Caramel Cashew Chex

Caramel Cashew Chex Mix

Make a lot! Assuming 1 ounce by weight, this will make about 50 portions
12-14 ounce box of Chex, Crispix or similar breakfast cereal
12 ounces cashews
2 sticks butter (unsalted is best)
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
½ teaspoon baking soda
Large paper grocery bag
1.    Pour cereal into grocery bag. Add cashews.
2.    In a saucepan, melt the butter.
3.    Add brown sugar and corn syrup.
4.    Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
5.    Add baking soda, stir to mix. This will make the syrup foamy.
6.    Pour over nuts and cereal.
7.    Scrunch the bag down so it will fit into your microwave, and microwave on high for 2 minutes.
8.    Carefully stir everything, and scrunch the bag down, microwaving on high for 2 more minutes.
9.    Carefully pour mix onto buttered cookie sheets. (Wax paper does NOT work, even if buttered. Peeling shreds of paper off the candy is less fun than it sounds.) Spread into an even layer, let cool and harden.
10.  Break into small pieces and store in an airtight container, preferably not where I can get at it.
Nutritional data:
Calories:        151
Fat:                7.8g
Sat fat:           3.2g
Chol:           9.8mg
Sodium:     52.6mg
Carbs:          19.3g
Fiber:             0.5g
Protein:          2.6g

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar
Serves 1

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup whipped cream (or whipped topping, which is what I used. I was out of whipping cream)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  1. Layer half of the strawberries and whipped cream.
  2. Repeat with the remaining berries and cream.
  3. Drizzle vinegar over the top.
  4. Serve immediately.
Nutritional data:
Calories:      71
Fat:            2.2g
Sat fat:          2g
Chol:          0mg
Sodium:   2.1mg
Carbs:      13.3g
Fiber:         1.7g
Protein:      0.6g
I used a special balsamic vinegar, from Olivada Oils, in Sheboyan,Wisconsin which is about an hour from my home. 
This is their dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar. It added a complex flavor of cocoa with some oak, and vanilla, and what tasted like a very dark beer in the background. It was WONDERFUL in this dessert (although I will admit not everyone will like it.)
If you are unfamiliar with balsamic vinegars, the aging process doesn’t make them less sour than traditional vinegar, but adds flavors that bring a new balance, which makes the sourness seem appropriate and even, and more like tartness rather than truly sour.
Note to any beer geeks out there: if you really enjoy the sour beers of Belgium, you need to get a bottle of this. I think–but haven’t tried it, yet–that drizzling this over a bowl of Bing cherries will end up tasting like a kriek, and over raspberries it will taste like a framboise. If anyone tries those ideas, please let me know, okay?
Go to Olivada’s website and take a look at the olive oils and balsamic vinegars they offer. If you are near Sheboygan, go to the shop and taste. I spent about an hour (yes, I logged the oils that I tastes) tasting different oils and vinegars, and mixing them together for combined flavors. 
Here are the treasures I bought that day:
They will be featured in recipes to come.  Keep watching, and I hope you try today’s recipe. When you do, let me know what you think, even if you don’t like it. (But I am confident that you will.)

Old Fashioned Popcorn

Old Fashioned, Made-on-the-Stove Popcorn
Serves 2 (approximately 3 cup portions)

6 tablespoons popcorn (yellow, white, black or blue, it doesn’t matter)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Seasoning of your choice

You will need a large sauce pan/ stock pot, at least 4 quarts, with a lid. (Don’t try this without a lid. Seriously.)

I use a 4 quart non-stick sauce pan.
You can use any oil you want. Coconut oil is more expensive than canola or even olive oil, but the flavor it gives to popcorn is incomparable.

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Place two kernels of corn in the oil. When they pop, you know that the oil is at popping temperature. (Is this really necessary? I don’t know. But that’s how my Mom made popcorn, and how I’ve always done it.)

Ah, the beauty of melting fat.
Doing what my Mom taught me.

The oil is ready!

2.  Add popcorn to oil. The corn should be an even single layer across the bottom.

A relatively even layer.

3.  Return lid to pan.
4.  When the popping starts, pay close attention and shake frequently. Once popping begins, it will be finished in about 1 minute.

It starting!

5.  Shake frequently while actively popping. Shaking helps the unpopped kernels drop to the bottom and pop, while moving the popped corn to the top to avoid burning.

It’s done!

6.  Pour into a large bowl and season as desired. My wife prefers a combination of popcorn salt and “Nu-Salt”, a sodium-free salt.

Delicious popcorn, fresh and hot.
 I prefer to use more savory flavors. This time I used Penzey’s Sunny Spain,
which is a salt-free blend of black Telicherry pepper, onion, garlic and lemon peel powders, and citric acid.

Nutritional data (1 portion, about 3 cups)
Calories:        279
Fat:              18.9g
Sat fat:         14.2g
Chol:           10.2mg
Sodium:        0.5mg
Carbs:         24.8g
Fiber:            5.2g
Protein:         3.8g

Peanut Butter Cup “Sundae”

Peanut Butter Cup “Sundae”
Serves 1

8 ounces (by weight) Fage 0% plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, divided
1 packet Splenda (or other non-calorie sweetener. Use 2 teaspoon table sugar instead of one packet sweetener if you prefer.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 scoop whey powder (2 tablespoons)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (plus a bit more for garnish)

1/2 cup whipped topping (or more)

Place yogurt into a medium bowl.
Place 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm for 10-15 seconds, or until liquid and pourable. Set aside.
Add vanilla, Splenda, instant coffee and cocoa to yogurt. Stir well to mix completely.
Add protein powder. Stir well to mix completely.
Taste. If not sweet enough, add another packet of sweetener.
Add remaining peanut butter. Stir into the yogurt, but you do not want it to be smooth. (Little pockets of peanut butter is the goal.)

Spoon into a serving bowl. Drizzle the melted peanut butter over the yogurt. Top with whipped topping, sprinkle coffee powder.


Nutritional data (including the whipped topping):
Calories:        450
Fat:                19.4g
Sat fat:             5.9g
Chol:                20mg
Sodium:         266mg
Carbs:           28.8g
Fiber:              5.4g
Protein:        44.5g

I realize that most people will not be able to fit this into their budget. It is a large snack/dessert. But I created this because I needed to find soft foods to eat after having oral surgery. And since the surgery involved drilling into my jaw bone, grafting new bone material, and hoping that my bone integrates with the graft bone, I need a high protein, high fat diet.

And it still needed to be soft. It is two days since the surgery, and my jaw is still very tender. (I accidentally chewed a cherry tomato on the spot–a simple cherry tomato!–and it really hurt and started it bleeding again.)

So, if you are in a position where you need the calories and you need protein and fat, give this a try. It was really good!