It’s not too early to start thinking about holiday gift giving. Need a small gift for your postal carrier, your neighbor, or your child’s teacher? If you love spending time in the kitchen this time of the year, consider a thoughtful gift of spiced nuts. It’s an easy thing to do even if you’re an inexperienced cook.
With a little planning and a free evening, you can make a few batches of pumpkin pie spiced nuts that will have your friends and families singing your praises.
“Nuts are a universally loved snack,” explained Tamara Mitchell, also known as the “The Dine-In Diva”, a private chef and cooking instructor in Akron. Mitchell says that making a spiced nut recipe for gift-giving is a great way to spend a little time in your kitchen to remember all those people in your life you need to think of at the holidays. “It’s so easy and inexpensive, ” she said.
Mitchell’s pumpkin pie spiced nut recipe (see attached recipe) is one she’s taught in cooking classes that have earned rave reviews from students. Pecans, peanuts and walnuts make up the base for this recipe. Along with that nutty, satisfying crunch, the addition of sugar and pumpkin pie spice will instantly transport your gift recipient to a holiday mood.
As with starting project in the kitchen, organization is key.
Plan ahead. Before you head to the grocery store-check your pantry — you may have most of the ingredients on hand. Starting out with the freshest and best quality ingredients you can afford is important to the finished product. While grocery and discount stores stock a decent variety of nuts, you don’t know how fresh they are.
You could spend a few more dollars and purchase them from a store that specializes in nuts. Try The Peanut Shoppe downtown at 203 S. Main Street. Owner Marge Klein says their nuts are incredibly fresh: “we cook them every day and sell them within 24 hours.” They’ve been in business since the 1930s and have the usual cashews, walnuts and pecans. “We also have those harder to find nuts such as Brazil nuts and hazelnuts,” Klein added.
Once you have your ingredients at the ready, it is only a matter of measuring, combining and stirring. The most time-consuming part of the recipe is the time the nuts are spent roasting in your oven, but it is well worth it. A delicious transformation occurs with those few minutes in the oven. “Roasting nuts adds depth to both the flavor and texture, and adds an additional layer of flavor on their own,” Mitchell explained. The pumpkin pie spices create a magic that’s irresistible.
When you are ready to package the finished product, remember that presentation is important. A little attention to detail will elicit “ooohs “and “ahhhs “ from your giftees.
“Packaging is the icing on the cake,” explained Margaret Skinner, director of Corporate Communications of Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. Headquartered in Hudson, they have stores in the greater Akron area. “It’s all about personalization and making things unique,” said Skinner.
A trip to Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts will give you some great ideas for packaging your goodies. Small bags, boxes, tins, and even Chinese food takeout boxes line the stores shelves. To keep your budget in check, visit joann.com to sign up for coupons, or check local papers for their advertising inserts. Jo-Ann’s also matches competitor’s coupons, said Skinner.
Another option is to purchase glass jars with lids at the grocery store — they are sold by the dozen, and are readily available at most grocery stores. Jar sizes range from jelly jars up to quart size.
A glass jar lets you see the contents, and a pretty beautiful ribbon on top looks festive. You might even consider raiding your holiday ribbon stash from last year. Attach a cute gift tag or design one of your own for a special look.
An evening in your cozy kitchen making these goodies will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from giving a gift from the heart. Add a little snow, some Christmas music and it may become a yearly tradition.
And next year, your friends will be begging for those pumpkin pie spiced nuts.
Pumpkin Pie Spiced Nuts
Courtesy of Tamara Mitchell, “The Dine-In Diva”
One 8 oz. jar dry roasted peanuts
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. walnut halves
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. water
3/4 c. sugar
1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp. salt
Vegetable shortening to grease pan
(Makes about 2 cups-this recipe is easily doubled)
Equipment: large Bowl, small bowl, whisk, measuring cups, spoons, sheet tray, shortening and wax paper
Combine nuts. Mix together egg and water and toss with the nuts. Combine sugar, spice and salt; toss that with nuts until well coated.
Spread on lightly greased sheet pan in single layer. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Break up any large clusters and allow to cool on wax paper.
Tamara Mitchell, The Dine-In-Diva can be reached at (330) 571.8214 dineindiva.com or [email protected].