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Monday, October 3, 2011

Best of 2011: Chocolate-Chile Nuts

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Any guesses as to what the "best foods" ingredient for my second recipe of September's Best of 2011 challenge is? Yes, the walnuts again, but as I mentioned yesterday, I already created a recipe from the book featuring walnuts.

Chocolate is the featured ingredient here. Yup, it turns out the authors of this book have determined chocolate to be one of the best foods for you. Of course, keep in mind that they mean chocolate in moderation. Though the food has the highest antioxidant content of any food, it also tends to have a lot of sugar and fat, which is why the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. In addition to this, chocolate:
-Has demonstrated heart-protecting benefits
-Is a source of fiber, iron, and calcium (particularly in milk chocolate)
-Makes people HAPPY, though a link between eating chocolate and feeling good has not been scientifically proven (though I'm willing to bet most people will agree with this statement!)

Though the cookbook had a handful of recipes that included chocolate (like chocolate pancakes!), I was intrigued by these nuts. The past times I've used this book, I skipped right over this recipe. This time, I recalled the Mexican Brownie Bottom Cheesecake and how much I liked the kick of the cayenne paired with the chocolate. Much like the dessert, these nuts had a bit of heat contrasting with the sweetness. They were good the day I made them, but even better in the days to follow. These would be great to bag up and give out during the holidays, especially for those who aren't huge sweets lovers (do people like that exist? Oh yeah, Nate!). I think they'd also be a fun salad topping, change it up from plain, toasted nuts. They're minimally sweet and the slight punch of heat doesn't hit you until after you've chewed a few times, a little surprise if you will. Try them, you'll see what I mean!

One Year Ago: Honey Wheat Sandwich Buns
Two Years Ago: Whole Grain Waffles

Chocolate-Chile Nuts
from The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook

-2 cups pecans
-1 cup walnuts
-1 large egg white
-1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
-2 tsp cocoa powder
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/4 tsp salt
-pinch of chile powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Place the nuts in a mixing bowl and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, whisk the egg white until foamy. Place over medium-low heat and whisk until the egg white is liquid (1 minute). Stir in the sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, chile powder, and cayenne, whisking until the mixture is fairly smooth.
3. Pour the chocolate mixture over the nuts and toss to completely coat them. Lay the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Once cooled, break apart any nuts that are sticking together. Store in an airtight container at room temperature overnight before serving.
*Nuts will keep for 2 weeks