remarkably like whipped egg whites. (Disclaimer, I have yet to try this, but the preceding link has some amazing-looking ideas. VEGAN MERINGUE, right?)

With the holidays coming up, I wanted to create a savory vegan appetizer. This began with a riff on Todd English’s mushroom puree from The Figs Table, which you should also definitely try. I wanted to create a sort of vegan paté consistency, and I knew I would need an ingredient to stand in for cream. Blending raw cashews in a high-speed blender creates a quick cashew cream. (You could skip this step entirely if you want to use a non-sweetened nut milk creamer that’s ready-made. Go for it.)

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you should probably soak the cashews overnight in enough water to cover them, then drain the water and add fresh water before blending. Soaking softens them up quite a bit, and will help you achieve a smoother, less grainy puree.

You don’t have to toast the walnuts, and I’ve certainly skipped toasting nuts before – but the extra step is worth it. Toasting brings out the flavor of the black walnuts, and you want as much of that funky cheesiness as you can get.

Lastly, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is quickly becoming one of my must-have-on-hand pantry items. It keeps for a long time in the freezer, thaws quickly on the countertop, and is a fun base to use for a quick appetizer or to top a homemade pot pie. When I thought of how easily it bakes up into crisp, flaky layers, I knew it would be the perfect pairing for this paté. And, it’s accidentally vegan!

I hope you enjoy these tasty little bites. Their earthy flavors would be perfect for a winter holiday party. If you make these, show me on Instagram: @birdseedkitchen.

Mushroom and Black Walnut Tartlets (Vegan)
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Vegan Mushroom and Black Walnut Tartlets

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Vegan
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 32 puffs

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped black walnuts
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium white onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 tbsp dry red wine
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 3 oz oyster mushrooms chopped
  • 10 oz baby portobello mushrooms chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped for garnishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Unfold two sheets of puff pastry. Cut each into 16 equal-sized squares. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside.

  3. Place dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to soften.

  4. In a blender, combine cashews and 3/4 cup water. Blend at high speed until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the blender as needed to ensure an even consistency. Remove cashew cream from blender, add to an airtight container, and set aside. (You will have cashew cream left over. It's necessary to make a larger quantity than you need because the blender can process this quantity more easily.)

    There's no need to wash the blender container at this point - you will be using it to process the mushroom mixture near the end of the recipe.

  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Toss the chopped black walnuts into the heated dry skillet. Toast until lightly brown and fragrant, tossing or stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove nuts from pan and set aside.

  6. Return the skillet to the burner, and raise the heat to medium. Add olive oil and onion. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

  7. Add garlic and sauté two minutes longer, or until garlic is fragrant. Add red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits.

  8. Add the porcini mushrooms along with their soaking liquid, chopped mushrooms, herbs, pepper, and salt to the skillet. Sauté over medium-low heat until most of the water is absorbed and the mushrooms are soft. 

  9. Remove from heat. Stir in toasted walnuts and 1/2 cup of the cashew cream.

  10. Add mushroom mixture to blender. Pulse a few times to create a coarse puree. You don't want it to be completely smooth; just a few seconds of blending should do it.

To assemble the tartlets:

  1. Arrange puff pastry squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with cashew cream.

  2. Place a tablespoon-sized mound of the mushroom mixture in the center of each puff pastry square. 

  3. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until light golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

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