toffee, nuts, and swapping

brittleNow that I look at this photo, that toffee looks pretty yummy. Good thing I have a tin of it at the office with me for snacking (not so good for my waistline). My story starts with this toffee. On short notice I decided to stop by the Brooklyn Swappers 2nd Anniversary Event at 3rd Ward over the weekend. I started making this just the night before, a recipe I'd never tried from a brand-new book. It turned out to be tricky because my candy thermometer broke. It looks solid, and it broke into pieces just fine, but I could barely transfer it into bags for the swap without making a mess. I needed a plan B.Gluten-Free Girl spiced nutsGluten-Free Girl came to my rescue (again). I whipped up a batch of the spiced nuts from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.Gluten-Free Girl spiced nutsThis is how it comes out of the oven. I probably should have drained off some of the extra coating mixture before roasting the nuts, but I like those chewy, sugary bits in the middle. Clearly, my waistline hates me right now.Gluten-Free Girl spiced nutsOnce cooled, you break it into pieces, and there you have them, spiced up with cinnamon, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Highly recommended.Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan spiced nutsBut wait, there's more (spiced nuts, spiced nuts that is). As I was making Shauna's recipe, I decided I needed a Plan C, just to be really safe. (Umm, why am I such a control freak?) I turned to my friend Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan's Good Food to Share. Maple-Bacon Spiced Nuts? Yes, definitely, but I'm going to say something that will get me booted from the "Cool Foodies Club" forever. These spiced nuts are so good, you don't even need the bacon! But I was determined to follow the recipe...maple-glazed baconThere's the bacon, in all it's glory. You brush it with maple syrup and cook it in the oven. Then you try to resist eating the bacon straight from the pan.Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan spiced nutsFinally you toss the bacon with the spiced nuts and you're set.Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversarySince both of the nuts turned out so great, I wrapped them up in little baggies and headed off to Brooklyn Swappers. If you've never been to one of these events before, here's how it works -- if people want to trade, they write their names on a card like this, with the item they have to offer. Fun, right?Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryI showed up early while it was still quiet and there was space on the table. By 4pm that changed, a lot. The tables were overflowing with goodies.Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryThis event was special because there were speakers on a variety of topics. This is a photo of the amazingly talented Liza de Guia (far left) of Food Curated for a panel she led with some of the great people she's featured on her site. Shown are Keavy (middle) from Kumquat Cupcakery and Liz (far right) of Raganella's Botanical Solutions. Other speakers included Debbie Koenig, Jackie Gordon, and Emily Hanhan.Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryAs the tables filled up, I snapped a few photos of the treats -- really great stuff. There was so much I would have enjoyed trying, like these turbinado caramels.Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryWhoa, Jane Lerner (who co-runs Brooklyn Swappers) made this sambal oelek? How did I not get to swap with her?Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryVicky of Arirang Kimchi (who was also on that panel with Liza) was kind enough to give me a jar to try. I've tried a lot of so-so kimchi in my life, but this is the good stuff.Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryOoh, more kimchi? I missed out on this one.Brooklyn Swappers 2nd AnniversaryBrooklyn Swappers 2nd Anniversary

first-time canning

various jarsAs my Twitter friends know, I tried my hand at canning for the first time recently. Fortunately Jen is canning all the time, so she already had all the tools I'd need. Then I stocked up on jars. We'd signed up for a Brooklyn Swappers event, which was also new to me. So of course I went totally overboard because I wasn't sure if anything would turn out right.hot spiced pickled okraI made two kinds of okra, both from Canning for a New Generation, which I can strongly recommend. This is the hot pepper okra. I tried these the day before the event and wow, they're amazing. Looking at this photo, I guess I could have packed a few more into each jar, but they didn't float up until later on, after the okra had softened a bit.Creole-spiced pickled okraThis is the Creole-spiced okra, which was also fantastic. It's a tough call which recipe I liked best. I'd urge you to try both.pickled figsThese are pickled figs, a recipe from A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson. This recipe called for letting the figs sit in the jar for about a month before tasting them, so I honestly can't vouch for them yet. Needless to say I'm curious because I'd never heard of pickling figs before. Well, they look pretty, right? I sure hope they taste good because I swapped someone for a jar of them at the event.Vermouth-rosemary olivesI tried a couple of recipes which weren't really "canned," meaning that they're meant to be refrigerated, with a shorter lifespan, and I didn't go through the whole jar-sealing process. Both recipes came from a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living -- this one was for vermouth-rosemary olives. I'm not a martini guy, but I have to imagine these are a treat if you are a fan of the classic cocktail. From the same issue of the magazine, I also made a batch of the bourbon-soaked cherries, which are perfect for serving in Manhattans. They pack a lot of punch if you eat them just for snacking. The jars "sealed" themselves because the liquid was so hot when I poured it in, but they didn't have the acidity needed to make them safe at room temperature for a long period of time.spiced pecansAs if those 5 different jars weren't enough, I made some spiced nuts too -- the chipotle pecans from Lisa Fain's The Homesick Texan Cookbook. These were great too.spiced pecansI packed them in little 3-ounce baggies. Cute, right? Of course I saved myself half the batch to eat at home because these were so tasty.