valentine

sweet & spicy valentine nuts

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sweet & spicy Valentine Nuts gift recipe in a mason jar with FREE printables  |  {Jules} blog

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!

sweet and spicy nuts recipe ingredients

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

use parchment paper to bake your nuts

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.

mix your nuts  |  {Jules} blog

I chose a mixture of 1/2 pecans and 1/2 almonds – just because.  Feel free to choose whatever nuts tickle your fancy.

sweet and spicy nuts recipe - pour on parchment paper

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!

stir your nuts every 10 minutes  |  {Jules} blog

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.

cool your nuts on a wire wrack  |  {Jules} blog

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.

put your nuts in a mason jar for a cute Valentine gift  |  {Jules} blog

Here’s the fun part!!

valentine-squirrel-printed-bag

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

free-squirrel-printable-button Valentine free printable letter size

cut out your Valentine squirrel gift labels for your nuts  |  {Jules} blog post

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?!

use a glue stick to attach your label to the mason jar  |  {Jules} blog

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.

sweet and spicy nuts with free Valentine recipe printable labels  |  {Jules} blog

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.

 

Sweet & Spicy Valentine Nuts
Serves 4
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 c. nuts (unsalted, any variety or mix)
  2. 3/4 c. coarse sugar
  3. 2 tsp. coarse salt
  4. 1 Tbs. Chinese five spice
  5. 1 tsp. chipotle powder
  6. 8 tsp. fennel seeds
  7. 4 Tbs. water
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. FREE label printables available here: http://blog.julesjewelry.com/sweet-spicy-valentine-nuts/
Adapted from Trois - Petit Soleil
Adapted from Trois - Petit Soleil
{Jules} https://blog.julesjewelry.com/wp-app/

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?

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epic FAIL – sticky spicy nuts

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epic fail - crazy sticky honey nuts  | Jules Blog

Okay, so you can see the post on how to make this recipe without the epic fail HERE.  But here’s the story behind my first trial.  I’m a brave soul in the kitchen.  I don’t like to precisely measure anything (which makes me a terrible baker), and I like to switch out ingredients just to see what happens.  This is one time where that epically failed!  I was trying to recreate some sweet and spicy nuts my husband and I had while visiting a little inn in San Luis Obispo.  I really wanted to try to use local honey instead of processed sugar.  That was a mistake!  I traded the honey for the sugar 1 to 1.  I’m assuming that’s not how you’re supposed to do it!

What I ended up with was a sticky mess!  This *might* work if you were looking to make a sticky brittle.  It was actually crazy yummy, you just couldn’t get it to stop sticking to everything – including itself.

epic fail - sticky spicy sweet nuts |  {Jules} blog

I started by collecting all of my ingredients.  Plain almonds & Pecans (not salted), Fennel Seed, Chipotle Powder, Honey, Chinese Five Spice & Course Salt

use parchment paper to bake your nuts  |  {Jules} blog

Man oh man, I’m so thankful I used parchment paper when I cooked this!  I couldn’t get half of it off the parchment paper!  I can’t even fathom what it would have looked like if I had to scrub it off a stone pan.  Yikes!

when making sweet nuts, toast them first to help melt the honey  |  {Jules} blog

The first thing I did was pour my nut mixture on my parchment lined baking pan.  I popped them in the oven for about 8 minutes while I preparde the other ingredients.  This step was important because the nuts were warm enough to melt the honey a bit more & make spreading the mixture easier.

sweet & spicy nuts with fennel seeds, chipotle powder, salt, Chinese 5 spice  |  {Jules} blog

While I was waiting for the nuts to toast a bit, I measured out and mixed up my spices in a decent size mixing bowl (one that easily fit 4 cups of nuts plus the honey).  I stirred the spices well – to get read to add the nuts & honey.  Now you may be looking at me funny when I tell you to use fennel seeds, but trust me!  They seemed like an odd ingredient, but oh my word, they are delicious!  They have a little bit of a bite & after you roast them with the nuts, they become crispy little crunchies in your nut mix!  Delicious.

honey - the culprit in ruining this sweet & spicy nut recipe  |  {Jules} blog

When the nuts had toasted for the 8 minutes, I carefully took them out and poured them into the bowl of spices.  Then drizzled the honey over the warm and toasty nuts.  The next part required a bit of elbow grease.  I carefully and thoroughly mixed the honey, nuts and spices together making sure everything is pretty evenly coated.  At this point the kitchen smelled ridiculously yummy!  A bit spicy, a bit sweet and warm.  I love it!  However, the sheer degree of stickiness should have been a clue that I was heading down a dangerous path.

sweet and spicy nuts all dressed up  |  {Jules} blog

I spread them out on the (thankfully) parchment covered paper.  Goopy, sticky and all!  The bowl and spoon were actually pretty easy to clean up because I did it right away.  I shudder to think what would have happened if I had waited!  Definitely a perma-stick nightmare!

sweet and spicy nuts bubbling with honey  |  {Jules} blog

Oh dear goodness, the honey bubbled up and covered the nuts in a gooey, sticky, frothy sauce.  The house smelled wonderful, and I got excited because I was almost done!  I stirred the nuts every 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes.  This ensured that they were properly toasted, and it helped the honey and spices to soak into the nuts – maybe a little too much!

sweet and spicy nuts recipe - cool on a cooling rack  |  {Jules} blog

This took a bit of experimentation, but I finally figured it out.  I found that you absolutely had to remove the nuts from the hot baking pan in order for them to cool properly.  I also found that you could just carefully pick up the parchment from the baking pan and place it on a wire wrack (or cool baking sheet) to cool your nuts.  Or so I thought – this is where I think I failed horribly.  I needed to remove the nuts from the liquid (sticky honey mixture) on the original parchment.  Oops.

sticky honey nuts - epic fail or brittle?  |  {Jules} blog

So when I saw this, I was still optimistic.  I tried picking apart the nuts individually – that didn’t work.  So I tried clusters of nuts, prying them apart desperately to save this recipe!  I put them in a quart mason jar, because let’s face it, mason jars kind of fix things.  Alas, it didn’t work this time.  You can see the giant ball of nuts stuck to the jar – not budging.  I actually don’t know how I’m going to get them out of the jar!

sticky spicy nuts - not meant for a mason jar  |  {Jules} blog

So I’m wishing you a better experience with your sweet & spicy nuts!  Here is the recipe that finally worked.  Enjoy!

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