We gathered with a few friends over the weekend in what we decided was our first annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party. I proudly donned a fuzzy bright-red sweater with a picture of a cat in a Santa hat. The sweater said Meowy Christmas and my boys insisted on taking my picture holding our two cats.
The party wasn’t even really a party, just good friends getting together a little last minute, mostly impromptu. We all wore our ugly sweaters, laughing at what we came up with to wear, talking about upcoming holiday plans, who was staying in town, who was making a trek somewhere to visit family. We shared a meal and played a few games, laughing until tears streamed out of our eyes and our sides hurt. It was the simplest night but that holiday spirit, which can feel a little elusive sometimes in the rush and busyness of the season, was right there. It felt good to pause our busy lives for an evening and just be. We shared good food, we made a few memories, we connected with people we love and care about. Isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about?
I love making a few homemade treats to give as gifts during the holiday season. Even better if said treat can pull double duty as an appetizer or dessert for a holiday gathering. These sweet and spicy rosemary infused nuts check all the boxes. You can make a big batch and divide them into little jars for the perfect little gift for a hostess, teacher or the mailman. Or you can use that same big batch and fill bowls as an easy snack or appetizer for a football party or holiday gathering.
I stumbled across Ina Garten’s Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts a few years ago when looking for recipes for a party. I made a batch and watched as the bowl disappeared in a matter of minutes. I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years to make it more my own. To keep things simple and easy, I buy mixed nuts from Costco but you can go to your local grocery store and buy whichever nuts you like from the bulk bins. For this recipe I used cashews, pecans, almonds and pistachios.
Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nut
- 6-7 cups mixed whole nuts (I recommend cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts and shelled pistachios)
- 1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 teaspoons ground cayenne powder
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
- Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or spray liberally with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine mixed nuts with the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, cayenne powder and rosemary. Toss to coat the nuts evenly, then spread evenly on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little more kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon). Mix well with the spatula, setting aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.
To give as a gift, fill small glass jars with nut mixture. Seal with a lid and tie a festive ribbon around the jar.