In preparation for our recent visit my mom bought some cashews, for Little B loves them. Specifically, she likes roasted, salted cashews. The generous container of purchased cashews was very much not salted. I had to come to the rescue for all our sakes!
The need to ‘fix’ the cashews reminded me of festival nuts. They are often our diet downfall. As we walk through a festival all day it is easy to walk by the funnel cakes, cobbler, ice cream, pastries, battered pig on a stick…you know, sugary and wheaty stuff. There are two or three danger zones, and they are all roasted nut stands. They typically roast the nuts and coat them with cinnamon and sugar. You can smell them about 100 yards away, so when you finally come up to the booth the brain has gone through the battle of yes, no, yes, no, oh well hell why not. We usually rationalize the purchase by assuring ourselves that splitting a bag among six people is not the worst thing in the world, and it is not. What usually happens is everyone has a few, then one or two people absentmindedly nibble on the entire bottom half of the bag and they are suddenly gone. Oops! I blame the ambiance and my nose – if I could not smell I bet I would care less about those darned nuts.
I noticed the festival nut seasoning combination worked well on pecans and almonds, but not so well on the cashews. They seemed to not capture the flavors as well and were just sad. It was not the fault of the nuts – they are more gentle and softer flavor-wise than their almond and pecan kin. The cashews needed something more than cinnamon and sugar. My first inclination was to add some bite, maybe cayenne, but Little B is not a fan. Pondering mom’s pantry and keeping Little B in mind, my eyes fell upon a can of cocoa powder. Of course! I relied on the general process I figured out for savory nuts and came up with these lovely chocolate cashews. They are sweet and rich and satisfying – a handful makes for a great dessert or snack when the chocolate craving bug comes around. I love nipping a few now and then. My mom had some mixed with popcorn for dinner the other day. Oh yeah, Little B liked them too!
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp Stevita granular sweetener
1 tsp sea salt (discard if using salted nuts)
8 cups roasted, unsalted cashews
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two medium sized shallow baking sheets with foil. In a large bowl melt the butter in a microwave. Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa, stevita and salt. Stir until combined. Add the nuts and toss until well coated. With a large slotted spoon drop nuts onto baking sheets and spread evenly into a single layer – additional liquid on the pan may result in a burning smell before the nuts are done baking, so reduce the ‘drizzle’ as much as possible. Place sheets into oven on different shelves. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove nuts from oven. Toss nuts and again spread evenly into single layer. Return to oven, making sure the sheets are switched from the first baking period. Bake for 5 – 8 more minutes, until nuts are sizzling a bit and barely beginning to brown. Note that the point of being brown and being burned are very close together, so stay nearby during the second baking period. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store at room temperature in air tight container.