Thursday, December 30, 2010

Party Snacks

It's that time of year with parties and gatherings galore!  In honor of New Year's Eve tomorrow evening, I offer you two simple and delicious snack ideas. Neither of these are super sweet, but both are quite satisfying and a nice addition to a party spread.

I occasionally peruse the blog Nourishing Gourmet, and not too long ago she offered this spiced nut recipe. I love spiced nuts, but was happy to find a recipe not so laden with sugar, so I don't have to feel guilty while indulging a little bit! These would also make a lovely gift, if you were so inclined.


CINNAMON VANILLA SPICED NUTS
(from The Nourishing Gourmet)
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1 egg white
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar (sucanat, coconut sugar, maple sugar are all alternatives to refined sugar that work just fine here)
2 1/2 c. nuts (I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper.

Lightly beat the egg white with a whisk just until a bit foamy. Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the nuts and stir to coat well.

Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon (allowing extra coating to drip out), and spread out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool for 20 minutes. Can store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe came from the December issue of Cooking Light and was frankly the only recipe I found of any particular interest. I did scale the sweetener back a little bit and thought it perfect, like slightly spicy caramel corn. I also decided we weren't eating the whole batch the night I made it, so I did pop this in the oven for 10 minutes at 250°F to dry it out just a little bit so I could store it without lots of clumping. We happily consumed the leftovers the next day in our lunches.



SPICY MAPLE-CASHEW POPCORN
(from Cooking Light, December 2010)
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1 Tbsp canola or coconut oil
1/4 c. popcorn kernels (about 6c. popped)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a pan and pop the popcorn. (I use a Whirlypop Pan, but you can use a traditional pan, just make sure you shake often as it's popping.)

Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Stir the cashews into popped corn.

Combine sugar, maple syrup, butter, salt and cayenne in a small pan; bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture. Toss to coat. Immediately spread onto prepared pan. Cool 3 minutes. Enjoy!