Monday, August 29, 2011

Fancy Salted Nut Roll

I managed to live in Minnesota for around 5 years before I was finally talked into attending the Minnesota State Fair. I had always just assumed it was ridiculous and I was somehow 'too cool' for the fair but a few years ago I ended up going  because a friend had given me their sweet tickets to Jackson Browne, who just happened to be playing at the fair grandstand one night.  I went with my pal, Donnie. Now, Donnie is a state fair genius, if there ever was such a thing. If you were to go with anyone for your first trip to the fair I would recommend her. She used to show her animals and stay with them there for like 10 days while she was in high school! How awesome is that?! Anyway, Donnie and I peddled our bikes down to the bike coral for my first trip to the fair. We parked the bikes and walked into something I wasn't expecting. Awesomeness. 

The Minnesota fair isn't just lousy carnival rides and cheap games like I had experienced at the Fargo fair, it has art exhibits, horticulture exhibits, animal barns with birthing centers. Yuuup, I accidentally watched a sheep give birth last year. Gross. They also have tons of live music, FOOD, state senators, and ancient Twins players that toss the ball around. The list just goes on! Needless to say, I honest to goodness love the Minnesota Sate Fair. In one small 4 hour dose a year. 

My first 'food-on-a-stick' experience was a little too over the top. We found a key-lime pie on a stick and  it was just a tad too sweet, but we couldn't throw it away because the little old lady from Florida claimed she made them herself.  Several years later, becoming a fair regular, I have finally figured out a few fair favorites regarding delicious food. My 'savory favorite' is deep-fried pickles, and my 'sweet favorite' is the salted nut roll with cashews. I realize that the Pearson's Salted Nut Roll is available all year round, but this one is different. First off, it has cashews.  That's fancy folks, straight up class. Second, it's hand-made right there at the fair, it's amazingly fresh. I decided to re-create my favorite sweet treat, the nut roll. I actually decided to use cashews on some and peanuts on others, I'm not rich you know.
Fancy Salted Nut Roll

1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 (17 ounce) bag caramels (60)
16 ounces salted nuts, peanuts and cashews


Knead together the marshmallow creme and powdered sugar. Shape into small fingers or bite size balls. Place on waxed paper lined cookie sheets and freeze. Melt caramels with water over a double boiler (or microwave). Dip creme fingers into caramel mixture,then roll in chopped nuts. 
 Freeze until set. Store in refrigerator.
 Serving sizes are just a guess depending on how big or small you decide to make them.
Also, I am not really sure on how much time these take because of the freezing and it just depends on how fast you work. They are a little time consuming, but not hard.

*Warning: I had a panic attack when I first started kneading this 'dough'. It sticks to your fingers for a long time but just continually keep working in the powdered sugar and it was start sticking together and soon form together. 

These nut rolls taste almost exactly the same, in my opinion, as the fair nut roll. They may put a little more caramel on their nut roll, but the nougat center is pretty darn close to the same. I want to say that they might put a hint of vanilla extract in their nougat. I'll have to test that theory out next time. Hope you get to try these at home or the fair! Happy baking.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dry Before You Fry

There are certain movies that I love and usually don't feel the need to share with people, mostly out of embarrassment.  For some reason I get a little ashamed when I tell people that I love movies like Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes.  These movies are 80's chick flicks that I watched when I was a kid and at the time never really understood, yet I still loved them.  After watching them again and again as I got older, I truly believe I was meant to be an old, cranky southern woman.  I enjoy eating/cooking bad-for-you food, cooking for the people I love, making up words, being bossy and loud. The list goes on. Those examples are how I see some southern women, you know, the Paula Dean type. I'm not trying to be offensive towards them either, after all, I want to be one of them.

I'm not totally sure why I had a sudden urge to make fried green tomatoes and until a few years ago I thought it was just a movie title. I know, I'm shaking my head at me too. The best part is, I'm hardly the only person to think that.  A few other people I know thought the same as me, it's just an old movie title.  Can you blame us? If you are from Minnesota or North Dakota and you were to tell me that your mother made you fried green tomatoes regularly, I'd be shocked. I have no idea why mid-westerner's don't fry green tomatoes more often, but I'm hooked. They are the tastiest fried food item I've eaten since fried pickles, and I love fried pickles. I'm a big tomato fan but these are a whole different story. The unripe tomatoes are sweet and firm after fried and there is just a touch of spice in the cornmeal/flour coating. I think at one point I moaned while eating one. I'm sort of ashamed, but not really.They turned out perfect but I was afraid they were going to get mushy because of the tomato juices, but that is why you dry before you fry. I have left instructions for that below the recipe. I took this recipe from Cook's Country magazine and their recipes have always worked for me. So, here is that recipe and I really hope you get a chance to try these before tomato season is over.

Fried Green Tomatoes

1 1/2 pounds green tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
(about 4-5 green tomatoes)
2/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 cups peanut or vegetable oil

1. Place tomatoes on paper towel lined rimmed baking sheet.  Cover with more paper towels, let sit for 20 minutes, and pat dry.  Meanwhile, process 1/3 cup cornmeal in blender until very firmly ground, about 1 minute. Combine processed cornmeal, remaining 1/3 cup cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in shallow dish.  Whisk buttermilk and egg together in second shallow dish.

2. Working one at a time, dip tomato slices in buttermilk mixture, then dredge in cornmeal mixture, pressing firmly to adhere; transfer to clean baking sheet.

3. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until 350 degrees.  Fry 4 tomato slices until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Drain on wire rack set in baking sheet.  Bring oil back to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining tomato slices. Serve.

*KEY STEP: Dry Before You Fry
To keep the tomatoes from weeping as they fry (which will loosen the coating), let them sit between paper towels for 20 minutes and then press dry.

Monday, August 8, 2011


There is something simple and classic about canning that I really love, maybe it's because I grew up watching both my grandmothers do it. I'm not really sure. Before last year, I never really had a chance to can for myself until a few of my brave friends and I tried canning and we ended up making our very own jam. I was so excited, it was something I had always wanted to try and then things took a turn for the worse. Something bad happened.  Shockingly, but maybe not so shockingly to some, I went completely insane.  I switched into "getting shit done" mode. No time for jokes, no talking, and don't even think about having fun, this is canning time. The saddest part is that I didn't even realize I was being crazy kitchen lady.  I'm honestly not normally like that and I have no idea what came over me, but those ladies will never let me forget it. 

Well, I must not have been THAT bad last year because those suckers signed up for year two of canning jam.  I couldn't have been happier about it either. The four of us worked like an assembly line, everybody had a job. It was pretty amazing actually, in just half a day we made seven batches of jam with five different recipes.  My pal, Sarah, has the most amazing kitchen to work in and that is probably why this jammin' was so successful. Also the fact that Tina and Steph have magic chopping and peeling fingers.  Oh, and I just want to let you know that I wasn't psycho canning woman this year. Smiling was permitted.

I took a ton of canning pictures, which probably makes you wonder if I was actually doing any work. I promise I was. I had so much fun doing this and I am so thankful I have friends who think this is fun and put up with me in the kitchen.  I can't wait to eat and bake with these jams.  Here they are:


Mixed Berry


Tina and Steph are some serious blanchers. I think they should open a business.

A perfect peel! Amazing.

Sarah finishes it off with a perfect pour. Teamwork, man.

Blueberry Peach

The blueberry peach jam started like this:

and ended like this. This was the most beautiful color of jam I've ever been apart of making. It was amazing.

Raspberry Peach

All finished

My Jammin' Tips

1. Read the instructions before you start. Like five times.

2. Buy three times more sugar than you would ever imagine using.

3. Do this activity with people who have a sense of humor. Seriously.

4. Don't panic over nothing. Yeah, this is where I went wrong.

5. Buy canning gear. They sell funnels, jar grabbers and much more. It honestly makes a huge difference. Those grabbers saved us from burns!

6. Have fun.

*If you plan on doing any canning this summer I wish you the best of luck. If it's your first time, you'll need it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

peach fuzz

One of my favorite summer smells is a ripe, juicy peach. Seriously, I can sniff a peach for entirely too long and most people would probably consider it an uncomfortable amount of time. Peaches remind  me  of my grandma's kitchen on the farm with her stacks of boxes filled with peaches in the entryway on top of the washing machine.  Every summer she would can them and they were completely amazing. I would even go as far as to say maybe the best ever. Yup. I remember eating  bowls full of them and then proceeding to drink, rather slurp, the sugary juice. I wish I could get my hands on one of those jars of peaches...

Buuuuuuuut I won't get my hands on a jar anytime soon. Granny stopped canning them and there is no way I am ever going to do it myself. Seriously, I don't think there is anyone on the planet that could talk me into peeling that many peaches. I just peeled and chopped two peaches and I was already feeling crazed. They are a slippery, sticky mess and I want nothing to do with canning them. I have decided to bake with them instead and I found the perfect cookie. I'm almost positive I've never eaten a cookie with fresh peaches in it before and if I have and forgotten about it, my apologies to the baker for not appreciating your cookie enough to remember it. In my mind this is the first fresh peach cookie I've ever seen with my own two eyes.

This recipe needs you to peel a couple peaches and I've always heard the best way to peel them is to blanch them. I had never personally blanched a peach but I was very prepared. I made my X on the bottom side of the peach, I had my water boiling and I also had a giant bowl filled with ice water. To begin, boil the peach for 40-60 seconds:

Take the peaches out of the boiling water and put straight into the ice water and let them sit  for about 1 minute:

Take them out of the water and peel back the skin starting with your X spot and that's it! You have a peeled peach.  This process was easy enough, but it just seemed ridiculous.  Now your peaches are peeled and you are ready to go. Below is the recipe for the cookie and I hope you get a chance to bake 'em!


2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/3 cup peach jam or preserves
2 tablespoons fine sanding sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.

Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Add peaches and jam, and beat until just combined.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing about 2 inches apart. (If not baking all of the cookies at once, refrigerate dough between batches; dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Combine sanding sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle each cookie with 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 11 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

These cookies smell fantastic. Uff. They are soft and the texture is almost cake like. I will be making these again. Happy Baking. Oh, and if your grandma cans peaches please hook me up. Thanks!