Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sommer's Candied Walnuts

I'm trying to be healthy, but it is SO hard. The main problem I have is that I have to plan ahead otherwise I end up trying to find something to eat at work. Thankfully I have a stash of homemade oatmeal packets in my drawer at work for a great go-to breakfast. But lunch and snacks are another story..... So this week I decided that I was gonna try and eat salads for lunch, and of course I procrastinated and didn't make a salad for Monday, so I decided to go get one of my favorite salads at this restaurant downtown called Alii Grill. Guess what? They changed ownership! They are now Any Kine Grill.... ugh....after a quick panic attack I realized they still had on the menu my favorite Alii salad (now known as Any Kine Salad). It's greens with grilled chicken, mandarin oranges and my new favorite CANDIED WALNUTS!! I was so relieved. Unfortunately, my relief quickly turned to disdain as I opened up my salad box to reveal that the salad is so NOT the same anymore AND the forgot my walnuts! aaahhhhhh! I guess they really are "any kine" grill since any kine goes!

Anyway, I spent the afternoon (between getting work done of course) browsing some recipes on the internet and planning out my trip to Sam's Club to get some walnuts which resulted in 3 tries in two evenings to get the recipe just right.

Sommer's Candied Walnuts (Recipe #1)
2 cups Walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp butter

1. Begin by melting butter in a sauce pan on medium high heat.


2. Add walnuts and cook until walnuts are golden brown and toasty.


Sommer's Secret: Be sure to rinse the walnuts BEFORE cooking them. I didn't do this the first time and all the little walnut crumbs burnt and the ending result was more bitter but still turned out okay.


3. After walnuts are golden add sugars and cinnamon. Stir constantly until the sugar melts, all nuts are coated and the mixture begins to thicken.

4. Add vanilla.

Sommer's Secret: Remove pan from the stove before adding the vanilla. Be CAREFUL! The vanilla has alcohol in it so it bubbles and sizzles on contact.

5. Pour onto wax paper lined baking sheet.


6. Spread out and allow to cool.


Sommer's note: Recipe #1 ends up more like the candied nuts you buy at the mall kiosks, the theatre or around Christmas Time. (Fun fact: did you know sugar plums are actually candied nuts? )The resulting mixture has little nuggets of sugar clumpy things which are actually pretty good. I wanted more of a glaze on my walnuts so I tried a few variations. If you are looking more for a "glazed" or honey coated nut. Try Recipe #2

Sommer's Candied Walnuts (Recipe #2)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts (rinsed and pre-roasted)
1 cup water
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla

(Sorry- I was so excited to try a different process I forgot to take pictures....)
1. Combine water and sugars in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
2. Boil until mixture becomes thick and golden in color.
3. Add walnuts and cinnamon.

Sommer's Secret: I loved the flavor of the roasted nuts in Recipe #1 so I recommend roasting the walnuts 1st by rinsing, spreading the nuts into a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Stiring once. Be sure to watch them so they don't burn. You can also roast them in a frying pan on the stove top adding a little butter for added richness.

4. Boil syrup mixture, walnuts, and cinnamon for about 2 minutes. Stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.  Mixture will still be consistency of  "watery" syrup.
5. Drain the mixture to allow for excess syrup to drain off.
6. Pour walnuts on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and spread out. Allow the nuts to cool.

I decided that I liked both recipes depending on what you want to use them for. I like the "glazed" ones more for my salads and the "candied" ones for eating. I'm looking forward to trying some other nuts like my all time favorite Almonds and my newer favorite cashews......hmmmm maybe some mixed nuts would be nice!
Sommer's side story: I usually don't like walnuts as they can be slightly bitter and seem to leave a "drying" sensation in my mouth. But I have come to adore them candied in Chinese Honey Walnut GOOD!
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The same night I made my walnuts I put together a "Sommer Salad". I found that I can trick myself into thinking I bought a gourmet lunch if I try and make it look like I bought it. I use a container I saved from when I got a salad at Costco. I was so proud of myself for making it look so pretty.

I used:
Thin sliced Onion (love onions!)
Skinless Chicken pieces (left over from Sam's club rotisserie chicken)
Won ton strips
Drained canned Mandarin Oranges and
HOMEMADE candied Walnuts.

I made 2 and packaged them so they would stay nice and crispy until lunch.


When lunchtime came I had fun assembling my masterpiece. It was so fun when people kept asking me where I bought my lunch!

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In case you're wondering I used store bought salad dressing although I got a good recipe for a homemade oriental salad dressing from the Stake Relief Society that would go great, I just need to remember where I put it!
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I enjoyed watching an episode of "Biggest Looser" at my desk.

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I washed it all down with some water out of my BIG cup.....yeah, I'm getting pretty good at drinking water these days.....looking forward to lunch tomorrow!

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