appetizers

Dirty Chai Spiced Pecans

Is anyone else borderline-obsessed with the flavors of dirty chai? If you need a simple party snack with minimal ingredients for the holidays, allow me to suggest this dirty chai spiced pecan recipe! You can easily customize the nuts and spices based on what you have on hand but this might be my new favorite combination.

Dirty Chai Spiced Pecans

What’s the Difference Between Chai and Dirty Chai?

Chai is most commonly known to be a blend of warm spices steeped with black tea. The spices that make up a chai blend typically include some or all of the following:

  • Cinnamon

  • Ginger

  • Cardamom

  • Nutmeg

  • Cloves

  • Black pepper

These days, it’s become so popular that you can find a chai tea latte in just about every coffee shop. This refers to a base of steamed milk mixed with simple syrup and spices (not to be confused with chai tea, which is just a tea bag steeped in hot water).

For some reason I got the idea of experimenting with my own homemade chai several weeks back. I researched a bunch of different recipes (like here and here) and came up with my own blend based on personal preference; mainly that it’s heavy on the ginger and low on the sweet.

The word “dirty” in reference to coffee shop drinks simply means adding a shot of espresso. In a previous life (namely, college) I was known to add a shot of espresso to my iced coffee sometimes but gone are the days when I caffeinate to that level. Chai lattes seem to be the most popular drink to “dirty” so often times this flavor combo makes its way into recipes too.

Using Instant Espresso Powder in Baking

In recent months, I’ve seen a few other bloggers post recipes using this Delallo Foods Instant Espresso Powder (affiliate link) and had been wanting to order some for myself because it’s hard to find in stores. From there, my dirty chai spice blend was born.

Delallo Foods Instant Espresso Powder

The cool thing about this powder is that it’s perfect for baking and incorporating into your favorite recipes for a strong, roast-y coffee flavor, no espresso machine required. You don’t even have to add water to it before using. Some of the recipes I saw this used in are totally drool-worthy like these 6 Ingredient Espresso Brownies and this Banana Bread with Espresso Glaze.

I rarely make sweets and with holiday parties on repeat this month, I wanted to think of something interesting to make that doesn’t require a separate grocery stop and a lot of hands-on time. For this reason, spiced nuts came to mind!

How to Make the Perfect Spiced Nuts

After some trial and error I found out that the secret to great spiced nuts is to coat them in egg whites before adding the spices. This helps everything stick together and get nice and crispy on the edges. From there you can add whichever spices and sweetener you want!

In addition to being super tasty, these are also dairy-free for those of you who need to avoid it (it can be hard to come by an appetizer than doesn’t involve cheese this time of year). It’s a nice bonus to get some protein and healthy fat in something a little bit more substantial than cookies or fudge, while still feeling special.

Dirty Chai Spiced Pecans

Put these out to tide your guests over until dinner without spoiling appetites or package them up in a mason jar with a bow and you have an easy homemade gift option! I hope you love them as much as I do. If you make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @LeanneRayRDN!


Dirty Chai Spiced Pecans

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 8 servings | Prep time: 5 minutes | Bake time: 30 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes

ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 egg white

  • 2 cups pecans (halves & pieces)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

  3. Add espresso powder through salt to a small bowl and mix well with a fork (try to get rid of any large chunks)

  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy.

  5. Add the pecans to the egg white and toss to coat evenly; then add vanilla extract and the spice mixture and mix to combine.

  6. Spread in one even layer on the sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes (stirring halfway through) until browned and fragrant. These will crisp up as they cool. Once you can handle them, break apart and store in an airtight container for up to one week.


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Prosciutto Wrapped Peaches with Basil & Bleu Cheese

proscuitto wrapped peaches

I made this fun appetizer for a party last weekend and wanted to share the recipe today! Shocker, it involves peaches. It was kind of a whim of a dish that ended up turning out really great so unfortunately I only have a couple of photos (and none during the assembly process), but I figured you guys wouldn't mind.

The inspiration for these came from The Pretty Dish, one of my current favorite cookbooks (affiliate link - the book is currently on sale!). I was perusing for something that involves fruit and came across a nectarine and prosciutto crostini situation that looked really delicious. Since peaches are fantastic right now, I figured I could use those instead and while I LOVE a good crostini, sometimes the bread can get hard after sitting out a while so it's a more unpredictable appetizer choice. 

I had an insane amount of basil to use up so I knew I wanted to incorporate that, though I would imagine that mint would work really well too if you have that growing in your garden. Bleu cheese and balsamic drizzle seemed like a natural finishing touch (doesn't it always?). 

How beautiful is this presentation though... Theses got great reviews from tasters so I will definitely be making them again! Dare I say these would also make for good football food? Maybe fancy football food. Honestly I might just make them again to keep on hand for snacking throughout the week! Find the full recipe below.

proscuitto wrapped peaches with basil and bleu cheese

Planning to make this recipe? Be sure to let me know by posting a photo on Instagram and tagging me (@LeanneRayRDN) so I can see your creations! I would love to feature you on my feed.


Prosciutto Wrapped Peaches with Basil & Bleu Cheese

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: Serves 15 (2 per person) | Prep time: 35 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-large peaches, halved and pitted

  • 1-2 Tbsp honey

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • One small package fresh basil (you won't need the whole thing!)

  • 4 oz proscuitto

  • 1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles

  • Balsamic glaze (optional)

Instructions

  1. Set your oven broiler on high and line a sheet pan with foil. Spray the pan with oil to prevent sticking.

  2. Slice each peach into 6-8 wedges, then lay them on the pan in a single layer with space in between each. Broil 7-10 minutes watching closely to prevent overcooking (rotate the pan about halfway through). You will know they are done when moisture starts to bubble out.

  3. Take the pan out of the oven, drizzle peaches with the honey and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Let cool slightly (probably about 10 minutes).

  4. Meanwhile, cut your prosciutto into small rectangles - just big enough to wrap all the way around the peach wedges. While you wait for the peaches to cool you can setup an assembly line by laying out the prosciutto pieces and then placing a basil leaf on top each.

  5. Once the peaches are cool enough to handle, lay each one on top of a piece of prosciutto/basil and roll up, securing each with a toothpick or cocktail skewer. Arrange on a large platter.

  6. Sprinkle the bleu cheese crumbles over the top and then finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze plus more basil leaves (I used all of the tiny ones for this!).


Peach, Corn & Hatch Green Chile Salsa

Peach, corn and hatch green chiles all folded into one beautiful bowl of salsa! If there is one recipe you make from my blog this summer, let it be this one. It comes together fast and is incredibly versatile (see below for serving suggestions). The best part is that is so fresh and beautiful, it makes for a great appetizer - a nice change from the more traditional corn/bean/tomato salsas out there.

peach corn and hatch green chile salsa

I alluded to this recipe in my IG story after hitting up the farmer's market last weekend because the three star ingredients are all total Colorado specialities during this time of year. After mixing them all together, the result is sweet and spicy with a little bit of added texture and freshness from the corn. I know you will love it!

ingredients for peach corn and hatch chile salsa
salsa ingredients on a cutting board

First, let's talk about those the PEACHES.

Of course any peaches will suffice here, but I specifically used Palisade Peaches which are grown on the Western Slope (in a town called Palisade) about 15 miles from Grand Junction. These things are EVERYTHING and everyone goes totally bananas for them. 

There is even a Palisade peach festival which takes place in mid-August every year. People buy boxes of these things to take back to preserve, use in baked goods or just eat straight up. Luckily, they are also available at the local grocery stores and they sell like crazy. It's definitely one of the most iconic foods here (in addition to beer and Rocky Mountain Oysters I suppose... we'll save that for another post). 

close up of peaches

Hatch green chiles are actually grown in a place called Hatch.

I actually didn't realize it until I started writing this post, but the true "Hatch" chile name actually refers to the location where it was grown in New Mexico. There are similar varieties grown in Pueblo, Colorado but they are technically just "fire-roasted green chiles". I love the slight amount of heat these add to the salsa to balance out the sweetness from the peach. 

According to this site, Hatch green chiles are a relative of the Anaheim chile. They are traditionally fire-roasted and peeled which produces a wonderful fiery flavor. These give off quite the aroma when roasted. You can always smell them at the local markets and they are hard to pass up. 

Lastly, a total summer favorite no matter where you live - corn, straight from the cob. 

Olathe Corn season is another highly anticipated time in Colorado. It's hard to beat a good cob of corn that's just barely cooked and smeared with butter. In this recipe I decided to keep it raw because it's so darn fresh (and let's be real, so I didn't have to turn on the grill). I'm sure it would be amazing if you gave it a little bit of char first too.

As with most things in my cooking repertoire, my finishing touch was a healthy handful of cilantro and the juice from a lime. This is so incredibly easy - there's literally one step once you have everything out and prepped. Mix it up.

peach corn and hatch green chile salsa with chips

To keep things simple, plate it up with some tortilla chips. For a dinner option, spoon it over a piece of grilled salmon or trout. You could also use it as a burrito bowl topping which I'm hugely in favor of because it adds a fun twist to something really basic (this is pretty much my kitchen mantra in a nutshell). Regardless, give it a whirl before all of this luscious produce is gone for the year!

salsa vertical

Planning to make this recipe? Be sure to let me know by posting a photo on Instagram and tagging me (@LeanneRayRDN) so I can see your creations! I would love to feature you on my feed.


Peach, Corn & Hatch Green Chile Salsa

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: Serves 4-6 | Prep time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of sweet corn, shucked

  • 2 peaches, pitted and small diced

  • 1 fire-roasted hatch green chile, diced (discard the stem, seeds and any stringy insides)

  • Handful of cilantro, rough chopped

  • Juice from one lime

  • salt & pepper

Instructions

1. Cut the corn kernels from the cob (raw) and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl along with the peaches, chopped chile, cilantro and lime juice. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Note:

If you can't find the hatch chiles, feel free to sub a large poblano pepper, just make sure you roast and peel it before chopping. Jalapeños would work too, but would probably add more heat, so be careful.


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