Going Nuts for the Holidays

There’s something about the holidays that makes me think of nuts. I hate nuts. They invoke a strong gag reflex whenever I accidentally ingest them. I think it verges on a nut phobia…but that’s another topic for another day.

Anyway, nuts go with Christmas just like pumpkin and sweet potatoes go with Thanksgiving! So I tried out some new nut recipes this year and they’ve been a big hit so far!

Glazed Walnuts

1 egg white

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 pound walnut halves

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg white until foamy. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and vanilla. Add nuts; stir to coat. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until toasted and golden brown. Remove from pan and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Sweet Spiced Almonds

1 cup sliced almonds
1/3 packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large egg white, slightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Combine almonds and next 4 ingredients (though cumin) in a small bowl. Stir in egg white. Spread mixture evenly onto foil-lined baking sheet covered with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir mixture; bake an additional 15 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely and break into small pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

And the favorite so far:

Chipotle Orange-Spiced Pecan Mix

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 large egg white

2 cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I added both cranberries and cherries)

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add pecans and stir to coat. Combine sugar, salt, and pepper; add to pecan mix. Toss well.

3. Spread mixture in a single layer in a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cool completely; stir in cranberries. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

And, of course, peanut brittle is a staple during the holidays! This is just your basic peanut brittle recipe dipped into chocolate for a spectacular sweet-salty taste (so I’ve been told…I’ve never actually tried it).

Sweet-Salty Peanut Brittle

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1 T. butter

2 c. cocktail peanuts

1 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

4 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate

1/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1. Pray large baking sheet or 15x10x1-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. Mix sugar and corn syrup in large microwaveable bowl until moistened. Microwave on high 5 min. CAUTION: Candy mixture gets very hot! Stir in butter and peanuts. Microwave an additional 3-4 minutes or til pale golden brown. Add baking soda and vanilla (mixture will foam).

2. Immediately spread mixture as thinly as possible onto prepared baking sheet. Cool completely. Break into pieces.

3. Microwave chocolate in 1-cup glass measuring cup on high 1-2 min. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in peanut butter until melted. Dip peanut brittle pieces halfway into the chocolate mixture, scraping the back of the brittle against the edge of the cup to remove excess chocolate. Place on sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20 min.

Every year, my best friend Amy sends us homemade Peppermint Bark. We love it – especially Adam! Here’s her recipe (thanks, Amy!):

Peppermint Bark

1 package semisweet chocolate chips
1 package Andes mint chips
1 package white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 candy canes, crushed

1. Melt semisweet chocolate and Andes mint chips together. Spread on a large cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
2. Melt the white chocolate and vegetable oil together. Drip the white chocolate mix all over the semisweet chocolate. Run a knife through the chocolate to swirl them together.
3. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.
4. Refrigerate until hard. Break into small pieces and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Then, I decided to try my hand at cake balls, aka cake pops. People have been making them for years, but Bakerella is the one who made them famous. She makes it look so easy so I thought…I’ve got some free time…let’s see what I can do!

Well, it wasn’t quite as simple as I thought. Of the 20 cake balls I started out with, 3 turned out nice enough to photograph….THREE!

Maybe I’ll try them again some day…

And I’ll leave you with a photo of some of the gifts under our tree this year. For some reason, I went a little bow crazy. For those of you who are especially talented in the gift wrapping department, these gifts won’t be very impressive…but they’re super fabulous compared to what I usually do! These are some fancy schmancy gifts for the Judges!

Happy holidays everyone!