Mexico Life
smoked candied almonds Long after they've polished them off, your friends will remember a holiday gift of these Smoky Candied Almonds.

Nuts to you, and you and you!

Try these hot, sweet and spicy nut mixes for holiday giving

‘Tis the season when party invites are flying around like a flock of parrots. At any moment an invitation to join a gathering could arrive via WhatsApp, email, Messenger or just in person on the street.

If you’re like me, you don’t like to show up empty-handed. I get tired of bringing bottles of wine, though, and realize not everyone likes cookies as much as I do. (Ahem.)

That’s where these recipes for nut mixes come in handy. They’re relatively easy to make, absolutely delicious and, unless someone has a nut allergy (oops), everyone will love them. Plus, you can make them now and be ready for whatever invite comes your way!

When I first moved to Mexico, I really missed walnuts. Now I’ve become so used to pecans that on the rare occasion when I do have walnuts, they don’t seem to taste as good as I remember. Chiles en Nogada dishes notwithstanding, walnuts are not common in most parts of Mexico.

Turns out that Mexico is the world’s second biggest producer of pecans after the United States, although in recent years there’s been new interest in the walnut market. 

Chocolate Coated Almonds
Sweet and salty make an irresistible combination in this Chocolate-Coated Almonds recipe.

Mexican-Spiced Chocolate Pecans

The egg white makes a crisp coating without creating an overly airy crust.

  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. minced dark chocolate
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. cayenne
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) pecans, walnuts, almonds or cashews or a combination

Preheat oven to 300 F. Position rack in middle position; grease a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or oil. In a bowl, mix sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.

In a large bowl, lightly beat egg white until slightly foamy. Stir in spiced sugar until a smooth batter forms. (Batter starts out looking dry but loosens as you stir.)

Fold in pecans until evenly coated. Spread glazed pecans in a single even layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake about 25 minutes until nuts are lightly toasted.

Let cool, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. Once cool, break up any remaining clumps. Nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Chocolate Coated Almonds

  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1½ cups whole, raw, unsalted almonds
  • Toppings: Flaky sea salt, coarse or raw sugar

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. For the microwave, melt in 30-second increments, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth.

Stir almonds into chocolate, making sure each one is coated. Using a fork, chopsticks or a dipping tool, lift nuts out of chocolate one by one or in small clumps of 3 to 4. Let any excess chocolate drip back into bowl and place coated nuts onto prepared baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with a little sea salt and sugar, then allow to completely set. Store in the refrigerator up to a month.

Optional: For extra flavor, first toast the almonds. Spread almonds onto a large baking sheet and bake 10–12 minutes at 300 F, watching carefully so they don’t burn. Cool slightly before proceeding with recipe.

Hot Honey Nut Mix
Butter, honey and red pepper give this nut mix a sweet kick.

Hot Honey Nut Mix

  • 4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios or a mix)
  • 1 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, pepitas, amaranth, millet, sunflower, etc.)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Heat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, combine nuts and seeds.

In a small pan over low heat, combine honey, butter, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until butter melts and ingredients combine. (In a microwave, combine and carefully heat until butter melts, about 30–40 seconds.)

Pour honey-butter mixture over the nuts and seeds; stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.

Bake, stirring occasionally, 20–25 minutes, until nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted. Remove from oven; immediately sprinkle with sugar and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Cool on baking sheet, then transfer to bowl.  Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

‘Secret Ingredient’ Mixed Nuts

 This is a “no-recipe” recipe. Use whatever amounts sound good to you.

  • Bacon
  • Mixed nuts
  • Few sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Pinch of grated piloncillo or brown sugar

Cook bacon until done. Remove to cool on paper towels, saving fat in pan. Mince rosemary, discarding stems.

Add mixed nuts, rosemary and a sprinkle of sugar to pan. Cook, tossing, until nuts are golden and fragrant. Crumble bacon into nut mixture, stir and serve.

Hot Honey Nuts
These mixed nuts recipes also make a good TV-time snack any time of year!

Smoky Candied Almonds

  • ½ cup grated piloncillo or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 cups whole raw skin-on almonds (about 1¼ lbs.)
  • Preheat oven to 300 F, place rack in middle position. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil or nonstick cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix sugar, salt, paprika, cayenne, Old Bay and pepper.

In a large bowl, lightly beat egg white until slightly foamy. Stir in spiced sugar mixture until a smooth batter forms. (Batter starts out looking dry but loosens as you stir.)

Fold in almonds until evenly coated. Spread glazed almonds in a single even layer on the prepared baking sheet; bake about 25 minutes until nuts are lightly toasted.

Cool, stirring nuts every few minutes to prevent sticking. Once cool, break up any remaining clumps. Nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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