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By Donna Zitter Bordelon

‘Tis the season for cookie trays. Big trays, little trays, trays brought into giant parties enjoyed by dozens of guests or trays anxiously deposited at the door with the hope of avoiding a certain “uninvited guest” who’s been crashing everyone’s superspreader events.

But what if you waited too long to bake? Here are some recipes to aid any procrastinating baker who needs to bring along a sweet treat for the holidays. These alternatives to cookie baking are sure to hit the spot.

Sweet with just a little heat, this recipe is easily doubled.

SWEET AND SPICY NUTS

2½ cup nuts (I used walnuts and sliced almonds mixed)

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spray a baking sheet with oil.

Spread nuts onto the baking sheet. Toast nuts for about 10 minutes.

Watch that they don’t burn.

Stir together the sugar, salt and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.

Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, stir together the water, honey and olive oil.

When the mixture begins to bubble, turn off heat and stir in the roasted nuts until evenly coated.

Add the spices to the nut mixture, and toss to coat evenly.

Spread nuts back onto baking sheet in a single layer, and allow to cool.

Sweet allspice nuts, full of the season’s spices, are a taste of Christmas.

SWEET ALLSPICE NUTS

1 egg white

½ tsp. vanilla extract

⅓ cup brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

1½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. allspice

⅛ tsp. cloves

¼ tsp. nutmeg

2½ cups nuts (I used walnuts and pecans mixed)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat egg white in a bowl to form soft peaks.

Add vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.

Add to egg mixture.

Stir in nuts and coat evenly.

Lightly spray a 9×12-inch pan with oil spray.

Spread coated nuts on pan in a single layer.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Loosen nuts from pan. Allow to cool.

Hot and spicy – these have heat!

HOT CHILI NUTS

4 cups nuts (I used walnuts and pecans mixed)

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. paprika

2 tsp. cumin

3 tsp. chili powder – or more

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. cayenne pepper – or more

2 Tbsp. oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spray a baking sheet with oil spray.

Evenly distribute nuts on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 10 minutes.

Watch that the nuts don’t burn.

Mix together in a bowl the brown sugar, paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper.

Add roasted nuts and oil to the spice mix, stirring to evenly coat the spices.

Return the spiced nuts to the baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Stir a few times while baking.

Allow to cool.

Pre-COVID, this type of mint was offered near the cash register in restaurants. Here’s a delicious, homemade version.

BUTTERCREAM MINTS

½ cup butter (1 stick), softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp. heavy cream

1 tsp. mint extract

Sifted confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Line one large or two small baking pans with wax paper.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter.

Add 3 cups of sugar, cream and extract and beat.

Stir in remaining cup of sugar, or knead it with your hands to form a smooth dough.

Lightly sift some confectioners’ sugar onto a work surface.

Using ⅛ cup-size pieces (about the size of a golf ball), roll each ball between your hands to form a log, then roll the log on the sugared work surface to form a rope about ½-inch thick.

Use a lightly oiled pastry dough scraper or lightly oiled knife and cut each rope into ½-inch pieces.

Gently transfer pieces to the wax paper-lined baking pans.

Repeat until all dough is used. Mints are now complete, but will be soft. Allow to air dry for a  few hours in a cool place. Then store mints in an airtight container.

Regardless of how you celebrate or what you call the season, Happy Holidays to all and to all a Good Night!

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