Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nuts to you

First, let me welcome the new kids who have visited recently. Thanks for stopping by.

This will be the first nutty post of December. I know there will be at least one more, and maybe – if you're lucky – two! Heh. Today, it's all about spicy pecans and almonds.

These gifts take a little more time and a little more money than yesterday's oh-so-simple peppermint bark. Guys generally like spicy food gifts more than sweet ones, though, and the guys I've given spiced nuts to gobble them up. Or down, take your pick.

I used two methods, one with almonds and one with pecans. Walnuts and cashews would work, as well, but save the peanuts for brittle. Either method will work for any spiced nut, and both are equally good.

For the almonds:  
Toast two cups of raw almonds in a dry skillet for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Place almonds in a bowl. 
In a small bowl, stir together
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper (cayenne)
Heat two teaspoons olive oil in the skillet. Add the spice mixture, cook and stir for about 30 seconds. Add to the skillet a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 tsp. hot sauce. Add the almonds and stir until all nuts are coated with the spice mixture. Turn out onto a cookie sheet to cool. 
For the pecans: 
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Add three minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Toss in two cups of pecans and stir until nuts are coated. Spread the nuts on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake in a slow oven (250°F) for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring two or three times. Remove from oven and let cool.
For packaging, look for Chinese take-out boxes at a craft or dollar store. Line the box with a plastic bag (I used clear plastic bread bags, which I found at Tiny Kroger with the other plastic bags/wraps/foils, but cut them down a bit to fit in the take-out boxes.). Fill with nuts and secure with a twist-tie.

My husband and I will be giving the peppermint bark, the spiced nuts and a big jar of homemade hot cocoa mix (along with some purchased snowman-shaped marshmallows) to his son and daughter-in-law and their children tomorrow. Their big gift is a membership to a local museum, but Mrs. Claus here just can't go in empty-handed.

The town my husband grew up in was, at one time, known for railroading. We happened to find some cool wooden train whistles to give the children and annoy their parents.

Because that's how these grandparents roll. Heh.

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