Savory Spiced Nuts

Nuts are a staple snack in our house. In the interest of health, I’ve been avoiding buying the pre-roasted, salted varieties. So, I buy raw nuts and toast and spice them myself. This is our favorite savory spiced nut recipe thus far. It’s also quite easy as it’s all made on the stovetop. Once completely cooled, store the nuts in a glass jar.

Savory Spiced Nuts

SAVORY SPICED NUTS
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1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1 c. raw almonds
1 c. raw walnuts
1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add all the spices and stir to make a paste. Add almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds and stir to coat evenly. Continue stirring the nuts, toasting until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Cool in the pan.

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Weekend Fare: Granola

I’m pretty excited to bring you this post! It isn’t the first time I’ve made granola but it had definitely been a few years since it had made my make-from-scratch list. I combined ideas from a couple of recipes and made a great big batch. Cereal is a staple at our house and we go through it entirely too quickly, so I am looking forward to adding granola to our breakfast menu! This is seriously good and makes a lot (you can halve the recipe). Go and make it!

GRANOLA
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9 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 c. coconut
1 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
3 1/2 c. dried fruit (I used 2 c. cranberries, 1 1/2 c. golden raisins)
1  1/2 c. raw nuts (I used a combo of almonds, pecans, and a few walnuts)
1 Tb. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1 Tb. vanilla extract
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. honey
3/4 c. canola oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and nuts in a big bowl. Add cinnamon and mix. In a measuring cup or another bowl, mix together the salt vanilla, maple syrup, honey, and oil. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients. Thoroughly combine. Divide between two large bake sheets. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Rotate trays about half way through baking.  

Cool completely and store in an air tight container. Enjoy as cereal, as a topping for yogurt or ice cream, with fruit, or as a snack.

Party Snacks

It’s that time of year with parties and gatherings galore!  In honor of New Year’s Eve tomorrow evening, I offer you two simple and delicious snack ideas. Neither of these are super sweet, but both are quite satisfying and a nice addition to a party spread.

I occasionally peruse the blog Nourishing Gourmet, and not too long ago she offered this spiced nut recipe. I love spiced nuts, but was happy to find a recipe not so laden with sugar, so I don’t have to feel guilty while indulging a little bit! These would also make a lovely gift, if you were so inclined.

CINNAMON VANILLA SPICED NUTS
(from The Nourishing Gourmet)
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1 egg white
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar (sucanat, coconut sugar, maple sugar are all alternatives to refined sugar that work just fine here)
2 1/2 c. nuts (I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper.

Lightly beat the egg white with a whisk just until a bit foamy. Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the nuts and stir to coat well.

Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon (allowing extra coating to drip out), and spread out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool for 20 minutes. Can store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe came from the December issue of Cooking Light and was frankly the only recipe I found of any particular interest. I did scale the sweetener back a little bit and thought it perfect, like slightly spicy caramel corn. I also decided we weren’t eating the whole batch the night I made it, so I did pop this in the oven for 10 minutes at 250°F to dry it out just a little bit so I could store it without lots of clumping. We happily consumed the leftovers the next day in our lunches.

SPICY MAPLE-CASHEW POPCORN
(from Cooking Light, December 2010)
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1 Tbsp canola or coconut oil
1/4 c. popcorn kernels (about 6c. popped)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a pan and pop the popcorn. (I use a Whirlypop Pan, but you can use a traditional pan, just make sure you shake often as it’s popping.)

Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Stir the cashews into popped corn.

Combine sugar, maple syrup, butter, salt and cayenne in a small pan; bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture. Toss to coat. Immediately spread onto prepared pan. Cool 3 minutes. Enjoy!

Holiday Treats: Truffles & Sugar Plums

(Alaina) I’ve made these truffles a few times but they seemed extra good this year – I think the original recipe might be from Taste of Home but this is my variation on it. The not-too-sweet Raspberry Cream Truffles are a beautiful addition to any goodie tray and would make perfect gifts! You do need to refrigerate them so keep that in mind.

The truffles were easy to change up – I dipped some in dark chocolate, rolled some in coconut and some in almonds. You could also dip them in white chocolate or milk chocolate or roll them in cocoa powder. For a different flavor, try another kind of preserves – I’m thinking strawberry with melted white chocolate chips instead of the semi-sweet chocolate chips would be delicious! It’s very important to refrigerate them for the specified amount of time before rolling them. I used a holiday mini muffin cup for each chocolate – it made for a pretty presentation.

RASPBERRY CREAM TRUFFLES
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1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips melted
1 c. crushed graham crackers or vanilla wafers
1/2 c. seedless raspberry preserves
finely chopped toasted almonds, coconut, cocoa powder, or melted chocolate (dark, milk, or white)

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the melted chips, wafer crumbs and preserves. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Shape into 1-in. balls; roll in almonds, coconut, and/or cocoa powder or dip in melted chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 3-3-1/2 dozen.

(Stephanie) In the hopes of finding a different and slightly less sweet treat for the holiday season, I set out to find and test a Fruit and Nut Ball recipe. In my researching, I discovered that these tiny sweets are also called Sugar Plums. And to be honest, I quite like that name.

I initially had some trouble with this recipe being too corase to stick together. I added a bit of orange juice and a little extra honey and still had troubles. You know what the secret is? Using a food processor. The recipe didn’t specify this method, but some quick research showed many other recipes do. It’s too difficult to get the fruits and nuts fine enough to become one mixture. Once I dumped it in the food processor, it worked perfectly. So my advice, use a food processor if you don’t want to be frustrated.

As I didn’t have dates, I used a combination of dried cranberries and dried cherries. Any combination of dried fruits should work. I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of flavors and love that these will keep for so long. I hope you enjoy these healthier, sweet treats (bonus, they are naturally gluten free!).

SUGAR PLUMS (or Fruit and Nut Balls)
(from Saveur Magazine online)
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2 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c. chopped dried apricots
1 c. chopped dates
1 c. confectioner’s sugar or toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange almonds on baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool and chop.

Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Add chopped nuts and chopped fruits. Pulse to combine. Mixture should be thick and stick together.

Pinch off rounded teaspoon size and roll into balls (rinse hands often as the mixture is very sticky). Roll balls in powdered sugar, ground toasted coconut, or finely ground nut meal. Makes 60-70 balls.

Store in an airtight container in single layers divided by wax paper in refrigerator for up to a month.

Magazine Review Extra: Southern Living

I’m chiming in a little late this month with my take on the holiday magazines. This year it is Southern Living that has given me the most inspiration. The magazine is filled with many beautiful pages of Christmas decorations and festive holiday houses. Then begin the recipes. I really feel like Southern Living’s forte is Christmas recipes, and it is no accident that they publish a yearly collection of Christmas recipes which I often check out of the library.

The article on party trays motivated me to create the tray pictured below for a family gathering. I served Rosemary Spiced Nuts, Cheese Straws, and olives. Everyone loved the presentation and the nuts were amazing.

My Christmas dinner is slated to include the Cherries Jubilee-Black Pepper Glazed Ham, and I really want to try the Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart with Buttermilk Whipped Cream. Cherry-Pecan Brie is also on my list. There are entire articles on caramel dishes and peppermint hot chocolate drinks, and a myriad of side dishes, appetizers and desserts.

I had to try the Easy, Irresistible Scones and they turned out to be the best scones I have ever made. Southern Living offers four sweet and four savory variations.

All in all, it is an issue worth investing in.

I decided to change around the Southern Living recipe for spiced pecans because I wanted a certain flavor. I loved the outcome so much that I am including it here.

ROSEMARY SPICED PECANS
(greatly adapted from Southern Living December 2010)
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1 pound pecan halves
2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 egg whites, beaten lightly

Toss the pecan with the egg whites. Dump in the remaining ingredients and mix to coat evenly. Bake the pecans at 350F for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until nuts are crisp, but not burnt!

About 4 cups.

Kids in the Kitchen: Applesauce Cake

My boys love it when I invite them to help make something in the kitchen. Their eyes light up as they eagerly scrub their hands and get ready to help. They generally get along well and bend over backwards to take turns. I think cooking with kids is a great way to build relationships, teach skills, and create appreciation for all that goes into food preparation. And we always have a great time!


This cake was so fun – it’s all mixed up in the pan so both of the boys had a chance to stir it.


They were so proud of their handiwork and they really liked eating this cake, too!

CRAZY APPLESAUCE CAKE

1 1/2 c. flour (white or whole wheat)
1/3 c. sugar or honey
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. applesauce
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. nuts, chopped (we used pecans)

Mix dry ingredients in a greased 8×8 or 9×9 pan. Add the wet ingredients and stir with a fork until combined. Stir in the raisins and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool and serve.

This is wonderful as is or you could dress it up with a soft whipped cream (add a little cinnamon and sugar) or for an adult dessert, a rum sauce.

Baker’s Delight: Candy

I love to make candy! It’s usually fairly easy, tastes delicious, and makes a lot. It can frequently be gluten-free which is very nice when making a tray of sweets or giving a gift to someone with a gluten intolerance.

My biggest tip about candy making is to choose quality ingredients. The higher quality the chocolate, the better the sweet. I buy brand-name chocolate chips and chocolate bars – I find the store brands to generally be too waxy. This time of year is a great time to stock up because they are often on sale!

These nut clusters are simple and taste so good! Make them small and they will be perfect bite size pieces of goodness.

NUT CLUSTERS
(I adapted this slightly from my friend, Micah!)

12 oz. can of salted peanuts
6 oz. Semi-sweet Chocolate chips
6 oz. Butterscotch chips
2 oz. White Chocolate or vanilla chips
Milk or cream

Melt the semi-sweet and butterscotch chips in the microwave. Stir in peanuts and drop on waxed paper. Melt white chocolate chips with a splash (less than a tsp.) of cream or milk to thin and drizzle over finished clusters.

(I often double this recipe and use 2 cans of peanuts, 1 whole bag of semi-sweet chips and 1 whole bag of butterscotch chips – I think they are 11 oz. each.).

These cherries make any sweets tray beautiful. I started making them about 5 years ago when I thought a recipe looked unnecessarily complicated. I’ve made them with dark, milk, and white chocolate. Most often, I make the dark and white and sometimes I drizzle them with the contrasting chocolate. This year, I kept it simple…just dark chocolate…so far. They are quick to disappear and it seems I never make enough. The key to making them great is the chocolate.

CHOCOLATE DIPPED CHERRIES

1 jar Maraschino Cherries w/stems
Chocolate (I always use Ghiradelli – I especially like their melting chocolate available at the holidays in a bulk size at warehouse stores)

Drain the cherries in a colander. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (instructions for each particular chocolate are on the package). Dry cherries thoroughly with paper towels before dipping. Dip in chocolate, shake of excess, and put on a waxed paper lined tray or pan.

The amount of chocolate will depend on the amount of cherries – I’ve done anywhere from a couple dozen cherries to 10+ dozen. Figure about 11 oz. of chocolate for two small jars of cherries. If you have chocolate left, save it and re-melt it for other candy dipping or drizzling.

These are so delicious and I can’t stay out of them! My husband was so disappointed when they all disappeared on goodie trays.  They are very rich so cut them small.

LAYERED CANDY BARS (DOODS)
(I’ve slightly adapted this from my friend, Merrilee!)

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
Mix the butter and crumbs in a 9X13 pan and press down on the bottom.
Sprinkle on top:
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 package butterscotch chips
1 c. coconut
1 c. pecans

Drizzle over all:
1 can Eagle brand Condensed milk
Bake for about 25 min. at 350 degrees.  Cool, cut into small pieces, and enjoy!
Another great and easy candy is covered pretzels. They are so pretty to serve and the salty/sweet combo is wonderful!

CANDY-COATED PRETZELS
1 package almond bark or chocolate almond bark
1 bag small pretzels twists
Sprinkles of choice (or drizzle with chocolate)

Melt the bark according the package. Dip pretzels and place on waxed paper lined tray. Sprinkle with toppings. Let harden and store in an airtight container.

My all-time favorite (and a favorite of many in my family) is Butter Pecan Fudge. It melts in your mouth and has this rich, buttery goodness that is incredibly decadent. I’m seriously kicking myself for forgetting to take a picture of it! This is the best I have – it’s on the bottom tier. It was completely gone. I’m pretty sure another batch or two will be made between now and New Year’s and then I’ll take a proper picture.

BUTTER PECAN FUDGE
(Taste of Home)

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the butter, sugars, cream and salt. Bring to a boil over med. heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Stir in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Fold in pecans.

Spread into a buttered 8-in. square dish (I line mine with foil and then butter it to make it easy to pull out and cut). Cool to room temperature. Cut into 1-in. squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1-1/4 pounds.

HAPPY CANDY MAKING!