December 22, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Nuts! Last, Last, Very Last Minute Goodies...

Yes, yes, it really is the 22nd and Christmas is only a very few days away, as is the beginning of Hanukkah (the 25th) , and Kwanzaa (the 26th). And there are still a few people you want to remember. Oh, maybe not with a big store-bought gift, but with... something. This is when we head for the kitchen as people must eat, and most generally folks appreciate something homemade.

Nuts have gained new cachet as a health food over the past few years, they're very quick and easy to fancy up, and of course, eating them is often addictive!

Let's start with the nuts themselves. Most commonly available, and used in confections and mixed nut treats, are peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews. You'll find them throughout the grocery store... peanuts with the snacks, walnuts, pecans and almonds with the baking supplies, and cashews in the produce department. I'v found that the bags of (shelled) nuts in the produce department tend to be more expensive per pound than the ones in the baking aisle; but even more important I think, those in produce tend to be pretty heavily salted, the others not at all.

You can take any nuts and make clusters by just mixing them with melted chocolate (white,milk or dark) , butterscotch or mocha chips, and dropping by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets to set. That's about as simple as it gets!

But the nut mixes are fun too, and if you're headed to a party, they make a wonderful take-along. The mixes seem to fall into two categories, sweet or snappy. I'll give you a recipe for each with a note at the end about the endless varieties you can try. As usual, these recipes don't require a candy thermometer as many glazed nut recipes do.

Sugar and Spice Nuts

1 large egg white
3 c nuts
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves

Whip egg white lightly, add remaining ingredients except nuts, then stir in nuts, mixing well to coat evenly. Bake at 300 for about 30 minutes stirring two or three times. Cool, separate into pieces and air dry throughly to crisp coating.

Mexican Spicy Nuts

1 large egg white
4 TBSP brown sugar
1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp salt, kosher if you have it
2 cups nuts

Whip egg white lightly, add sugar, spices and salt, then stir in nuts mixing well to coat evenly. Bake at 250 for about 45 minutes, stirring two or three times. Cool, break into pieces, and air dry throughly to crisp coating. Especially good made with cashews.

I have many other recipes for coated nuts such as teriyaki almonds, curried cashews, and minted walnuts. You can take any kind of nuts, use the one egg white, then experiment with seasonings as you wish. Very yummy!

And now... my kitchen callls... Mary


Michele said...

Love your recipes!

Suzanne said...

And what is in store for the new year?