Monday Night Martha: Almond Joy

For years, the hunt has been on for just the right sweet/salty/spicy nut mix recipe, to no avail. Either the recipe calls for something hard to find (an unusual spice), something not very appetizing (some of us just don't like rosemary or other plants in our nuts) or a step too tough to master (e.g., use of a candy thermometer).

Or it just doesn't taste very good.

It took some trial and error, and may well take some on your part, too, but here's a recipe for a nut mix you can adjust to suit your own tastes, and serve on a week people are pretending to alter their eating habits, but in truth are still scarfing down the calories.

At least almonds are on all the high anti-oxidant lists, and the protein balances out the carbs from that sugar cookie you just shoved down your pie hole.

A bonus: This recipe makes a ton (well, okay, 9 cups) of nuts, suitable for bringing along to the rest of the holiday parties you've got to hit.


1 large bag raw almonds (available at Costco, 9 cups)

1.5 C light brown sugar

1 stick butter

sea salt to taste

cayenne pepper to taste

cinnamon sugar (pre-mix it yourself) to taste, plus extra to sprinkle on


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the almonds evenly on two large cookie sheets with edges (edges are important -- otherwise you'll be picking burnt almonds off the bottom of the oven forever) and toast each tray separately for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them -- you want them very toasted but not burned; it's a fine line.

Put butter in glass mixing bowl and melt in microwave. Add brown sugar and mix well.

Add cinnamon sugar, cayenne and sea salt (at least 1 tablespoon of sugar and salt each, and at least 1 teaspoon of cayenne, but again, it's to taste, and the good news is that you can sprinkle more of all of these items on later if you don't have enough).  

While almonds are still hot, pour the butter mixture over them and toss well (but carefully) to get them as evenly coated as possible.

Toast again, about 10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them.

Remove and stir again to make sure the nuts are evenly coated. Sprinkle and taste and sprinkle (careful, don't burn your mouth!) then let cool COMPLETELY.

Break up (you'll have a bit of a brittle effect) and store in a closed container, up to 2 weeks.

-- Amy Silverman 

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at