Spiced Nuts

Spiced Nuts 2015It’s officially winter! There is snow on the ground and it’s cold. It seems that in Colorado, summer lingers and even fall stays warm, with a few days of cold to remind us that winter is around the corner. And then one day, it hits and winter settles in for a while. Not like in the mid-west, but enough so that you know it’s time for the holidays to arrive. This year has been a little different for us as a family. We’ve had more official parties and not quite as many spontaneous get-togethers with friends. It’s been busy, sometimes challenging with different schedules, but just in case a friend gets the urge to stop by, I’ve kept some spiced nuts on hand. You never know when someone might pop over and a few nuts and a bottle of wine will be just the thing to take the chill off.

It’s really easy to pull out a tub of nuts from the pantry, and I don’t have anything against that at all, but sometimes it’s especially nice to elevate that experience just a little bit. I think it lets your friends know that they are special, that they are worth that extra step, and for this reason, I’ve worked on a recipe that makes everyone feel warm inside, but that is so simple that it can be pulled together quickly. Almost at the last minute.

Whatever nuts you like will probably work well here. I usually add cashews to the mix but on picture day, I had run out so pecans and almonds made the cut. There are all kinds of spiced nut recipes out there and I know it can be hard to choose, but I’ve been hooked on these for a while now and find that they appeal to many different palates. The egg white might seem like a strange component, but it’s the best secret! It creates a light, crispy coating on the outside that sort of reminds me of what tempura does to veggies. I think it might be what makes these so special.

I hope you enjoy this spicy-sweet combination so much that you share it with friends, family, and maybe even strangers. If you make any changes (I’ve been considering adding something herbaceous next time), please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear!

Spiced Nuts

about 3 cups of mixed raw nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews, whatever you like best)

1  Tbsp. coconut oil melted

2 1/2 Tbsp. coconut sugar

2 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 egg white

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place nuts in a large bowl.
  3. Melt coconut oil in a small bowl and mix spices and salt into the bowl.
  4. Pour, or scoop, the spices and oil onto the nuts, including sprinkling the coconut sugar on.
  5. Mix well – either using a wooden spoon or your hands.
  6. Taste to determine if more spices or more nuts are necessary to make this perfect for you.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk egg white until frothy and then add to the nuts.
  8. Mix very well. Then keep mixing. You want to ensure that everything is evenly coated.
  9. Spread nuts on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Stir and continue baking for 10 minutes.
  10. After about 25 minutes, bake in 5 minute intervals, stirring, until done to your desired darkness. This can vary, but watch carefully as nuts can burn quickly.
  11. Remove to a cool place – a bowl or counter. They will crisp up as they cool. Taste, share, and enjoy!

 

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A Paleo Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2014Thanksgiving just might be my very favorite holiday. Over the years I’ve celebrated it in many different ways and that’s left me with a lot of fond memories. Growing up it always involved getting the family together and many dishes that were traditional to our table. There are also a few memories that involve under- and over-cooked turkeys, jokes about more wine and less lighting, and perhaps even some preventative antibiotics. Then slowly, as lives changed and different traditions developed, Thanksgiving began to evolve.

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived fairly far away from my parents and siblings and travelling on the holidays hasn’t been possible very often so Thanksgiving started to include friends. Frequently these friends were also displaced and looking for a way to share and celebrate the bounty of the season. There have been years when we’ve hosted friends at our house, a couple times with family who came out to visit, and some years we’ve had friends invite us to their Thanksgiving feasts. This year, actually, will be our quietest Thanksgiving – just the three of us. It’s a busy time of year for my husband at work, a few family possibilities didn’t come to fruition, so I’ve been thinking about different ways to mark this time of year.

There’s so much to love about Thanksgiving, I think. First of all, for a foodie, having a holiday with a huge emphasis on a bountiful table is fun. I love the idea of putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, and just cooking to my heart’s content. Plus, I really appreciate this holiday for its emphasis on gratitude and sharing. I realize consumerism has taken over and get frustrated when October rolls around and there are Christmas decorations/songs/toys/music/etc. in the stores, but for this one day, I really see and feel the beauty of grace and gratitude. Maybe it’s something about the crisp, cool weather, maybe it’s that the holiday lights and songs are finally in synch with the season, or maybe it’s just me. And food. And how cooking for others and sharing the gift of time in the kitchen is one way that I can give back to the people who fill my heart and mind and life.

So back to the food… Someone recently asked me about a Paleo Thanksgiving and truly this is one of the easiest holidays to celebrate if you are following a Paleo lifestyle. So many of the foods are delicious, whole foods that can be easily modified to fit whatever your food philosophy is. If you’re strict Paleo, you can totally do this, and if you are someone who allows a few blurry lines, you might be surprised at how easy it is. I’m posting a few links today to some recipes around the web that I have either tried on various holidays myself or that look amazing and worth trying. If you are a traditionalist that has to have the same recipes from year to year, consider branching out just a little bit! Until starting this blog which requires some recipe testing and repeat performances, my husband would often tease that it wasn’t really worth liking a recipe because I wasn’t going to make it again anyway. I am not one for repeating recipes, generally, because there are so many things out there to try and for some reason I think I need to be the one to try them. Either way, if you are a traditionalist or someone who loves a new rendition of an old favorite or someone who loves to spice up the table with a different dish every year, I hope you find this list helpful as you’re planning your holiday plate.

Turkey – I don’t really have a great recipe for Turkey. It’s Paleo by nature so I just go with that.

Stuffing – I admit that this is generally the hardest one for me on Thanksgiving. I LOVE stuffing. It’s my favorite thing on the Thanksgiving table and I love many different versions, none of which are Paleo. I have, however, found a recipe that looks intriguing so this is what I’m thinking for this year.

Cranberry Sauce – My favorite recipe from a friend and modified for Paleo.

Gravy – I made this last year and my son devoured it over everything. It’s definitely coming back!

Brussels Sprouts – We love Brussies in our house and our favorite way to have them is roasted with bacon and mushrooms. Since my son doesn’t like green beans, we usually opt for these instead.

Butternut Squash – Try this exotically spiced dish for a change from sugary-sweet casseroles.

Mashed “Potatoes” – Potatoes are considered Paleo so there are definitely ways to use regular potatoes and coconut milk, ghee, grass-fed dairy, or bone broth to make your mash Paleo. But if you’re looking to lighten the carb load of your Thanksgiving Day, try using cauliflower! There are many variations and this garlic-y version looks lovely.

Pumpkin Pie – Thanksgiving needs pie, right? Here’s a Paleo pumpkin pie recipe that looks spectacular!

One last thing before I go: There’s an incredible Paleo (Kindle) book sale going on over at Buck Books on Tuesday, November 25. It is for one day only and there are some truly cool books on the list for just $0.99 and a couple at $1.99. Really! I’m super-excited to see Gather on the list because what better time than the holidays to have a book focused on celebrating with friends around the table? The Ancestral Table has also been calling my name for a while and there are many others to check out.

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant
Beyond Bacon by Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry
The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer and George Bryant
Gather, The Art of Paleo Entertaining by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason
Everyday Paleo By Sarah Fragoso
Sexy by Nature by Stefani Ruper
Free the Animal by Richard Nikoley
The Paleo Girl by Leslie Klenke
The Paleo Sweet Tooth by Alison Russo
Decadent Paleo Desserts by Hannah Healy
The Modern No Nonsense Guide to Paleo by Alison Golden
The Everything Weeknight Paleo Cookbook by Michelle Fagone

So head on over to the site to sign up so you don’t miss the day.

Jeweled Brussels Sprouts

Jeweled Brussels Sprouts 2013

Brussels sprouts – I’ve heard that people either love ’em or hate ’em, but lately I’ve noticed people giving these cute little cabbages a second chance. In our house, we are big fans and like them cooked in a variety of ways. With the holidays approaching, this preparation is just perfect! I braise the Brussels sprouts rather than roasting them, so the oven is freed up for other cooking adventures, and top them with a pretty combination of toasted pecans, chewy dried cranberries, and a fresh burst of lemon zest.

I made this dish for friends, including two 8 year olds, and it was a big hit. The kids preferred their Brussels sprouts without the topping and that’s totally fine! The biggest compliments came when my son said, “Yay! Brussels sprouts!” and our little friend asked her mom to make them “just like this” next time. I am not making that up!

Winter is the perfect time for this delightful vegetable. They are sweetest when they are still small, but the most important thing is to buy them fresh – not frozen. So grab some the next time you see them and maybe even consider this dish for your holiday table. I know we will!

Jeweled Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

2 tsp. bacon grease

1 shallot, finely chopped about 1/4 c.

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. vegetable or chicken broth

2 T. pecans, toasted and chopped

2 T. dried cranberries (without sugar, preferred), chopped

1 tsp. lemon zest

pepper to taste

Directions

1) Start by cutting the bottoms off of the Brussels sprouts. Depending on the size, leave them whole if they’re quite small, halve them, or quarter them. The idea is to have a bowl full of similarly sized bites. Remove any damaged looking leaves and put all the rest of the sprouts into a strainer to give them a bit of a rinse.

2) Melt the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots for about 3 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the Brussels sprouts, along with any water clinging to them, to the pan and sprinkle with the salt. Stir to coat everything and allow it to heat up a bit, just a minute or two. Add the broth and cover with a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding a tablespoon or two of water if the pan becomes dry before the sprouts are done to your liking.

3) When the Brussels sprouts are tender, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and allow to brown and caramelize slightly by leaving them undisturbed for a couple minutes at a time. Remove from the heat, add the toasted pecans, dried cranberries, and lemon zest. Season with additional salt, if necessary, and a few grinds of pepper.

Serves 4