Bacon Caramel Corn, Bacon Fat Peanuts & Thyme Candied Nuts: Three Sweet-and-Salty Party Snacks

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During the holiday season I like to be prepared for unexpected guests and that means in addition to having a fridge full of beer and prosecco, it’s important to have a lot of my favorite food group around: Snacks! That’s right, snacks are a food group and delicious one at that. I like a nice balance of flavors in my snack food so my favorites are always of the sweet and salty variety and during the holidays a hint of richness and spice is in order. Below you’ll find recipes for big batches of three sweet and salty snacks far better (and more impressive) than your average snack mix. They’d also make great edible gifts if you’re into that sort of thing.

Bacon Fat Peanuts with Old Bay Seasoning
A classic east coast spice blend is combined with a hint of sugar to make the tastiest bar nuts you’ve ever had.

3 cups unsalted peanuts
1 Tablespoon warm bacon fat
5 teaspoons old bay seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 325º. Toss the all ingredients together and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Slide into the oven and bake until the nuts are toasted, about 10 minutes.

Thyme Candied Nuts
Woodsy time is the perfect foil to rich candied nuts in this upscale blend.

2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
5 cups mixed whole nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, etc)
1 egg white
2 Tablespoons maple syrup.
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon salt

Preheat oven to 300º. Melt the butter with the thyme leaves in a small saucepan. In a large bowl, whip the egg white until frothy then add the maple syrup. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Add the thyme butter and the sugar and toss well to coat the nuts evenly. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Stir the nuts every 10 minutes to prevent scorching.

Bacon Caramel Corn
It wouldn’t be the holidays without a little indulgence, putting smokey bacon in caramel corn is a perfect example.

6 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and fat reserved
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts (or cashews or peanuts)
6 cups popped popcorn
2 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Finely chop the bacon and add it to the popcorn in a large bowl.

1. Finely chop the bacon and add it to the popcorn in a large bowl. Lightly oil 2 wooden spoons or spatulas (these will be used to stir the caramel into the popcorn) and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or lightly oil it (this will be used to cool the caramel covered corn).
2. In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat add the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2c water. Bring the mixture to a boil (without stirring) and let it boil vigorously until it turns a light golden caramel, 10-14min.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the spices and baking soda. The baking soda will make the mixture foam and expand so make sure you are using a large pot. The spices will cause the caramel to darken in color.
4. Immediately and carefully pour the caramel over the popcorn, bacon and nuts, grab your oiled spatulas and start gently tossing the mixture together. Keep stirring until evenly coated, then turn the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and gently separate the kernels. You don’t need to go crazy here, but try to get it in an even layer.

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