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Staples turned Snacks

Photography By Donovan Roberts Witmer

When the late morning or mid-afternoon hunger hits, your cupboard is an overlooked treasure chest of delights. Often relegated to spicing up traditional meals, condiments and novelty items are the secret to making quick bites that are beyond ordinary, delicious (and even nutritious) to tide you over until the next of the three squares.

The following pantry staples—granola, seasoned salt and hazelnut spread—are my family’s favorites because they taste great. I like them for their versatility, budget friendliness and short amount of hands-on time. All of these foods are also found in your conventional grocery store and can be used in the same applications. Whether you choose hand made or store bought, you’ll never look in your cabinets the same way again.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

This party in a jar is best known by its brand name, Nutella. My family just calls it happiness. I dump a hunk into breakfast muffin batter, throw a little into smoothies, or roll it into truffles. That said, there’s no better way to enjoy chocolate hazelnut spread than schmeared on a slice of toast. Anytime. And if you’ve never tried the homemade version, you’ll be surprised at how little time it takes and how much better it tastes.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (aka homemade Nutella)

Makes just under 2 cups

Ingredients:
2 cups shelled and skinned raw hazelnuts
1 – 2 tablespoons honey
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil

Equipment:
baking sheet
food processor
spatula
measuring spoons
measuring cups

1. Get ready. Heat oven to 400F.
2. Roast the nuts. Place nuts on baking sheet and roast until they darken, 7 – 10 minutes.
3. Liquefy. Transfer to work bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts have liquefied, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides as needed.
4. Add the remaining ingredients. Add honey and combine. Add cocoa powder, sugar, salt and 2 tablespoons of oil to work bowl and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. Season with salt, as needed. Add remaining tablespoon oil if mixture is too thick.

Cook’s notes: Mixture will thicken as it chills. Store in a covered container in refrigerator for up to 1 week. (Beyond that we don’t know because we’ve never had any left to check.)

 

Seasoned Salt

One of the biggest food trends of the past few years, seasoned salts are a great way to add flavor to…everything. Often reserved for your main dish, a sprinkle of these powerhouses in a jar will add even more zing to your roasted potatoes, popcorn or veggie platter than to your best steak. Smoked paprika salt will bring a depth of flavor to your food and warm your soul in the culinary dead zone we call March. If you are already buying these condiments, try making them yourself to customize your flavors and save money. The basic formula is one-quarter cup grey sea salt to a couple tablespoons of herbs, spices, dried produce and/or nuts. Warm the spices to bring out their flavors, grind it all up in a spice mill and you’re ready to enjoy.

Smoked Paprika Salt

Makes ¼ cup

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons hot smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground ginger
¼ cup grey sea salt

Equipment:
small skillet
spice mill
measuring spoons


1. Toast the seeds. Put the seeds in a small skillet over medium heat and cook until dry and fragrant. Turn off heat and stir in paprika and ginger. Set aside to cool.
2. Grind it all together. Place the spice mixture into a spice mill. Add salt and grind to a fine texture.
3. Store, but not for long. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

 

Granola

Great on its own anytime of the day, this oat-based cereal goes to the next level when layered in a parfait.  Parfaits have many faces; I think of them as multi-layered confections of something creamy, something sweet and something crunchy.  Most often, my creamy layer is a low-fat dairy item, usually yogurt because that’s always in the fridge. This is also a great way to use the remainder of the ricotta cheese left over from the weekend lasagna. I’ll amp up the flavor with maple syrup or honey and a sprinkle of citrus zest—whatever’s at arms’ length. My sweet layer of choice is seasonal fruit, and the crunchy is the granola. I’ll make a few parfaits in clear to-go containers to show off the contrasting colors and textures while cleaning up from dinner or preparing breakfast, so they’re ready to grab and go when hunger strikes.

Mango Ricotta Granola Parfait

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon orange juice (+ 1 teaspoon orange zest)
1/3 cup milk
1 large mango, diced (about 2 cups)
¾ cup granola (click here to get Betsey’s homemade nutty granola recipe)

Equipment:
rimmed baking sheet
measure cups
measure spoons
cutting board
chef’s knife
medium mixing bowls
small saucepan
6 clear drinking glasses
rubber spatula

1. Prepare the ricotta. Place ricotta, syrup, orange juice and zest in medium bowl and beat to combine. Add milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
2. Assemble the parfaits. Divide the mango among each of six clear glasses. Top with the ricotta mixture. (Make ahead note: Parfaits can be prepared to this point up to 4 hours ahead. Chill until 10 minutes before serving.)
3. Serve. Top each glass with a couple tablespoons of granola. Dig in.

“Double Decker” option: Divide mango and ricotta into twelfths. Place one portion into each of six clear glasses. Top with one portion ricotta mixture and a couple tablespoons granola. Repeat, ending with granola. Dig in.

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