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Cocoa Almonds

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Hi.  My name is Veronica and I have a kitchen addiction.  It started as a baking addiction and then that spread to all sweets and eventually that led to a love for cooking.  My addiction is so fierce that I’ve had to go looking for excuses to spend more time in the kitchen, such as baking cookies every Monday and gifting the members of our Church with sweets on their birthdays.  No one seems to mind my little problem, though sometimes I feel like a pusher. 

I made these almonds for one of my favorite people on the planet.  Pamela is ridiculously kind, generous, and considerate and has the most amazing hand-writing imaginable, which she puts to good use with a constant stream of cards for birthdays, sympathy, encouragement, and thanks to her brothers and sisters in Christ.  She also loves chocolate, which makes me love her even more because I like people who like food, especially sweets.  They are the most appreciative of the treats I push off on them! 

I was quite apprehensive when I gave these to her because they aren’t the typical sweet treat that I make.  They are smoky, salty, chocolatey, and bittersweet.  I found the combination appealing because I like a little salty along with my sweet and enjoy dark chocolate, which has more bitterness than typical chocolate, and didn’t know how well it would be received.  Well, I’m happy to report that not only did Pamela love them, but she’s having to fend off her three daughters and husband to keep a few for herself!  If teenage girls, who probably are more used to milk chocolate than bittersweet, can enjoy these,  I think they would pretty much be a hit with any one. 


Cocoa Almonds
Recipe adapted from Blue Ridge Baker 

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chips are fine)
2 cups almonds (I used roasted & salted)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar 

Place chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for one minute. Stir, nuke again for 30 seconds, stir and nuke for another 30 seconds. You should be able to stir it smooth at this point but do another 30 seconds if necessary. Stir in the almonds until fully covered. Pour the cocoa powder and sugar into a gallon-size Ziploc bag and shake up to combine. Scrape the nuts into the bag, seal, and shake the bag to cover the almonds. Use your fingers to break up any pieces that stick together and shake again. Repeat until all almonds are separated and covered with cocoa. Spread onto a sheet of wax paper and allow the chocolate to set before scooping up with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess powder, and storing in an airtight container. 

*Veronica’s note: you can use more powdered sugar or less, depending on how bitter you want the outer coating to be. 

I don't have a picture with Pamela, but here I am with her three girls--who are also some of my favorite people on the planet!

Sesame-Maple Roasted Tofu

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My friend, Jaci, clipped this recipe and mailed it to me a few years ago because she knew of my preference for vegetarian fare. I’m not a huge fan of tofu, which is one reason it took me over three years to try it. (The second being that I have about 36,000 recipes saved and this one kind of got lost in the pile.)

This is one of the most enjoyable tofu dishes I’ve ever eaten! The caramelized onion, sweet snap peas (OMgosh, I’ve found a new best veggie friend–these are so sweet & crisp!), flavorful sauce, and the way roasting made the outside of the tofu firm really made this enjoyable. My husband couldn’t eat the tofu but loved the rest of it so if you’re a person that really doesn’t like tofu, don’t expect this recipe to change that. If you’re looking for a tofu miracle, this one and this one worked for me.

Sesame-Maple Roasted Tofu
Recipe from EatingWell magazine, September/October 2007 issue
Active time: 20 minutes Total: 45 minutes

1 14-ounce block extra-firm water-packed tofu, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tahini, (see Tip)
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
3 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Toss tofu, onion, canola oil, sesame oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast until the tofu is lightly golden on top and the onions are browning in spots, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Whisk tahini, soy sauce, maple syrup and vinegar in a small dish until combined. Remove the tofu from the oven, add snap peas and drizzle with the maple sauce; stir to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Return to the oven and continue roasting until the peas are crisp-tender, 8 to 12 minutes more.

Makes 4 servings, about 1 1/4 cups each

Tahini is a smooth, thick paste made from ground sesame seeds. Look for it in the Middle Eastern section or near other nut butters in large supermarkets. I used peanut butter in place of the tahini and it still tasted really good, though maybe not as intended. :)  To make it a meal, serve over udon noodles or rice.

Nutrition Per serving: 197 calories; 12 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 11 g protein; 3 g fiber; 305 mg sodium; 219 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (25% daily value), Vitamin C (20% dv), Iron (15% dv).

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