Candied Spiced Nuts #improvcooking

Even though it’s October (and the weather is still feeling like August…), I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving. I know, I know, but I get to host this year and I’m pumped! We’re not sure if we’ll have a big crowd or just the four of us, so I’ve got several menus floating around in my head.

I knew this month’s Improv Challenge theme, Sugar and Spice,  was perfect for trying out some of the recipes I’m considering. Sugar and spice is SO fall – apple spice, pumpkin spice – but I couldn’t get these nuts off my mind, so they won out.

This is such an easy recipe – the slow cooker makes it totally hands off. Just mix, let the slow cooker do it’s thing, then spread them out to cool. They were so good – and a perfect pre-Thanksgiving dinner snack!

CandiedSpicedNuts

Candied Spiced Nuts
(adapted from Crunchy, Creamy, Sweet)
Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups almonds
2 cups pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves

Grease the crock of a slow cooker and add the nuts. Add the sugars and cinnamon and stir. Add the water and stir until everything is evenly combined and wet.

Cook on high for 3 hours.

Remove nuts to a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool. Sprinkle with remaining  seasonings. Once fully cooled, store in an airtight container.

You can check out the other Sugar and Spice themed recipes that bloggers made here:

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What’s Baking: Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Bars

whatsbaking

I’m officially less than 2 months from my due and I’m starting to feel the crunch. I’m pretty sure by this point with Jake everything was mostly set up, the freezer was filling up with meals and I was (not so) patiently waiting for his arrival. This go, all the baby stuff is still in the basement, there’s list of stuff we still need to buy and any meals that make it to the freezer are retrieved within the week for nights I can’t keep up. I’m pretty much just praying I make it to my due date again because those last two weeks I may finally have some time to get things done.

ChocolateChipPecanCookieBars

One of the things that has been hitting me hard is that my days of me-and-Jake time are coming to an end. He’s at such a fun age right now and I really love spending the day with my little buddy. He’s been super into helping me in the kitchen lately so I’ve been trying to pick recipes that he can be really hands-on with.

The latest theme for What’s Baking was “bars” – and these are perfect for a toddler assistant because there’s no risk of over-mixing and if the quantities aren’t measured out perfectly, that’s just fine. And they only take about five minutes to throw together, which is pretty much how long his attention lasts these days.

TasteTesterJake

Besides being easy, they’re delicious. My little taste tester couldn’t wait to get his hands on one and then all I heard was, “Yum! YUM!” as I packaged them up. I’m sure they’ll be making repeat appearances at our summer barbecues.

TasteTestJake

Want more bar ideas for your summer baking? Check out our host for the month, Cookaholic Wife, for a roundup of all of the goodies the other bloggers made!

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Bars
(adapted from South Your Mouth)
Makes 1 8×8″ pan

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick spray and line with baking parchment. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except powdered sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined and transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, until set. Let cool completely, then cut into squares. Roll each square in powdered sugar.

Sweet Potato Muffins

Every time I make a batch of muffins, I wonder why I don’t make them more often. And then we inhale them in about two days and I remember why they’re a “sometimes food.” Jake and I both loved these. I think he ate three the day I made them.

The recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes but next time I’d go for just mashed sweet potatoes. Also, the sugar can be reduced and the dates omitted if you like a less-sweet muffin.

SweetPotatoMuffins

Sweet Potato Muffins
(from The Homesick Texan Cookbook)
Makes 12

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 15 oz. can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and prepare a muffin pan with liners or by greasing and flouring.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, vanilla and vegetable oil until well combined. Whisk in the sweet potatoes until evenly combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until everything is moistened. Fold in dates and pecans.

Divide between muffin wells and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Remove from pan and serve.