spiced nuts

Are “secret recipes” a thing of the past?

Growing up, we enjoyed a lot of holiday treats from people who would never divulge their recipe. My mom makes a delicious vegetable dip that her mom also made, and she guards the recipe close. Another family friend makes these sinfully decadent “gooey nummies,” and no one is allowed to know the precise ingredient list! Heck, I don’t even know if that’s how you spell them. My dad’s colleague makes fantastic Asian noodles, but who knows how much soy sauce she uses or what provides the spice…

These days, the internet makes it easy to instantly access anything, recipes included. Often, you can find recipes for restaurant dishes (momofuku’s brussel sprouts anyone?) as well as recipes from cookbooks you might be too cheap to buy. Between blogs and other sites like Pinterest, people are sharing millions of recipes a day. It wouldn’t really occur to me to keep a recipe secret. If you like something I make, I’m flattered. You should make it too!

I started thinking about this last night, when I was mixing up my favorite spice concoction to add to some raw almonds I’d bought recently (I’m not going to pay $2 more per pound for “roasted and salted!” I can roast and salt myself, thankyouverymuch). I first made this particularly variety of spiced nuts a few years back, when we had our first Thanksgiving in Seattle. I needed to take an appetizer to the gathering we were attending, and used the spices I could find in my cabinet. They ended up coming together quite well, and were a real hit at the party. The host asked me for the recipe, so I typed it up and sent it her way.


Last night, almost five years later, I dug it up from my email (thank you gmail search function!) and got to roasting. If you feel like some spiced nuts this holiday season, I suggest these. But also don’t be surprised if I give you some as a gift. Maybe I’ll attach the recipe to the jar too.

Thanksgiving Spiced Nuts
¼ cup butter (half a stick)
½ cup brown sugar (light or dark)
½t cinnamon
½t smoked paprika
½t ground cumin
½t white pepper (black works fine too)
½t salt
¼t nutmeg
¼t ground cloves
¼t ground ginger
¼t+ cayenne pepper (add more if you like some kick!)
5 cups assorted nuts (pecans are often the tastiest in my opinion, but almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews work too!)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Melt butter in a large, oven-safe skillet. Add sugar, spices and 1/4 cup water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the nuts and cook stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.
3. Once the nuts are coated and fragrant, move to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until brown.
4. Let cool. I usually move them around periodically while they’re cooling so they don’t get too stuck to the pan.



When we were packing up to move from Seattle to Denver, we, like most moving are apt to do, tried to streamline our belongings. For a variety of reasons, I really wanted to get rid of our Sausalito dinnerware from Pottery Barn. (I couldn’t recommend it less. Chips! Scratches! Too big!) I was able to restrain myself enough that we didn’t end up plateless upon arrival in Colorado, but I did get rid of several plates and mugs. For our wedding, I registered for 12 place settings, which was all well and good, but who the heck needs 12 mugs? I mean, seriously? Since we of course have plenty of other mugs from colleges, jobs, and all those other random places you pick up free mugs. In a moment of frustration, packing up our 20th “kitchen” box, I proclaimed, “the only reason you need this many matching mugs is if you host a lot of brunches, and we never have any one over for brunch!” In that moment of decisiveness, I threw out most of our mugs. (Er, I put them on the side of our busy 4-lane road under a “free” sign, and they were gone in less than 5 minutes.)

The past two weekends, we’ve hosted brunch. Apparently, when you have kids, brunch is great. The little ones are rested. Smiley! (And also, Denver seems to be all about brunching. Every restaurant serves brunch. Reservations are accepted!) Thankfully, I was able to pull together 4 Sausilito mugs so we could all enjoy coffee in a mature, matching fashion. But if we have more than 4 coffee drinkers over, I may be doomed. Or it might just be time to spring for the white dinnerware after which I’ve been lusting for years.

No matter what your mug situation, I recommend hosting a brunch sometime. There’s no better way to start a weekend morning than by enjoying coffee and breakfast treats with friends. And smiley kids.

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