Saturday, December 31, 2011

Orange Sugared Mixed Nuts

I've been a bit neglectful of my blog lately, and for that I am sorry.  But I found it hard to tear myself away from friends and family that I hadn't seen in a year in order to take some time to share my thoughts and recipes with you.  I hope you can forgive me, my friends.  And I hope you all had that sort of Christmas as well.

It's not that I haven't been cooking or photographing any new recipes.  I have several stored up to share with you in the coming weeks.  In fact, I found cooking in the kitchen with my mother to be a creatively inspiring experience.  She has a way of suggesting things and confirming my ideas that helps me to be a better cook.  The recipe that I'm sharing today was a happy accident that happened in her kitchen.  I had some candied orange peel that I had made quite a while ago and thought I had stored well.  But the first bite almost broke her teeth!  They had dried beyond the point of being edible.  As I was about to throw the rest of the peels out with a heavy heart, she suggested we could grind them up and somehow find a way to use them.  And so the orange sugared nut mix was born.
So here is my New Year's gift to you.  If you need an idea at the last minute for a snack to bring to a party tonight, this is it.  It's quick and super tasty (just ask my Dad, he loved them).  Bring the nuts in a pretty bowl and your hostess will be thrilled. 

Here's to a New Year filled with peace, love, and many more meals around the family table.

Orange Sugared Mixed Nuts
Feel free to use any nuts you like for this recipe.  I used an equal mix of pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds because that's what the grocery store had left on Christmas Eve.  The pecans were my favorite in the end, but I found that everyone in my family had their own favorite.  My Dad loved them all.

4 cups mixed nuts
2 tbs butter
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs orange zest (if you happen to have some candied orange peel that's been hanging around your pantry too long, grind it up and use it instead of the orange zest like I did)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs coarse sugar (such as raw or turbinado sugar)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  In another bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup of sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Slowly add the sugar mixture to the egg whites while whipping.  Beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.  Fold in the nuts and orange zest.

Put the butter onto a baking pan and place it in the oven for about 2 minutes to melt the butter.  Remove the pan from the oven and spread the nuts out evenly in the pan.  Sprinkle them with the coarse sugar and place the pan back in the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 7-8 minutes.  Watch the nuts carefully, you don't want them to burn.  They are ready when the coating is crisp and slightly browned.  Pour the hot nuts intoa bowl and let cool completely.

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