SMOKED & TOASTED

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The pages of life keep on turning, and we’ve welcomed another new year. January brings with it reflections on moments passed, and dreams of beautiful and bright events that future months might hold. Our twenty fourteen was like walking through a dream so wonderful, you don’t really want to wake. In an effort to keep our fires burning bright this go’round, we’re focusing on the small things that bring us joy and happiness every day.

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One such bright spot is this simple, smoky, sumptuous snack that you can customize to suit your flavor mood. Here’s what you do:

* Head to your favorite local grocer, and grab a bag of raw, unsalted nuts. I chose cashews because they pretty much rule my nut world.

* Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. On your way back to the counter grab a big bowl, your favorite oil (I used olive oil), and your spices.

* Pour your selected nuts into the bowl, then add a half tablespoon of oil for every pound of nuts. We’re adding just enough to gently coat them, not soak them.

* Add two tablespoons (total, per pound) of your favorite spice combination. For this batch, I used smoked California red pepper powder, thyme, garlic powder, black pepper, and ground mustard seed. They turned out so perfectly savory, that your mouth will keep asking for more.

* Add a half tablespoon of flaked sea salt; regular will work here, but I like the special tingle of a salty pop vs. a blanket level of saltiness.

* Toss everything together until evenly coated, then grab a sheet pan and plop down a piece of parchment paper. Spread your seasoned nuts out so they aren’t overlapping, and slide them into the top rack of the oven.

* Kick your feet up while they toast for ten minutes, then pull’em out, give’em a shake/shake/shake, and return’em to the oven. Now, stay close by because toward the end of toasting time, they go from perfection, to charcoal in no time flat. Once they start to lightly brown and are fragrant, pull them from the oven and let them cool to the touch.

* DO NOT POP ONE IN YOUR MOUTH AT THIS TIME! THE PAIN! THE BLISTERS! THE ANGER! Just wait until they have cooled enough that you can hold them in your hands, without tossing them around.

* Now, fill up a small bowl for some forced portion control, then sit back, enjoy, and clap your hands together on a job well done.

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