I’ve had a pretty good year as a writer—the cookbook, of course, and steady work from several clients. Even a columnist gig, which I’ll announce in January when the first installment appears! So I decided, spur-of-the-moment-like, to send a little holiday cheer to some of my favorite editors. At first I thought I’d bake a ton of my famous chocolate chip cookies, maybe another recipe or two from the “Easy Indulgences” chapter of Parents Need to Eat Too, but then I remembered my days as a book marketer, the annual onslaught of holiday goodies. By mid-December we’d run in the opposite direction when a new package arrived—it was almost always something sweet, and almost always something irresistible. Assuming similar things are still afoot, my cookies would only add to the groaning board of treats. Plus, two of my intended recipients are on Weight Watchers!
Instead, I cooked up something healthy. Almonds are amazing little dudes: they’re bursting with protein, calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E. My Sweet & Five-Spicy guys get good and toasty in the oven, then take a little bath in honey and sriracha before drying off in a mix of sugar and spice. The entire recipe uses only a single teaspoon of added oil, and it comes together in about half an hour. They’re sweet, yes, but that’s just a teeny-tiny bit of decadence in an otherwise virtuous gift. And seriously, who wants a gift that’s too virtuous?
Sweet & Five-Spicy Almonds
Makes 16 one-ounce servings
Weight Watchers: 1 serving is 5 PointsPlus
2 1/2 cups whole almonds, a little less than a pound (raw, or blanched & peeled—the ones from Oh Nuts are fantastic)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sriracha, or other hot sauce (use a second teaspoon if you like heat)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a lined, rimmed baking sheet and toast, shaking the sheet occasionally, until they’re golden brown and your kitchen smells like almonds (mmm). Watch closely during the last few minutes, as nuts go from perfect to burned in a heartbeat.
- While the nuts are toasting, stir together the sugar, salt, and five-spice powder in a mixing bowl large enough to eventually hold the nuts.
- Once the nuts are out of the oven, combine the water, honey, oil, and sriracha in a large skillet over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, add the toasted nuts (save the baking sheet, including the liner; you’ll need it in a minute) and turn off the heat. Toss the almonds in the goo until they’re all glistening, then transfer to the mixing bowl and toss in the sugar mixture.
- Spread the almonds onto the baking sheet to cool completely.