As we run this holiday marathon, it’s nice to have the occasional quick win, right? Here are three foodie gifts that are cheaper, easier and faster than baking cookies. Let’s make candied nuts that aren’t nuts.
Nuts are a holiday favorite steeped in tradition. You can’t have “The Nutcracker” without nuts, right? But nuts can be awfully expensive. That’s why these recipes were developed using legumes and seeds you can buy for less than $2 a pound. Namely, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pepitas.
If price is not a concern, please substitute any nut you’d like in these recipes. However, comparing prices, most nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) cost three times the price per pound of the peanuts and seeds we’re using. Personally, I’d rather have three times the amount to share for the same price.
Before gifting peanuts, inquire about allergies. My best holiday gifting advice? In a nutshell (sorry), eat them all and don’t share them with anyone. It’s a marathon after all.
SUNFLOWER SEED AND PEPITA BRITTLE
What you’ll need:
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pepitas
2 cups sugar
Line a baking sheet with parchment, set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter on low heat; add salt, cinnamon, vanilla. Add sunflower seeds and pepitas. Stir to evenly coat seeds with butter mixture. Remove from heat but keep warm.
This next magical (OK, culinary science, but it’s the holidays so play along) step takes about 25 minutes so be patient. In a large (12-inch) heavy skillet over medium heat, add sugar. Stirring nearly constantly, you’ll see the sugar begin to form clumps. Gradually, the clumps melt and become a smooth, amber syrup. This sugar syrup is liquid napalm, so treat is as such.
When the lumps are gone, add the seed mixture and quickly stir to combine. Immediately, pour onto prepared baking sheet. Use a spatula to quickly spread the mixture into a thin, even layer. Cool completely and break into pieces.
HONEY ROASTED PEANUTS
What you’ll need:
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons table salt (divided)
3 cups unsalted peanuts
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, place the butter, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt. Microwave in 20-second increments, stirring each time until the butter is melted. Once melted, stir until smooth. Stop to enjoy the intoxicating fragrance and know you could put this mixture on a flip-flop and I’d eat it.
Add the peanuts to the honey mixture and stir until well coated. Place the peanuts onto the prepared baking sheet spreading into an even layer. Bake the peanuts for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Stirring will prevent the peanuts at the edges of the pan from burning before the middle is baked.
When the peanuts are golden brown, remove from the oven and give them one more stir, to break up any clumps. After cooling a couple of minutes, sprinkle with the granulated sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and stir again. Cool at room temperature. If they insist on remaining sticky, sprinkle with another tablespoon of sugar.
COCOA DUSTED PEANUTS
What you’ll need:
2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Place peanuts on the baking sheet and put in oven for five to seven minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large microwave-safe bowl melt together the coconut oil or butter with vanilla, about 30 seconds.
When peanuts are roasted, transfer to bowl with the butter mixture and stir until each one is glossy and coated.
Next, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Place the nuts back on the baking sheet and using a fine mesh strainer let the sugar and cocoa mixture “snow” all over the nuts. Stir to ensure each nut is generously coated. Place in the oven for 20 minutes stirring at five-minute intervals. Allow this to set until cool. If it remains sticky, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and cocoa.
All recipes should be stored in airtight containers at room temperature.
Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at email@example.com.