Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nuts for Tasty Holiday Snacks

It's been a while since I have blogged, but the past few months have just flown by.  It is hard to believe that I am less than 2 weeks away from living a sugar-free life for the past 6 months.  Remember, this is not something that I EVER thought I could do!  Sugar was a constant part of my life, and I looked forward to eating my sugary treats almost daily.  Just to remind you, I do still eat fruit (including unsweetened dried fruit, whole fruits, and 100% fruit juice in small quantities) and I use stevia to sweeten some of my new favorite comfort foods:  my plain greek yogurt, and cinnamon toast (which I make with Ezekiel raisin bread or regular sprouted grain bread spread with a little Earth Balance "butter" and sprinkled with cinnamon and stevia - it's delicious!)  I do still find a way to get the "sweetness" into my diet, believe me!!

So, it was around Halloween when I got curious as to whether or not my body would react strongly to eating a little sugar.  I was concerned that my sugar cravings would be triggered and the next thing you would know I would be downing a bag of candy corn in one sitting.  (Halloween candy is so hard to resist, is it not?)  I ate a few Tootsie Rolls and some Sweet Tarts and I have to say that my body didn't freak out like I thought it would. No sugar cravings were triggered - whew, was I relieved!  I had read that if you eliminate refined sugar from your diet that after 3 months your sugar cravings do not become triggered when you reintroduce it.  I guess that is true for me.  The funny thing though was that those once-beloved Tootsie Rolls didn't taste as good as I thought they would, and I realized that my life wasn't lacking much by not having Tootsie Rolls in it.

Now that the holidays are here, I am trying to concoct some tasty holiday snacks that do not involve sugar. And, I have discovered that I am nuts about nuts!  Both pecans and almonds have a sweetness to them that is brought out when heated or roasted.  Nuts are an incredibly nutritious snack.  They often get a bad rap because they have a lot of fat, but it is the monounsaturated "good" fat that our body needs.  They also have a lot of fiber which makes them very satisfying and full of staying-power.  A handful or two at at time is all you need.  Here are two of my latest creations:

Spiced Pecans
1 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 Tbl Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Tsp Tabasco Sauce
3/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
3 Cups Pecan Halves
1 Tbl Coarse Salt (sea salt, kosher salt)
Preheat oven to 325.  Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted.  Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the salt.  Simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes to blend.  Add the nuts and stir to completely coat.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, shaking occasionally.  Toss the hot nuts with the salt and let cool to room temperature on another baking sheet (to prevent sticking).  Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Cinnamon-Stevia Toasted Almonds
3 Cups Sliced Unsalted Almonds
Ground Cinnamon
Heat oven to 325.  Put the almonds in a large ziplock bag or mixing bowl.  Shake, shake, shake the cinnamon into the bag/bowl.  Give it at least 10 shakes.  (Use as much or as little as you would like, but more is better!) Add the stevia.  (I use truvia so I added about 5-6 packets of stevia).  Stir.  Spread on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, shaking occasionally.  Let cool to room temperature on another baking sheet (to prevent sticking).  Store in an airtight container and enjoy alone, in oatmeal, or in your yogurt.

Do you have any good recipes for healthy holiday snacks?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!  In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying a happy, healthy holiday season!