Here's something different - a delicious homemade gift that helps, rather than hinders, good health.
These delicately flavored roasted, spiced almonds are loaded with antioxidants and are rich in monounsaturated fats, making them a wonderful heart-healthy treat.
The technique for making spiced almonds is easy: Raw whole almonds are coated in a mixture of lightly beaten egg white and water, then tossed with some sugar and any variety of spices and seasonings.
Roasting the coated nuts at a low temperature brings out a toasted, nutty flavor and caramelizes the sugar and spice coating into a crunchy flavorful shell.
This recipe calls for a blend of granulated maple sugar (available online and at specialty shops), granulated garlic and freshly ground pepper to create a salty, sweet praline-like coating. If you can't find maple sugar, light brown sugar will do.
Spiced almonds will keep for at least a week in a tightly covered container or stored in the freezer for up to six months. To give as gifts, try packaging them in canning jars, as they are airtight and often available with a holiday themed lid.
They are irresistible eaten out of hand, but also can be enjoyed as part of a mixed green salad or a sweet and savory trail mix. And use different spices and sugars with the egg white coating to create a variety of flavors:
- For a Louisiana-style almond use 1/4 cup of light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning blend
- For a Spanish version, use 1/4 cup of light brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of smoked or hot paprika, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- Asian spiced almonds can be made by combining 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of five-spice powder and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
MAPLE-GARLIC SPICED ALMONDS
Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (10 minutes active)
1/4 cup granulated maple sugar or light brown sugar
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 pound raw whole almonds (3 cups)
Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the maple sugar, granulated garlic, pepper and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white and water until foamy. Add the almonds and stir to coat, then pour through a strainer to drain off excess egg white.
Transfer the almonds to the large bowl of sugar and spices; stir to coat well. Spread the almonds evenly over the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes. Stir, and continue baking until the almonds are dry and golden, about 30 minutes more. Let cool before serving or packaging.
Nutrition information per quarter cup serving: 245 calories; 19 g fat (1 g saturated 12 g monounsaturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 5 g fiber; 100 mg sodium.