Before I give you one of the best and easiest recipes or a homemade gift this year, I'd like to introduce today's co-hosts. Imagine growing up eating your favorite foods, then one day realizing they're your foe? Rather than let the news get her down, Shauna went to work on recreating gluten-free versions. And if you have any doubts about gluten-free baked goods, take a look at Shauna's cinnamon rolls (even though she says they're still a work in progress). Now if I ever to Seattle, I'll get to see her and Alice on their home turf. Shauna will have some gluten-free rugelach later today, so be sure to visit her over at Gluten Free Girl and The Chef.
Speaking of awesome ladies, Gina brought some yummy egg-free white chocolate raspberry slices for the virtual cookie jar. Talk about kindred spirits. Her blog Change Becomes Change is all about the small steps that make a difference for the greater good.
Now about that quick and easy homemade gift. One of my favorites (and I think everyone else's too), are my cocoa candied nuts. You can use any variety nut you like really, but my favorite for this crunchy, sweet and salty coating are pecans and almonds. It is amazingly easy to make and they look beautiful packaged in clear cellophane bags with a festive ribbon.
Although my directions call for a food processor, you can simply mix the ingredients in a bowl with a fork too. I just think a whirl in the food processor really blends the sugar and spices better, and is worth the extra dishwashing (which we all know is my least favorite chore. This is also the time to treat yourself to a silpat or two. They are indispensable in my kitchen and a more earth-friendly alternative to parchment paper.
Cocoa Candied Nuts
Makes 3 cups
One taste and you'll be glad to know this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. You can even swap cumin or curry for the paprika for a Middle Eastern spiced treat.
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon cold water
One pound assorted nuts
Preheat oven to 300ºF. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Add the sugars, salt, cinnamon, paprika and cocoa to bowl of a food processor. Pulse until there are no chunks remaining.
In a large bowl, whisk egg whites and water until frothy but not stiff. Add nuts and stir to coat well. Sprinkle sugar mixture over nuts and toss, or stir with a rubber spatula, until evenly coated.
Divide nut mixture onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool for a few minutes; break up any large pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, for up to two weeks.