No. 278 & 279: Spicy, Sweet and Salty Almonds & Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

There is nothing more fun that a weekend full of plans. Baby class, baking, birthdays, beverages and box removal (we have a garage that is begging to be emptied) were all on our list.

(Sorry, I started with the b's and couldn't stop the aliteration train:)

Baby class

Friday night was baby class. Boy how things have changed.

A highlight of our classes is the 15 minute ice cream break. Our location is right next to the best ice cream in Asheville and oh my goodness, it is so creamy and good. I'm sure the staff have a giggle a couple nights a week when the bevy of pregnant women waddle in at 8pm.

In addition to eating ice cream, we learned a lot in our second session. The biggest ah-ha was what best distracts me from 60 seconds of discomfort (typical length of a peak labor pain). We had to hold ice packs in our hands for 60 seconds and focus on only that sensation. Torture!

Then we did the same thing while our partners massaged our backs and we listened to music. It was a breeze! "Bring on the ice!" I thought.

We tried a variety of techniques to figure out what was working best. At one point we were told to visualize waves crashing and riding the ebbs/flows of the waves.

Um, no. Not effective. It actually made me focus again on the ice pain.

So interesting how our minds work. I wonder if some of these techniques will help when I train for my next half marathon?

Birthday fun

Saturday we celebrated a good friend's birthday. Like the smart 30-something she is, she planned a party around wine and food pairings. We each had to bring a specific type of wine and introduce it to the room with a description and some fun facts. Very entertaining, and a great format for any friends gathering or dinner party.

Since I can't drink the great wine in our cellar these days, we decided to share one of our recent favorites from Reynolds Family Winery in Napa: the Estate Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Our fun facts about the wine:

  • Each reserve bottle (aka: expensive, top of the line bottle) at Reynolds is stamped with its own unique mustard flower pressed on the label. They handpick real mustard flowers from their vineyard and glue them on every single label.
  • Chelsea Clinton served their wine at her wedding.

The babies and I enjoyed the few sips were were allowed oh so much.

Spicy, Sweet and Salty Almonds

The birthday gal asked me to bring some desserts to the party, so I whipped up these fantastic cookies and some classic cheesecake-marbled brownies.

But why stop there? She loves cinnamon, so I made her these almonds as part of her gift.

Ingredients

1 egg white
1 pound flaked or slivered almonds
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon chunky kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground coriander

To make

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large, shallow baking sheet with foil, and butter thoroughly.

Beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Pour the nuts into the bowl and stir to coat well. Combine the sugar, kosher salt and spices, and stir into the almond mixture. Taste test, if you don't mind the raw egg whites. Adjust salt, spices, and sugar to taste if necessary.

Spread the nuts out evenly in the pan and until golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes. Stir several times after the first 15 minutes to make sure they toast evenly.

Almonds

Serve on ice cream or baked fruit, or eat straight from a bowl.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch each of cayenne pepper and ground cloves

To make

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain garbanzo beans into a colander and rinse well with cold water until no more foam appears. Let beans drain for about 30 minutes, shaking now and then. Pat dry with a cloth of paper towel if they still look wet.

When beans are well drained and dried, toss with olive oil, and salt/spice mix. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet.

Ready to bake

Roast 40-50 minutes, or until they are slightly browned and make a rattling sound when you shake the baking sheet. Serve warm or let cool.

The results

First, the almonds. This was the perfect amount store in two tall mason jars: one for the birthday girl and one for the McC's.

While these would be a terrific party snack, I have plans to jazz up my morning fruit, Greek yogurt combo with them.

As for the chickpeas, they are just ok. I like the baking method a lot and agree that plenty of drying time is crucial to get a nice crisp on roasted beans. However, the spice mix wasn't amazing. Fine for a snack, but I wouldn't write home about it.

Check out a full index of recipes here
Send me your thoughts, comments and ideas at theresolvedcook@gmail.com