Chocolate-SpiceSugar and Spice and Everything Nutty

When the holidays roll around, many kitchens are filled with the aroma of sugar and spice as seasonal nut recipes are revived once again. The tradition goes back to a time when something as expensive as nuts and spices could be only a rare treat, so what better time of year to indulge than at the holidays? For me, any time of year is perfect for enjoying tree nuts, especially now that we know how healthy they are, replete with health-giving fats (including omega oils), plus antioxidants, protein, fiber, and a big portfolio of minerals.

The following favorites include a bourbon- and chili pepper-laced extravaganza I created in a fit of nutty passion; a recipe from my little sister, Laurie, that her friends are begging her to mass produce; and one based on a recipe from my brotherin-law Stuart’s mom, Rita—a true baking goddess.

Laurie’s Curry-Roasted Hazelnuts

Makes 1⁄2 pound or 8 servings

2 to 3 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 tablespoon fresh grated orange peel
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
1 level teaspoon curry powder
1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon smoked salt or salt
1⁄4 teaspoon chipotle powder
1⁄2 pound shelled hazelnuts (filberts)

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
In a medium bowl, stir together syrup with all the seasonings. Fold in hazelnuts and fully coat.
Spread on baking sheet, separating the nuts as much as possible. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Increase oven temperature to 375˚F and bake 5 minutes more. Place on rack and cool completely. Break up into individual nuts or small pieces.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 194; Total Fat: 17 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 13 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 149 mg; Carbohydrates: 9 g; Fiber: 3 g; Protein: 4 g

Spicy and Sweet Bourbon Seven-Nut BlendSpicy-and-Sweet

Makes 15 to 20 servings

1⁄4 cup whole blanched almonds
1⁄4 cup pecan halves
1⁄4 cup walnut halves
1⁄4 cup whole shelled jumbo pistachios
1⁄4 cup small Brazil nuts
1⁄4 cup hazelnuts
1⁄4 cup cashews
1⁄2 cup bourbon
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
Combine nuts and bourbon in a heavy, 10-inch skillet. Heat over very low heat; cook and stir until liquid is gone. Spoon nuts into a bowl and set aside.
Spoon sugar evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Increase heat to medium-high; cook sugar, gently shaking skillet occasionally to heat evenly (do not stir), until sugar begins to melt. When sugar begins to melt, stir in the butter, cinnamon, and chili flakes, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture turns golden brown.
Stir nuts into syrup, coating well. Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Let cool completely. Once cool, break into pieces.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis (based on 15 servings): Calories: 174; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 3 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 4 mg; Sodium: 1 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Fiber: 1 g; Protein: 2 g