Maybe it is because I am in New England or that I have the time but I am enjoying being in the Holiday spirit of giving and thinking about family and friends both new and old. Even though it is unseasonably warm which I don’t mind, as I still expect any number of difficulties ahead for my first winter in the country, the holiday season is evident everywhere. During the day animated winter scenes dot the country roads and at night festive lights aluminate houses along otherwise pitch black roads. If only I were a passenger as I was in my childhood rather than the driver I could enjoy the display with more delight. I fondly remember piling into my father’s car for excursions through different Pittsburgh neighborhoods to see Christmas decorations on front lawns celebrating the holidays.

I look forward to sharing the country display of the season with a friend who is coming from New York City to spend Christmas. Even without snow it will be a New England Christmas with evening temperatures dipping into the 30ties we can light a fire in the wood stove. A sofa, chair and ottoman were delivered the beginning of the week so we have someplace comfortable to sit to hypnotically watch the flames flicker in the stove. Even Halley, my dog, will be happy to have the one comfortable chair we’ve fought over for the past three months all to herself. I have designated it her chair and am training her not to go on the new furniture which she has so far willingly complied.

I am not sure why but childhood memories seem to abound since moving into my new home. Maybe it is because I finally feel like I am putting down roots and want to make it truly a home and not just a space I occupy. I always had one foot out the door in New York trying to figure out how I could leave the city.

Another anticipated memory I had as a child were the holiday confectionery in tin boxes that arrived from relatives out-of-town. So this year I set out to make my own sweet delights to send to mostly friends as most of my family like myself struggle with their weight and would appreciate not getting sugar laden nuts more than their arrival. A card usually suffices.

Looking for a recipe to make candied walnut I came upon a very simple one which I have altered considerably that takes about ten to fifteen minutes to make and is really yummy. The perfect gift to mail to friends in a tin box. I will miss various traditions I developed over the years in New York and making these spiced candied walnuts is my way of being present with these past traditions while forging a new one.

Ingredients in skillet

This recipe is so simple it is brilliant. You put all the ingredients in a non-stick skillet at one time stirring often until the sugar melts and covers the walnuts. No need to toast the walnuts separately as they toast as the sugar melts. I use brown sugar because I like the flavor better than refine sugar. And, I salt the nuts while they are cooling which I think works better than adding salt with the rest of the ingredients at the beginning. Salting at the end gives a more layered taste sensation.

Walnuts on parchment paper

Spiced Candied Walnuts
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups Walnut
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • Ground Himalayan pink salt
  1. Place all the ingredients except the Himalayan salt In a non-stick skillet over a medium hot heat
  2. Cook stirring often until the sugar melts 5-7 minutes and coats the nut. Be careful not to burn especially toward the end.
  3. Once the sugar has melted and coated the walnut move to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Move quickly as the sugar hardens fast and you will need to separate the nuts with a spatula so you don't have walnut brittle.
  4. Sprinkle candied nuts with salt. I grind the salt before I start the recipe so I can use my fingers to sprinkle over the nuts.