What gift should I give for Valentine’s Day?
As a jewelry designer, that’s a question I get asked quite a decent bit. Whether you’re searching for a Valentine’s gift for your girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband or children it always seems to stump us. I struggle myself with what to do for my very non-gifty husband and tween/teen boys! They can be picky and yet there are a few go-to standards that work like magic for the perfect Valentine gift. One being FOOD! Always the perfect way to your man’s heart – whether little or big.
This year when trying to figure out what to do for my sweetie (married 20 years now), I decided on something simple but made by my two hands – adding that personal touch to his gift.
We had visited a sweet little French inspired inn in San Luis Obispo, California one night last year. It was just the tiny getaway we needed to recharge and reconnect. The best part about the sweet little inn was that they served food! Not just any food, delicious French food. We didn’t have to decide on where to eat – which alas is one of the things my hubby and I hate to do. So when we found out they had fancy asparagus feta quiche for breakfast and afternoon hor d’oeuvres of freshly toasted spicy nuts and cheese – we were in heaven. We felt pampered, and it made the trip easy and restful.
So I thought this Valentine’s Day I’d recreate those little sweet and spicy crispy afternoon snacks! My sweetie isn’t even really a nut person, but he just loved these. Voila – a sweet, spicy & handmade gift reminiscent of a restful time we spent together. The perfect Valentine’s treat. It’s even a great last minute Valentine’s Gift idea – perfect for the romantic procrastinator in all of us. And let’s face it, we could all use a little somethin’ sweet & spicy in our relationship now and then. ♥
The little place we stayed was call Petit Soleil, and they had a great tiny recipe book featuring the amazing things we ate while we were there! This recipe is adapted from their recipe book “Trois”. And I promise – they’re sweet, spicy & delicious!
I started by collecting all of my ingredients. Plain almonds & Pecans (not salted), Fennel Seed, Chipotle Powder, Sugar (not pictured – ha!), Chinese Five Spice & Course Salt
Next, and you’ll thank me for this later…I promise, line your tray with parchment paper. When sugar cooks, it gets ridiculously sticky! So if you cook it right on the pan, it will be a huge mess to clean up later. I like to make my parchment larger than the pan and fold it up around the edges. Then none of that lovely gooey sugar & spice mixture leaks over the sides.
I chose a mixture of 1/2 pecans and 1/2 almonds – just because. Feel free to choose whatever nuts tickle your fancy.
This part gets a little messy, but it cleans up pretty easily if you wash it immediately. With a big spoon or scraper, scoop or pour the nuts onto your parchment lined baking pan. Spread the nuts evenly over the baking pan. They should be in a single layer (they roast more evenly that way). Be sure to scrape off the sugar & bits that stick to the spoon – or lick it, I won’t tell. It’s already delicious!
You’ll end up with a wonderful pan of glistening nuts, spices & sugar. It’s actually really pretty! I like to sprinkle a little more coarse salt over them before I pop them in the oven. I would say about 1/2 tsp., not too much. It adds some saltiness and a bit of crunch. I stir them every 10 minutes for 30 minutes…just to be sure they’re nice and toasted.
Here’s where I learned the hard way! You need to carefully scoop the nuts off the original parchment & lay them in a single layer on a parchment lined wrap (or cookie sheet). It’s important to remove them from the original parchment paper, so they don’t stick together in one big sticky mess! A word of caution here – do NOT use your finger to try to remove the fennel seeds and sugar that stick to the spoon – I have a band-aid on my finger to prove this point! Hot sugar sticks like crazy and burns really badly!! I let the nuts sit for several hours until they were cool. Then I broke them apart and put them in a clean and dry quart-size mason jar.
Here’s the fun part!!
I wanted krafty rustic paper for my labels (top and front), but I didn’t have any kraft colored paper. So I dug through our art closet & found plain old lunch sacks. They were perfect! I designed the graphics & set up my printer for the size of the kraft sack & hooray – it worked! *tutorial* on paper bag printing will come later
Super easy, I grabbed a pair of scissors & cut out the two labels from the paper lunch sack. So cute! I love them. They turned out even more perfect than I had imagined. Don’t you love it when an idea takes shape and is awesome?!
I decided to go low-tech on the application of the labels. I used a plain old glue stick out of the school drawer. It worked like a dream! Just be sure to cover label entirely, but try not to get too terribly much around the outside edges – you don’t want it leaking out onto the jar.
I mean seriously, how cute are these??? I just love them! I think they are sweet, they scream Valentine’s Day & I was able to make them a little bit masculine.
- 4 c. nuts (unsalted, any variety or mix)
- 3/4 c. coarse sugar
- 2 tsp. coarse salt
- 1 Tbs. Chinese five spice
- 1 tsp. chipotle powder
- 8 tsp. fennel seeds
- 4 Tbs. water
- In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients & stir until the nuts are well coated. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Pour nut mixture onto parchment paper & bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.
- Cover a cool baking rack or baking pan with parchment paper. Scoop toasted nuts onto cooling rack and allow to cool for several hours. Once completely cool, store in a mason jar.
- FREE label printables available here: http://blog.julesjewelry.com/sweet-spicy-valentine-nuts/
So these were relatively quick, easy and turned out just how I imagined! Whom do you know that would love Sweet & Spicy Nuts for Valentine’s Day?