A few months back I was sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game chatting with a group of moms when a dad I didn’t recognize held out a bag of Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds: two of my favorite foods under one proverbial roof. I went in big; they were delicious. Without realizing it, I had commandeered the bag and taken down well more than my fair share of the goods. I apologized to the dad, who I later learned was actually someone’s very congenial uncle. He hasn’t brought snacks to the soccer games since.
With the embarrassment of the “nut incident” behind me, I headed to the market the next day to track those babies down, only to learn they weren’t as wholesome as I’d assumed. Indeed, they were artificially flavored and contained two different artificial sweeteners. Bummer. I settled on the Blue Diamond brand, which measured up in terms of good ingredients but not in taste.
Committed to the idea of a cocoa-covered almond, I decided to make them myself. The beauty of this little sweet is that it has less sugar and calories than its chocolate-covered counterpart, but is still plenty tasty.
After a bit of experimenting I’ve come up with a recipe that is simple to do and gives you just a hit of sweetness along with the crunch of the nuts. My kids have been enjoying them in small doses in their lunchboxes.
Making a batch the other day, it occurred to me that Cocoa Dusted Almonds are just the perfect sort of thing to wrap up as gifts for teachers and all of the other people to whom we want to spread holiday cheer. I always go a little nuts (no pun intended) this time of year when it comes to baked goods, cellophane baggies and ribbon. I’m happy to have something new in my gift giving repertoire. Plus, it’s always a bonus when treats are somewhat nourishing.
You can find more food gifts recipes in this Homespun Holidays feature I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle a few years back, including Apple Butter, Cranberry Walnut Bread, Afghan Spiced Chickpeas, Bittersweet Chocolate Peppermint Sauce, and Ginger Granola.
As for the cocoa almonds, the recipe is below. I think I should probably make a batch for that kindly uncle. I’d like him to know that soccer moms can be generous in addition to being gluttonous.
(P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Gratitude Giveaway. The deadline is this Friday!)
Cocoa Dusted Almonds
• 2 cups raw almonds
• 1 tablespoon canola oil
• 1/3 cup sweetened cocoa powder*
• 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 pinches salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Put the almonds in a large, shallow bowl and drizzle with the oil. Use your hands to coat the almonds in the oil. Sprinkle the sweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, and salt over the almonds and toss them in the bowl until all of the almonds are lightly dusted with cocoa. You can do this by holding the bowl on either side and tossing the almonds in the air or using a rubber spatula to scoop underneath the almonds and turn them over. It takes a good 10 or more turns to adequately coat the almonds.
Pour the almonds onto 2 baking sheets that are lined with parchment paper. Bake until toasted, 15 to 20 minutes. When you start to really smell the almonds, they are probably done.
Cool and store in a container with a tight lid.
Makes 2 cups.
* Use sweetened cocoa powder with sugar and cocoa, not hot cocoa mix with dried milk powder.