Maybe it's a little cliché but as the year draws to a close, I can't help reflecting on the year that's about to pass and resolve to make some changes in the next one. And what I'd like to work on is conquering my fears. As a child, I colored in the lines, no really, I did. My coloring books were super profesh. I followed the rules: don't talk back to your teachers, do your homework, and listen to your mom (ok, I definitely tried to follow that last one). But I generally conformed to society's expectations and over the years I've found myself caring a little too much about what the world outside my own might think of, well, me. And quite frankly, I'm a bit tired of it. I've always marched to a slightly different beat--it's actually more or less a bit off-beat, as I'm generally off by half a beat on any given song, just ask Moses. And yet at the same time, I've made great strides to try to stay on beat. Well, guess what, it's not that fun and I am ready to embrace all that is me, even if that means stepping out of sync.
Moses and I were mind-mapping Fix Feast Flair yesterday, trying to figure out where it's at, where I hope to take it, and what it all really means. And I was so afraid of the thought of failing that I couldn't even map out my dreams. Instead, I did the exact opposite and talked about a bunch of the negatives: my voice sounds awful on tape, so therefore there will be zero videos on FFF is one super silly example. I mean, come on, don't we all think our voice sounds silly when we hear a recording (don't we?! we do right?)! Negative Nancy didn't even stand a chance against Antagonistic Alana yesterday. Well, I'm over her. Here we are at the close of the year, and I'm tired of staying in the lines, I want to free-form this coloring book already! So, don't mind me but I'll be dreaming big for the new year and invite you to do the same.
In the meantime, here are some spiced candied hazelnuts. :) Don't think these are meant to be a consolation prize or that I'm trying to demean these little guys in anyway. They freakin' rock. I mean it. These spiced candied nuts (I used hazelnuts but go ahead and use some almonds or maybe even brazil nuts) are like the Amy Dunne (a la Gone Girl) of nuts. They look perfectly sweet and innocent on the outside but they're spicy and a little devilish (yeah, ok she was a lot devilish) on the inside, thanks to a few pinches of cayenne. In essence, they're perfectly wicked. Throw 'em in a cute mason jar and you've got the ultimate hostess gift to bring to your friend's new year's eve party. Or don't. Keep them for yourself, this is a no judgment zone. Whatever you do though, just make a batch because they're insanely easy to make (essentially four ingredients plus a couple spices, salt, and powdered sugar or cocoa powder) and equally addicting. Bonus points: dark chocolate, cinnamon, and nuts are all good for you.
And in case we don't speak till the new year, be safe, have fun, and don't be afraid of stepping offbeat. I believe that we all shine the brightest when we're unafraid to dance the way we dance when we're in the dark and think no one's looking. Laugh a little louder and don't forget to laugh at yourself too (don't take yourself too seriously, in my experience that gets old really quickly). Cheers to an exciting new year full of boundless opportunities and dreams so big and bright that your 152 ultimate crayon collection won't do them justice!
Spiced Candied Hazelnuts
Adapted from Chef Jacques Torres' Dessert Circus
Makes around 5 1/2 cups
- 2 c. granulated sugar
- 1 c. filtered water
- 3 1/2 c. whole, raw hazelnuts (or almonds or brazil nuts)
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cardamom
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. ground all spice
- 3 pinches of salt
- 17 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted*
- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar or unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (or 3/4 c. of both)
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Silpat mats or parchment paper, for lining sheet
- Large copper pot or heavy bottomed stockpot (6-qt or larger)
- Wooden spoon
- Large mixing bowl
- 2 forks
- 2 gallon sized freezer Ziploc bags
- Mesh sieve
- Combine granulated sugar and water in large copper pot or heavy-bottomed stockpot and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add nuts and stir to coat evenly in the sugar syrup. The syrup will get thicker as the water evaporates and you'll start to see big bubbles begin to form. Keep stirring your nuts, so that they cook evenly. After about 10 minutes or so, all the moisture will evaporate and the mixture will become sandy instead of syrupy. Continue stirring and soon you'll see the sandy sugar transform back into a clear liquid. When the liquid turns golden (versus clear) and most of the sandy sugar is gone, remove from the heat and finish stirring to make sure all the nuts are coated.
- Spread candied nuts onto your silpat mat or parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet. Careful! Don't touch the nuts, they're crazy hot. Using your two forks, separate any nuts that are touching to avoid nut clusters. Let nuts cool completely at room temperature. Alternately, you can place your tray of nuts in the freezer for about 30 minutes to cool.
- When nuts have cooled completely, place in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add one-fourth of the melted* chocolate and immediately fold the nuts until they are thoroughly coated and the chocolate has set. Add the next fourth of the chocolate and fold thoroughly until set. Repeat two more times, making sure all nuts have been throughly coated. Separate any clusters that may have formed. Put half your powdered sugar or unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder in one Ziploc bag and the remainder in the other (or if you're doing half of each, simply put powdered sugar into one bag and cocoa powder into the other)do not wait for the chocolate to set completely. Add chocolate coated nuts to bags (half in one, half in the other). Seal bag and shake vigorously to coat nuts. Separate any clusters that may have formed. When nuts are completely coated, remove from bag and transfer to sheet to cool completely. Before serving, place the nuts in a sieve to remove any excess sugar or cocoa powder.
- Serve and enjoy or package and gift. Your nuts will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
* To melt chocolate, chop chocolate and transfer to a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30-second increments, stirring between each increment, until the chocolate is just melted. Be careful not to overheat--stirring between each 30-second increment will help. As you stir, you disperse the heat and quickly melt the bits that don't look completely melted. You can test it by taking a dab and putting it under your bottom lip. It should be slightly warmer than your bottom lip. If it's hotter than that, you've overheated it.