Tag Archives: snacks

Holiday Treats

And here’s a round up of some of my favorite holiday treats. Some are sweet, others savory but all are tasty:







Maple-Bacon Spiced Nuts


I love nuts.  From almonds to pistachios, hazelnuts to walnuts and everything in between they are one of  my favorite go to snacks.  And because they are filled with protein, in small quantities they are healthy.  However, sometimes ordinary nuts won’t do.  When that is the case, all it takes is a few spices and the nuts of your choice and you have a party worthy munchie in no time.

This recipe comes from the always reliable Washington Post food section.  You can use any nut of your choice, either alone or in a combination.  I had a generous stash of whole almonds and walnuts in the pantry so I used those.  Of course you can always omit the bacon but really…..why would you want to do that?


2 cups raw mixed nuts of your choice

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

4 slices uncooked bacon

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place a wire rack over a swath of paper towels.
  • Combine the nuts and egg white in a mixing bowl; toss to coat evenly.
  • Stir together the brown sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger in a small bowl.
  • Add the spice mixture to the nuts and toss again to coat evenly.
  • Scrape the nuts onto the baking sheet, spreading them into a single layer.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to break up any clumps, until the nuts are lightly toasted.
  • Use a spatula to transfer the nuts to a plate and allow to cool.
  • Brush the bacon slices on both sides with the maple syrup and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turning them over once until crisp on both sides.
  • Transfer the bacon to the wire rack to drain and cool then break the strips into small pieces.
  • Place the cooled nuts in a serving dish then add the bacon and toss to incorporate just before serving.

Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate chip cookies are a classic American childhood treat.  Just the smell of a warm, fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie brings me back to my childhood.  This recipe is an adaptation of the classic Nestle Toll House recipe with a few adult twists.  I like to use a combination of butter and Crisco (you can substitute another all vegetable shortening) since it results in cookies that bake up chewy and not too flat.  If you don’t have Crisco you can use all butter but your cookies will spread more in the oven and be crisper.  I don’t like using all Crisco, or even butter flavored Crisco since there isn’t any substitute for real butter taste.  Bake some of these cookies up today and enjoy them warm with a tall glass of milk.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup Crisco

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place the pecans in a dry skillet set over medium-high heat.  Toast until brown and fragrant being careful not to scorch them.  Let cool slightly, chop them, then set them aside.
  • In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg.  Set aside.
  • Place te butter and Crisco in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric beater set on a  medium speed, beat until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
  • Add the sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.  Beat for 1 minute.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture.  Beat until just combined.
  • Add the chocolate chips and nuts to the batter and use a rubber spatula to fold them into the cookie batter.
  • Using a one inch scoop drop the dough one inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 9-11 minutes or until the cookies are puffy and brown.
  • Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow to sit for 3 minutes before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool further.

The cookies can be eaten warm or allowed to cool completely then stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Yields 3 dozen cookies

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels


My recent trips to Germany and Austria have had me craving those hot, soft and chewy pretzels that you can buy from street vendors to sit down restaurants alike.  I’ve lost track of the number of pretzels I’ve actually eaten but I wanted more.  Being back here in Albania, the only real option is making my own so making my own I did.  This recipe from King Arthur Flour is surprisingly easy and the results are pretty close to the the Bavarian styled ones I had been craving.  They tasted much better than they looked and disappeared in a matter of minutes.



2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

7/8 to 1 cup warm water (adjust accordingly to yield a soft dough)


1 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons baking soda

coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • Place the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with a steel blade.  Process for 5 seconds.
  • Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl.  Process for a further 45 seconds.
  • Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour.  Loosely cover the bowl and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, prepare the topping:  Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally dissolved.  Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm or cooler.
  • Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray or lining it with parchment paper.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces.
  • Allow the pieces to rest uncovered for 5 minutes.  Pour the baking soda/water mixture into a 9 inch square pan.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a long, thing rope (about 28 to 30 inches long) and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with four pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops.  Leave for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet.  The baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.
  • Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle them lightly with the salt.  Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
  • Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter.  Eat the pretzels warm or reheat them in the oven or microwave.

Yield:  8 large pretzels

Banana Bread


Who doesn’t love banana bread? From a cook’s perspective it is a quick and easy way to use up all of those too ripe bananas.  From the dining perspective, there is nothing better than a warm slice of banana bread for breakfast or a snack with a cup of tea or coffee.

This recipe from Cambridge, Massachusetts’  Flour Bakery is indeed easy to make and always a crowd-pleaser.  The original recipe calls for the addition of ground cinnamon in the batter.  I also add an equal amount of ground nutmeg and have never heard a complaint. This bread has become my go-to bake sale item and I even get special requests to make extra.  Whenever I have extra bananas that need to be used up I’ll make a batch of bread in mini loaf pans and keep them in the freezer until needed.  They freeze beautifully and will fully defrost when left on the counter overnight.



1 1/2 cups  all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons  sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream

3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (optional)  


1)  Position rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.  Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

2)  In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

3)  Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat sugar and eggs on medium for 5 minutes,   or until light and fluffy.

4)  On low, slowly drizzle in oil.  Don’t pour it all in at once. You want to pour it in over 1 minute, to keep all the air you just beat into the egg-sugar mixture.  Add the mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low just until combined.

5)  Using a spatula, fold in dry ingredients and nuts (if using) just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts evenly distributed.  Pour into the greased loaf pan and smooth top.

 6)  Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden on top and the center springs back when pressed.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then pop out of the pan to finish cooling.

The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temp up to 3 days.  Or, it can be well wrapped and frozen up to 2 weeks.

Yield: one 9 x 5 loaf or 8 mini loaves

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