Tag Archives: friends

Spicy Asian Chex Mix (No-bake!)

Spicy Asian Chex mix from Dinners for Winners

Some years ago when I was a kid and my grandma started baking (microwaving?) the original Chex Mix during the holidays, I fell in love. I’ve always been big on snacks, salty especially, and as a Grown Up I’m quite sure I’ve never sipped a strong drink that wasn’t improved with a savory, crunchy nosh alongside, amiright? Chex Mix is synonymous with parties, with gatherings; reaching into the dish while clustered around it in lively conversation and not realizing how much I’ve eaten. A friend for bourbon in my tummy. A pal for my taste buds.

Delightedly, there are endless flavors of snack mixes featuring Chex cereal. I browse the recipes on their site. I make them. They’re always good! I mean how about Indian-spiced with coriander, cumin and mint? A sweet Chai style with cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel and vanilla? Buffalo mix with celery seed and hot sauce? One of my faves had pistachios, coconut flakes and a honey-ginger glaze, that one disappeared in a flash. This chile-lime version started out in the biggest bowl I own and was nearly gone after one of our game-night parties. I’m dying to try this cornbread mix version — um, awesome!

Recently I started recipe-testing my own Chex Mix, a Thai version. There was coconut oil in place of the butter, fish sauce for the Worcestershire, lime zest, green curry paste and palm sugar. Turmeric. It smelled just funky enough and had a good zip from the lime. There were sesame seeds, peanuts and crisp chow mein noodles.

But it just didn’t strike a chord with my taste buds. It sat around in the kitchen, uneaten.

And it was too complicated.

Last weekend Nathan and I were drinking beer and watching Drinking Buddies (good movie!) and letting the dog snuggle between us – the only thing missing was a crunchy snack! I hopped into the kitchen and pulled the ingredients that had been waiting for another test version of my Thai Chex mix. I tossed them together in a bowl with a little toasted sesame oil and sprinkled some togarashi seasoning, and we ate it.

And it was the best thing ever.

Spicy Asian Chex mix from Dinners for Winners

The sesame oil is the star flavor, its heady toastiness heightening each crunchy handful. Wasabi peas tingle lips just enough and since everything (except the cereal) is already salted, nothing needed a lot of dressing. Shichimi Togarashi is a mix of toasted seaweed, sesame seeds, ginger, prickly ash, roasted orange peel and ground chiles. It’s not super spicy but has an umami, robust flavor, with a hint of the sea, a noseful of ginger.

I’m glad I decided to simplify. This is the Chex mix I wanted to bring you all along, but I just got caught up in all the possibilities.

So skip the nuking/baking step all together and eat this snack mix! You’ll need good beer, though. I wish you cold have a bottle of what we were drinking, a home brew from our friend Jay that was hoppy and bright — he brewed it with ginger — really wonderful. So you’ll need an IPA.

You’ll need beer and this snack mix. And a party.

Enjoy!

Spicy Asian Chex Mix

serves a party

  • 4 cups Rice Chex
  • 2 cups sesame snack sticks
  • 2 cups wasabi peas
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi

Toss first four ingredients together in a large bowl. Drizzle lightly with sesame oil, sprinkle with togarashi and toss well to combine. Enjoy!

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Kabocha ravioli with hazelnut cream sauce

Kabocha squash ravioli with hazlenut cream sauce | Dinners for Winners

So you guys, it turns out that making new friends is not unlike dating. Which is something I never thought I would again endure after I married such a wonderful man 5+ years ago. Similarities: am I calling too often? Am I hoping to make plans too often, or not often enough? Is she really having fun when we hang out, or just tolerating me? Does she have a friend(s) she likes better that I might get passed by for? And could I handle that rejection? Does she think I drink too much?

Self-consciousness, uncertainty, more bourbon.

Last summer, I was just getting to know my BFF Brianna. I showed up at a local bar one evening to see her husband’s band play and grabbed a chair near where she sat with other band wives. I felt very new to a group of people who’d all known each other for some time. “Hi, y’all, how are you! Is anyone sitting here?” putting my most confident face forward.

Brianna looked at me with a strange expression, reserved, maybe even a bit distant. My confidence faded. She wasn’t happy to see me? Suddenly I wanted to leave, like RUN and leave. What was I doing here, alone with this group?

Another band wife invited me to take the seat and I tried to put my self-conscious thoughts out of my head. But it wasn’t long before our conversation revealed that my friend, drinking a vodka sour, had been attempting to tie the cherry stem with her tongue.

Nothing more to explain her reserved expression than just extreme concentration.

Kabocha squash ravioli with hazlenut cream sauce | Dinners for Winners

What a gal! We had a good laugh about that later.

Ravioli has had a good laugh at me once or twice. Somehow it manages to break during cooking, no matter how gently I stir; the carefully filled-and-sealed contents spilling into the pasta water and making me wonder why I went to all the trouble (“Next time I am just making fresh pasta and dressing it with the filling!” I stomp my feet). I’ve learned some things with practice: thicker pasta sheets, less filling. This makes for a sturdier bite, which I rather enjoy, but also keeps the filling from straining at the pasta and pushing it to weakness and breaking. It sounds like a no-brainer, yes, but it took a lot of practice before I really scaled back on the filling. I tend to over-do things. (Thankfully, Brianna likes hanging out with me. Often! And she doesn’t think I drink too much. Bless her.)

Kabocha squash ravioli with hazlenut cream sauce | Dinners for Winners

This is one of my top favorite ravioli fillings/sauce combinations I’ve made ever, and I’m in love with it. Kabocha is a beautiful, silky squash that has rich color and flavor (no room for bland, anemic pumpkin here). Combined with garlic and sage, it makes a brilliant filling for homemade pasta and is just substantial enough to stay put when it comes up to temperature in boiling water. These ravioli were my masterpiece — not a single breakage! The sweet kabocha squash is kicked up with garlic and Parmesan and dressed with a creamy, nutty sauce. This is a rich dish…. four or five ravioli make up a serving. I recommend enjoying them alongside cocktails — with stemmed cherries in them, if you really want to keep things interesting. Cheers!

Kabocha ravioli with hazelnut cream sauce

Look for kabocha pumpkins at Asian markets or specialty supermarkets. You can substitute another type of squash, such as acorn or butternut, if needed.
 
recipe adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
makes 50 – 60 ravioli
yields sauce for serving 4 – 6
  • 1 kabocha pumpkin (roughly 2 pounds — if you can’t find one that small, enjoy the leftovers in another way!)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (or another pungent, hard-style cheese for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried sage)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 batch pasta dough (I really like this one, it just uses all-purpose flour)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 2 fresh sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup dry white wine (or substitute chicken/vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Filling:
Preheat oven to 400F. Halve the pumpkin, scoop out and discard seeds and pulp and place cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, 25 – 30 minutes (check by poking the blade of a knife though the skin – it should give way easily into soft flesh).

When cool enough to handle, scoop pumpkin into a mixing bowl with Parmesan, garlic and sage. Combine well, using a potato masher to break up any stubborn pumpkin chunks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Make ahead: filling can be made ahead in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer until needed.

Ravioli:
Roll pasta out to flat sheets. If you’re using a mechanical roller such as a KitchenAid attachment, go no thinner than level 4.

If using a ravioli press: I used less than a tablespoon of filling for each — very minimal. Don’t push it to overflowing, the filling should lie below the top of the pasta sheet. Brush edges with beaten egg and top with another pasta sheet, pressing out as much air as possible while doing so. Run a rolling pin over the top to separate each square and turn ravioli out onto a lightly-floured baking sheet (single-layer, please, so they don’t stick). Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cook immediately or make ahead: freeze in single layers to enjoy later.

Without a press: lay pasta sheet on a flat surface and spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling every two inches. Brush around filling mounds with beaten egg and place another sheet of pasta over the first, being careful to press out as much air as you can. Press firmly between mounds to seal, then cut into squares or rounds, your choice. Set aside on a lightly-floured baking sheet (single-layer, please, so they don’t stick). Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cook immediately or make ahead: freeze in single layers to enjoy later.

To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently add ravioli. The boil may subside, but stir only very gently to keep from sticking. Cooking time depends on your pasta, my advice is to let them cook for 6 or 7 minutes and then start taste-testing. If cooking from frozen, they made need a bit more time. Drain and divide among serving dishes.

Sauce:
While ravioli are cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add shallots and thyme sprigs, stirring until shallots are softened, five minutes. Add wine or broth and allow to reduce for a few minutes. Add cream and cook until slightly thickened, 5 – 7 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs, top ravioli with sauce and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Enjoy!

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