Friday, August 1, 2014

Roasted Spiced Maple Almonds


With the beautiful weather were having here in Seattle, comes hiking and outdoor adventures. Usually, instead of buying fancy trail mixes that cost anywhere from $6-$10 per pound, I make my own. With a stocked “nut & seed box” in my fridge, I always have something tasty to throw in the mix, whether its raw almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or cashews. Then I add a handful of dried fruit, and sometimes some chocolate chips, and voila, you have your own fancy trail mix. However, plain nuts and seeds can also get a little dull and to make things more interesting, I decided to make roasted spiced maple almonds to add a little bit more “pow” into each bite. They turned out so good, I might just snack on these alone or sprinkle them onto salads, porridges, or anything really!  Besides tasting amazing, your kitchen will smell fantastic too.

With maple syrup as a sweetener, sesame seeds for extra texture and flavor, and different spices to add the “pow”  to my raw almonds, they turned out perfect. And of course, there is also a touch of sea salt that always takes everything to the next level. Roasted spiced maple almonds make it easy to choose the healthy snack option. Here is why:


Sesame Seeds: For many years sesame seeds have been used as a food to prevent aging, and supply hearty energy. Interestingly, the antioxidant y-tocopherol (a vitamin E compound), which has been touted with many of the health benefits of sesame seeds, is found to increase after roasting. In a recent study, researchers found that both γ-tocopherol and total phenolic compounds increased significantly with roasting temperature and time, up until 390 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes (1). Besides being rich in bioactives and vitamin E, the seeds themselves contain high levels of minerals including copper, calcium, iron, zinc, and selenium all of which play vital roles in the body. Copper for instance is known to aid those suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, by helping to reduce pain and swelling, while zinc can help boost the immune system and aid in cellular regeneration (2).

Almonds: Also rich in vitamin E and minerals, almonds are more commonly found in the diets of Americans and have been studied often. In the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a 2013 study found that almonds eaten as snacks helped reduce post-meal blood sugar, reduce hunger and appetite, and reduce overall energy intake throughout the day. In addition, because almonds are so nutrient dense, all participants met their daily recommended dietary monounsaturated fat and vitamin E intakes. Overall the study found that eating 43g of almonds (a little more than ¼ cup) as a snack helps regulate body weight, while offering many health benefits (3).


Since this recipe is really easy to make I decided to make two batches, each with a different spice. In the first, I used cardamom and in the second, I used a madras curry blend from Feasting At Home. Cinnamon can also be used, however, I encourage you to try something different, you never know what you might uncover!

Roasted Spiced Maple Almonds
Makes about ½ cup

INGREDIENTS
½ cup raw almonds
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cardamom or madras curry blend
2-3 pinches sea salt
1 tablespoon hulled sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together all the ingredients and evenly spread onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool. You should now be able to easily break apart the nuts without them feeling sticky. Store in an airtight container.
                                                                                                                                                           

References: 

1. Jannat B, Mohammad R, Naficeh S, et al. Effect of Roasting Process on Total Phenolic Compounds and γ-tocopherol Contents of Iranian Sesame Seeds (Sesamum indicum). Iran J Pharm Res. 2013;12(4):751-758.
2. WHFoods. Sesame Seeds. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=84. Accessed August 1, 2014.
3. Tan SY, Mattes RD. Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(11)1205-1214.
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